Well, of course I did

Change my mind, that is. About volunteering to be locked up for research purposes in a part of the world where today’s forecast called for “ice pellets.”

Mostly at the urging of my Lord & Master (who pays for my room, board, and health insurance in exchange for help with his various projects), I am flying to DC tomorrow to be evaluated as a prospective subject. My L&M has the odd notion that just being there will somehow be therapeutic for me. And of course he, like me, thinks there’s no nobler cause than participating in scientific research. I’m not sure I agree with him that it’s nobler than helping geezers with their taxes. In fact, I not-so-secretly hope that I am found to be ineligible for any study and am sent home posthaste.

The evaluation phase supposedly lasts a week, to be followed by two weeks of … nothing. I will stay in my cellblock (with occasional passes to go out and observe the ice pellets), getting no treatment of any kind, while the researchers make sure I don’t take any forbidden substances. So I will be there for three weeks before anything interesting happens. And most of that time will be during The Holidays, my least favorite time to be in a hospital-like setting. I just hope there’s no Xmas decor on my cellblock. If I see a baby Jesus at a nurses’ station in that government facility, or any other promotion of Xianity, I’m blowing the whistle.

In my last conversation with an NIMH staffer, I said that I really wasn’t feeling all that depressed (“I’m not dead…I’m getting better”). Concerned that I might not have a high enough depression score when I get there, she coached me on how to answer the questions I’ll be asked. She basically said that I should remind myself of how lousy I feel most of the time and not be fooled by the occasional moments of feeling good.

The funny thing is that after I last wrote, having resolved not to go, I felt exuberant and healthy. Then, after changing my mind, I immediately sank into despair and noticed a physical sensation of unease, located somewhere between my lungs. Weird. I’d never had that kind of pinpointable feeling, despite the urging by my erstwhile psychotherapist, K, to describe the bodily manifestations of my distress.

The sensation could be anticipatory withdrawal from alcohol. In preparation for the long dry spell that may lie ahead, I’ve tried to drink a little less than usual this week, e.g., 4 oz of wine at night vs. the usual 6. But yesterday I drank a whole 12-oz beer (admittedly over a 3-hour period), so I don’t think what I’m feeling is any kind of physical withdrawal. It’s just a general sense of dread that happens to be lodged in my chest. Maybe it’s an evolved species of Tingler that lives not on the spine but on the trachea.

Several weeks ago I started listening to an audiobook by self-help guru Raphael Cushnir. During the part I listened to (a tiny part of the whole program, which might have changed my life if I’d stuck with it) he described two different ways you can face unwelcome emotions. I’m wildly paraphrasing here, but I think these were (1) a physically and mentally expansive mode and (2) a cringing and closed-up mode. So maybe if I just open my arms wide and scream, the Tingler will dissipate. Apologies to anyone who has actually read this book and knows that my recollection of it is way off, also to anyone who is reading this blog entry and wishes it would end. Your wish is my command.



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