After feeling anxious for years, first in childhood stomach aches, then in the mid-twenties chest pains, both times with the dread, the worry, the terror, a doctor said to me: So, do you wanna go on sertraline?
And I said: Yeah.
The person Laura was fucking at the time, a quiet Irishman into watersports like Joyce, was on it and said it was a miracle for anxiety. I wanted to give it a try. The doctor asked me if I’d ever hurt myself and I said: Yeah, yeah I’ve hit myself, punched my face when I was drunk.
But she said that didn’t count, so, fine. I also stayed on the propranolol, beta blockers which I had been prescribed a few months before and took if I ever felt anything too unpleasant ever.
My partner’s sister was also prescribed SSRIs, coincidentally on the same day. It was late January and that was the sort of thing that happened. I went over to their house after the first tablet made me feel like I was not in the same body or world as before. Gemma cooked me and their sister a special dinner, one that had comforted the siblings in childhood. They were close, and sometimes I thought things about that, how they had been married as children, how they lived together still and how one time Gemma had said that living with their sister alone would be the same as living alone. I didn’t know how I fit into that. Not that I wanted to be Gemma’s only one, we were non-monogamous, but because sometimes I felt like I was taking things away from their sister, especially because we were both women (and wasn’t my relationship with Gemma, although they weren’t a woman, perhaps sisterly, perhaps female-friendshipy) and the same age although I felt younger and silly like a loud little girl who made ridiculous decisions.
So, now we were on SSRIs. After dinner, I lay with my head on Gemma’s stomach listening to its rumblings, as I did with my mother as a child, and feeling slightly aroused by their breasts above me. (Later my counselor would call this encounter womb-like and mine and Gemma’s relationship nourishing for me.) Their house, as well, was sustaining, with love and warmth and tidiness, the smell of washing. I will probably always associate their house with the first time people saw me as being a queer person (I say first as if it is for certain that people will see me like that again), as well as my sense of being a phoney. I knew the right words but not in practice, I didn’t top or bottom. Being queer to me then was just being swaddled and not having to explain the pain.
(And, when I did touch their breasts I felt like a teenage boy, not a grown woman. I couldn’t believe I was allowed, I was obsessed with pulling down the tight fabric covering the gap between the two. They laughed at me, said I was always horny like a dirty old man. They said: Oh, you only knew you were queer when you touched boobs.)
Read the rest of this essay on Entropy.