The Driver's Tale

What Better Character in Life
is There Than the Self?

By Robert Cohn

Note: Anyone can develop a mental illness. You, a family member, a friend — anyone. Some disorders are mild, while others are long lasting. These conditions can be helped. One way is with psychotherapeutic medications. Compared to other types of treatment, these medications are relative newcomers in the fight against mental illness. It was only 41 years ago that the first one, chlorpromazine, was introduced.

I rolled over and grabbed my best friend — the Petrus Apianus Astronomical sun — my writing journal of the day's events. I was always lacking in any outgoingness that some might consider a necessity. Instead, I learnt how to bide my time with cheap Cream Sherry and Camel Lights. Always, though, telling my friend the ongoingness of my life. This inanimate object had been with me for the three days that I was in the Broward County mental hospital after being Baker Acted for the abuse of drugs. Petrus saw me through the near death of my cocaine infested best friend, Scott. And it was with me when my stripper ex-girlfriend, Jill Reisner, took my virginity, but only after asking me to tie her up and pour hot wax all over her body.

Petrus does not judge these things, but rather, accepts them, without a word. So I bid hello to my friend as I do every morning.

To Begin a Day

Lying. Black sheet, two king-sized pillows, and the wistful blow of the overhead fan. Waiting for the day to begin. To the rescue: the crack and boom of the garbage truck releasing its oversized-shit-colored can. Ket-chuck. Sish, snash, crash, boom, bash. My neighbor must be up. The creek thu-thump of a door down the hall and the jingle bojangle of the locking keys that follow. The fan on the 'fridge motoring up as it does about this time everyday (I assume) A harmonious yawn to begin the day in my own fashion, as everything else has already done, or will do. Alarm clock checked. 6:22 a.m. Too early to think and mobilate.

I feel the comfort of my egg crate resting below every cranny of my backside. Ah, this is truly the only love I know. The egg crate and Serta I wish I did not have to arise from. I can feel that one spot on my bed that is colder than the rest, as I swipe my toes against it. The coldness becomes hot (typical).

Yup, too early for me. I hate waking up before my alarm clock. Especially when I do not have to. But it happens once every couple of months. The indicator that there is much on my mind. But my indications are my ramifications. So instead of lying here, comatose, I rise to feel the gray carpet on my feet…cold…cold…cold. I scurry to the bathroom to start my daily ritual. Shit, shower, shave, deodorant, teeth, hair, tweak wax in ears. Now I am ready to …

It is silent again. The scariest kind of silence — the silence of roaring cars as they go by, but no one talking. The same silence that falls asleep with me every night and wakes me up everyday.

Note: "Mania" is defined as a form of psychosis by exalted feelings, delusions of grandeur and overproduction of ideas. But it is modern psychiatry that treats not only acute depression and schizophrenia, but moodiness, anxiety and poor self-esteem — feelings that people have everyday.
So in steps the little blue pill known as Prozac, which to psychiatrists is the gun that will kill these "disorders." With the stroke of a pen on millions of prescription pads, Prozac seems to be the only answer. At least it seems the case to the 15 percent of the U.S. population below age 18, or over 9 million children, that suffer from psychiatric disorders.

I hope I do not become just another statistic?

Well, here I am world, what do you have in store for me today?

Ten o'clock appointment with the 'doc, and nothing else? What a day.
Sitting. Black-metal-barred-futon, silence, eyeing a half pack of Lights. I wonder if my lungs could handle a 'grette this early. Oh well (click), now I have something to do.

I Wonder

I can watch the smoke fade away into the central air-conditioned box apartment realm in which I live. I wonder if the smoke knows or even cares where it is going right before it dies. Truthfully, the average life of smoke can not be any more than a few seconds. I wonder what relative terms those are under. If it is 7-1 (cat year to human year), then the life of smoke must be some obscenely huge number.

To Think Like a Child

I think I was once a giraffe. With a long neck looking over everything else. Eating the leaves the smaller animals did not know were readily available. I was waiting, watching those underneath. Taking it all in, as the other animals could not see what I saw. Why couldn't they see what I saw?

I disintegrated my butt into the silver ashtray I lifted from Hot Shots Billiards two years earlier and continued writing.

Disheartening Self Analysis

I am intrigued by my space, which now consists of the popcorn type remnants on the ceiling. I imagine myself as a child — a mere babe in the world. What was I like when I was two or three, the part of my life I do not remember? — The part of my life that sculpted my young mind. I do not remember the freedom. What was it like to relieve myself in my pants and know that I did not have to clean it up. Things must have been easy then. No memory. No questions. And especially No answers! Now I sit here, alone.

Why the Doctor Will Prescribe Prozac

1) I feel a headache coming on. Maybe I should take the pills the 'doc gave me. The ones for what she calls "tension headaches." Tension headaches? Isn't that the way a headache forms?
2) Because I know more about blood alcohol level than I do about veins and arteries.
3) Because I have seen more breasts on television that I have in real life.
4) Because I know more about microwaves than I do about the spectrum of light.
5) Because I have seen pink mohawks, goomies and parachute pants more than I have seen a cause.
6) Because I have seen more concrete roads with yellow lines than I have seen rarely taken dirt roads with a yellow sun.
7) Because I can't think.
8) Because I can't eat or sleep right.
9) Because I forgot the concept of fun somewhere in 1993.
10) Because I have to go to a psychiatrist for my problems instead of working it out over time.

Note: The kind of depression that will most likely benefit from treatment with medications is more than just "the blues." It's a condition that is prolonged, lasting two weeks or more, and interferes with a person's ability to carry on daily tasks and to enjoy activities that previously brought pleasure.

A depressed person will seem sad, or "down," or may show lack of interest in their surroundings. They may have trouble eating and lose weight (although some people eat more and gain weight when depressed). They may sleep too much or too little, have difficulty going to sleep, sleep restlessly, or awaken very early in the morning. They may complain that their thinking has slowed down and they may lack energy.

Not everyone who is depressed has all these symptoms, but everyone who is depressed has at least some of them.

After two and a half hours of writing, thinking and being edgy, I grabbed the keys to my '87-dent-in-the-front-from-hitting-a-mailbox- what-was-once-white-Toyota-Celica. The same car I bought when I turned sixteen and still have six years later.

Parking for Psychology Offices
Janet Rubenstein

This was it, psychoanalysis by a psychiatrist. Nothing I had been used to (well, unless it was my own delving).

My regular clinical psychologist, Dr. Landic, asked me two sessions earlier if Rubenstein could analyze me. "Robert," Landic said is her serene tone, "She will ask you questions along the same lines as we discuss. If you feel comfortable with that?"

"Sure" I replied in the haze of talking to this woman for the last hour. Of course I was weary — to actually say yes to a question like that?

(Why did I agree to this? Now I have to discuss the very things I hate dissecting as the 'doc looks me down and gives me a snide, Now tell me about your parents, you crazy you.)

"Yes?" the dark-haired secretary Diane said.

Robert here to see Dr. Rubenstein.

"Just have a seat Mr. Cohn, we will call you when she is done with her current patient.

10:09 a.m.

"Robert, the doctor is ready to see you."

"Hello Robert," Rubenstein said in the midst of her typical office — too many books, a Ph.D. diploma (in this case from Brown University) and an air of self-pity. "How is everything going?"

I am all right.

"I assume Dr. Landic told you about me?"


"So how about we get started so we can have you in and out?"

(Typical) All right.

"Tell me about your parents," clearly my telepathy and Doc Landic's consultation had gotten back to her.

Well, what is there to say?

And then she sounded like the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland — How about starting at the beginning, coming to the end and stop.

Uhm, My real dad left my mom when I was just about a year old. Let me rephrase that: my biological father threw a china dish at my mother and was forced, by law, never to see either of us again. It was all right though, I didn't know him. My mom was only 20 when it happened, so my grandmother raised both of us — or at least she was finishing with my mom and starting over with me. But then my mom remarried, when I was still too young to realize a damn thing. She married the man I considered my one and only dad, Joel.

"Tell me about Joel."

What about him, I said in deliberate avoidance.

"Did you get along, did you ever think about your real father?"

No, that was never a problem. Like I said, I never knew about my biological. Well, not until I was 13 and my parents finally came clean.

It was 7:28 p.m. The family had just got done finishing the chicken my dad bought from Ted's Deli on 44th Street — a meal I would not eat now because I am a Vegan. We sat outside my parent's newly acquired four bedroom, with pool and patio home. Their dream house.

Son, see this is the situation, my mother Deborah said. Son, you father and I have wanted to tell you something for a long time.

Yeah what is it?

I could see by the changed expressions on their faces that they were reluctant to reveal this mystery, as they glazed over at one another.

See, uh, your dad isn't your real dad, do you know what that means?

I said yes, but I really meant no. I really meant to say, what the fuck is this suppose to mean.

Your dad and I just thought you would like to know that he wants to adopt you.

"How did that make you feel?"

How would it make you feel? How does a thirteen-year-old child deal with something of that magnitude? I didn't!

"Tell me about your grandmother."

Grandma Pat, she is the best. Without her, I do not know where I would be. It was hard for her, though, when my mom and dad got married.


Because my grandmother did not believe in inter-religious marriages.

"Explain further please."

My mother's side of the family is Christian. I come from three generations of Baptist pastors on that side. On my dad's side of the family, however, cut off the Bible where my mother's side was beginning. So when they married, I had to stop going to church with my grandma and start going to temple with my father.

"How did you handle that?"

I didn't. I refused to Baptized and I refused to have a Bar Mitzvah. So basically I was put in the middle of a religious war. A war I never wanted to be part of — consider me Switzerland.

"How about your biological father? Where was he when all of this was going on? Did you try to reach him?"

No! Shortly after my mom and dad told me about him, he choked on a chicken bone while getting some treatment or another in the some hospital or another. The same meal I had when my parents told me about him killed him.

"How did that make you feel?"

I was fine…never…bothered to…um…think about it.

"And your mother?"

I do not get along with her. She once told me that I remind her of Robert, my biological.

"Same name."

Same name, and yes at one point I was a junior, but that has long been forgotten.

"Well, I am sorry Robert, but we are just about out of time. I am going to get together with Dr. Landic and discuss the possibility of Prozac. I think it will help in a case like this."

She went on telling me drugs, like Prozac, (also known as SSRIs — Selective Seretonin Reuptake Inhibitors), are among the most widely prescribed of all prescription drugs.

Note: The most common side effect of SSRIs are gastrointestinal problems and headaches. Others are insomnia, anxiety and agitation.

I paid the cashier $120 for a 51 minute session. The same session I have with 'doc when I need her. The same session I have with myself everyday of my life. And now, somehow, it was the same session that had declared me incompetent of going on without mind-altering substances floating in my body.

I hopped back in my car and returned to the sanctuary of my realm.

I bid a fond hello to my friend; and with a quick placement of the black Bic on paper, I scribed my last entry of the day.

What Happens When Sometimes Comes

Sometimes I wonder what I am doing here. Sometimes I have to leave myself alone for fear of a conflict. Sometimes my world isn't round; instead it is a faded drawing of a cube in a midnight drunk. Sometimes I think I can't think, so I don't. Sometimes the words don't come out the way I want, and that makes me think even more. Sometimes the words of a rambling ma aren't even enough for him to cope. Sometimes I thought that all I needed was a true thought in exchange for true happiness.

And to most, it may sound dreadful. Yet, to me, boredom is the call from those who long for a voice on the other end of the understanding line.

Mommy, daddy, grandma, 'doc, what do I do?

Note: Just as aspirin can reduce a fever without clearing up the infection that causes it, psychotherapeutic medications act by controlling symptoms. Like most drugs, they correct or compensate for some malfunction in the body. They do not, however, cure mental illness, such as depression. In many cases, these medications can help a person get on with life despite some continuing mental pain and difficulty coping with problems.

I never took the magic bullets. Making the decision to begin using prescription drugs on a daily basis to cope with life's uneasy side roads never seemed appealing. I figured out, on my own, that all anyone can do is "shake the dust off their feet and move on." For me, it was without Prozac. And in time, it was without psychologists and psychiatrists.

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