A few weeks ago, I went to Portland, OR with my husband for a few days to visit friends. The flights were beautiful and smooth, mountains and rivers poking and glistening from above and under clouds. We held hands. And when we arrived, there were people we can't remember not knowing and tacos and espresso and the kind of laughter that makes us make sense to ourselves again.
On our first morning there, the two of us walked down the tree-lined streets of our friends' chic neighborhood and made our way to the coffee shop of my dreams. When I walked in, I felt like I was walking into a tulle-filled fantasy; there were glass plates swooped on the walls, a wall of for-sale magazines, fresh baguettes, and just the right mix of chipping paint and high elegance.
We sat at a table for two in the back because I couldn't stop crying. It was all too much. I was happy to be with my husband, happy we'd arrived safely, happy our kids were thriving in our absence, and we'd just found the most pristine example of what a coffee shop should be and I just couldn't keep it together.
It was those things and lots of other things, too. It's always about other things too, isn't it?
"I can't do it like this anymore," I said. I brushed tears away, but couldn't keep up with them; I let them fall onto my saucer.
He looked at me and said something like, "Okay. Tell me more."
I knew what I needed to say and struggled mightily to get it out. "I don't think it's supposed to be this hard. I mean, I'm in therapy. We have a beautiful life. I love you. And look at our kids -- why is it so hard for me to stay steady?"
He listened, eyes intent.
"I want to try going on something. I want to try Prozac. I'm sorry."
And then I got up to get a napkin, because just so very many tears.
"Why are you sorry?" he said.
"Because I've wanted to be able to handle my stuff on my own and I just feel like I can't. I'm dealing with all of my emotional skeletons and it's still just harder than feels reasonable," I said. "I'm willing to do the work. I'm willing to feel uncomfortable as I process my current and past realities. But I can't be completely undone by it anymore. I just can't."
He held my hand from across the table and smiled.
We talked about the logistics, about who I needed to call. The tears slowed down and I took a whole bunch of deep breaths and was able to look at my husband through clear eyes. I drank my is-this-for-real-it's-so-good espresso and took a bite of my absurdly delicious fresh-baguette/ham/thick-slices-of-butter sandwich and soaked in the perfect-ness of where we were. The relief that comes when we tell the truth about who we are and what we need began to flood my body and we walked home a little lighter.
I've been on Prozac for a few weeks now. I'm already feeling less edgy.
I've been worried that I won't be able to write anymore if I'm medicated. That the fire that propels me will be extinguished -- though it's worth remembering that the fire has also had a tendency to engulf me. I've worried that I'll become a numbed-out version of myself, that my good will be as dull as my bad.
I'm writing this now, in part, just to see if I can.
I'm calling this The Prozac Experiment. If I feel good, I'm going to keep taking it. If I feel doped up, I'll stop. I've finally learned that making declarations about what I will always do or not do just sets me up for eventual contradiction. And so this experiment is for now, for today, for we'll see.
Giving myself a touch of grace was -- is -- really hard. I'm hoping, that with hard work and a little bit of help, it won't feel that way forever.
A version of this piece first appeared at www.emilyballard.com. Visit Emily's website to read more about her insides, what propels her forward, and how to get in touch.