Do you believe in magic? she asked me.
Her thick, exotic accent already put me in the mind of a fortune teller fresh from Romania. With her black hair, large brown eyes, and particular sales pitch, I pegged her for an Israeli. What were so many Israelis doing in a suburban Memphis mall hawking Dead Sea salt nail tonic anyway?
I told her I did believe in magic. I was running late. I only had 10 minutes left to find some maternity jeggings that wouldn't cut off mine or the baby's circulation, but at that moment, I needed to believe. More importantly, I needed to be convinced.
She took my hand in hers and ran a blue buffer over my ragged nails. She cooed over my watch, clucked when I told her I was three months pregnant (Ju? No. Look at ju. Ju cannot be prrrrrregnant). She then asked if I was ready and whisked away the buffer. And I will be damned if my nail didn't look shiny and fresh and new.
She then tried to sell me about 3 boxes worth of the stuff and the magic was gone. My irritation began to spike. Yes, the stuff really seemed to work, and yes, I can use some lotion that will help clear up all the brown discoloration on my face you keep pointing out, but please, just leave it alone. Yes, I know three boxes will help Israel that much more Now not only did my nine other shabby, ragged nails look so prnounced, so did my liberal guilt. She was sly, that one. I bought 2 boxes and heard myself promising I would come back for Christmas. Oy.
I walked past the food court and was nearly stopped in my tracks by the smells wafting up from the hibachi grill. I was supposed to be downtown for a pilates class, but fatty Japanese chicken and a giant coke was now what I wanted. I picked up my order, sat down at a table and burst into tears.
Why wasn't I at pilates? If I kept eating like this and not exercising, I was going to end up gigantic and nothing like my 100 pound, perfectly pregnant pilates teacher. Why was I still drinking coke? Why on earth did I buy 2 boxes of Israeli magic nail salt when I had carefully budgeted for maternity clothes? Why was I always such a pushover? Why did I become pregnant?
I glanced up at the mall TVs and the image of actress Kat Dennings frolicking in a music video made me cry even harder. She is my current muse for a long gestating screenplay, and her likeness seemed like proof of my failure. Why couldn't I finish the screenplay? Why couldn't I finish anything?
Why...did I forget to take my medication that morning?
I threw away my half-drunk coke and walked quickly to my car where I could sob in private.
I've been taking Cymbalta for a couple of years now, and I credit it for achieving something that years of talking therapy could not - it held the Voices at bay. I think everyone has their own version of the voices, thoughts that reflect his/her unchecked, unbridled darkest fears. Mine routinely mocked me and called me out on every perceived flaw. But mine often wouldn't let me answer a telephone for fear that the person on the other end would end up thinking me stupid because I couldn't carry on a conversation. Mine often kept me housebound for fear of somehow failing somebody, so it was safer to just stay home.The Cymbalta banished them to some distant corner of my brain, and finally I was left to just being me. Sometimes I had bad days, sometimes I was hard on myself. But then I got over it and got shit done.
And then I got pregnant.
Publications like the New England Journal of Medicine and Pediatrics have published a comforting amount of material on the safety of taking SSRIs while pregnant. It has been determined that there is less than a 1% risk of birth defects while medicating, but after careful discussions, my doctor and I agreed that I would slowly wean off the cymbalta so that it would be completely out of my system - and the baby's - by the third trimester. He wanted me to stay on. He knew of my history with pre and post-partum anxiety and depression. He wanted me to be a strong mom to the child I already had. Most importantly, he wanted me to be strong and healthy for myself.
But I wanted off. Even with the New England Journal on my side, all it took was one day of googling to scare the shit out of me and the meds out of system.
So every two weeks I dropped down 10 mg. Caleb would come home to find me crying or scrubbing a plate in fury. I would then remind him through my tears that it was a weaning day, on top of the rampant progesterone flooding my system, and he would go play with Harlow at the far end of the loft. I agreed with the voices. I was miserable and nobody wanted to be around me for good reason.
So I found myself at my next doctor's appointment grateful when he put on the brakes. As of writing this, I am still not officially in my second trimester, and his hope is that I can have a trimester that is (mostly) free of the anxiety and self-hatred that tends to plague me when I am med-free. Sure, that last bit is gonna suck, but I'll take whatever magic I can get.
My nails don't look half bad, either.