Swimmers Club

6th February 2017


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Treading Water

Check which is the shallow end and note the point where you will be out of your depth.


Who: Grant Maierhofer
Where: Idaho, USA
What: Writer

The Quit: or the Teenaged Prometheus

March 16

Today, with everything, came the initial angst of my final decision.

Among other things, I suppose, I work mornings, opening a bakery along with a friendly old divorcee named Connie; but the bulk of my day today was given over to the slow, droning adjustment to the fact that I’ll soon be stopping my medication entirely.

This was really only a decision as a result of many other decisions, a reaction—some good, some bad. You see, I’ve mulled over the ideas of chemically enhancing my existence since I was quite young. It started with medicine for ADD when I was seven or so—a diagnosis so diabolical that I did not, and do not understand it.

That was out of my control; the more recent decision of taking Wellbutrin for my depressive tendency was, however, mostly my own (not the drug itself, of course).

I’m nineteen now, and I’ve taken the little things since seventeen. It was the end of high school and I wasn’t about to go to college like most of my peers; my parents have run this bakery in Marcel—where I live—my entire life, and my job wasn’t merely available after high school, it was expected.

My father would’ve vouched for me if I’d opted for college, I think—the bakery was, first and foremost, my mother’s pride and joy—however I felt so uninspired and glum by my seventeenth year that I was happy to spend my mornings near a hot oven, cleaning large, industrial dishes alongside Old Connie, the divorcee.

Anyway, I saw a psychiatrist in Marcel at the time because I started feeling particularly low, and after conveying—at least what I thought would be sufficient enough to get something for the way I felt; I’ve never been much for talking—my plight, I was prescribed a low dose of Wellbutrin, to be upped weekly, until, a month from that May, I’d be at my full dosage and hopefully feeling better.

The first weeks were the oddest I’ve heretofore endured: one day I had an ache in my stomach that felt as though the almighty were tearing the walls of it apart; the following day I woke up in half sleep, maybe, and was only able to stay awake until 7 PM, when I came back to my room, drew the shades, and slept through until my shift at 4 in the morning.

The worst of it though, was the unrelenting, overarching notion that my life was slowly coming to its close. I do not mean this in the regard of some physical decline; physically I was perfectly fine, however mentally—inside—I could not shake the notion of impending doom. Walls seemed to carry maliciousness, gestures made by clerks or customers seemed steeped in the stuff of history, all of it indicating the way out by way of rope.

After that inward torpor, that ephemeral sludge that was my starting weeks on a supposed life-saving drug, things weren’t all that bad. I was able to fully see and comprehend the inner and outer benefits of said medication; I started feeling better.

March 27

Apologies, recounting my past history of medications taken and given up was more taxing than I could’ve foreseen. These things take time as anything.

Anyway, I have yet to actually forgo my morning dose of purported bliss. I’m currently sitting at the computer, actually, looking further into depression; and the cases I’ve found regarding a personal decision to cease medication could go either way in terms of advocacy for, or warnings against, the quitting of pills—the only constant throughout is the motherly voice beneath these digital lecterns: If you want to quit, talk to your doctor first.

This, frankly, defied my initial impulse to quit the things; it started as an act of defiance for me. It has since developed into a well-wrought plan, however, and hence my current research into that enigmatic beast that is the depressed human being.

They say Lincoln was depressed, and Picasso, and Bach died miserably while composing The Art of Fugue, and Faulkner’s drinking led to an insurmountable emotional malaise that left him a burbling drunk even while winning his Nobel Prize. The most intriguing case, however—intriguing because it nearly just happened—is the slow decline, and death of author David Foster Wallace. I had no massive interest in Wallace’s writing per se, I’ve been a reader, and in the back of my mind have often wondered what it would be like to write seriously, but upon reading bits and pieces of mourning regarding David Foster Wallace I felt my interests shifted elsewhere.

However, medically, he’s far more engrossing. The man fought with depression his entire life, it weaved its way throughout all of his works and he took antidepressants for much of his adulthood. However, towards the end, he made the decision to forgo his medication as a result of physical complications and, either in the last days of his quitting them, or after he’d quit, I’m not sure, he wound up hanging himself, only to be discovered by his wife days later. Some accounts indicate he tried other medicines, others indicate he wanted to amplify his creativity, all of it seems mired in the tendency toward romanticizing the doomed among us.

Regardless of how depressed I might be right now, or how depressed I’m certain I’ll become in the next month of actually stopping this medicine, I’m still quite certain that suicide will never seem a viable option for me, and that’s all there is to that. I lack that level of desired physical violence toward the self, maybe; or at least my misery never took the shape of outward grasps for death.

March 31

I woke up today thinking that I was walking backwards out of my aforementioned tunnel into the years of my youth. What I mean by this, is, that I slept nearly the entire night through and into the morning— failing to make it into work—and I woke up still feeling tired, dosed with dread.

I cannot explain this transition. I met with my psychiatrist, discussed the state I was in, that I no longer wanted to take my medication. He protested in the way he’s programmed to protest, I suppose, but eventually (this was two days ago) we agreed that I’d slowly begin to wean off my medication.

Now there’s today, a tiredness I haven’t felt in years, a confusion that befell my skull and left me wondering what it all meant, all over again. I desired to walk, to physically ward off the something, the whatever, but knew it wouldn’t take, I couldn’t lift myself.

My parents were understanding, as I have left them both very much in the know regarding my decision to let the pills go, but I still can’t help wondering if I’ve made the right choice.

It feels like the end all over again.

April 4

No good news, I’m afraid. Frankly it’s as if I’ve defied my every best interest. I’m tired, my eyes feel like they’re burning almost all the time, and I can’t muster interest in anything at all.

Last night I masturbated for forty minutes to absolutely no avail. I’m crippled, I’m nothing, I’m an absolute zero again and I can’t help but wonder whether what I did was worth it.

I’m beginning to collect several thoughts, however. Those thoughts are: depression magnifies under these circumstances, like a hive of wasps. If you’re to poke and prod a hive of wasps someday you’ll soon realize that said hive becomes aggravated—it doesn’t like the change. Sadly, that’s what I’ve done to my depression, perhaps. Through not addressing it with pills any longer, deciding to change my entire approach, to face it head-on and deal with it like an earthly person, I’ve in turn had to stomach the hard truth that is chemical imbalance. Or whether this too was in the mind I can’t be sure, pressures of outsiders convincing the inside it’s off when it simply isn’t on their way, who can say?

I’ll endure it, I’m quite sure, but at what cost? These are the sorts of questions I find myself asking. Not the usual “who am I?” noise that goes along with cultural depression, but genuine concern over what this will make me become. Will I turn into a sort of obscenity, violent, after I’ve come through this anhedonic wall? Will I be better off? Perhaps I’ll merely be a dialtone.

One can never know such things, depressed or not, however I still feel firm in my belief that this was the correct decision, rotten as the mind might go.

April 10

There is, as with most anything, the temptation to feel out of the wood after taking only the first few most challenging steps. I look at and think on these days and times and cannot firmly state whether one, the other, or all approaches are best. There is confusion bleeding into every aspect, and my mind feels soaking wet at times. It’s alright, I mean I’m safe. There’s solace in that, knowledge that I won’t wind up strung to be discovered in the morning. The ovens feel strange though against my hands each breaking day. The divorcee and I get along fine but she senses I’m becoming just a nodder, tending toward assent when really I might want to express something in speech. I drift in and out and don’t know, but it works. I still don’t walk as well but I feel less ennui though seldom smiling. Tomorrow I will drive someplace.

Grant Maierhofer is the author of The Persistence of Crows (Tiny TOE Press), Postures (Publication Studio’s Fellow Travelers Series), Flamingos (forthcoming from ITNA Press) and Grobbing Thistle (Dostoyevsky Wannabe). He lives and works in Idaho.

This story is taken from Grant's forthcoming book Marcel which will be published by Dostoyevsky Wannabe later in 2017.