Remember What the Dormouse Said


I’m trying hard to power out a true tale of liquor, lust, and primer gray Camaros, but the voodoo ain’t working. I’m tired and I’m nursing a headache. For the last week I’ve been wrestling with the insomnia gorilla, the hairy beast pounding on me at ritual-soothing hours like 4:44. Insomnia is a symptom, not a cause. The cause is withdrawal.

I entertain a rogue’s gallery of mental eccentricities: depression, social anxiety, panic disorder, intrusive thoughts, obsessive compulsive disorder, and the occasional inexplicable craving for yacht rock. Longtime readers, both of you, might remember that doctor-prescribed little pink pills keep my freaks on their leashes, and that has allowed me to lay down work consistently for the last few years.

But those little pink pills have side effects. Weight gain is one: I’ve put on about 20 pounds since going on meds. They are hell on orgasms, too. I haven’t experienced the extreme sexual dysfunction that affects some, but reaching the point where the dam bursts and the dopamine and oxytocin flood my brain can be a real challenge. By taking a pill to fix my broken brain I impede its ability to naturally release its own feel good chemicals. That seems like some sort of cruel joke.

There’s a financial impact, too. My doctor insists on making me pay for a visit each year before he’ll renew my prescription. I pay a couple of hundred bucks annually to have this conversation:

“Mr. Stafford, what brings you in today?”

“I don’t know. You tell me.”

“What do you mean?”

“The pharmacy said you wouldn’t renew my prescription without an appointment.”

“Oh. Well, everything okay?”


“Feeling okay?”


“Any questions for me?”


“Great. See you next year.”

And then there’s the dissatisfaction inherent to knowing that if I don’t a pop a fat-inducing, orgasm-obstructing little pink pill every morning I’ll be punished with insomnia, headaches, and biblical plagues.

I know that my particular variety of batshit crazy is neurochemical, but I hold out hope that it is somewhat environmental, too. Nature may be the wiring, but nurture is the light switch. Have my circumstances changed to the point that the switch won’t flip so easily?

Writing consistently for the last few years has been really good voodoo. I’m happiest when I’m making things, as are most people. Sitting on the sidelines for so many years while the demons played bongos on my frontal lobe multiplied my misery, but I’m productive now: chunky and arthritic from chasing orgasms that lurk like mirages on the horizon, but productive. Maybe I can stay so without meds.

And the biggest stressor of my adult life decided to unceremoniously resolve itself a couple of days after Christmas, too, but that’s not a topic we need to discuss. Even a guy who insists upon being an open book knows what stories to leave untold.

Anyway, my point is this: My circumstances aren’t what they were a few years ago, and I want as little of this battery acid in my veins as I can manage. If not for the fact that I’m taking a perfectly legal medication prescribed by a legitimate doctor for a very real host of problems, I’d liken my last week to a junkie trying to get clean — taking just enough little pink pill to get by, trying to minimize the amount of unnatural chemical in my bloodstream.

All of which is a very long-winded way of apologizing for not having a true tale of liquor, lust, and primer gray Camaros for you this week. I’ll get this worked out as quickly as I can. Hopefully I’ll be back on track and writing away by next week, assuming that dopamine chasing hasn’t permanently contorted my writing hand into a pickle-grasping attitude.

But even if it has, I can always switch to a thicker pen.

Categories: Memoir

8 replies »

  1. Pharmaceuticals can be miraculous but they usually demand some payment in return for the blessed relief they provide. So it comes down to choices and what price are you willing to pay. I take a fistful of pills twice a day for my various maladies, each one exacting its price in return. At this late stage of my life, I’ve come to terms with the transaction. I’m willing to accept a few extra pounds and a disinterested libido to avoid returning to that dark world I used to inhabit. And it isn’t all downside. I find joy in my life that wasn’t there before. I enjoy the company of friends my dysfunction caused me to shun. And I can sit and read a book or watch a movie without the old distractions. We can’t achieve perfection but we can get within shouting distance of it. I’ve decided that’s enough.


  2. Ouch:( I hope you get it all worked out too, looking forward to the next stage of the story but mostly hoping you feel better. Not that I want details on your orgasms, lol?


  3. Most of the people I have regular interactions with are fighting similar battles. It’s interesting how broken people gravitate toward one another. Or maybe we’re all damaged goods. Who knows?
    I do know from experience that meds need to be adjusted from time to time. If you’re not happy with your doc it’s time to find a new one. Yes it’s a pain in the ass but, to quote every annoying friend I’ve ever had, “You’re worth it.” (God, doesn’t that sentence make you want to yack?) Besides, I’m sure you’ve heard it all before from people better qualified than me.
    I do hope you find a solution that works and that if you need help, you have the wherewithal to seek it. (Wherewithal? Who says wherewithal anymore?)

    All the best, man. You’ve got supporters out here.


  4. And what do you do if you’ve been having trouble writing for months? Little pills or not, I know I have to write (there are so many stories upstairs just dying to get out), but all the garbage from my teen torture years is getting in the way. Well, it’s going to rain for three days; perhaps this is a chance to re-boot my brain.
    And good luck to you, James. I’m on a different raft, but the same stormy ocean.


    • My opinion? Write about the teen torture years. Even if you never show those stories to anyone, once you clear them out of the chamber there will be load up the stories you want to write.

      The important thing is to do the work. Develop a habit of writing consistently, even if what you’re writing is “I can’t write” and the dam will eventually break.

      And check back in and let me know how you’re doing. No need to bob around in the ocean alone 🙂


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