It is junior year of college and things are starting to be okay. I am learning how to stand alone without a constant security blanket. I do things like walk down the street by myself with no headphones, or go to the grocery store without feeling like everyone is looking at me. It’s a slow progress, but I’m growing. Something good is happening, I know it. I tell my mother that on the phone, “I think I’m actually happy here. I think I’m finally doing better.”
I have a group of friends. Really kind, talented, wonderfully weird friends. We do things like have parties where everyone dresses up as their favorite characters from literature, or whisper questions like, “What do you think that person is like in bed?” about unsuspecting passing strangers.
They throw me a surprise 21st birthday party and special order a gluten-free cake because I learn my stomach can’t handle it. I cry before blowing out the candles, slobbering an overly emotional speech about how important they all are to me. That I finally feel home. I am happy. I am growing. This is progress, I say.
I do not date a single boy the entire year. There are flirtations, sure, but the kind of thing you don’t overthink. There are no texts I’m anxiously waiting to receive. A friend drunkenly kisses me late one night and I like it. He says I kissed him first, we can’t ever agree on that. But our mouths would find each other every now and then. Maybe out of habit, loneliness, or just sexual frustration. But it was never much.
There is no one I come home to, but I do not miss it. There is no body waiting to hold me, but I’m not even craving one. I’m not consumed with anything. I have a group of friends. Those beautiful, beautiful weirdos who do things like drink wine out of plastic Pepsi cups and host impromptu movie screenings in the college lounge. I am so filled with love. It is everywhere I look. It is all I can ever see. It feels good, healing and pure.
I tell my mother, “I’m finally going to be okay.”
My happiness, I am sure, is cemented.
* * *
It is senior year of college and I’m crying in the bathroom with the fan on. I do not want my roommates to hear. I tell everyone I am going to class.
I do not go. I walk into a small building with ivory walls. Everyone looks understanding, but I sort of don’t believe them. I sort of want to call them all liars. They don’t know me. I have wonderful friends, remember? I do not need boys, or numbing agents. I can walk by myself without headphones, remember?
So why is everything I see always so grey? Even when I take my sunglasses off, it’s muted. I cannot see the sun.
* * *
“Do you get frightened or a panicky feeling for apparently no
reason at all?”
I stare at the clock on the wall. If I make eye contact, she will see it. She will see the diagnosis.
“How often do you get tired for no reason at all?”
I stare at the clock more. I think it’s wrong, frozen or broken. I’m not sure.
“Do you have prolonged periods of tearfulness or crying?”
Yeah, duh. I’m a human being.
“Is it difficult to fall asleep at night?”
“How often do you get into moods where you feel sped up or restless?”
I stare at the clock harder.
I want to stop. She’s going to tell me what I already know. That I’m the problem. It’s me. My environment is lovely and I should be kissing the feet of everyone in my life because everyone, everything, is truly lovely.
“Loss of pleasure? Low energy and activity? Feelings of guilt or worthlessness?”
I’m zoning out now. Everything feels itchy. I’m being suffocated by myself. I wonder if it’s possible to just die for no reason. I combust and nobody knows why, or how. I just do.
“Thoughts of suicide?”
I look at her for the first time. And she’s looking right back at me. Her eyes are soft and warm, I wonder if she’s looking at my eyes the same way. My greens are tired, but I’m soft and warm, too. I’m praying she can see that. I want her to know I am good, but that doesn’t stop me from being so lost and scared of my own mind.
I clear my throat.
“I need help. Can you help me?”