DR. SELMAN: George, have you ever tried chocolate Altoids? You’ve never had one?! They remind me of Junior Mints.
GEORGE: Yum! They taste like … Junior Mints!
DR. SELMAN: Except better!
GEORGE: You know, I have trouble breathing in my apartment, because I’ve got allergies, dust mites in my bed and a cat. I can’t go to sleep! Ambien makes me crazy. I went to this doctor; she’s trying to persuade me to get an operation.
DR. SELMAN: Shave the uvula and—
GEORGE: And widen the nasal passages, so I can breathe. I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in 18 months. Xanax doesn’t even work.
DR. SELMAN: I would suggest a half-milligram of Klonopin and no Ambien.
GEORGE: I’m fine with Klonopin. That’s a good drug. I was taking Sudafed—Sudafed PM—then a Klonopin or two, then an Ambien.
DR. SELMAN: Why not just get rid of the cat?
GEORGE: I can’t do that. So last night I couldn’t sleep, and I checked into a hotel at 3:30 a.m.
DR. SELMAN: Why don’t you just clean the place up? Really vacuum. Throw out some stuff—
GEORGE: Yeah, it’s a mess.
DR. SELMAN: What hotel?
GEORGE: Can’t remember the name, but it was nice, $188 a night. Cable TV.
DR. SELMAN: I thought you guys were financially stressed?
GEORGE: I needed to sleep. I basically went crazy last night, and it was Ambien-related.
DR. SELMAN: You went crazy?
GEORGE: I want to wait for Hilly, but—
DR. SELMAN: You tell me your version.
[GEORGE’s cell phone starts beeping on and off.]
GEORGE: Let me take the battery out. Went to a movie screening with Hilly at the Tribeca Grand. I was fidgety during the movie. Then we went to Odeon, great party, and this strange, dolled-up woman came up and presented herself, like: “Ta-da!” I didn’t know who she was, so I said, “Oh, you were in the movie!” Just to be on the safe side. No response. “You were the star of the movie!” And she looked at me and said, “Well, if you don’t know if I was in the movie or not …. ” And then gave me the double middle fingers with her back turned to me and walked off. It set something in motion.
DR. SELMAN: This was?
GEORGE: Last night around 9 p.m.
DR. SELMAN: She was in the movie?
GEORGE: No. Then, at the party, Hilly and I were sitting at the wrong table—then we moved to the right table, and something else weird happened—my cell phone! It started turning on and off. It wouldn’t stop, and that’s what really set off my panic attack.
DR. SELMAN: What symptoms?
GEORGE: Paranoia. Ambien-related.
DR. SELMAN: You had Ambien the previous night?
GEORGE: Yes. And not a good night’s sleep. Waves in my brain—bad waves. And at the party, I couldn’t relax. This woman, I thought she was going to attack me. I went outside and had a smoke with her. She turned out to be a good egg.
DR. SELMAN: If you were concerned that she would attack you, why would you go out—
GEORGE: Because I was telling the people at my table about how bizarre she was, and I thought she was going to overhear me. She kept loitering …. Everyone was curious about her, so I went on a mission to find out.
DR. SELMAN: I’m still not clear what symptoms you had of a panic attack.
GEORGE: Here’s where things really started to spiral out of control. We took a cab home and—
DR. SELMAN: Hilly was with you?
GEORGE: Yes. When we got home, I said, “We did it! Let’s never go out again.” So I went out and got some Half Baked ice cream, and I just expected that she would comfort me, things would be resolved, we’d have a little fun, go to sleep. I was still in this panicky mode.
DR. SELMAN: I’m still not clear what it was that needed to be resolved.
GEORGE: That for the past four hours, I’d been having a panic attack.
DR. SELMAN: Let me define a panic attack. It’s a discrete episode, with very intense anxiety-like symptoms, that has a physiological component. You might have difficulty breathing, sweating, dizziness, numbness—
GEORGE: O.K., none of that.
DR. SELMAN: So you just felt anxious.
GEORGE: But there was a physical thing, and that was the after-effects of Ambien. Because I felt something right here [GEORGE indicates both sides of his head], this kind of whooshing.
DR. SELMAN: You felt some vague whooshing in the brain, but I doubt it was from the Ambien.
GEORGE: Oh. Kay. I sure felt funny! I’ve sure been feeling funny lately.
DR. SELMAN: So why would you continue taking Ambien?
GEORGE: Because it’s so effective.
DR. SELMAN: Would you be willing to try something else that I might provide? You could take Klonopin, and I would be willing to try you out on a very low dosage of Abilify. It’s a mood stabilizer.
GEORGE: But I really need to resolve this thing about the apartment and my breathing—
DR. SELMAN: There must be something you can do in the apartment to make you sleep.
GEORGE: I think it’s the cat. I have to kill the cat.
DR. SELMAN: Don’t you have a friend that once kept the cat?
GEORGE: I can’t do it! I’m so close to that cat, it’s absurd. So I have to tell you something: I did something really bad. Hilly will tell her version. So we got back from Odeon, and I needed her to comfort me, work her magic. I thought we would watch the fourth episode of 24, watch the nuclear bomb go off, and so I went to get ice cream, and I came back, and it was clear to me that she was going straight to bed. That’s when I flipped out, because I really needed her—I don’t know how to describe the feeling. I was going out of my mind, and I needed her to calm me down …. Ah, here she is.
[HILLY walks in.]
HILLY: Sorry I’m late!
GEORGE: We’re up to the point where I’ve gotten the ice cream and flipped out. Dr. Selman doesn’t think it was entirely Ambien-related.
DR. SELMAN: Nor do I think it was a panic attack.
HILLY: I realized something was wrong when we got to Odeon, because you took the coats downstairs, and then I noticed you stopped—you’re talking to people, which I guess is normal. But I just had this weird feeling about it.
GEORGE: Then we found ourselves at a table with six people. I have trouble with talking to a bunch of people … can’t deal.
HILLY: And you said, “You know, it would really help if you just took charge of the situation, found a table.” And I was thinking, “I don’t even know which table we’re supposed to sit at—”
GEORGE: You were just following me around. I just needed you to say, “O.K., we’re sitting here, George—sit.”
HILLY: Finally I found a table, put my stuff down, came back, got you, and as soon as we sat down, you wanted to go smoke. So I was left there alone with strangers, who are trying to kick me out of the table. You came back, and I said, “Let’s just go sit at the bar.” So we went and I turn around and you’re halfway across the room, still talking to someone. I was like, “O.K., all right.” And I was having a panic attack, because I was so crushed by all these people and I was just happy over by the bar—
GEORGE: I almost had a panic attack at the doctor’s office today! This woman was on her cell phone, she was a singer, and she was reading aloud from a review and calling the critic an idiot. I wasn’t going to throttle her or—
DR. SELMAN: It sounds like you are angry, not anxious. Like both of you are identifying your anger with anxiety.
GEORGE: I was enjoying the party, but I wasn’t at my peak performance level.
DR. SELMAN: Why didn’t you just leave?
GEORGE: It was a good dinner, good scene.
DR. SELMAN: Doesn’t sound so good—it was crowded and the woman gave you the finger.
HILLY: And we were so happy to get home. Finally. And he wanted to go get ice cream. I was like, “O.K.” And you came back and you were freaking out about the phone.
GEORGE: It kept turning on and off on its own. I thought maybe someone had hacked into my phone, like Paris Hilton.
HILLY: I kept saying, “Just take the goddamn battery out—you can use my phone and check your messages.” And you said, “I don’t know the password!”
GEORGE: It just shows we’re the tool; technology’s in control.
DR. SELMAN: So, uh, go on.
HILLY: So I get inside, and I hate this weather so much—I hate it, I hate it, I hate it, I hate it, I hate it! And I hate having to wear all of these goddamn clothes and accessories and bundle up every time I go somewhere.
GEORGE: I like doing that.
HILLY: It’s a pain in the ass—there’s lint everywhere, everything is wrinkled, and it makes you look fat, and I just fucking hate it. I was unhappy last night; I looked awful—
GEORGE: Not true!
HILLY: I didn’t like wearing those boots with that dress, and it really pissed me off—
GEORGE: I love cold weather. I prefer—
HILLY: So we get back to the apartment and I go into my room, and all I want to do is take off all of this disgusting stuff—the boots, the tights, the scarf, the hat, the two layers of gloves, the sweaters—and before I could even get these clothes off, the door opens. George runs in and yells, “Where’s the phone, where’s the phone?! What have you done with the phone?!!” All I wanted to do was take off all of this stuff, I have x number of hours before I have to get up—
GEORGE: It was only 11:30 p.m., but I realized that she was going to do her thing—
HILLY: No! I was just trying to relax, but you slam into the room—I’m like, “I’m sorry, I haven’t even taken my coat off yet; I don’t know where your phone is.” And you start screaming at me—
GEORGE: Not screaming. Sort of like you’re talking right now.
HILLY: Just leave me alone! And finally you grab the phone and say, “Typical!” And you run out of the room. I finally change, I go out there, I sit down and immediately you’re on your computer—tap-tap-tapping. I thought, “Fine—I’m not going to sit here like a patsy all night and wait for him to finish his socializing just so I can incur more abuse. Instead, I’m going to go to my room and watch my little TV …. ”
GEORGE: When I went back into her room and saw her watching TV, I realized that she had shut down, and that was the end of the evening.
DR. SELMAN: The same thing happened at the party—you’re constantly talking to other people instead of with each other. And when you get back to the apartment, you’re on the computer.
GEORGE: I just needed her to comfort me, with a bubble bath and—
HILLY: Then he’s yelling and filled with so much anger, and he threw something—and I swear to God, I was scared.
DR. SELMAN: What did you throw?
GEORGE: I threw the remote down on the floor.
HILLY: And you threw my iPod case.
GEORGE: No, I didn’t.
HILLY: I just didn’t want the aggression.
DR. SELMAN: You wanted her to run you a bath after you behaved so badly?
GEORGE: I thought she would make things better. I was begging her to come and talk to me, like, “I need help tonight, I need you to make tonight better—please don’t go to sleep.”
DR. SELMAN: George, you sound like a big baby.
GEORGE: I know. She started crying—then I felt worse.
DR. SELMAN: You threw a tantrum.
GEORGE: Yep—but you know what saved us? We put on Talledega Nights, and we went straight to the part where little Texas Ranger says to his father and grandmother, “One of you turds is gonna get smacked in the mouth!” And we started laughing, and that was it.
Dr. SELMAN: How did you end up in a hotel?
GEORGE: I took another Klonopin, and at 3:30 in the morning I just realized there is no way I could go to sleep, and Hilly had confiscated the Ambien. So I went out in the snow and tried three hotels, finally found one.
DR. SELMAN: You guys are still strapped for money, aren’t you?
GEORGE: Rather than taking the Ambien, I’m going to go there every night I can’t sleep. Anyway: Happy Valentine’s Day!
HILLY: Happy Valentine’s Day.
DR. SELMAN: Are you willing to take this medication?
GEORGE: The mood stabilizer?
DR. SELMAN: It’s called Abilify. A real low dosage. I have samples. But I don’t want to give them to you if you’re not going to take them.
GEORGE: I’ll take the samples. What are the side effects? What about the erections?
DR. SELMAN: It doesn’t affect that. You probably won’t notice the benefits until you take it for four or five days.
HILLY: Why don’t you take it right now?
GEORGE: All right, I’ll pop it.
[DR. SELMAN cuts the pill in half with his pill cutter. George pops the pill.]
GEORGE: I also have some back pain. Can I have some Vicodin? This is a mood stabilizer? Won’t make me go crazy, right?
DR. SELMAN: Sounds like you went crazy already.
GEORGE: Now let’s talk about Frisco! We were there for a week. We went to Perry’s, had an amazing lunch, Bloody Marys, drove through Pacific Heights, walked across the Golden Gate Bridge—that was scary—went to the Beach Chalet, watched the sun set, went to Specs bar, where Herb Caen supposedly coined the word “beatnik” and—
DR. SELMAN: Why is this relevant?
GEORGE: I walk into Specs, and who do I see but Jonathan Richman? And he’s wearing a French sailor shirt, looks like he’s 25 years old. We started hanging out there every night, and I bought some Lebanese hash down the street. What else happened in San Francisco?
GEORGE: Oh, and I discovered a really great drug. Speed. Or Adderall. Amphetamine salts. Wasn’t I loving that? That drug just massages your brain.
DR. SELMAN: Are you still taking it?
DR. SELMAN: Why did you stop taking it?
GEORGE: ’Cause I ran out. I love those things. Hilly, talk about the prairie dogs.
HILLY: Umm. They were cute.
GEORGE: Don’t want to say anything about the prairie dogs?
HILLY: They’re really cute—until you showed me the video of them getting blown up.
GEORGE: It’s got to be done.
HILLY: Do the thing that they do.
[GEORGE pretends to be a prairie dog, raising his arms into the air and squeaking.]
HILLY: Ha ha ha ha! Praise the Lord! Hallelujah!
[To be continued.]
George and Hilly published 01/15/07
George and Hilly published 12/11/06
George and Hilly published 09/18/06
George and Hilly published 08/14/06
George and Hilly published 09/11/06
George and Hilly published 08/14/06
George and Hilly published 08/07/06
George and Hilly published 07/31/06
George and Hilly published 07/24/06
George and Hilly published 07/17/06
George and Hilly published 06/26/06
George and Hilly published 06/19/06
George and Hilly published 05/29/06
George and Hilly published 05/15/06
George and Hilly published 05/08/06
George and Hilly published 05/01/06
George and Hilly published 04/17/06
George and Hilly published 04/03/06
George and Hilly published 03/20/06
George and Hilly published 02/6/06
George and Hilly published 01/23/06
George and Hilly published 01/16/06
George and Hilly published 12/26/05
George and Hilly published 11/14/05
George and Hilly published 11/07/05
George and Hilly published 10/24/05
George and Hilly published 10/17/05
George and Hilly published 10/10/05
George and Hilly published 10/03/05
George ’n’ Hilly, Back in Couples, Turn on the Doc published 09/26/05
But Should We Get Married? Part III published 08/29/05
But Should We Get Married? published 08/15/05
Should I Get Married? My Hilly Joining Me In Couples Session published 08/08/05