All About The Silver Lining

Chapter 22

TWENTY-TWO

OH MY FRELLING GOD, that was so emo. Why oh why oh why did I let myself write a poem? I really must need copious amounts of medication if that's the kind of crap bumping around inside my cranium. Coffee houses of Colorado, be on the lookout for a Zoloft-doped girl in a black leotard, carrying patchouli and bongos… you may need to call a cab to take me back to Everwood. By force, if necessary.

Worst part: yes, I was really listening to Dashboard Confessional while I wrote that. Somebody axe-murder me.

Amy and I are doing way better now than we were when I wrote that monstrosity (the words "offal" and "toxic sludge" come to mind). Not copacetic, but better, little by little. There's strain, but at least we're hanging around and talking, holding hands when we feel up to it.

And… well, we had phone sex again. It was so wild, it just happened; she called me to ask me a question for math, then we got to talking about silly stuff, and from there we got, uh, turned on and, uh… then other stuff happened. What, do you need a diagram?

To me that's kind of weird, since we haven't even kissed since the night Bright crashed the party. But whatevs. We'll come around to each other sooner or later, right? Yeah.

I kind of got into another fight with my mom today. She found a few of my cut-up Zoloft and accused me of grinding them up and snorting them – you know, as if they would have the same effect as cocaine. Right. All the cool kids are snorting Zoloft. Isn't that, like, completely lethal anyway?

There are so many other drugs that are much more fun. And we'll pretend that I don't know which. And we'll also state for the record that I don't know from personal experience.

Moving on, I kind of bailed after that to give my mom time to calm down and stop tearing out her hair. I was on my way to Mama Joy's when I passed the old train station, and I smiled. Doc Brown (holy shit, I just realized... he should totally build me a DeLorean that can send me to the Fifties) and Amy's grandma were probably in there right now, bustling around and giving out their pro bono medical care. Oddly, I found my feet taking me inside, and it wasn't until I was there and had been asked a question that I really knew why.

"What can I do ya for, Private?" Edna asked me. I think it's a holdover from her being an army medic, but she always calls everybody younger than her "Private". Which really is everybody but her husband, Irv; he might in fact be older than Everwood, but still acts younger than me half the time. He's a riotous retiree (see what I did there?).

"I, uh… I just had a quick question for Dr Brown, if he's free," I heard myself saying.

"Well, grab a seat and we'll see if Sarge can get you on the roster."

I sat. I waited, I kicked at the scuffed legs of my chair, I flipped through an Elle. Finally, I saw old Mr Jensen ambling out of the exam room and Andy Brown followed in his white lab coat. He was about to say something to Mrs Harper when he spotted me and his face lit up. "Laynie Hart!"

"That's me."

"She wanted a brief consultation," Edna told him as if I wasn't there; standard procedure or something. "You got a minute?"

"Sure, of course; we have a pretty light schedule today. Come on inside."

I followed him into his office instead of the exam room, which was fine because I didn't think I'd be needing one of those drafty backless gowns just to ask him. "Shoot."

"Shoot?"

"Shoot," he repeated, folding his hands in his lap and twiddling his thumbs. "Straight from the hip. What's on your mind?"

"Well… I know Dr. Abbott is our usual doctor and all, but I'd rather talk to somebody else about this, and uh…"

"I'm the only other game in town."

"Yep."

He nodded as if he was used to that logic coming with the stories of everybody he'd treated since setting up shop in the train station. "Well, go on."

"This is gonna be confidential, right? Gotta cover my bases."

"Bases covered. Let's have it."

"I'm thinking about going off Zoloft."

He blinked, then smiled slightly. "I wasn't aware you were on Zoloft. Then again, you could probably fill an encyclopaedia with things I'm not aware of. Why are you considering stopping the dosage?"

"Because it... it makes me feel safe, and happy, and content. I hate that." He raised an eyebrow. "It's fake. Everything feels fake all the time, and I keep wondering if I'm doing the right things, or if… if the medication is screwing my life up. Are all my bad decisions really my bad decisions? I'd rather be feeling real misery than artificial bliss."

"Ah," he said with a slight nod. "Well, then, you'll have to talk to Dr Abbott about it eventually, since he's the one prescribing the antidepressants."

"Yeah, I know I will."

"But you don't want to. Mind if I ask why? You don't necessarily have to answer."

"Go ahead. Ask why." He grinned his patented SuperBeard grin and repeated his question, and I smiled back. "Well... if one of them knows, they'll all know. The Abbotts. Since I'm friends with Amy and Bright, and their parents are more like parents to me than my own, it's... I guess awkward? It's awkward having them know my business. My weakness."

"It's not really a weakness," he reassured me, his tone taking on that earnestness he was famous (infamous?) for. "Anyone can be susceptible to any one of a million conditions within the mind, ranging from depression to autism to genuine psychosis. More often than not it's out of our control. Blaming the patient is not only futile, but harmful to them and to those around them. Throws kerosene on the fire."

"Yeah, they gave me the handy installation guide," I quipped. "I just wanna know if it's safe for me to dial this stuff back."

Nodding, he took a deep breath before beginning. "Well, if you were my patient, first I'd recommend stepping down the dosage before going cold turkey."

"Done."

"Done?"

"Myself." I squirmed. "I've… kinda been… chopping my pills in half. I hope I'm not about to turn into some foaming, rabid dog or anything."

"Unlikely," he laughed. "It's better to let the doctor handle such matters, but to be honest with you this strikes me as a good sign; you're feeling good enough to reason that the level of sertraline hydrochloride in your system might be higher than is really necessary, and you can make your own judgement that it's time to cut back. It's encouraging. And I wouldn't worry about chopping the pills in half versus a lower dosage tablet, it shouldn't matter. What dosage were you on before?"

"Fifty. I took it at breakfast."

"And how long have you been halving that?"

"Um… about two or three weeks?" When he just nodded, I quietly asked, "Is that… bad? I know there's higher dosages, though, so I thought-"

"No, no, it isn't bad at all. Just thinking." I waited a little bit longer, and at last he sat up straighter and sighed. "Okay. My professional opinion is that in another week you could be safely taken off the medication, if you feel you're ready. But obviously I can't be the one to do that for you."

"Okay."

"You haven't been experiencing any withdrawal symptoms?" He said, absently scratching something down on his clipboard. "Headaches, dizziness, crying… agitation?"

"Agitation is part of being in high school." He chuckled, no doubt thinking about Ephram. "Um… you said crying. Isn't it normal to cry, though?"

"Of course, of course. Sometimes people coming down off an SSRI can start crying without reason, or without knowing they're doing it, that's all."

I hesitated. This was going to yank everything to a crashing halt. "Um…"

"Yes?"

"I have, once or twice," I told him. "Started crying. I mean, there was a reason, a pretty good reason, but… but once I didn't realize until somebody pointed it out."

"Oh."

"I'm cracking up. That's it, that's the end of the road to sanity."

"No, no," he soothed, frowning. Probably thinking even while he was talking to me with that genius brain of his. "Don't worry so much. Have you had any of those other symptoms? Nightmares or anxiousness?"

"Not really. I mean, I'm anxious about normal stuff, but not randomly paranoid or anything like that." I was hedging, if you couldn't tell; hedging around the fact that Amy and I had been such a trigger lately. "Are you sure I'm not losing it?"

"You sound pretty lucid to me," he said with a smile. "Tell you what; you can tell the same thing to Dr Abbott in a week. Tell him you've been lowering your dosage as long as you have and ask him if he approves of a temporary abstention; if he's no more concerned about the lability than I am, he'll likely recommend follow-up visits to make sure you don't need it anymore. Sound like a plan?"

Biting my lip, I nodded.

Edna pounded me on the back when I emerged and called me a "good soldier", which I took as a compliment, and then I toddled away. On the one hand, this is positive news, right? No more drugs to swallow every fricking morning with an orange juice chaser. On the other hand, now I was actually morescared of my decision to halve the pills than I ever had been.

The crying was a symptom of withdrawal. That weird thing in Mama Joy's had been more than a fluke, it had been symptomatic. Would I wind up killing myself if I went cold turkey now?

Which is why I didn't go to Mama Joy's. Instead, I went into the forest. Just picked a spot and headed straight into the trees. A girl is allowed to take a walk, isn't she? I drifted through the trees and touched their branches, wrote my name on patches of unmelted snow in shady spots… kicked pine cones. Wasted time. Took a breath. It was helpful, ratcheted back all my stressing.

Now I'm going over to Amy's. I stopped in Mama Joy's after all, and the marshmallows in the shape of a smiley face in my hot chocolate told me that Nina remembered our conversation and was pulling for me. In a weird way, stupid marshmallows helped more than a lot of the other stuff had. Maybe I'm not in such a bad place after all.

Laynie

AUTHORESS'S NOTE: Did everyone get their fill of Stove Top stuffing and candied yams? I'm full to bursting with puréed pumpkin myself. This chapter was more or less an excuse to get Dr Brown a speaking role, except that it did fit quite well into the plotline. So everyone wins! (Except anyone with some deep-seated hatred of the character of Andy Brown, which I can't imagine such a person exists)

13th: "Teenaginess" is my new favourite term! Sanctioned by Oxford's, that, isn't it? As for make-up sex, well, I've addressed that also. :)Xpsi: You mean my poetry wouldn't topple walls and bring warring nations to the peace pipes? B-but...

NEXT: Parking up at The Point... and all that it entails.

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