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Guest Writer

Prozac Girl 1, Universe 0
'The Rage'
by Jennifer Henry

recently started taking Prozac. I had to. I needed to subside what my husband has coined "The Rage."

I've always been susceptible to The Rage. About when I was six, and when my mood beckoned it, my mother began calling me Little Bitch Woman. It was a term of endearment.

I thought life was a fight, had to be a fight. Anger was a feeling to be dealt with and reckoned with, not to be held deep within tensed muscles and weary bones. I didn't understand that anger could evaporate.

I'm beginning to have a sense of what it might be like to be schizophrenic. (Is Prozac supposed to do that?) I feel part of me quieting. The part of me that always felt so right, that I always knew later had been so wrong. It is the part of me that I could never admit to, because that would have meant that I had been irrational. (And I am not irrational!)

Let me explain about The Rage.

My husband loves "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas." In it, Hunter S. Thompson, as portrayed by Johnny Depp, gets The Fear. (What, did you think I was referring to the book?) The Fear is brought on by a unique drug-induced state.

So, too, is The Rage.

Once a month, my body stops making drugs that I depend on, making me continually go through withdrawal for a few days every single fucking month. It is my birthright. Until my husband dared to point it out to me, two months after we were married, one month after I stormed out of a decent job where I was appreciated (but not enough!), I never knew that I periodically fell under the influence of The Rage.

Sometimes I wondered if it always had to feel like that, and I wasn't sure what it was that needed to be fixed, but nothing could get rid of this feeling that it sucked. And the only reason not to end it all was that there was a chance of fucking purgatory! Man, how much would that suck! To get out of it all just to get stuck in it all for fucking ever! There was no way that I was going to be that fucking stupid. I would tough it out for 60, 70 years, if fucking purgatory could be on the table.

So I figured I'd better enjoy it.

We were married on a lawn by a lake where he had grown up each summer. He later told me that the night before we were married, one of his uncles said, "Don't freak out when she quits her job. She will quit her job." (How could he have known?)

The problem was this: My employer would not pay me for the entire four days of work that were above and beyond what I was owed in vacation pay, days that were part of my honeymoon. He gave me two days, so the net grievance was for but two days of pay. I am ashamed to confess: it wasn't much money.

But my monthly rent was one-third of my monthly pay! If I took two days of pay from a 22-day work month, I would lose one-eleventh of my pay! Simple math did not afford for She-Who-Lives-from-Month-to-Month to go without two days of pay! And marriage did not change that! (Seriously, how the fuck could his uncle have known?)

Didn't my employer have an obligation to let me enjoy a "life change" when I had given the company so much? (That's really what I called it – a life change ... I know, but I needed to tug at the heartstrings; he adored me and this was a fucking life change!)

Besides, for the five months preceding the days in question, I had averaged 20 hours per week above a normal 40-hour workweek and had received no compensation for the extra hours. I had worked Sundays! I had worked nights! I had planned my wedding to fall at a time when work was slow! I had self-righteous karma to throw at them! They owed me! (Prozac hasn't changed this; I'm still pissed at them.)

My husband and I kept track with a wet-erase marker on the refrigerator. For about three months, I humored him while he wrote the date that things got bad on the side of the refrigerator. They were 28 days apart. We Windexed the thing and rerecorded the most recent date and continued to keep track. Unbelievable! Every fucking 28 days! Give or take.

I wondered if he could be right. I was 29 years old. I had never considered it.

When I first heard about it, before I would unwittingly experience it, my mother said it wasn't real. It was something that men made up to call women insane. This would have been in the early '80s; I got no help on that front.

Last month I called my mother to tell her I had begun taking Prozac. I said that I wondered if she suffered similar symptoms. She said that she was certain she hadn't, although at times it might have seemed like she had. (I was just asking because of the former monthly flying-of-the-plates-through-the-kitchen on what I once thought was Bill-Paying Day.)

But I finally began to see that I was suffering. And 10 days before I finally sought help ...

... I threw my husband's raincoat (that was messily lying in the living room!) from the recliner to whatever was in the trajectory of my reverse underhand. The floor, I had hoped. In fact, it was the funky pottery bowl that my uncle gave us for our wedding. It sat on the mantle, commingling elegantly with the painting that hung above it, by the artist, his mother, my maternal grandmother.

I can find another bowl that looks just like the one my uncle gave us. I can find one on e-Bay, in the style of my choosing. I can replace the lost aesthetic for a pretty good price. But this bowl was given to us by my uncle, the son of my late maternal grandmother. I have hunches about what it is that he's never forgiven her for, but I don't know for sure. It would probably make sense, if I knew for sure. It always does. (Seriously, I can't forgive that fucking company! I can't let it go!) But whatever was between the two of them, it didn't live above my mantle.

I knew what I was saying when I said, "Do you think that I give a fucking shit about a fucking wedding present?" (I called my husband "fat ass" a few moments later. He actually has quite a nice ass. He's just sensitive about his weight right now. So I called him "fat ass." Like I said, I knew what I was saying.)

A few days later, I passed out at eight o'clock on a Saturday night. He says I swooned – a high exhale of an "Oh ..." He said it was such a funny noise that there was a good chance it was a joke. It was the convulsions before coming to, as well as a brief consultation that I demanded with our M.D. sister-in-law, that convinced me to go to the emergency room.

In the past, I have taken several friends to the emergency room. During freshman orientation at college, one of my new best friends dove into the curb on the corner of frat row, and I brought him to the hospital for stitches. But drinking that much is asking for it!

On a more related note, after college, an old high-school friend was visiting me. As soon as we left the very first bar, she dropped to the curb. She broke her nose and a tooth, and she totally didn't deserve it! She only had one drink! The doctor at the emergency room called it vaso-vagel and said that it was because she walked out of a hot place, into a cold place, and she was probably worn down. So that's what I expected them to tell me when I went to the emergency room, which is why I didn't want to go to the emergency room.

But the convulsing was hard to argue with.

Apparently it's not that odd – convulsing for a brief period while you're passed out. When I came to, I could feel that my right leg was still twitching. I quickly controlled it and said that I thought I might have passed out. Right away, I looked at my surroundings and walked to the couch I always sit on, the one that was farther from me.

Later, in the emergency room, they said that was a big indicator that the convulsing was just part of one of these vaso-vagel episodes. If I got up and walked to the couch and knew what was going on right away, it wasn't any seizure. I was too coherent.

So, good!

We went to the emergency room so that we could rule out a seizure. That's a good thing. My insurance company called me up a few days later to see if I wanted a follow-up with my primary care physician. I asked what my primary care physician might do for a follow-up under the circumstances. The voice on the other end of the phone said that she might do some blood tests and she might have me run on a treadmill.

That sounded reasonable to me. Maybe a follow-up would shed some more light on the convulsions and swooning and such. They hadn't tested my iron-level when I was in the emergency room. Perhaps I was anemic.

My doctor basically did what they did at the emergency room and called it a vaso-vagel episode.

So, there!

I didn't need to go to the emergency room at all! But if I hadn't gone, I wouldn't have been in my primary care physician's office at that moment, and I might not have started crying as I told her that I had been looking into it and I had something like 12 out of 15 symptoms that they listed on WebMD – all of them in both the behavioral and emotional categories and most of them in the physical category – and it was really becoming a problem at home and I had to do something about it!

My experience is not unique, but it might be worthwhile to share. Something that has always been within me is leaving me. It is the part of me that knows that nothing will ever be good enough.

Not every woman gets The Rage.

The theory my husband and I are going with is that I am so much woman, have so much estrogen, that each month I go through serious estrogen withdrawal. I need the Prozac to calm down the estrogen addict within. It's probably just part of the way the universe has of balancing out certain things, like my being such a fucking awesome lover.

If that's the case, last month it was Prozac Girl 1, Universe 0. Instead of getting The Rage, I had sex with my husband.

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