Prozac, 1997 archival pigment inkjet prints
Each morning I start my day with a bowl of cereal and a Prozac. I haven’t always started my day that way. I started taking Prozac for the first time this December in Miami. It seemed appropriate to start it down there … the place where I was born, the place where I first learned to talk and the place where I also learned to keep quiet.
I was down in Miami because my mother had just had a heart attack. I received the call at work. I had just returned to my desk from the annual holiday luncheon and saw a note to call Penny. The second I heard her voice I know something was wrong. My first thought was it was my father because he’s older. I always think of my mother as bionic and indestructible, but of course she’s not.
My brother was at the hospital with my mother. She was in critical condition. 95% of her artery was blocked. There were moments when we didn’t think she would make it. We were all scared. At one point I was on the phone with my older sister. We were both crying and I told her I wouldn’t be able to live if our mother died. I meant it.
When I got to the hospital the next day my mother was sleeping. I sat down in the chair next to her and closed my eyes. I was thankful she was alive but I was also so scared inside. During the next couple of days I was surprised at how depressed she was. I have since learned that people generally are depressed after a heart attack or massive heart surgery. But my mother had always risen to enormous heights of inner strength in the face of adversity. Eleven years ago she was diagnosed with Lymphoma. After the initial shock period, she became stronger and more focused than I had ever known her to be. She was determined to heal herself in non-traditional ways and did. I spent a lot of time with my mother during those years; being there for her, photographing her healing process (she asked me to) and learning from her. But this time was different. I wanted her to be the strong fire-walking woman she had been before. Instead she was depressed, frustrated and angry. She was fighting with her boyfriend at the hospital and no matter how many deep breaths I took I couldn’t stop crying.
My mother asked me to help her move out of her boyfriend’s house. She had been wanting to move out, she said. She asked me to move some of her things out while he was playing tennis or cards. She told me of the fight they had the day before her heart stopped, when she put her hand through a wall. She described the rage she felt and I could visualize her neck bulging with anger.
I packed up my mother’s things as she requested. It reminded me of other times, in other years with other men. I had been here before. I cried the entire time I was packing for my mother while she lay in the hospital after a serious heart attack. I cried when I looked at the hole in the wall made by my mother’s hand during a moment of rage.
My aunt (a psychologist) gave me a bottle of Prozac when she saw me and my endless flow of tears and hysteria. I started taking Prozac that day and now I’m afraid to stop.