Choose Your Poison

So what would it be today? Rosa was already considering her options as she finally persuaded her finger to press the alarm’s OFF button instead of reflexively hitting SNOOZE again. She sat up in bed slowly, pausing for a moment so as not to get too dizzy from the drop in blood pressure. Of course, she got dizzy anyway.

The fog, or the fear?

The fog was already winning, as it did each morning. She couldn’t remember the last time she had woken up feeling rested. Maybe when she was very young – six years old? Five? She fumbled with her phone again. She had looked at the screen at least ten times already as she snoozed the alarm, but still the time had not quite registered.

It was already after seven. Time to get up, like it or not. She stood up, still slowly, waiting for the spots in front of her eyes to clear before staggering across the room to the door. She could hear her friend Sonia’s voice in her head as she moved: “You should do something about that low blood pressure. Eat more salt, maybe.”

Salt. Salt would raise her blood pressure. It would also worsen the inflammation in her body, increasing the severity of her allergies, her eczema, even her depression.

The fog, or the fear?

Rosa was grateful for her morning routine as she stumbled into the bathroom to pee and brush her teeth. Without it, she might have sat for twenty minutes on the bed before remembering she had something to do. With the routine, she could move on autopilot, at least for the first few minutes. If she didn’t fall asleep on the toilet again.

She banged her arm on the door frame on her way into the bathroom, even harder than usual. She moved like a drunkard at the end of a long night, without proper control over her body. It would come back to her, more or less, as she slowly woke up. Every morning was the same. The same old routine. She was covered in bruises from banging into various items of furniture in the mornings. She could take an iron supplement to help with that, but it would worsen her acid reflux. She managed to chuckle at the memory of the last frustrating conversation with her doctor, telling her once again that she had to choose which was the lesser of two evils.

It was getting closer to decision time. She had a presentation at work today. The boss had been “looking forward to it” for weeks, and the anxiety over it had made it difficult to prepare. She was not at all confident that it would go well. She imagined herself standing in front of the room full of managers and supervisors, trying to give her little speech, forgetting the words, losing her materials, dropping everything with her shaking hands. Maybe the computer would fail and she’d have to do the whole thing without visuals. Maybe she’d be taken over by full-on paranoia and her boss’s face would start to look reptilian, her mind would fill with images of the entire group of senior staff ripping her flesh off and eating it while she watched. It didn’t happen often, but it certainly wouldn’t be the first time. A flutter of anxiety worked its way through her body, competing with the lethargy, causing her heart to literally skip a few beats.

The fog, or the fear?

Which would make it less horrible? Which was less likely to cause her problems? She could just as easily be there, standing in the meeting room, struggling to keep her eyes open as the audience swam out of focus, grew blurrier and more distant with each second. Struggling to remember what she needed to do, what she needed to say, why she was here. Struggling to stay awake. Trying not to slur her speech or let her arms go limp. Hoping no one noticed when she stopped speaking for a few seconds, just trying to fight off the ever-increasing pressure to lie down and sleep.

She eyed the coffee pot. A few cups would keep her from falling asleep, if only just. A few more might keep her wide awake – with shaking hands and grinding teeth, jumping at every shadow, talking too fast for anyone to understand. Or it might not help at all. Now and then the two sides of her decided to team up and work together, forming a sort of symbiosis. Making her too tired to function but too nervous and shaky to sleep. Making her eyes and thoughts blur while her body trembled with anxiety.

Every day she looked around at all the other people in the office, on the street, in the world, and tried to imagine what it would be like to just be awake, and calm, and content. What would that feel like? Somehow, at least, she seemed to be very good at faking it. No one ever seemed to notice that anything was wrong with her – beyond, perhaps, being a little annoyed with her “mannerisms”. Every once in a while she’d try being honest and explaining why she was acting so strangely, but inevitably their response would begin with the words why don’t you just and she would remember how hopeless it was.

She was wasting time, thinking about all this when she should be getting ready for work. She just had to make one decision now. What would it be?

The fog, or the fear?


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