#14 Tylenol

Last week I hurt my right lats from playing tennis, went on a terrible date and was generally having a bad day and whining about it to a friend. At the end of the conversation she said “may be just take a painkiller if you are not drinking” and I asked if it was the back pain or for the mental anguish to which she replied “Both :)”. Which validated my decision to take two a couple of hours before that conversation.

I never used to use any anti-inflammatory pills for mild mental and physical anguish in my early 20s but recently noticed that I’ve picked up this habit of taking them for small knocks - mental and physical. Some of the times I take them cause I want to be functional in some narrow sense such as going to the gym or getting my day job done. To be cured instead of being healed as James Carse would put it. Sometimes I take them purely for the mental anguish at the end of a long day.

This reminds me that Tylenol was a popular import among my grandmother and my mom in the 90s and early 2000s. The anti-inflammatory pills that were available over the counter in India at that time were not primo and Tylenol was not available. So the one thing that any relative or family friend visiting from the US would bring without fail was a bottle or two of Tylenol, and they usually lasted until another person made the trip to India.

I asked my mom about it back then and she said she used to take them for headaches. Now growing up, I assumed my mom always had headaches cause she felt sick just like children did. When I was an adolescent I attributed her headaches to the long hours she worked both at home and at her work, but off late I’m pretty sure that she was depressed or going through some kind of mental crisis and the headache was likely psychosomatic. There is a lot to unpack about my family history and emotionally abusive father that I won’t go into, which was more than reason enough for the mental anguish. So for about as long as I can remember Tylenol has been the best anti-depressant for my mom (and apparently I have inherited that?) . I asked my mom about it again, a week back and she gave me the same answer - she took them for persistent headaches that bothered her. I think she believes that earnestly and I find it kind of amazing that she found a way to work through it that involved getting people to smuggle Tylenol from 10,000 miles away, without even having to properly diagnose the problem. The body keeps score but apparently the body also finds a way.