The Other Me
One night, I took a Euhypnos at 10.00 pm, went to bed, and was asleep an hour later. At 1.30 I was wide awake and worried the anxiety would creep in. I took another Euhypnos, fell asleep, and that was that.
When I ran out of Euhypnos shortly afterwards, I made an appointment to see Dr Cook. Unfortunately, I wasn’t aware he worked at two clinics, and the same phone number serviced both. So I returned to the clinic where I originally saw him only to find that he was at the other.
Another GP, Dr Chan, saw me. I recounted my situation. He wrote me a prescription and asked how the Euhypnos was working, and I told him about my recent episode where I’d taken two. He was horrified, and told me under no circumstances should I take more than one Euhypnos as I might overdose. I told him Dr Cook had informed me differently, a point Dr Chan didn’t even try to address. He must’ve thought I was covering.
I relied on the Euhypnos but developed a tolerance, their effects lessening until taking it became nothing more than a crutch.
It was around the time that I awoke one morning to a minor headache – a small burning pain in the back of my skull. By afternoon it was worse, feeling like a band around my head that was strained to the point of snapping.
I wasn’t a headache person. I got a cluster of bad ones when I was eight or nine, and between ten and fourteen got the occasional migraine that’d wipe me out, but that was it. These were new.
It felt like as soon I got over some aspect of what I was going through, it’d return in a new form – anxiety, chest cramps, obsession about Alzheimer’s, hyperventilation, headaches. It was the ultimate counter-puncher.
I still didn’t know what it was either. What had caused it? I’d always been a little different. Even my mum, when she was exasperated with me, would exclaim that since the day I was born I was always doing the reverse (of everybody else – in Macedonian, that sounds better).
A few months earlier, somebody had broken my nose in a wrestle that grew out of control. I became obsessed this was the cause, that I was scared of seeing the guy responsible, even though he’d apologised after it had happened. The original incident happened at a monthly club, Kasey’s, and the next one was soon. I counted down the days. The night of Kasey’s, I caught a train with a friend Ron, feeling edgy and short of breath the whole way. Ron said he was worried I was going to pass out.
At Kasey’s, I had a couple of drinks to relax, and looked around for the guy, but I couldn’t see him. What if he wasn’t here? What if I had to wait for the next Kasey’s – in a month – to encounter him? I wouldn’t last.
There was a tap on my shoulder and there he was. He apologised asked how I was, and we made small-talk. That was that, and I enjoyed the rest of the night.
The next morning, I was tense, jittery, unable to focus. Other symptoms reappeared. Days became inexorable. Wake up, headache; edginess tinged around me like an aura; breathing constricted like I was wearing a collar too tight, me always trying to force a deep, deep breath down my lungs – even though I knew I shouldn’t – just to prove I could breathe. Trudge into the kitchen to make breakfast: put the kettle on, get a teabag and put it in a cup, get the milk, pour myself a glass of orange juice – just the everyday routine became an incomprehensible puzzle.
Over breakfast, try read the newspaper – my usual morning ritual, but now one with an ulterior motive: externalise. Don’t let my mind turn inward, to dwell on what I was feeling, because when it did, it threatened to swallow me whole.
Then it was down into the bungalow I had in the back of the garage to try to write. Sometimes, I was able to distract myself, and forget what was happening.
But I couldn’t hide forever.