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by Branden Hart
What I don’t understand when I flush the medicine is that Prozac is a time-release drug. That means that even when I quit taking it, it stays in my system for awhile. So it really shouldn’t have surprised me when I woke up the next morning and still felt no desire to wash my hands.
But it does.
“I thought this was supposed to go away,” I say to myself.
“Residual effects. Probably soon,” my say to Iself.
For obsessive compulsives, internal dialogue is an extremely important part of every day activities. We rehearse possible situations, practice possible conversations with other people, even practice exactly how we’re going to say something that we plan on saying. For an actor, rehearsal gives him control over his lines, the movement on the stage, his interaction with other actors. For the obsessive compulsive, our internal dialogue gives us a false sense of control over the world itself. We plan out a situation with a conversation like this, all taking place in the comfort of our own brains:
Cast of characters:
ME: So, another party tonight.
OTHER ME: Yup. Should be fun.
ME: Yeah, but there are going to be a lot of people there.
OTHER ME: So?
ME: So, what if you get into a fight?
OTHER ME: Why would I get into a fight?
ME: Why does anyone ever get into a fight? It isn’t because they want to.
OTHER ME: Well, there are some people…
ME: You know what I mean. You get in a fight because some jackass has something to prove to some chick. And guys like that are all over the place at parties like this.
OTHER ME: So I’ll walk away, tell him to fuck off, no big deal.
ME: But it is a big deal. What if you walk away and he throws a bottle at your head and knocks you out. Hell, if it hits you on the temple, you could die.
[Cue Anxiety, enter stage left.]
RATIONALITY: [To himself.] Well, that may be one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard.
ME: Come on, seriously? Why would anyone do that?
ME: What about it?
OTHER ME: Well, maybe he’s got a girl there and decides he doesn’t like some little shrimp saying stuff like that to him, so he decides he and his friends are going to rough you up a little. Things get out of hand, you end up in the hospital with a coma.
RATIONALITY: [To himself, words muffled by Anxiety’s hands over his mouth.] I spoke too soon.
ME: God, how embarrassing would that be.
OTHER ME: You’re telling me. I mean, you’re telling yourself. You know what I mean.
ME: I gotcha.
ME: Got hurt because of me?!?
OTHER ME: Exactly. How are you going to feel riding in the ambulance with her mutilated body on the way to the emergency room, trying to tell paramedics exactly why you couldn't stop a gang of thugs from raping her.
RATIONALITY [Barely a whisper.]: That's ridic…
ANXIETY [Loud and authoritative.]: How would you feel?
ME: I'd feel…I'd want to kill myself.
OTHER ME: And we can't have that.
ME: What if we just went to the movies?
ME: We could always go to a restaurant and then go back to her place?
OTHER ME: Why, so you can make a fool out of yourself and drool all over her only to vomit when she mentions sex?
ME: Christ, what am I supposed to do? Sit at home and play with myself?
OTHER ME: In all honesty, that's probably the safest bet.
ME: [Screaming.]: But it isn't fair! I deserve to go out and have a good time. I deserve to do the things other people want to do. I want to live like a normal person goddammit!
ANXIETY [Soothing and calm.] Here, it is safe and comfortable. If you stay here, no harm will come to you.
ME [Taking off shoes and jacket.] Dammit. Where did I put Melissa's number? Think she'll buy it if I say I'm sick?
OTHER ME: Assuredly.
ANXIETY [Trailing off.]: Safe and comfortable…
That’s the way these conversations with yourself go most of the time. I imagine, had I been off the medicine, that’s almost the exact dialogue I would have had before taking Melissa to the party. But even as the days go by and I keep searching for the effects of the goddamn medicine to wear off, I can’t get nervous. Anxiety isn’t there. I think about getting beat up and immediately throw the idea off as ludicrous. I think about going back to Melissa's place after having a few beers and having sex with her and the only feeling in my stomach is excitement—no nausea. What I had control over before I was taking the medicine—the only part of the world I had control over—is gone. There's something else in control now. Because this is the conversation I have as I lace up my boots and get ready to go pick up Melissa:
ME: This is going to be fun!
OTHER ME: I know I shouldn't, but I'll probably get drunk tonight.
ME: S'okay. Everyone needs to take a load off now and then. We can take a cab. You have cash right?
OTHER ME: Of course.
ANXIETY [Timidly.]: But what if…
RATIONALITY [Booming.] There is no "what if." You will have a good time. You are, and always will be, safe, secure, and confident. No need to worry—everything is going to be OK.
Rationality. As I lace up my shoes and put on my jacket, I realize I’m really starting to hate that motherfucker.