I had been in Paris for less than four days, when I found myself curled around the toilet. I was huddled against it as if I were trying to gain warmth from the cold. My legs encircled the bottom like a make-shift Christmas wreath that someone forgot to decorate, and I gasped for air.
I had been sick all day. I thought I was hungover, but that didn’t make sense. I chalked it up to a flu I picked up on the plane, but with the shaking, and inability to hold a glass, it seemed like something worse. I emailed my esteemed colleagues at TheGloss, told them I was sick and they should find someone to cover for me. And so I laid there, shaking, my stomach burning; throwing up bile and shitting (pardon this part) out my insides like nothing I’d seen since a bad attack of food poisoning. I realized France doesn’t have 911, and not knowing the French equivalent, I assumed I would die there on the floor and my parents wouldn’t find out until weeks later. I imagined it would be Jennifer who would tell them when I didn’t show up on the site for days; I thought it was the end.
When I was finally able to pull myself from the floor, I realized I hadn’t taken my anti-depressant that day. I spilled the pills onto the bureau and counted them out (since I’m in Paris and insurance only allows a certain amount, I have them down to an exact number.) I had missed the past three days.
I never miss taking my pills; it’s part of my daily routine. No matter what time I get up; I go to the loo, stop at the sink and take them. But my routine had been disrupted. I had gotten up too late the day I was supposed to head to JFK, I had been wide awake the whole flight here, including the layover in Reykjavík, and when I finally reached Paris, I made my way, sleepily, to the apartment where I’m staying, and passed out.
I didn’t wake until the next day, Paris time, but it was late in the afternoon. I immediately got to work on what I had to do, and alerted my friends and family that I had arrived safely. Then I got sick.
It was a sickness that I had had before, but it had been so long that I couldn’t place it. So, as I said, I dismissed it as having drank too much the night before (four glasses of wine wouldn’t do it), or a flu I picked up. But once I counted the pills, the truth was clear: it was withdrawal.
In many occasions in my life, I have gone off my anti-depressants, but only so I could get on another one. It was a weaning process. I have also kicked my body’s addiction to Xanax; I know what it feels like, I’ve been there. But this was wrecking a havoc on my body that I didn’t even know possible. I had given up – unconsciously – the two meds that keep me alive and stable, cold turkey, and my body wasn’t having it.