They are all drifting in and out of sleep in the icosahedron. Curled in this Platonic solid she falls asleep, drifts in and out, finally rests her long body. Then it’s up, wiping the sleep from her addict eyes and to the Seroquel and Ambien, one is never enough for the sleepless. The next morning when the camper near her tent wakes her before her time she screams at them all and cries about the weather. Awake, but in a trance – she is four, she is free, irresponsible, petulant, and cranky. She is unable to react to any emergency, a gawking, hollow, sleepwalking, six-foot-one burden.
She is self-medicating PTSD with five fingers of support, Seroquel, Ambien, Xanax, a muscle relaxant, and an even stronger sleeping pill. She isn’t a burden, just slightly low integrity due to grogginess which she cuts with caffeine. While accepting any pharmaceutical and alcohol she rails drunken against the rest one night as they lounge in the icosahedron. “You’d be out doing things if you didn’t do drugs all the time” – the rest, having used cannabis and intermittent N2O, can’t say anything in response to that and are too high to point out her hypocrisy, sensing her fragility. She tries to take her super-strong sleeping pill to sleep away the heat of the day, but it doesn’t work, leaving her a dopey mess – but with the presence of mind to stay inside her friend’s tent.
He’s driven a car hit by a drunk driver that killed his fiancé and unborn child. He’s shot and killed a man that broke into his home, protecting his second wife and two children. He’s survived brain cancer, cocaine addiction, MS, and public battles with and against the union and the energy company for whom he’s worked his whole career. He survives his third suicide attempt – swallowing a box and a half of Seroquel in a remote location on the coast, parked where the tide is sure to take him out. Randomly an officer finds him, he is helicoptered out with a pulse of 36, yet still has the presence of mind to grab the breast of the nurse with the air medical services, ironically a company called “REACH”.
She’s lied about her life for the last seven years, kept everything from everyone, lived in a lie off of her boyfriend, and is steeping in unpaid bills. The pressure builds up, hints are leaking, but no one knows anything until she disappears for three days. She’s found by the police, a few blocks from her home, locked in the trunk of her own car, dehydrated but alive. The last thing she claims to remember is being on the coast in the same remote location, swallowing a box of Seroquel dissolved in a bottle of wine. The police write it off as a suicide attempt and she is not examined for foul play.
I’ve never taken sleeping pills. They seem evil. Perhaps responsible use of them is just invisible, because all I’ve seen are nightmares.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Watching over-the-counter drug commercials targeted towards young mothers I am present to the classification of health problems by symptom and the idea of a drug as medicine.
“Mommy – I have a cough.”
“Here baby, here’s medicine for your cough.”
(thin strips for accurate no deviation from the median dosing each time! For the average child, that never grows, that never wavers, is always constant… For the mother that has no instinct or knowledge, that cannot measure, that has disempowered herself to consumer guidelines…)
And so the mother gives her child a drug to suppress her immune system, which reduces congestion, makes her cough go away, allows the pathogens a deeper hold on her young system, interferes with the long term functioning of her liver, immune, respiratory, and digestive systems and prolongs the duration of her illness.
Mother’s milk – the great deliverer of medicine. Compassion, nutrition, protein, chemistry, and toxicity.
What difference then, from the shaman that disempowers himself to the spirits? The medicine woman that listens to the plants? They and the mother pass down cultural ways of being around health, ways of being that demand participation, community, industry. Human instinct is to seek healing outside oneself. We’re all looking for that white coat.
The microscopic unknown of our own squishy and complex physiology terrifies us, and we’re in constant pain from dying. Sickness is fear and pain. We’re all dying. We’re all sick. We’re all afraid.
With each year that passes modern culture gains sophistication in a way that makes our illogical attachments to industry propaganda-seeded ideas of medicine more glaringly absurd.
Even the ones still plugged-in, drinking the kool-aid, unexamined, are keenly aware of the appalling humor of a list of prescription drug side effects that comes with every advertisement. Medications, not medicines. None of us believe in these singularly, but as a whole we lead our lives by them.
Popping a pill, symptom suppression, the convenience of a reactive attitude towards health – waiting until we get into the accident to get the bodywork - these aren’t medicine. Perhaps neither as a whole are food, herbs, supplements, psychoactives – all of which contain toxicity. What is medicine?
Is it what heals you? Or is it what takes the pain away? Is it outside you, or inside you? Where is the line between use and abuse? How proactive and additive about health can we be before losing time and pleasure to the pursuit, thereby subtracting from our health?
I don’t have the answer, but as the best medicine man (“drug dealer”) I’ve ever had used to say: “Medicine is anything that makes you happy.”