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People Have Depression
People have depression. Sometimes it happens, and it isn’t some sort of punishment for a wrongdoing in a past life. It isn’t always some sort of after effect of a traumatic event that happened long ago in someone’s life.
Sometimes people just have depression.
I am one of those people. My doctors say that it is an imbalance in the chemicals that are in my brain. Something that is wrong with my genetic code that causes me to not want to live, that causes me to never really be happy. It is this imbalance that ruined my life before I could ever even figure out what it would be like to live it.
Or what it would be like to lose it.
This guy in my group therapy has this theory; it is because we can’t be happy in this life that suicide appeals to us. He thinks that it is our destiny to die early by our own hands and move on to the next life, where we will be the normal ones while everyone else suffers through what we went through.
What a lunatic, right?
So if it is an imbalance, then the doctors should be able to fix it with drugs, right? I mean, that is what they usually do for people like me. That’s where the pills come in. One to regulate the chemical that induces happiness, one for anxiety, one that helps me sleep at night, and one that counteracts the effect of the first pill because I take that one in the morning and it makes me drowsy. The first time I tried to kill myself it was with the sleeping pills. I had just turned twelve the month before that. Yeah, I loved the pills that much.
This resulted in my parents closely watching my pill intake and a lot of tears. It wasn’t long after that first attempt that my mother, who said she couldn’t take it anymore, left my father and me. Three months later she was killed in a car crash after deciding to drive drunk. I would hate to blame my mother on my condition, especially since it was preexisting before she walked out on us, but I will not hesitate to say that she was not very helpful.
Exactly a year after she left I tried to kill myself again, this time by hanging myself, but my father found me just in time.
Dad must have really loved me because he always was there. He checked in on me throughout the night and tried to get me the best of help. For sixteen years he put up with me and never showed me anything but love; even after I tried to kill myself twice more after that, again with the pills and then once by slitting my wrist. Even after all of this, he hated the idea of sending me to a place where I could have experts watching.
But dad just couldn’t do it anymore; he wanted me to have more help than what he could give, so I ended up in an institution. It’s not really all that bad, I guess. I mean I’m fed, given my pills, and some of the people even try to talk to me. I am beginning to believe that some of them might actually care about me.
I was sitting on the window sill looking out at the trees; it was fall and they were beautiful. I was supposed to be listening in on group sessions. You know, the type of sessions where we are supposed to share our feelings and grow together.
“Do you mind at least pretending to listen?” A voice from the other side of our little “trust circle,” interrupted my thoughts about my dad.
“I’m sorry,” I told the girl as I turned to face her. “It’s not that I believe what you have to say is unimportant...”
“If you are going to apologize then don’t use the excuses that the shrinks give you,” she interrupted me again.
“Okay,” I said with a shrug. I turned to face the group but I couldn’t make myself care anymore about them than I cared about the trees or even my dad. To me it was all just there.
Yeah, depression sucks that bad sometimes.
I could feel the girl watching me and though I didn’t, or couldn’t, care that she was staring at me, it did puzzle me. No one really cared here, at least none of the other patients that is, but she cared enough to get my attention, and she cared enough to challenge me.
It was the next day, I think, that she talked to me again. Challenged me again.
“You are going to help me do this puzzle.”
“Why would I want to do that?”
She laughed a dark and knowing laugh. “You don’t want to, people like you can’t want things, but I want to do it and I need help. It’s not like you are doing anything otherwise. So help me.”
“Fine. Whatever. I don’t really care.” As she sat next to me and started to lay out the puzzle, she talked.
Talked about her family, then what it was like in the orphanage, about how she came to this place, then why she killed him (she said that she had pled insanity for the murder charge), and about the way she liked to study people even though she hated people and everything they did. I noticed the shorthand terms on her id bracelet that said she was a pathological liar and a schizophrenic. We sat there in the day room until it was closed and time to report back to our rooms.
The next day was a very bad day for me.
One thing you should know about depression, and yes it is different for everyone, is that depression does more than just hurt. It can and does empty you of everything. Every emotion, every desire, every dream is gone. They all become consumed by your depression. You become consumed by your depression.
The nurses understand that there are days that I can’t make myself even get out of bed. However, the girl (one of these days I will have to learn her name), doesn’t know what it is like. She doesn’t understand.
I just rolled over and faced the wall, which amazingly was more movement than normal.
She sat on my bed, “Come on, the puzzle won’t finish itself.”
I’m not sure how she did it, but she got me on my feet and out in the day room before I even noticed that I had sat up.
Like I said, the girl challenged me.
She slowly poked at my shell of despair until it cracked around me and I could breathe again. Just as we had done the day before, she did all of the talking as we made slow progress on the puzzle. I thought one of the nurses working that day was going to have a stroke when she not only saw me out of my bed, but with someone.
Yes, my dad loved me, and yes, he tried so hard to get me to do things, but it just never worked. Maybe the girl was different because she was broken like me or because she didn’t care about what was wrong with me. Maybe it was because she didn’t care about me at all (because I’m still not sure if she does), but regardless, I was up. I was moving, and for the first time in years (maybe ever), I found myself smiling at something she said. I did not smile because it was what I was supposed to do but because I actually found what she said enjoyable.
Time is fluid and I often lose track of it. So the next thing I knew, we were on a different puzzle; it might have been our third one, or our ninth one and I wouldn’t have known the difference except for the Christmas decorations.
“Mary, could you give us a few moments alone,” the head doctor was standing above our puzzle watching us.
The girl got up and flipped the doctor off as she walked away. (Mary. Mary. Mary. Remember the name Mary!) “Yes?” I asked, trying to be polite while already imagining the profanity that Mary would use to describe this encounter, or maybe the story of being ambushed by three orderlies and dragged off screaming and kicking so that they could perform various tests.
The doctor sat down next to me and ran his fingers across the front of the puzzle, “This is your fifth puzzle that you two have done. It is a very good sign to see you doing something and to see Mary socializing with others without the need for violence. But a few of us doctors are worried about what will happen when, at the end of the month, you turn 18, and it becomes your choice to walk out of here. To leave. What will happen to you and the progress you have made? What will happen to Mary?”
I hadn’t realized that leaving was an option.
“Is that what you want, to leave and go home, to live with your father?”
I shrugged. Home, here, six feet in a wooden box? It would feel mostly the same to me. The box might be a little cold, but if I was really in it then I wouldn’t be able to feel it, so either way it wouldn’t matter to me.
“As I said, we are worried about the two of you, so why don’t you keep that in mind.” The doctor stood up to leave. “I must pose a question to you though, one that I think may help you realize what is really going on here. Why do you think that things are different now for you compared to when you first came here? Think on it and maybe it will help your progress.” He turned to leave the table that I was sitting at and nodded to the girl to let her know she could come back.
We sat side by side again, working on the puzzle when I realized that I was slightly disappointed at myself. I had already forgotten her name.
That is a feeling.
I felt something other than emptiness.
The doctor asked me why were things different now? The drugs were the same, the environment was the same but somehow I was different. Somehow I was changing.
I found myself back in my room, sitting in the windowsill watching the snow fall.
“I am leaving.” She was at my door with a bag in hand and an orderly standing over her shoulder. “I am going somewhere closer to home. Back to Maine. I am leaving.”
“But we still have a puzzle.”
She smiled at me, “Finish it for me, please.”
I nodded, of course I would. It was a challenge now.
“I have to ask you something before I leave,” she looked at me with a plea in her eyes and fear written all over her face because she was scared of the answer. “Are you real? All of this time I was never really sure. Please tell me that you are real,” she whispered.
“I am real, Mary.”
She swallowed and looked relieved. “Ok, if you are real, then so is my theory, which is my goodbye gift for you. There is a reason that you are still alive, because someone needs you. So live then.” She flashed me a grin that I would come to miss and left. Just like that.
It was then that I realized what was different.
She had needed me. She had needed me to be real.
And she left me one last challenge.
One that I promise to fulfill.
Before she left, I stood up and hugged her, and I realized something that was very important. I had remembered her name.