I am writing to you, My Dear Esteemed Reader, because – at times – it feels there is no one else. And this is the fall into the existential: Aloneness. And it’s both true and not true. I am vigilant in my attempt to get off benzodiazepines. In this I am alone. No one can do it for me. No one can take the burn from my skin or take away the rapid, gutter- ugly undulations. I rage and then the sickness hits. Alone. But I have help. I have brilliant, gold-touched friends and medical experts that are doing their best to place pillows around me. Not alone.
This experience is the biggest ocean of agony and ecstasy I’ve ever been thrown into in my life. I am on fire. Constantly. And, like fire, the heat undulates. It moves of its own accord. Sometimes the beauty is archetypal, mythic, a beauty that stuns to silence. And sometimes, the fire destroys everything. There is no beauty. There is just the burn and the hum of death and then black.
That being said, I am going to chronicle the fire. Because I’m not the only one. Because I plan on pricking the medical community about this deathly gap in the prescription of pills that kill more people in this country than does heroin, even car accidents. As a journalist, I find this to be quite the untapped story. So, I will write it. These little white pills are brilliant. They work. And, they are more addictive than heroin. They are more deadly than heroin, yet they’re dispensed like lollipops at the dentist. America’s little helpers. Whitney Houston’slittle helpers. Doctor’s orders.
Here we go. This week’s Agony and Ecstasy letters. Fire on the move.
The woman’s son wakes, as usual, at 5:30 a.m. At 6, she crawls out of bed for milk, for coffee. He hoots. He riots in his crib, wrestles Elmo, jumps up and down under the mesh tent that’s meant to keep him from crawling out.
The woman’s son is just over three and a half years old. His extra chromosome makes the development of language an uncertainty. Down Syndrome. He says “Elmo, Mama, Papa, bilk, bike, swim.” He has ice blue eyes and hair so blond it’s nearly white.
On this particular morning, the woman plays with him in the crib. She leaves for a moment to pick up a stray toy. The boy yells from his crib. “Mama! Where are you?” The woman freezes. She runs back to the crib. “Mama, where are you?” He said it. A full sentence. Language is seeping into his neural networks. The woman picks him up and sobs, feeling his heart beat around hers. Feeling his strong arms grab her neck. His ice blue eyes look at her. “I am here, baby. Mama’s here.” He hugs her harder.
Despite the woman’s hope that medical expertise will help curb the fire in her body, the burn continues. She will have to put her children in daycare. She will have to change her entire life. She is caught in a wildfire that will last for months. Benzodiazepines do not like being pulled from her brain. She vomits in parking lots. She feels as if the sun has suddenly pierced her skin and spread like lava. And the worst part: she has no control. This is a tunnel she must go through. And, like Alice, she has no idea where the tunnel ends.