Two nights ago, I knew I was taking the last of my antidepressants. I heard the echo in the orange bottle when the single pill clicked the side. I knew it would be empty in just a second.
My mind was somewhere else.
I was researching my next story–inspired by a news article from the late 60s, a Brockport native, Harris Tuttle Jr, whose daughter, Susan, had been “mentally kidnapped” by the “Moonies,” a group I knew nothing about.
Manson and his followers horrified me for years, but I couldn’t stop watching A&E specials on this group. My husband would look at me skeptically, sipping a beer, while I hid my face in my hands. The screen, aesthetically tinted “vintage” in rusty hues, showed parents who raised children in the compounds. Their young round heads were lit with fine strands of blond hair. A faint melody played in the background.
The phrase “Helter Skelter” alone makes my stomach hurt.
When I was growing up, my father played Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” on our living room speakers. The televisions were all off, a single light glowed in every room, and I would dance around in a nubby Rainbow Brite nightgown while my mother popped popcorn in a large pot, shaking it noisily on the stove.
When “Time” came on, I froze, running to the couch, covering my ears in terror. The clicking and gonging of clocks in the beginning made me cover my head with the brown tweed throw pillows, and even that couldn’t calm me down. I had a similar, though less intense response to “Money,” with the cash register slamming. This combination of quotidian noises and silence followed drum beats and a single voice, brought any life beyond eerie. Even now, I can’t explain this fear. My father would skip the song in concession to my shrieks.
Last night, I went to bed without my prescription, expecting I would pay somehow for being so unaware. I woke with a raging headache, a gong in my head, and need for quiet and peace, and something else that I didn’t have to make me calm. The prescription.
Ted Patrick, the “deprogrammer” who assisted the Tuttle family, invested himself in saving their daughter, but couldn’t pull Susan from the grasp of the “Moonies.” This was one article of many that a member of the museum found for me, but the only one I brought home. Perhaps the girl had lost her mind for good.
This morning my husband was home, luckily, and I cried to him while shaking, feeling my senses abandon me. I should have known, I scolded myself. The prescription’s absence made me sob for no reason at all. There was no pain to attribute it to, no immediate loss, nothing I’d let go of that tied to this gap of peace in my mind. I felt completely controlled by the pill, and that made me cry harder.
During Johnny’s preschool and Sam’s nap, I though a lot about the “Moonies,” using anecdotes friends donated on Facebook, looking at the photograph of Susan Tuttle, the beautiful young woman who left her family, her own mind and being, to become part of something unknown. She gave herself up.
I’m not sure what I will find in the other articles. The mind is unwieldy, molded as much by the past as the present, by what’s inside as out. I hope I will read that Susan Tuttle somehow “came to her senses,” and I know that if that is possible, it couldn’t be complete. She could never fully have arrived at her senses, wherever “her senses” were, because wherever else she’d been–that eerie loss of self–is still there, however the paint chips in abandon, whatever windows are boarded, it can always be reached.