From the door of my apartment, the train station is almost exactly a seven minute walk. That’s five-and-a-half blocks and crossing the street once. The walk passes a gas station, a bagel shop (with terrible service but the best bagels you’ve ever had), multiple laundry mats and auto part stores, several residences, and at least one Greek diner lovingly dubbed the “Cozy Corner” because, well, it’s on the corner and it’s pretty cozy.
If you step out the door at 7:15am on the dot, you’ll arrive at the train station at 7:24 leaving you approximately three minutes time before the train – assuming it’s on time – arrives to shuttle people to Secaucus and then onward to New York Penn Station.
This morning, three and a half minutes into my seven minute walk, I started to feel strange, my heart racing. And while I’m not one for robust exercise, this walk I do every day wasn’t exactly serious physical exertion for me. When I made it to the station, I had to sit down on the steps before descending to the tracks. And then it hit me: I don’t think I took my heartburn medication. Wouldn’t have been the first time but there was one exception: pretty sure I took the pink pill and not the white one. I rummaged through my thoughts: I grabbed the pink pill to give it to the dog but then took it myself because I usually take my meds at the same time I give her hers. I remembered holding the pink pill but didn’t remember giving it to the dog and I remember taking a pill but didn’t remember taking my white pill I usually take. That’s right, I took my dog’s thyroid meds just before leaving the house.
So, yeah, it’s been a long day.
After resting for a bit on the steps of the train station and calling out of work, I slowly made my way back to the apartment only to collapse on the couch where I’ve been kinda dizzy and loopy all day. Did I seriously take my overweight, forty-seven pound puggle’s dog pill? On a side note, she’s down six pounds or so. And now I’m going to lose weight too? Or turn into a dog? She definitely seems to think of me as more dog-like than human in the way she reacts to me vs. the way she reacts to, well, everybody else.
Throughout the day, my chest has been tight, my heart rate up. Two hours in, I broke down and called poison control which was redirected to the Tennessee office because even though I live in New Jersey I still have a Tennessee area code. I explained to the nice poison people what had happened, but assured them that I was certain it was just anxiety and that there was nothing to be too worried about. Because, I figured, if I told the poison people how things really were, that would be good enough, right? Fortunately, they looked up the medication and assured me I hadn’t taken a lethal dose (phew) but that I was going to have anxiety most of the day because, in fact, the medication actually causes severe anxiety in humans. And if for any reason I began to vomit or have severe headaches I should go to the ER.
It never got that bad but somehow the slow, endless chest pressure was its own hell. I’m no stranger to the experience of mild anxiety, but I’ve never experienced it quite like this. Or at least not manifesting in this way. Today was like an all-day, ongoing panic attack that I’ve mostly tried to ignore, and I have a new-found appreciation for anybody that has to deal with the struggle of living through this with any regularity when it was induced by, y’know, life – instead of taking their dog’s medication. I have earnest love in my heart for all of you out there who, in a tense work situation or when too much is happening or when nothing is happening but you feel like it should be or when friendships or relationships are broken or strained or when politics and religion and ugly existential thoughts come creeping around the corner chasing after you – when all that is wound up inside and somehow bound together but unraveling at the same time: that is something so, so many of us know and so, so few of us talk about openly and honestly, and it isn’t bad or a sign of weakness or anything at all. It just is what it is, and it is something that, well, kinda sucks.
It’s simply an honest fact that life is friggin’ hard. It takes courage to be human, and those of us who do it and make it through a day, a week, a month, a year, it’s worth patting [petting?] ourselves on the back. You wake up one day, you’re thirty-five, and you can’t remember if you’re the dog or the human and whose meds is whose, and the next thing you know you need to get cats to go with the dogs and one of those little pill boxes that clearly labels the day of the week and which person or animal the pharmaceuticals contained therein belong to, et cetera, et cetera. Is this what aging is? I dunno.
But tomorrow, I’ll wake up, walk the dog, take my pills – not hers – and I’ll walk to the train station, get on the train, and go about it one day at a time. It’s just a seven minute walk, after all.