Shiver in the lobby of your school’s psychology clinic and glance down at the medical history sheet the lady at the front desk handed you. Realize that you have no idea if your family has a history of depression; it was never discussed. Think back on your childhood and try to remember if you ever noticed anything wrong. Were my parents sad? Did they sleep a lot? Did they drink? Check uncertain. In a comatose state, go through the questions the doctors ask you, wondering all the while.
Take what they prescribe, and retch on the mental bile that tries to force it back up. Scream to yourself as you swallow your dosage, hear that voice in your head echoing, echoing, echoing that it’s not getting better, that you’re still not well yet. They said these would help. They said. Learn quickly which medicines not to take on an empty stomach and which ones you need to take the moment you wake up. Wonder when they’ll kick in and when you’ll be able to have a hearty belly-laugh again. If you’ll be able to. You’ve heard the horror stories, how people think they feel like robots. Swallow some more pills. Feel angry at the creeping suspicion they may have gotten your dosage wrong, and then — feel nothing at all.
Float through the next three months in a daze. Feel nonplussed by school and friendship and your own health. Watch a lot of Netflix and then nap, waking to realize you can’t remember how you spent the last two weeks of your life. Attempt to feel frustrated at this, but nap to take the edge off. Watch your grades plummet and your phone go static and silent as you finally succeed in pushing away the people who love you, who care about you, who don’t quite understand why it is that when you say “I’m fine,” you mean anything but fine. When you mean absolutely everything but fine. Because you are not fine.
(But you will not admit this to them, or to yourself.)
Look in the mirror at your sunken cheeks and dark circles under your eyes. Wonder how you could have lost so much weight in such a short amount of time. Go to your pantry and take out everything you own. Eat it all and look at the carnage of wrappers and boxes, and feel a distinct sadness creeping up into your bones. You know this sadness well. It’s what happens when you feel hungry and hollow.
Go to house parties and stand awkwardly in the corner, clutching a plastic cup and your phone as if only together could they buoy you up from your own terror. Terror of what, though? What are you afraid of? You’re really not sure. If only you could feel as blissful as everyone else, though. If only downing another beer could make you feel alive and bubbly and joyous. Feel guilty because you aren’t like them. You’re not able to see this as the time of your life where all the memories that will carry us to adulthood are made. Drink another beer. Feel guiltier for not feeling lucky you’re at college at all. Drink another beer.
Look around and realize that you’re not the only one feeling this way. You’ll sense it, at first, the way misery loves company and the way only the depressed can identify each other. But look around and edge towards them, the people who know what it’s like, if only to help, if only for a moment. See a girl in a Purity Ring t-shirt sitting alone on the couch watching everyone as she nurses a whiskey-Coke. You’re not sure, but you think you see the same earnest yearning in her eyes that you know is in your own. Take your place on the couch next to her. Place your hand on top of hers. Leave it there without a sound. Both of you know it’s not sexual or flirtatious or creepy or weird. It just is. For a moment, know the both of you feel just a little less alone. Feel her pulse beat along with yours in disjunction with the synth beats blasting through your ears. Vow to yourself that tomorrow you’ll try to get a different kind of help. That you’ll try, that you’ll put effort into it, that you are not condemned and damned like you thought you were. That tomorrow, you will try to search for your laughter again. The only way to get it back is if you make a conscious effort to hunt for it.
image –Alexandre Normand