Friday, June 13, 2008

Death in Las Vegas

The following chapter is from my unpublished manuscript, Honk If You're on Lithium. It is copyrighted material, and may not be excerpted without my permission.
* * *
When I’m hypomanic, the idea of suicide is unfathomable and death is terrifying unless…heaven and hell are quite different than we’ve been led to believe. Say, for example that heaven has too many trees and lakes, too much sun, and is full of innocuous people who smile a lot. There’s no edge to their humor and they don’t know how to tell a punch line. They talk about money, food, and fashion. They spend all day playing golf. They think Daniel Craig is a better James Bond than Sean Connery. They prefer films with Sara Jessica Parker to those of Jessica Lange.

So my primary question is: What is hell like? For me‚ the worse case scenario would be Las Vegas. I’d spend my days and nights in the god-awful casinos, with the incessant noise, watching other overweight sinners in their Bermuda shorts and black socks lose in one night the allotment of money God gave them for their future existence. What a bummer!

The only available food would be those terrible buffets‚ the all-you-can-eat mayonnaise marathons where they serve nothing with any nutritional value. So you end up spending eternity looking like Dumbo. And since the weather in Las Vegas is as hot as Hades and you don’t get any exercise, your muscles turn from string cheese to ricotta. Now that’s depressing!

But maybe it’s different. What if once you die, the rules are reversed? All the in-your-face health clubs juice-bar-junkies suddenly find that exercise and nutritional food make you fat and Hostess Cupcakes and potato chips are thinning. We finally learn that God considers jogging and pumping iron to have been narcissistic wastes of time and hard-bodied folks go directly to hell.

Furthermore‚ He can’t fathom why anyone would have chosen carrot sticks over nachos, skinless chicken rather than marbled beef, and cantaloupe instead of chocolate soufflé. So He figures the people who made these choices weren’t very bright and He assigns them to the worst part of hell: the lounge acts. I wonder if vegans would change their views if they knew they would spend eternity in cocktail lounges watching second-rate talent.

In fact, what if God uses eternity to even the score on a major basis? He changes the sexes so that men have menstrual periods and women lose their hair. The malevolent rich are forced to work in underground garages. People who’ve been cursed with physical ailments become doctors, and the mentally ill become psychiatrists.

You know, being a psychiatrist for eternity might be entertaining—even in Las Vegas. Then I could charge ridiculous fees to shake my head in an empathic way and say, “So the antidepressant hasn’t kicked in yet and you feel suicidal?”

“Yes,” my patient listlessly replies.

“Have you tried killing yourself or have you just thought about it?”

“I’ve got a wife and daughter,” he tearfully responds. “I wouldn’t actually kill myself. I just can’t stand feeling so powerless. I’ve had to go on disability because I’ve used up all my vacation time. My wife is stressed out all the time. I worry about my daughter. It’s been four weeks now. Can’t you do anything?”

“You can check into a psychiatric hospital,” I answer cavalierly. Then we can give you a higher dosage of medication more quickly.”

“I’d never do that,” he says.

“Do you have enough medication?” I ask.

“Yes, but it’s not working.”

“Give it time. Oops, our session’s over,” I say as I write his invoice for $120 for 30 minutes of advice and schedule his next appointment.

“May I pay you after my next session?” he asks. “The illness is ruining us financially.”

“Sure,” I charitably say. “By the way,” I am almost embarrassed to ask, “what did you do in life that was so bad that you’re a manic-depressive in Las Vegas for eternity?”

“I worked for an insurance company that provided health care coverage,” he says with embarrassment.

I smile as he leaves.

14 comments:

Jazz said...

This is wonderful, Susan! I always thought heaven must be pretty boring, but a position of power in hell...that's the way to go!

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Thanks Jazz. This was one of the chapters I wrote to amuse myself when I was terribly ill--so many years ago.

Gianna said...

I'm pretty impressed you could amuse yourself so well when terribly ill...

good for you...the roots of your wellness was there with you then.

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Gianna,
Actually the only way I could amuse myself was through humor. I would have one terrible experience after another and decide there were only three ways to write about it: with anger, sadness or humor.

Anger made me feel more angry. Sadness made me feel more sad. Humor made me laugh at the stupidity, incompetence, and ridiculousness of the situation.

Susan

Syd said...

Susan,

This wonderful reading. It did make me smile. I can't wait to read the rest of the book!

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Syd,
This was the book I could never sell. 30 publishers rejected it by saying, "No one thinks bipolar disorder is funny."

Heck, I didn't think it was funny either, but it was my humor that saved me. And I figured if I had survived 120 depressions, I could write about it however I wanted to.

Susan

Jazz said...

Having a sense of humor has been incredibly helpful to me during my healing process. That was one of the things I mourned the most when I was so doped up on meds--I could no longer laugh, and it was impossible to see a funny side to things.

Coco said...

What do they know. I think it's great that we can see the humour.

Mariposa said...

Ha ha ha! So so enjoyed reading this...how entertaining!

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Jazz,
Isn't that awful? I never took enough medication to feel "doped up," just enough to feel really physically ill.

Susan

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Coco,
So do I! And I can tell you do too from your blog!

Susan

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Mariposa,
Glad you liked it. Every time I visit your blog, it's another day like "Wordless Wednesday" or so it seems. When I'm hypomanic I can't figure out how to leave comments on theme-days and I have to input the letters over and over again that allow me to comment. I wonder if it's just me!

Susan

Mariposa said...

Hi Susan, you can leave any comment there regardless if it's related to the theme or not...my other friends do that too, they can't relate to some of those theme...I on the other hand do them since I lack the time...energy...and idea to write something meaningful. Not so me...but lately, my blog has been that. :(

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Mariposa,
Thank you! I should have asked earlier. You have such an amazing amount of energy and vitality that sometimes I just want to say, "Hi! How are you doing? What are you doing? I hope you're well." Now I can!

Susan