The Paris Review

On No Longer Being a Hysterical Woman

Original illustration by Anne Osherson

I cannot locate the day that I finally meant it, this heretofore speculative suicide think, but by some point, not long ago, it seemed I had only two choices: get a hysterectomy, or die. I would not die from endometriosis alone, though it is often called benign cancer, but neither could I bear to live with it.

This past summer, I reached a breaking point. A choppy cross-country move disrupted my medical care, requiring new referrals, specialists, a primary care physician, a new medical cannabis card in a state with a completely different policy, a renewed opioid prescription until I could get the medical cannabis card, refills of antidepressants. A lost social security card stuck on a moving van that arrived two weeks late delayed my ability to get a New York State ID, which I needed in order to see a doctor who could authorize my medical card. All this in the middle of nonstop travel I had scheduled months in advance, as part of my book promotion and visits to universities and festivals.

Three nights before a trip to Europe, where I was up for a prize, I messaged a suicide hotline. I’d missed too many medications at once and needed immediate care. I made it through, but microaggressions in Edinburgh and Paris pushed me into a full depressive episode. The entire ride from Disneyland Paris to my hotel, I considered jumping from the moving Lyft. But it would be too complicated for my husband to retrieve my body internationally, I reasoned. I’d wait until I returned to Ithaca. My period started, and, along with the chemical withdrawals, contextualized some of my increased depression. I took Xanax and Trazodone and Cymbalta and returned to that old devil, Percocet, and fell asleep. I

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