Long ago—before I was certain that all this was a great big bummer, and was only vaguely aware of the true nature of things—I made money selling my body to science. It was never anything particularly dangerous. Most of the clinical trials I participated in were Phase III or IV, or an already FDA-approved medication seeking reevaluation. I ingested or was intravenously dosed with about a dozen medications. I made pretty good money. It helped me get through college.
The last big one I ever did was a revolutionary malaria vaccination administered to me by the U.S. government. It paid the most out of all the trials I’d done. I was living alone back then, and was horribly depressed. The money I earned allowed me to stay home and write a novel that I eventually scrapped and rewrote. It also allowed me to never leave my apartment.
Years later, in Oakland, I met a woman from New Zealand. She told me about some trials she’d been doing at a hospital in San Francisco. They were all out-patient. I needed new underwear so I decided to do one. It was a depression study. The study doctor I met with had me sit in a chair across from her while she asked me questions. The entire thing was filmed on a small digital camera. Most of the questions dealt having a lack of energy, or a loss in interest in activities previously enjoyed, and so on. She asked me if I was overly self-critical, if I indulged in an unhealthy amount of self-loathing, and if I rarely ate or slept. I reckon I was too blunt with her, because she seemed to become nervous when I said something like, “Are you kidding me? All of the above!” I think it made her even more nervous that I was laughing and smiling the whole time when discussing my dark and lonely life! To which I would have said (if she had asked): “Listen sister, the only way to get through this thing is to have a sense of humor about it.” But she didn’t ask. She turned off the camera and made a phone call in the hallway. She returned a few minutes later and said I was “too depressed” for the study. She paid me anyway. I asked to have a copy of the tape. She said no. I left. I went to the Uniqlo near Powell Street station and bought a bunch of underwear.
And now I’m at it again, or else I’m going to starve to death . . . Last night I took a brief survey to test my eligibility. Here were the questions and my answers:
“Feeling sad, unhappy, self-critical?”
“Feeling tired and having little energy or motivation?”
“Having trouble sleeping or eating (either too much or too little)?”
“Not enjoying activities that you used to?”
“Feeling uneasy, restless, irritable or guilty?”
“Having trouble concentrating, remembering things or making decisions?”
“Having nagging aches and pains (headaches, joint pain, stomach pains/indigestion) that won’t go away?”
“Friends and family think there is something wrong with you and that your mood has changed?”
“Feel like your low mood is impacting your family, friends, work?”
I hit “submit” and a little prompt told me that because I had answered “yes” to four or more questions, I was “likely suffering from depression.” Yeah, tell me about it! (Though hey, at least I don’t have nagging aches and pains. . . .)
At the bottom of the page was a picture of a grey-haired man in a tie. I guess I’m supposed to believe this guy is a doctor. Who knows. Maybe he is. There’s a quote next to his head, and I guess I’m supposed to believe this guy said it: “Depression is very treatable and is an illness, not a permanent condition.”
Had I been drinking coffee, I would have spit it out onto my computer monitor. Who does this cheese-easter think he is? Where does he get off telling me and all the rest of my doomed brothers and sisters that the permanent condition we have is an illness, as if it’s the god darned common cold? I agree that this godawful malady is treatable in the sense that you can suppress or dampen the symptoms, but let’s face it: depression / bipolar disorder / whatever is hardwired into our broken brains, and the only thing you can really do is shrink that all-consuming black hole that lives inside you and endure those dark storms that pop up every now and then, sometimes four or five times a year. . . .
Anyway: I gave them my phone number and email address. Maybe they’ll kill me. I have no control over that now—it’s too late to turn this bitch around. Or maybe they’ll just do what they said they were going to do, which is to call me and bring me in for treatment. The paycheck, they say, is $1,300 big ones. Lord! It’s about time I made a buck or two off this damn thing.
IN OTHER NEWS: I think I have been hallucinating a horse fly in my room all night. I swear, sometimes it’s real (Dante seems to hear it), and other times it’s definitely some sort of mirage . . . it vanishes right there before my eyes. It is five in the morning and I am terrified of turning off the light because I know as soon as I do it’s going to zero in on my face and suck me dry. And the thing is, it has to be injured at this point . . . I have been whacking it with a rolled up T-shirt for an hour. I have seen it drop dead a few times now, only to remerge in some other part of the room when I least expect it. Maybe there are a bunch of them. Maybe, God help me, there are none of them, and never were to begin with. We won’t consider this possibly just yet. And anyway, perhaps there is money to made from this. If they can cut me a check for hating myself and alienating my friends and family, then surely they can peel off a few greenbacks for having visions of blood-sucking insects.
Have you ever seen a horse fly? They’re scary as hell, man. Big mean mothers. As someone who has a long history of capturing and releasing insects (including spiders) rather than killing them, I will go on record right now and say that I annihilate horse flies on sight. I’m sorry. I really dislike those things. I think it’s fine if they want to fuck around in some other squalid corner of the world, but stay the heck out of the only sanctuary I have.
“Are you having frequent hallucinations of insects taunting you while you write these worthless words from your warm little bed?”
Have I bummed you out enough? OK, I’ll stop now. I really am stopping now. And I will say this: I’m working on several essays. Isn’t that lovely?! Maybe I’ll even post them soon.
. . . and thanks to all the fine people who have written to the P.O. box! Keep em coming! You’re gorgeous, I swear. I think you’re great.
Birds chirping outside again. It’s time to put on a sleep mask and hope to God the flies haven’t figured out a way to infiltrate my dreams. They’re bad enough as it is!