Posted on: December 6th, 2009 Mount Rainier Considers Its Mental Health
I am a volcano, and I forgot to take my antidepressants.
It started with my doctor. He climbed me with spiky shoes, snow thick in his beard. â€œYouâ€™re overdue,â€ he said. â€œBy about a hundred years.â€
â€œIs that bad?â€ I asked. Behind him, I could see the haze of buildings that was Seattle, Tacoma, and their connecting parts, square streets and square houses trying to live on round hills scooped up and ladled out of round valleys. I had watched it grow, from felled trees to skeletal frames to buildings that acted as though they had always been there.
â€œMy wife was overdue for our first kid. I blame my kidâ€™s weight on that. Heâ€™s a fatass. Wonâ€™t even climb a hill with me.â€
â€œAm I going to have a baby?â€
â€œYouâ€™re going to erupt.â€ He looked down at Seattle and Tacoma. â€œHalf of that is going to be buried in thick soft ash and boiling rivers of mud. You, my friend, are an unquiet place in the earth.â€
I wasnâ€™t a place in the earth; mountains were on the earth. But given that this man seemed to have problems at home, I thought I would be gentle. â€œThatâ€™s interesting. I always thought I sat on an unquiet place in the earth.â€
â€œSemantics. Youâ€™re the problem,â€ he said.
â€œPeople tell me I am beautiful,â€ I said.
â€œItâ€™s a terrible beauty.â€
I didnâ€™t like that at all. â€œCan you help me?â€
â€œNo,â€ he said. â€œBut a lot of things come with volcanism, you know. Anxiety flares you up, depression flares you down. You could go at any minute or you could wait forever. Itâ€™s driven some volcanoes crazy. By the time they erupt they donâ€™t know who they are anymore.â€
I opined that that sounded like a pretty good thing, given that I didnâ€™t want to know that I was responsible for burying the people below in boiling mud.
â€œSemantics,â€ he said again. â€œYou could be the only mountain in the Cascades to be awarded an honorary English degree.â€ He held up a big bottle of tiny pills. â€œTake one of these every year,â€ he said.
â€œAnd this will keep me from erupting.â€
â€œThe problem here is the inevitable crushing depression,â€ he said. â€œWe all have bad daysâ€”we all, so to speak, erupt and drown Tukwila in fiery mud floods. But we can control how we face them.â€ He looked at his watch. â€œThis time tomorrow I have to be home so I can spoon-feed chili-and-macaroni-and-cheese into my sonâ€™s disgusting mouth.â€
I let him go, because it was obvious that his family needed him.
I took the pills. They helped me forget what he said, most of the time. I was determined to think of myself as sitting on an unquiet place in the earth, and that helped.
He climbed me again ten years later. â€œYouâ€™re still overdue,â€ he said.
â€œMaybe it was your imagination.â€
â€œNope.â€ He looked back down. â€œMy son lost a lot of weight and is dating a vegan.â€
â€œNo it ainâ€™t. Bastard still wonâ€™t exercise. You can take the fat out of the ass, but not the fatass out of the fatass.â€
â€œOh.â€ I didnâ€™t feel qualified to comment on his problems with his son, so I said, â€œIâ€™ve been taking the pills.â€
â€œAnd are you able to function?â€
â€œI guess so. What ifâ€”â€ I had wanted to ask him this for a while. â€œWhat if I just donâ€™t erupt? I mean, Iâ€™ve got a choice in the matter, donâ€™t I? Everyone has control over their own destiny.â€ This is one of the tenets I live by.
â€œThe only thing you can control is your attitude,â€ he said. â€œBlind studies prove it.â€
â€œEveryone,â€ I said, â€œhas control over their own destiny.â€
â€œEasy now,â€ he said. â€œYou donâ€™t want to start rumbling.â€
â€œI donâ€™t think I need these,â€ I said, and gave the antidepressants back to him. â€œIâ€™ll do fine on my own.â€
His snowy beard framed an angry frown. â€œIâ€™m trying to help you.â€
â€œThank you, thank you, and I appreciate it, butâ€¦ no.â€
â€œGood God,â€ he said. â€œYouâ€™re just like my son. No idea of whatâ€™s good for you.â€
After he climbed down, I felt a rumble. Rocks broke against each other, grinding to bright lava, boiling inside me. I watched the cities swell below, trying not to fidget.
I am fine.