Life is a learning experience
Where we all do our best
To keep our head above the water
But I’m not swimming
Depression has never been
To me it’s a hole in the ground
Where I sit at the bottom
And hear everyone else up above
Laughing and talking
Moving on with their lives
Leaving me behind
They are so close
I can see shadows pass
The opening where light creeps in
It is all so close
Yet so out of reach
Rebecca and I are childhood friends, though we weren’t friends right away. Instead, we would hang out and enjoy each other’s company, then pretend we didn’t know each other the next day. It’s funny because we’ve both admitted to thinking that the other was weird. It was around third grade that we really became close.
Rebecca is pure, always has been. She emits a kind of happiness that shines bright like the sun. We are the kind of friends who laugh and play and respect each other’s boundaries. She’s religious, and I’m not, and yet that’s never come between us. She’s thin, and I’m not, but she’s never made me feel bad for weighing more. She’s very optimistic, and I’m not. We balance each other out, keeping either of us from straying too far from reality.
I regret freshman year without her.
It was the third week into freshman year of high school, and it was already turning out to be a rough morning. One of those mornings where I barely dragged myself out of bed. One where my mother and I didn’t talk; though, to be fair, we never talked anymore. One where I struggled to drown out the silence with songs that did little to make me feel better. Usually, I would jam along and bop to the beat, but today I sat and waited, hoping the bus would come soon, so I could leave. I didn’t even want to go to school, but I never wanted to go to school those days. When the bus finally pulled into to the stop, I barely whispered a goodbye before trudging my way over to the yellow ferry to hell.
I threw myself into the green, faux leather seat to my left. I spun my body around in the process and shoved myself as close to the window as possible. The seat was the farthest in the front. I sat there because I was a freshman, but also because it was separate from everyone else. Nobody else ever sat this far up front, so I had to look back in order to see the rows of other people on the bus, but I never did that. Instead, I faced the window and watched the world blur past me. I turned my music up and tried my best to obscure the demons that whispered a poisoned sort of nothingness into the back of my mind, just loud enough for me to feel insecure. I held back tears that always threated to spill and swallowed the lump in my throat, putting on my deepest frown; I rarely smiled those days.
The bus stopped again and again with more and more people boarding; my nerves tingled, and my palms grew clammy. It wasn’t cold enough outside to wear pants yet, so instead, I wore shorts. My sweaty skin stuck to the scaly seats which only added to my discomfort. Though the ride to Rebecca’s stop was only five minutes, it felt like an eternity. The more I thought about her getting on the bus and sitting next to me, the more panicked I felt. Another day of pretending I wasn’t sad, pretending I wasn’t always sad. Or even worse, another day of silence because I couldn’t handle the human interaction, and instead of facing my problems head on, I just hid.
I just wanted to hide.
We weren’t very far, maybe a stop or two more; I wasn’t really paying attention. I pulled my phone from my pocket. The service was shit; my phone was old, an iPhone 4, but Apple was already onto the iPhone 5S. It was once my mom’s, and I was only slightly bitter that I’d gotten a hand-me-down, while my sister had gotten something new. At the time, I’d been happy that I’d finally gotten a phone. I had jumped up and down in glee. So much had seemingly changed in the two months since then, but really, nothing had changed. That had just been a good day; I didn’t have many good days anymore.
I wished that I could do it in person, but I wasn’t brave. I wasn’t even brave enough to admit to myself that something was wrong. That it wasn’t normal to not talk to my family or to anyone else but myself. That it wasn’t okay how angry I was all the time, or that when I wasn’t angry, I was sad, or nervous, or panicking. That I was depr*ssed.
My hands shook as I typed in the password.
How do I word this? What should I say?
I typed, afraid of how she’d respond. I wasn’t quite sure of what.
What if she said no? What if she said yes?
I pushed down the fear, pretending I wouldn’t regret this later.
I watched as the little blue bar at the top scarcely moved. With bated breath, I waited for the message to send. My heart beat heavily in my throat. Finally, in tiny letters, right underneath the message, it read delivered.
I quickly turned off my phone and waited until a small buzz came in reply.
I didn’t even look at her as she boarded the bus. Instead, I stared out the window, my eyes refusing to focus on anything. A small voice called from my heart, “Please don’t leave me.”
I drowned it out with the lively melody of “Carried Away” by Passion Pit.
It was beginning to get chilly outside, but today was one of those days where the air was cool, and the wind was scarce. I was perched outside, wrapped in a hoodie, swinging back and forth on my swing set. I was a little too tall for it, but I didn’t care; it was fun to push myself back and forth.
Halloween was fast approaching, and for the first time in a while I was actually really excited for something. I assumed it would be like so many years before when Maddy, Rebecca, and I would all go trick-or-treating together. I missed them; I felt like I hadn’t seen either of them in forever. It had been weeks since I asked Rebecca if I could sit by myself, and we still weren’t sitting together.
I was sad because I wanted her to come back. I wanted her to sit down next to me and tell me a joke she had heard the other day, and, even though it wouldn’t really be funny, I’d laugh because it would feel good. I wanted her to sit down next to me and offer to play a game that we’d both terrible at because we have different interests and frames of reference, but it makes us feel connected anyway. I just wanted her to sit down next to me and be there with me, so that I didn’t have to be alone. Instead, I watched as she passed by to sit a few seats behind me with another one of her friends on the bus. I’m certain we both looked at each other with a sense of longing, but she didn’t say anything, and neither did I.
So as far as I was concerned, I wasn’t sad about it; it didn’t bother me, and I was fine.
Then the text came in.
To a normally functioning person, this text would seem like good news. She was checking in, seeing if I wanted to do something with her. That’s not how I took it.
I thought we were the original group?
I felt betrayed, like some afterthought, so unimportant. More than that, I felt disgusted. I’m not certain about what.
I’m not good enough to be a part of the original group. It wasn’t true; I know it wasn’t. Rebecca wanted me there just as much as she wanted Caitlyn, Samantha, and Maddy, but I couldn’t seem to understand that. Instead, I curled in on myself, feeling like every fear I’d had about Rebecca had finally been confirmed.
Of course, she doesn’t really think of you as a friend. What did you expect? I mean you asked her to move seats on the bus; she must have given up on you. Why wouldn’t she?
There was a part deep inside of me that yelled out for that ugly voice to shut up. Rebecca wasn’t like that; she would never do anything like that, to me or to anyone. I couldn’t hear it though. The sound of a breaking heart is so, so loud.
I didn’t respond for a very long time.
“Are you even listening to me!” he yelled. He was angry.
I nodded, but it was a lie.
I shut down at this point. I didn’t feel anything anymore, and I wouldn’t for the rest of the day.
Cole and I spoke, or rather texted, through the first two-thirds of freshman year. It started off as a prank. He was a friend of my friend, and we left him messages as foolish children often do. The next day, he texted back asking who I was, and I wasn’t in the mood to mess around, so I told him. We texted after that, back and forth almost every day. We talked about stupid stuff. Our conversations ranged from exercise to penguins, and we rambled on and on. We created inside jokes and thoughtlessly teased one another, no malice or ill will in sight. This was how our texts went.
In person was another story. He didn’t joke around with me, and most of his words held a barb to them which cut into my emotional stability. I ignored it, because he was always so kind over text. I chalked it up to the fact that we just weren’t used to being friends outside of the screen. And after school, he always responded. I may or may not have had a tiny crush on him. He was good looking and kind at times. I think most people who meet Cole have a crush on him before they really get to know him. I considered him a friend.
I’m not sure what Cole thought of me.
I sat next to Mitchell in Algebra. Mitchell remembered me from our 6th grade science class where he’d told me, as I laughed at a joke someone had told, that he’d never seen me smile before. We talked and got along rather well, enough so that I sat with him and his friends at lunch. I was happy that I wasn’t alone. I sat near the girls who came and joined the table. The boys sat at the other end. Cole sat diagonally from me, about two people down.
Recently, I’d been struggling to keep my emotions in check. I think it had something to do with the medication I was taking. My ADHD had to be reined in, but my dosage was a little too high. It acted more like a mood suppressor than anything else. Happiness came in small bouts that only lasted for a few minutes before swiftly leaving me entirely, no traces left behind. I’d known it’s effect on me for a few years now, but I never spoke up about it. I was very unwilling to admit a lot of things.
It was colder now, and I sat bundled up in my jeggings and a hoodie. I always wore an undershirt, but it never mattered much because I never took off my hoodie. I was self-conscious, but I could easily pretend that I wasn’t when my body was hidden under the baggy material. Sweater paws, a term I’d recently learned, made me feel cute. So, I clung to them in awkward times, hiding my hands like a turtle shell, protecting me from my negative thoughts. I wore it like armor, though the thin fabric did little to shield me from the cold reality of life.
At lunch I had to use my hands; I couldn’t hide away behind the flimsy feeling of “cute.” My arms were out, fingers clenched around a sandwich, just on the verge of being fists as though I was prepared to fight, though I am unsure what.
Cole babbled on and on about something stupid, and while he was a smart boy, he was spewing nothing but bullshit. I laughed under my breath as he listed attributes of a superhero he had invented.
“Puddle man is powerless, and I’m afraid to say that he would lose, like, every battle.” I shot down his idea from my side of the table. Others around me laughed; apparently, I’d done well.
“Oh yeah, well nobody cares about your opinion.”
I stopped breathing in that second. I reeled back from his words. Though my body had seemed so ready to fight, any will to do so left me instantly. I shut my mouth and curled in upon myself. My smile fell, and oh… there goes the happiness; I guess that was my fix for the day.
Suddenly, I felt like throwing up. I swallowed back tears and entered into a state of nothingness, one where I couldn’t feel anything.
But that’s what he’d said right.
Nobody cares about your opinion.
Nobody cares about you.
I texted him later, asking him to watch what he said around me. I tried to explain that times were hard for me right now; I was struggling, going through some shit. It took him an hour to reply.
When was the last time I spoke to my sister?
Ah yes, I remember.
Before school started, before she moved.
We fought over a waffle.
Maddy, not to be confused with my familial sister Maddie who lacks a significant spot in this story due to the fact that she lived away from home at this time, is my sister at heart.
We met in third grade; we were both cello players. For never having met before, we hit it off right away. I feel that I rarely click with people so flawlessly, but Maddy’s and my friendship was written in the stars, of that I am certain. She was that friend that so effortlessly made me feel good about myself, and I was so ready to do the same. I was such a little shit when I was a kid, and I sometimes wonder why she continued to be friends with me. I asked her once, and she smiled, laughed, and replied with a simple, “Because I liked being friends with you.” Maddy is my family, though not by blood. She is the friend whom I took everywhere. Spring vacation with my family, and I could bring one friend, who would it be?
We’ve gone through so much throughout the years. I wonder what will happen to us later on down the road. I have not a doubt in my mind we can get through it together.
I didn’t enjoy homecoming. Though I had plastered a smile on my face and pretended like I was having the time of my life, there were many things that didn’t fit. For one thing, my dress had been too short and too mainstream, definitely not my style. Then, there was the fact that I had spent the entire night jumping around from friend to friend, but mostly I was alone. And then there was the fact that Maddy started feeling extremely nauseous about halfway through, and I didn’t know what to do. Instead, I had been put to the side as other friends of hers handled the situation.
I trudged back into school that Monday after homecoming. The decorations from last week were stripped down, and the school turned from the fun and exciting zombie apocalypse back into the off-white hell hole that it really was. I kept my head down and my headphones in as I walked over to the pillar where I often stood before class started. I was scrolling through songs when I was approached by Rebecca.
“Hey, have you talked to Maddy?”
“So, you didn’t hear?”
“Rebecca, hear what?”
“Come with me.”
She dragged me over to Maddy who sat on the floor, knees to her chest. I walked over to her, and she looked up at me and smiled.
“Hi.” She waved at me.
I waved back.
“Okay, so why is Rebecca asking if I’ve ‘heard about it’? Heard about what?”
“Oh nothing.” She looked away from me. “It just…”
She paused for a second before looking me in the eyes.
“Do you remember how I wasn’t feeling good at homecoming?”
“Yeah, you said you had cramps from your birth control.”
“Well I had cramps, but it was because I took a lot of birth control to try and overdose.”
I froze. The blood in my veins turned to ice, and I felt like throwing up.
“It’s stupid. I mean, I knew it wouldn’t actually do anything but I just… I don’t know,”
I shook ever so slightly, but I didn’t let it show.
“Why would you do that?” I asked. I could hear the fear in my voice.
She didn’t look at me, didn’t answer. I crouched down in front of her.
“Maddy, you don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to, but,” I waited until she was looking at me. “But please talk to someone. This is serious.”
She looked at me and nodded.
“I know. I know, I’m sorry.”
“Hey, you don’t have to be sorry for anything. How about we go to the guidance counselors? I’ll walk with you.”
Maddy nodded, and I put out my hand. She grabbed it before standing up. The office was only a few steps away, but they felt long and heavy. We stepped in, and Maddy asked to speak with her guidance counselor.
The bell rang.
She waved at me.
I waved back.
I made it halfway down the hallway before I broke down into tears.
I kept my sniffling to a minimum. God forbid if someone were to come in to try to see if I was okay. I would only end up worse off than I already was. So, I silently cried, wiping tears away as fast as they came. I’d been crying so long that my eyes hurt; my blanket felt like sandpaper at that point, but I just kept wiping it across my face.
The room was dark, but I clung to the darkness desperately. I hated seeing myself cry because it made me feel ugly. And though I was meant to sleep, I felt the need to just let myself cry. As much as I needed the darkness, it scared me.
The darkness reminded me how alone I was. I desperately wanted to run away from there, run as far as I could until I couldn’t run anymore. Run to a place where perpetual sunshine could warm my soul and keep me from the loneliness. Those thoughts of escape only fueled my sadness and the tears ran down my face faster. Those bad thoughts, the ones I could hide from during the day, snuck their way back in through the space underneath my door. Like the boogeyman, hiding under my bed or in my closet, they snuck into the cracks in my heart and settled in for the night.
They whispered awful, awful things in my ear. And there I was, lying in bed, at my most vulnerable. Every lie they told sounded more and more like the truth. I wished they would stop; I just wanted them to stop. I wanted to fall asleep and never wake up because tomorrow already seemed so hard.
All the vile and hate-filled thoughts piled up to mean the same thing, and though I did not say it in these words, this is what I meant:
I want to die.
Except, I didn’t.
I was so scared of myself because as much as I wanted to sleep, I wanted to see tomorrow. I had so many plans, so many dreams.
I needed help.
Somebody help me.
I knew of only one person who I thought would understand. I didn’t even know what I was typing until I sent it.
I cried even harder, putting it into words had always been so, so hard, and yet I had somehow done it so easily. Just like that.
Maddy responded right away.
I sucked in a deep breath, feeling a little bit of weight lift from me. I texted back, and we talked about my next steps.
“I’m proud that you came to me; it was a very brave thing to do.”
Nod. It’s the truth.
“Have you been feeling this way for a long time?”
Nod. It’s the truth.
“Some people need more professional help. Therapy is always an option.”
Nod. It’s a lie.
I don’t need therapy, I think. I’m not depr*ssed.
I paced back and forth in the basement. Power Rangers is paused on the television, an old show I used to watch as a kid. It’s stupid, but I enjoyed it, maybe as a last chance to hold onto my fragile innocence. Who knows? I had paused it to rant about something even more stupid than the show. I don’t remember who or what it had been about because I’d already changed subjects about five times. My ADHD medicine had worn off for the day and I feel restless.
The glass door in the basement has a small amount of tile flooring in front of it. I walked on each tile in a specific manner that seems to be the epitome of my mild OCD tendencies. I start on my right foot, putting each foot on one tile until the end where I stand in the fifth tile to turn around and start the pattern again. It’s small and repetitive, but it kept me calmer than if I was sitting.
However, today was particularly rough for absolutely no reason at all. More and more, I was restraining myself from trying to pull at my hair or scratch at my skin, wanting to feel something other than the insistent nothingness I felt all the time. I fought with my dad earlier.
Or was it my mom? What’s the difference? They’re both disappointed, always disappointed for no reason.
Never mind that my grades were slipping because I never did my homework. It was just so boring, and it was so much easier to blame everyone else for my problems. Deep down, I knew they were just confused. They didn’t understand; how could they? But it only made me angrier because I didn’t want to talk about it; I just wanted someone to tell me everything was going to be okay.
A noise bubbled up into my throat, but I withheld from releasing it for just a second. I didn’t want anyone to hear, to make comments, to make judgments.
I threw myself on the couch, pulling a pillow close, shoving my face into it, and then I screamed. But I could already tell I was too loud.
The door opened, and I heard footsteps coming down the stairs.
I had a tendency to get in my own head. I walked a lot those days. Rain or sun, warm or cold, I was there. More incessant pacing, this time in a new environment: the street of my neighborhood. I often walked more than once a day. I tended to go out, come back for a snack, then leave again, just as fast, almost as though I had never come back to begin with. And while it would have been great to say that it was because exercise was a big part of my life, that would be a lie. I walked because I didn’t want to be there. I didn’t want to be at home where my mom worked in the dining room, and my dad worked in the kitchen, and the two sat there, and I was reminded that we didn’t talk; we only yelled. The basement, where I spent most of my days, got so stuffy, and I longed for the freedom of the outdoors.
But when I got outside, there is no freedom; I still felt trapped. This time, instead of it being with in the enclosed space of the basement, it was within my own head. It is there where I hurt myself the most, but also where I hurt others. Outside, while I walked, I took a break from the constant beratement of myself, and instead turned it to those around me.
Mom is such a bitch! She doesn’t love me; she never has. Dad doesn’t even want to get to know me, too stuck in his own world. Everybody is so selfish.
They’re all lies, but I had convinced myself that it was the truth. Deep down, I just felt lonely. I wanted to reach out and say: I love you, Mom; I love you, Dad. And yet when we talked, I didn’t say anything anymore.
When did I stop talking to anyone but myself?
I missed the conversations, the laughs, the smiles. Where did it all go wrong? But I couldn’t answer those questions. All I knew was that those feelings have been a longtime brewing. I was bound to face them eventually.
Even then, as I ripped myself from the house and ran, I was forced to face those feelings. I ran until I reached the bottom of the driveway. That place where I found it safest to lie to myself about the people around me. But I didn’t want to lie anymore. Instead of yelling at my mother something vicious, something so full of venom that we both ended up crying, I wanted to ask for help.
Please help me, Mom, I’m so alone. Please don’t leave me alone.
Instead I walked through the rain, until after a few minutes, she pulled up beside me. I ignored her for a second before she rolled down the window and said, “Please get in the car.”
I knew it was coming. We fight. All we did was fight. I knew she was gonna say it.
But I didn’t want to. I knew that we needed to talk, but I just couldn’t do it with her right then. So, I opened my mouth before she could.
“I want to go to therapy.”