hen I was 20, I had a nervous breakdown; it happened couple of years or so after flunking out of college. For months I felt unwell, plagued with a persistent nausea that emanated from some mysterious region deep within my chest cavity. At its worst, the nausea became crippling, turning into a sort of frenzied anxiety that overtook my entire body. Everything seemed unreal to me, disconnected; I would stare at some random object, say a pack of cigarettes, and it would appear abstract. I was unable to cognitively access that intangible element which makes things what they are or at least what they seem to be. Human faces also became a problem; everyone looked like a pod person to me – dead-eyed and unfamiliar. It got to the point where even my own friends and family appeared like strangers. It was as if a grounding wire had come loose in my cortex, and somehow shorted out the rest of my brain. In dribs and drabs, I just separated from myself, becoming a mere impression, a faded thumb print on a foggy pane of glass which kept me isolated from everything and everybody I ever knew or loved.
It went on like that for a long time before I sought help from my parents. The shrink they sent me to, wanted to put me on some drug called Stelazine but I refused; the name scared me, sounding too much like thorazine, the stuff they fed the crazy people in all the hospital melodramas I’d seen growing up as a kid. You have to understand that this was all happening to me B.P. – Before Prozac. Back then, only the fragile got depressed, the unseen and unheard, obsessed with Sylvia Plath and The Catcher in the Rye. Nowadays, depression is big business; come down with a slight case of the sads, and you’ve got every other commercial on the tube encouraging you to pop the happy pills like friggin’ M&Ms. I must say, it was terrifying at the time, to be prescribed such medication, embarrassing too. I held out though, saw another shrink – a psychologist – and by and by, I pulled myself out of it. I’m not sure how much he did for me, Doctor Steinman, all I would ever do is talk about my dreams and whine about my never-ending virginity. Our sessions ended abruptly one day, when I told him that I’d been playing with a Ouija board the night before with my girlfriend and swore that I thought I’d contacted my dead grandmother, who had made me promise to go back to college. I’d expected that he would dismiss it all as an attempt by my subconscious to express its festering worries. When he instead informed me that I should be careful next time, as bad spirits could sometimes masquerade as loved ones, haunting you forever, well, I just stopped seeing him.
The guy was fucking crazier than I’d ever be.