Those Damned Little Pills


For the very first time since I swallowed my first 20 mg. tablet of Paxil four-and-a-half years ago, I finally understand why so many people living with mood disorders stop or want to stop ingesting those damned little pills. Those little pills, like slap-happy lovers, amend their  promises of change immediately after they’ve failed you once again.  One more chance?  One more try?  We’re narrowing the field; one day we’ll strike the right chord, just have patience.  Patience?  What patience?  NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) reported that adults who live with serious mental illness die 25 years earlier than other Americans . . .

Imagine yourself standing next to the Greyhound bus to say good-bye to Hope as she takes a window seat, looking at you detached and hopeless2indifferent.  Your worst fear is happening: That Greyhound bus is leaving you utterly Hopeless.  Hopelessness is a loaded .38 in the nightstand on your dad’s side of the bed; hopelessness is impressionable and interested in alternatives; hopelessness implies that the rough-housing and agonizing conflict you’ve accepted as life is all yours, pal, so grab some gloves and climb into the ring!

Eighty-sixed and cast aside, people with mood disorders are often adrift and desperately clutch to any buoyant object to preserve the credo of the awringingdowncast, that missing people like you are rescued.  But there is no rescue.  Or search.  No one even noticed you were gone.  But then serendipity zips past on her jet-ski waving and reassuring her return. Immediately you squeeze and squeeze again until every bit of blue sky is wrung from her fly by.  You weave strands of hope into bonds of promises and cling to them for their six-week trial, hoping your wholeheartedness created the perfect environment for the mood stabilizing drug to speed down your arterial on-ramp and slide into your bloodstream, easy-sneezy!

Nope.  Nothing.  Nada.  That bitch Hope and her batty cousin, Serendipity played you once again for the hapless Sad Sack, the lunatic adrugcompdesperate for clemency, the believer of broken promises in the form of a pill.  Those damned little pills!  The pharmaceutical industry’s great hoax endorsed by psychiatrist’s, dispensed by Pharmacists, and dutifully swallowed with some water and a handful of hope.  Hope that it’ll take; make a difference; do something; ease my burden; make me laugh.

At my desk 30 minutes after waking, the gravity of hopelessness, fatigue, and apathy plunge my mood underwater; the depressive side of bipolar ajetleads to chronic pleas for the manic cavalry to save the day.  Hold on, I mutter to myself, Just hold on for the pills; they’ll carry you far away from despair. Into my mind’s ground fog I wander further out on the pier when a carefully apportioned packet of dextro-amphetamine salts (think F-22 Raptor Fighter Jet in a mach-1 vertical climb); mood-stabilizer (think the F-22 Raptor running out of gas); and anti-depressant (think glider) are swallowed to ensure mood stability.  Followed by a pair of diuretics to reduce significant edema caused by heart failure and pulmonary hypertension.  At last I down two pain medications and one muscle relaxant for back and knee pain associated with recent weight gain caused by heart failure and venous insufficiency.

How did life become a scene from Soylent Green?  Not so long ago I’d lounge sleepily awaiting the skipping return to bed of my spouse.  Now mycomforter mornings are strict regimens in a very specific sequence to assure all medication has been ingested.  I too, would like nothing more than to flee from this pill-filled merry-go-round so-called Life and run back to that sanctuary of pressed sheets, downy comforters, famished pillows which swallow everything, and quiet, inside-joke laughter reserved for those blessed with wellness.

Instead, every morning I sit at our kitchen table despising those damned little pills. 


Hu-mil-i-a-tion, Noun, 2. To Produce Resignation or Shame to the Dignity of Another

Humiliation comes in many flavors: decline, disgrace, resignation, ridicule, shame, stigma, and upset.


A bike to a 11-year old is like a compass to an explorer; it ensures progress, freedom, and discovery.

I was eleven or so and riding my Columbia 3-speed (I really wanted the cocoa brown 10-speed Schwinn but when my father asked without acolumbiabikelooking at me – (a seldom used, but spot-on tactic {for parents reading this, it’s found in appendix C entitled “How To Use Their Own Ignorance” page MCDL of the “Parental Handbook} letting the child see for him/her self that they don’t know why they need the thing they’re asking for) “What difference can seven more gears make?  How is ten gears easier to ride than three gears?  I, of course, didn’t know about torque and gear ratios so I settled for the defensive approach, which really set myself up by saying a parent’s favorite answer, “Because everyone’s riding them!  Who rides a lime green, lame 3-speed, Columbia bike?” And then, in true triumphant spirit (knowing he played this round perfectly) my father delivered the estocada with deft precision, “You do, my boy!  You do!”

ahillAnd so I did, and so I was the only kid puttering around our neighborhood with a 3-speed which was okay until I reached the piedmont of the Great Lapham Hill.  Three speeds were clearly insufficient to maintain both balance and momentum required to propel me to the Hill’s summit.  Any bicyclist knows you need at least five or better ten gears!  And so I tried pedaling my 3-speed Columbia up the 47 degree slope and then it began, the gear torque problem; the gears on a 3-speed couldn’t withstand the amount of torque my slow pedaling and they began to slip, which in turn caused my pedals to slip, which in turn interrupted my concentrated, all-out pumping.  When my pedaling failed to produce any forward movement, which caused a stall, followed by imbalance, and eventual failure expressed by my bike and I crashing onto the street and sliding downhill several feet.  Laying in the street against the curb I was utterly ashamed of my feeble attempt and was, at last, resigned to the truth that my father’s tyrannical reign was impossible to denounce.  I felt absolutely deflated and a prisoner of my father’s own mania expressed by indifference and cruelty.  I was forced to wiggle from beneath the damned 3-speed and push not adograceride my 3-speed bike up Great Lapham Hill cursing at my father, which intensified with each step, while dragging my boyhood pride behind me.  Suddenly, from behind like a leash of Greyhounds, my classmates rode Schwinn Varsity Double-Shifter 10-Speeds flew past me and quickly disappeared behind the crest of the summit.  And then he approached quietly in the 1965 Rambler Wagon, pulled up next to me, lowered the passenger window and began his litany of taunts using his professorial tone.  At which time I sensed a kind of heartburn, but deeper and with greater volume. I began to perspire, brow first, then neck and shoulders.  This isn’t going to end on a positive note, I told myself.  And when I couldn’t restrain it any longer, out it flew like a bird set free.  But it wasn’t lunch that exploded from my mouth but a raw, quick, and cheeky bombardment of varied and loud expletives and vocabulary usually reserved for drunken sailors on furlough.  I was still screaming when he slowly closed the passenger window, put the Rambler in gear, and floored the V-8 engine which bellowed the blue smoke of burning oil.

Why did I challenge Great Lapham Hill when I possessed three crippling debilities: Obesity, three speeds, and an overwhelming hatred for my perpetually condescending father who refused to buy me a 10-speed as an example of his dominion.  Not because he was a tightwad, not avarsitybecause he couldn’t afford it, but simply to crush whatever degree of animosity I may harbor against him.  Looking back, he baited me at the very start by taking me to the bike store; then he fed me frenzied hopefulness when he stood before the twin-shifting, steel-forged and welded frame, drop handlebars, and racing seat, all painted a beautiful metallic cocoa brown, and asked, “How about this one?”  That was the exact bike I dreamt of every night.  But as I moved closer to where he stood, his eye caught the glint of a lime green bike obscured by Varsity’s and Paramount’s.  Yelling across the store at the sales clerk he said, “We’ll take this one.”  “But what about this one?  The Varsity?  This is the one I want. . .”

The sales clerk stood next to my father, paperwork in hand, when my father asked without looking at me – (a seldom used, but spot-on tactic {for parents reading this, it’s found in appendix C entitled “How To Use Their Own Ignorance” page MCDL of the “Parental Handbook} letting the child see for him/her self that they don’t know why they need the thing they’re asking for) “What difference can seven more gears make? Besides, if you can’t ride up Lapham Street on your very own 3-speed, why bother buying a bike?  Let’s get a baby carriage that you can push up the hill and have a tea party like a good little nancy.”


Hu-mil-i-a-tion, Noun, 1. To Disgrace or Ridicule the Dignity of Another

Humiliation comes in many flavors: decline, disgrace, resignation, ridicule, shame, stigma, and upset.


ahancockDuring nine years of my corporate career I was employed by a prestigious and globally recognized design firm where I held the esteemed position of Director of Executive Service.  One of my fundamental responsibilities was to manage the execution of, or, if requested, provide service personally to guarantee the success, without fail, of any kind of celebration that a partner requested or attended. For example, one client favored Scotch Whisky so I was asked to produce a Scotch Whisky tasting of adagobabar35-year old Scotches: Bowmore, Tamnavalin, Berriach, The Macallan, and Laphroaig and pairing them with: smoked salmon, black bread, Roquefort cheese, venison, smoked duck, and Dagoba organic dark chocolates.  Another wanted me to hire handsome male and beautiful female models clothed in Hugo Boss black suits and Adrianna Papell  cocktail dresses so that his guests were surrounded by classic beauty and modern design.  Yet another wanted a nine foot by nine foot parcel of the reception area to display five hundred forced Paper Whites in full bloom during one of the harshest winters on record, so he could capitalize on his design theme, Fresh Air, and subtly reinforce his theme and that we’re capable of just about anything, including any ideas they may entertain. Paper Whites naturally bloom in spring, so we had to force them to bloom (by apaperwhitereplicating a spring-like environment) early.  But there are no guarantees when forcing bulbs to bloom.  But lo’ and behold all five hundred bulbs bloomed creating an intoxicating fragrance throughout the hot house, or so I was told by the gardener downstate moments after he informed me that their truck carrying my Paper Whites was caught in a white out, spun off the road, and landed chassis deep in fresh snow where my lovely Paper Whites shivered as they slowly froze.  But as luck would have it, the potential client canceled their appointment.  Rumor has it that they’d all ready selected a firm, and we were just a curiosity.  But my all-time favorite: Four hundred and ten Shamrock Shakes delivered precisely at 12:00 noon on St. Patrick’s day.

The occasion at which I was disgraced and ridiculed by friends and colleagues was a simple party thrown by a partner who wished to celebrate the winning of a new commission in China with his design and marketing team.  The celebration started after work hours which required me to stay late as my supervision was requested by the partner.  As team members began to leave and the last partner to depart for the day was the host of this party.  On his way out he bellowed, “give them anything they want!  Anything!”   A senior designer approached me to ask if I might open acocktailpartythe partner’s private stash.  (When I was promoted the Managing Partner said to me, “Your job is quite simple: First, make all the partners happy; Second, never question or deny a partner’s request no matter how preposterous it may seem.)”  So began my study of each partner from alcohol to zany; I interrogated their assistants to drill down to expectations, tolerance for substitution, and the senior assistant’s castigation should he/she book an airline ticket in the unbearable and reprehensible middle seat in coach.  I stockpiled their favorite liquors, pop, snacks, and wine as a precaution.  Most employees and partners were aware of the liquor cabinet but didn’t know its location, yet knew that I possessed the only key.  I followed my instructions and wheeled out a trolley cart filled with the nonpareil of spirits and wines that ever passed their lips.

And then the fateful question: “Hey, I hear you’ve got top-shelf snacks!  Like those thumb-sized cashews for Adriel,” (at $28.00 per pound, you acashewbet they’re for the senior partner I thought to myself.)  We want some of those to go with the liquor.  By now it was close to eight o’clock and I was beginning to tire as I unlocked the file drawer directly beneath the partner’s private fax machine.  I removed a two pound sack of cashews, opened it, and delivered it to Lacy, the marketing rep for the project.  Lacy and I had always been friends, the tit-for-tat type of friend.  She, like several others, based their success and traded in information.  My success was based on character, trust, and top-level confidentiality.  She failed to pluck any morsel of intel from me.

By the time Lacy stuck her petite paw into the bag of cashews, a small crowd gathered round.  At almost the same moment they all realized that the cashews were very warm (from sitting in a file drawer directly beneath the partner’s private fax machine.  And then Lacy said it first followed by taunting laughter; then another said it; then a small group in unison; and the wave of ridicule and disgrace rose higher and higher then tumbled, crushing me with its demeaning vitriol.  I grabbed my briefcase and left the office quickly hearing slowed apologies backed by more laughter.  The firm boasts about a zero-tolerance policy for harassment so when I filed my formal complaint against Lacy I was told by the HR manager that she’d already heard about the incident and that Lacy will face her comeuppance.  Oh yes, and that I should forget she said:

Hey everyone!  Hey look!  Warm nuts!  He serves them warm nuts.  He warms the Partner’s nuts!  You get that?  He warms the Partner’s nuts!