Hi guys, Jen Pastiloff here. I am the creator of The Manifest-Station. This gorgeous essay was submitted but asked to remain anonymous.
Both Sides Now.
And I a smiling woman.
I am only thirty.
And like the cat I have nine times to die.
There are dark, blood red spots on my right Top-Sider. They are, in fact, spots of my blood. I cannot bring myself to wash them off. I will occasionally look down at my biohazard shoe and think, oh yeah. That happened. This time last week. Oh yeah. A week ago today, I walked into my therapist’s office at 4pm, apparently still stoned out of my head on the 48 Klonopin I had taken the night before.
I didn’t mean to, exactly. I don’t think I did. I told her I took 47, but I had brought the bottle, giving it over to her, and as she counted the remaining yellow disks, one more was added to the total, creating a dosage of 24mg, 48 pills total. The week before, after a long period of clean time, I had taken 10. I hadn’t learned my lesson. Again.
This is Number Three.
What a trash
To annihilate each decade.
Last summer, I had taken 40 pills over the course of one day. My therapist, Dr. K, only learned about it from slurred, incoherent voicemails, and then finding out my actual intake days later. Last year, I had looked up the maximum dosage, making sure I took a “safe” amount. I just wanted to escape for a bit. This time, it simply happened by accident. That Thursday night, I started off with three. Then a few more. I didn’t think anything was happening, so I took more. I wasn’t feeling any adverse effects, so a few more. I was still alive, I took more.
I cannot remember what I did all day before my appointment Friday. I had several bags with me, filled with books and notebooks and my phone charger. I must have done work somewhere, but those hours are lost. I thought I was perfectly myself when I showed up for therapy. I wasn’t. My words were still slurred, and I later found out that when I walked in, my therapist thought she looks high. I wonder if she went back on the Klonopin. So she asked. And because I am a bad liar, I told the truth. I always have, to her. Dr. K told me this was a medical issue and she wanted me to get checked out at the hospital. I refused. It was no big deal, I said. She made me wait in the waiting room until she was done with two other clients, checking up with me periodically. She metaphorically pulled me out of the office, hailing a cab, going with me to the hospital. I would find out later that I was the first client she’d ever done that with; that with others, an ambulance was called. But she knew that would set off a tsunami of panic. I also found out later that she asked them to take good care of me, to put me on a medical unit instead of psych, and to please get the consult the next day, after it turned out they would not let me leave against medical advice (AMA) that night, like she had said I would be able to.
I learned all this a few days after I went home, after I had sent furious emails and twice calling Dr. K, leaving, I’m assuming, furious, nasty, rambling messages from the hospital. I had thought she would stay with me at the hospital for a while, to make sure I could leave. I thought it would be a quick visit. I didn’t remember that she had told me she wasn’t staying. I didn’t remember her asking me to call a friend to come stay with me. In the ER, I only felt betrayed and alone. Right now it feels like I will never be able to apologize enough, or thank her enough. I think she knows. I hope.
Klonopin has the wonderful side effect of amnesia. But what I do remember of the ER and hospital is not pleasant. On Klonopin, I turn aggressive, mean, combative. I say things I would never even think, normally. I refused an EKG. I kept telling them I wanted to leave and I didn’t fucking care what they thought. I refused to think the situation was serious. I ripped the IV out of my vein, unprepared for the rush of blood that bubbled up and out, one hand trying to stop the alarm-red fluid, while demanding to be able to leave. And spilling it on my shoe. At that point, I was standing up, walking around, trying to find a doctor so I could bust out of the joint. Security was called on me, which might explain the small bruise on the back of my upper arm that looks like fingerprint indentations.
I was told I could not leave because I wasn’t thinking clearly. For some reason, I had David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest with me – I guess I had been reading it earlier that day, since I’m currently working my way through the tome. I vaguely remember picking it up, waving it around and retorting that of course I’m in my right mind and thinking clearly, I’m reading “a fucking thousand page book, for Christ’s sake.” I may have even said something like most people can’t even read David Foster Wallace, so of course I’m fucking fine.
I stayed the night. Right now I cannot allow myself to think about it, to remember it. I want to erase it completely from my synapses, the regret and fear so threatening, my chest literally hurts. It was one of the most traumatizing experiences of my life. And as a rape survivor, I do not use that phrase lightly. They assigned me a one-on-one, someone who watched every move I made, who refused to tell me why I was being treated like a criminal. I did not eat the whole time I was there. Because caffeine is a drug, there were no caffeinated drinks. I demanded “a fucking caffeinated soda” from nearly every hospital employee that came in my room.
When the psych resident met with me, he told me bluntly that he had no idea how a girl my size (fairly small) could ingest that much Klonopin, have all of my vital signs be normal, and still be conscious and not in a coma. When I later saw Dr.K, she concurred, and told me about a colleague’s client who had taken 10 less Klonopin than I did, and wound up in a coma for several days, her survival precarious.
I barely even have withdrawal symptoms.
My body has either become accustomed to this drug, or someone or something is much bigger than I am, forcing me to live. Not allowing me to check out, goddamnit.
This happened only a few days after I told my therapist I was giving up, that I didn’t think anything would help my depressed mood, and her telling me she was sad that I was giving up so easily. This happened only a few days after I met with a psychiatrist, pleading with her to prescribe something because I felt desperate.
Did I mean to take so many?
It is a strange feeling, walking around breathing, after what maybe was supposed to kill me, didn’t. It is a strange feeling, taking in everything around me and thinking, this is life. This is it. The basic mundane is in-my-face fucking delightful, like I’m a little kid again.
Is an art, like everything else.
I do it exceptionally well.
I do it so it feels like hell.
I do it so it feels real.
I guess you could say I’ve a call.
The experience happened to another girl. I have to think about it that way. At least for the present moment. Another girl, because I am another girl when I am on Klonopin. I am not myself. Or if I am, I turn into the worst possible, nightmarish version of myself gone wrong. And I cannot tolerate that. I felt crazy, and am still stunned at these events. I am terrified this will go on some “permanent medical record” somewhere, and I will have to explain that no, I’m not crazy, I just majorly fucked up. Dr. K tells me that word (“crazy”) shouldn’t apply to people, and while I agree, I am scared and angry that I now have a hospitalization in my life story. I am scared that everyone who knows, including Dr. K, sees me differently. I stay awake sleepless wondering how I can undo this, and when I realize I can’t, everything crashes down on me again. For now, I have to compartmentalize the best I can. That was then. This is now. I am not that person anymore. Not right now.
I am eight days clean.
Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air.
(Poem excerpts from Sylvia Plath’s “Lady Lazarus”)
Jennifer Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. She has been featured on Good Morning America, NY Magazine, Oprah.com. Her writing has been featured on The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Jezebel, Salon, and more. Jen leads her signature Manifestation Retreats & Workshops all over the world. The next retreat is to Ojai, Calif over Labor Day/New Years. She is also leading a Writing + The Body Retreat with Lidia Yuknavitch Jan 30-Feb 1 in Ojai. (Almost sold out as of Aug 9, 2014!)
Check out jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up: Seattle, Atlanta, South Dakota, NYC, Dallas, Miami, Tucson & The Berkshires (guest speaker Canyon Ranch.) She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff.