We sat side by side on hard metal chairs in the college health center. He was a shaggy-haired, rosy-cheeked young man waiting for a doctor. I was me.
“What are you here for?” I asked the guy. The skin of his left arm and leg were torn and bloody, and he had a skateboard leaned against his chair. “Skateboarding accident,” he said. Naturally. “What about you?”
“Depression,” I answered. I was too spent (and too honest) to fabricate something hip. After months of weeping, wailing, and bottomless misery, I had finally dragged my carcass into the student health center for counseling and antidepressants.
“You don’t seem depressed,” he said. “Actually, you seem really happy.”
Well, of course I seem happy, I thought. I was being treated for depression, not stupidity. If I let myself seem sad, people would avoid me like a clearly-labeled snake pit. Without human connection, what would become of me?
When a nurse called his name, we said our polite goodbyes. As the shaggy-rosy-bloody young man limped off, I envied him. We were both hurting, but his wound was visible, logical, and free from stigma. No one would think less of him for falling off his skateboard, but they might well judge me for talking to a therapist, for sleeping so much, for resorting to medication, for failing to live up to the multitudinous demands of college and Mormonism and work and life as an American female. That guy was bound to heal. Would I?
That was years ago, and I’ve improved considerably since then. But my performance as a human being is still patchy and unpredictable; I’ve been neglecting this blog for weeks, largely because I’ve felt too overwhelmed to share anything worthwhile.
Today, after hiding in bed for about ten hours, I watched The Secret Life of a Manic Depressive. I marveled at the courage of those, famous or obscure, who can step forward and speak frankly about having very serious, stigmatized, painful problems.
Then I crawled back in bed for another hour or two.
Upon emerging, I parked myself at the computer and started publishing my old stories about depression. I know I’m not the only person struggling with daily life, and maybe keeping quiet about my reality has been a disservice to my [five or six] faithful readers.
That’s the story behind my last three “Flashback” posts. Riveting, eh? Now I can go back to bed.