There are doors on every doorframe in the house. While this seemed quaint and old fashioned to us at first, we discovered that at no point could all the doors be open at once without banging into one another preventing an easy flow through the house with respect to either movement within it or heat throughout it. This is only a problem when radiators create hot spots and cold zones in a large house. We had radiators. November was cold.
The first of November I stayed at April’s. She made coffee for me and we talked in a semi-sober state. I was fairly lucid but she was clearly still drunk. In her refrigerator I found bacon and eggs and made the only breakfast I knew. Bacon always makes everything better, it really does, unless you make it without a shirt/pants on, then it can be a horror show. We talked for hours in the kitchen about the stressful things of our lives though we strayed far from discussing what we were doing for thanksgiving so that we wouldn’t get that serious that quickly by integrating our families. I expected to see Grace at some point after Carl came down but she was no where. She didn’t stay the night and I didn’t think twice about it. I was too happy to be with April. April was a very charming horticulturist who worked out at the agg station clear out on the west side of Madison where she worked with her advisor on breeding a new strain of green bean. I never gave that much thought to food before, that it had to be bred and that people specialized in particular foods, but it turned out to be a necessary part of our food chain I had feasted on three times (often more) a day. As soon as we talked about her research she spun out of control and taught me everything from stochastics to genetics. I learned a lot listening to her talk about her passion for plants and felt like we would have something together. We just seemed to fit. It was all of a day and it felt like I would stay there forever. We made another date for the next day, being the weekend, where we would see a movie together. I would pick her up in my forest green Neon since her car was a complete piece of shit.
The date went well.
I stayed over again.
Waking up with April turned into a daily thing for me. We were inseparable as it often is with the early stages of most relationships. And like most early relationships in college this one revolved around sex more than emotional bonding but the sex inevitably formed an emotional bond that deepened my prior attraction to her. Rather than trek out to her house by foot I would take the 7 bus into the Willy Street area and spare my knee the long road ahead. She didn’t know much about me, I didn’t know much about her despite us talking constantly. We both guarded things about our lives from one another. It should have been a clue about the depth of our entanglement. I got to know Carl, who wasn’t as bad as my strange first impression had led me to think. After a few days April and I said to hell with making dates and I just stayed over and worked on my thesis while she read for class. All I needed for my studies was my laptop which had all the articles in PDF form cluttering up my desktop, and my graph paper for working on lemmas. So I stayed at hers for days as we bypassed the introductory period of a relationship and fell into the comfort of being old before our time. Before my expedition to her place I would covertly stash my meds inside a hidden flap of my shoulder bag before embarking on the journey. It was after the first week of us being together that she had a pop in. I hate pop ins without a call ahead. It’s supposed to be cute and nice and relationship-y but it’s an interruption that often happens at precisely the worst time but cannot be ignored because of the eternal promise of sex.
We had only known each other for about two weeks too.
It was a Saturday and I put my things down. We watched a movie. Later we had sex. She brought her pajamas but didn’t wear them. The next morning she saw the meds that I had poorly stashed.
From an outsider’s point of view, my extensive bottle collection of current and past meds that I never had the heart to throw out looks like I’m battling cancer and that’s precisely what she thought at the time. She didn’t react well when I told her that I was mentally ill, much less bipolar disorder. It has a bad rap of being moody and perpetually like a teenager but teenagers have fluctuations in their emotions, they don’t have tidal waves of delusion or depression sap every last ounce of their emotional stability. Nor do most people realize that being bipolar can lead one to achieve greater things than normal people with insight from depression and creativity from mania. It all gets bogged down, deep down, in thinking we’re emotional. I’m not emotional, I’m rather deadpan, I just try to kill myself or fly into a flurry of ideas and energy. So she stared and the pills and mentally fingered through them. Depression has one, maybe two pills. When she saw how many I took, it was rather scary. She politely let herself out and didn’t return my phone calls after she said that she didn’t think we would be a good fit. I still don’t know why we wouldn’t fit together but this wasn’t the first time I heard some variation of those words. I tried to tell the others that I was okay and that it was just a short relationship built around sex that wasn’t in any way intimate but Grace knew how much it hurt, how much I thought I clicked with April and that I started envisioning a future that moved from weeks to months. She bought me a pack of cigarettes and we watched a movie that day. Grace had other things to do but she spent the time with me instead. She always spent time with me.
November is rarely a good month for me. Like clockwork over the past three years I became depressed in one way or another, every November, every year. This year I had my salvo of weapons against it. I had geodon, lamictal, and lithium. Lithium is the gold standard defense against bipolar disorder. It works. How? Who knows, it just does. But it’s a beast of a drug, one that steam rolls over life with its demands promising rewards for your labors that are vague at best and only known over the entire length of a cycle that lasts for months or years so the efficacy is never fully known but only hinted at as the feelings from the previous cycle are covered over through time. It takes away defenses against pain — I can’t take ibuprofen, or Aleve, or anything except for prednisone and tylenol. That’s a narrow class of drugs for pain considering tylenol does shit for me when I have inflammation and prednisone is notorious for fucking people up even when they have healthy brains. Prednisone. That’s a wonderful drug sarcastically speaking. It works, it always works when it comes to inflammation, but after three weeks of taking it I couldn’t sit still or stop the yammering of thoughts and I was pretty sure that I would explode and not implode in a mess of energy. I also drink about a gallon of water every day because of how thirsty it makes me and correlated with that is how much I piss every day. Sweat is an enemy to be watched since lithium is a salt tied to sodium and the reduction of the latter increases the former and pushes the mind toward toxicity. And I need regular blood work to make sure my thyroid is still operating. It’s a beast, but it works, it works better than anything else. Lamictal is an anticonvulsant and is the sliver standard. It doesn’t do much for mania, it actually does jack shit for manias for me, but is great for depression and some anxiety too. It has the possibility to kill you in a horrible fashion by causing your epidermis to separate from your dermis and you slowly sluff off skin until you die of infection. It’s a rare phenomenon, but always something that dwells on my mind whenever I change dose and risk it and carefully examine every inch of my body for the deadly rash. Geodon was recently added. In three years I went through nearly every reasonable antipsychotic on the market while not tolerating pretty much any of them. Antipsychotics have the tendency to zombify the brain and turn everything into a boring blur. Zyprexa was the worst offender but it also worked better than anything else. Geodon just causes short term memory problems. And it gets me mildly high. I’m test driving it to see if I can live with it. I need an antipsychotic because I hallucinate.
Grace knows all of this. She knows what I take, when I take it, and how much I take. She pushed herself into this role and I let her. It’s been good for the both of us. She won’t be alone if she has to take care of me. I’m not sure what would happen to Grace if she was alone again.
As per usual, my mood changed in November. It wasn’t the radical downturn that it usually takes, instead it was short cycles of feeling like I was having the shittiest day of my life and then the next feeling rather upbeat and ready to do things and settling into a sort of malaise that hovered over the days that I could push through and manipulate to return to a sort of norm. Functionality does not come from a return to the norm or whatever is thought of as the norm which I will not be anyways, it comes from predictability and rearranging one’s life around the little facts that comprise each day.
I feel that I should also note that at this point in my life it had been some time since I worked. I held jobs in various capacities but was routinely fired once fall came around. One of which was so epic that when a potential employer discovered it four years after the fact my previous boss still remembered me despite having hired dozens of people in the meantime, he remembered me by name. Instead, my generous parents helped support me and I also lived off of the savings I made working 60 hours a week over the summer when I did hold a job. After I graduated I hoped to find a nice job that I could work 40 hours a week at and have little to no stress. I needed something without drama and without stress to get as close to an actual vacation as I could get. Working would give me a nice structure so I didn’t just spend my days reading or writing or watching television till my eyeballs dried out.
Finishing my thesis as quickly as possible would bring me closer to my work-vacation so I banged it out as quickly as possible and it was coming along at a clip. I read during my down days where all I did was sit around and feel terrible, but strangely had good memory, and then during my up days I would produce. Then down again I would edit because my brain was crawling slow enough to make minute changes necessary for solid writing. It’s a to and fro that I learned to use to my advantage last year rather than fighting it.
Most of my time, up or down, was spent on the fugly brown couch with its cushions absorbing my ass into its polyfiber filling and my body propped diagonally against the armrest and back rest while my feet rested on the coffee table next to my freshly brewed coffee in one of the most comfortable positions known to man. The couch sucked me into it’s warmth no matter how I felt. I think that after that month there was a permanent divot in that corner of the couch. I think. I never really thought about it at the time because it became my corner while Grace grabbed the other side and propped her feet up on the middle cushion (socks off as per her usual house attire) and used her laptop at such an extreme angle that I can’t believe her wrists didn’t develop carpel tunnel all while neglecting her study upstairs that she had so carefully marked out as her own. I spent the time with my pad of graph paper working through various attempts at lemmas needed for my proof that I couldn’t do in my head and I desperately didn’t want to prototype in LaTeX. While Grace sat on the other side of the couch I would ask her how to do things, rhetorically, and she would shrug and say that she didn’t know and then respond with a question of her own that I didn’t know the answer to. Though we added three people to our house, it didn’t feel like it was more than just the two of us together for another year.
Grace never had therapy sessions with me. She just hung around me and watched what I did. Actions betray moods more clearly than words and she was a student of my actions like no other. Therapy was the morning as we sat around the table drinking coffee while the others talked about their day and their problems and she would monitor how engaged I was and what I asked and whether I talked at all or just sat and absorbed the ramblings of others.
Sitting in the living room gave me a terrific view of the bedroom doors. All different colors that didn’t match the living room or the inside of the bedrooms themselves. With all of them closed if you squinted your eyes and crossed them you would wind up with the color mauve as the combination of the three. I could also see when bedroom doors were opened and closed. I spied on the others. Well, I only spied on Rachel and Harold. I knew where Grace was, at class or next to me, or up in her study trying to get a break from my questions. Harold left for classes regularly but Rachel left the bedroom with decreasing frequency. It wasn’t an active observation, it was passive because the squeak of the door drew my attention from the rough scraping of pencil led and paper. Still, I noticed it and I started to grow concerned. The pattern seemed to hold and resembled my own past with frightening similarity. I wasn’t sure what to do or if she was seeking help or if Harold was any help though I doubted it because the morning conversations never mentioned Rachel which was bizarre considering his openness with talking about almost failing his class so it persisted in the back of my mind nagging me to think of something to do but pushed it down as she had some support from Grace and Harold.
It’s hard to tell what’s normal when it comes to mental phenomena. It’s not like a broken leg where you can’t walk on it but can see everyone else walking perfectly fine — wincing pain is also a good sign. Mental problems, it’s different. It’s insidious how it crawls slowly into the mind and clouds judgment and slowly deconstructs what was once normal into an abnormal state — you also don’t know that what is happening doesn’t happen to other people, their brains are not on display. Missing the gradual decline has happened to me more than once. Just reading a description of mania or depression in the DSM IV doesn’t really describe what it’s like to be high on neurotransmitters or depressed. It doesn’t explain the whirlwind of what it is like to actually be deluded and feel the raw power of believing you’re better than everyone and anything ever constructed that resembles the human mind like Watson or the physicality that comes from an imbalance in neurotransmitters where you will feel like you could physically dominate the biggest and strongest bouncer or the downturn where there is a vacuous hole in your soul that consumes everything into a hopeless pessimism and general feeling of shit for no other reason than to feel that way and feeling like you’re sick but not actually being sick and only wanting to sleep all day every day or just sit and stare and passively absorb because in the end that’s all you’re really good for and that’s not enough to stay alive for another minute. Also, when a student, there’s sort of a perpetual depression hanging over everyone because of the persistent stress. I didn’t know until I experienced the moods multiple times, the first times I had no fucking clue. Neither did Rachel.
A few days before Thanksgiving break I thought it was worth action on my part. She missed several days of class and stayed in the bedroom. I rarely saw people around the house for more than a few minutes as the therapy sessions grew shorter or even collapsed at times except for Cliff who seemed to ride the wave of classes like it’s nothing and the only times I really saw Harold and Cliff was in the kitchen as they rushed from their bedrooms to some place like the kitchen or other than the kitchen, but I didn’t see her at all, only Harold. She just stayed in one place without moving, without thinking, without caring, and Harold didn’t see what was right in front of his eyes. Neither did Cliff. Or Grace. Rachel just withered. She managed to leave for Thanksgiving, off to Harold’s place. I pitied her for that. From the sound of his parents that was not what she needed. She needed a safe home to recover in, to be free of stress and access to limitless food, not meeting a boyfriend’s parents and flying for hours to SFO and then back to O’Hare and then to MSN or taking a bus from Chicago to Madison filled with sweaty people coming back from their various vacations and dying to talk about them to spare the boredom of being crammed onto a bus.
Harold, for all his medical knowledge was still a neophyte when it came to identifying what was right in front of his eyes. She wasn’t sad, depression isn’t sadness and that’s what Harold thought it was, what he always was told it was. Sadness is a normal human emotion, depression is an emptiness that sometimes produces sadness. That emptiness dragged her down, dragged me down many times before, and pulls the will down into an absurd abyss of nothingness that seems inescapable and drives the mind into despair as it aches for what it was lacking though it didn’t know what it was
Recognizing the obvious is hard if you can’t see inside someone’s mind, it’s hard to see even if you’ve experienced it. Rachel was not that obvious in terms of emotions, in terms of words, or anything that usually betrays how someone thinks in any normal sense. She simply slept more and more, talked less, and the assertive girl that stole a kiss and invited herself into Harold’s bed was left sleeping the days away as she spiraled down. Thanksgiving would be remembered by her as the beginning of a horror show of revelation that would leave her sobbing and confused before the void began to slowly fill again.
When I returned from my own trek up north to my parent’s house I naturally talked to Grace about what I thought. She hadn’t noticed anything as she was growing distracted with her own classes and said nothing one way or the other and left it to me to do something. She couldn’t handle another depressed person that would lean on her, but she said she’d be there for me if I did something, she’ll always be there. I was worried for myself. I barely held myself together with my daily checks and regimen of three stabilizers, an anxiolytic that barely worked, and a handful of supplements that I choke down everyday because I can’t eat enough food to properly fuel my body. There’s an art to devouring a nearly a dozen pills at a time. The human stomach is not built to handle gel caps and hard pills all at the same time, or even one by one. After the third pill the body starts to reject the concept of swallowing more so the trick is to deceive it before the dry heaving starts that can lead to vomiting up what breakfast I managed to eat and then leaving me weak and possibly at risk of elevating my lithium levels (which is unpleasant in its weakest form and coma inducing in its dangerous form). The trick is cold water. The quick splash that numbs the tongue and removes whatever flavor the coating of the previous pill imparted and for a split second makes the horse pills go down without a hitch. Pouring more ice water into the stomach at the end numbs the system to the inevitable problem of the pills sinking to the bottom and resting against the stomach wall. Rachel would learn all of this the easy way by listening to me. I had resolved to talk to her. I didn’t know what to say, but food would be involved, probably a sandwich since I wasn’t a stellar cook. I would just have to do something, her life would depend on it if I didn’t do anything and I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if she went further down the hole and only had the frantic version of Harold to lean on.
The next few days I hung around and read and wrote my thesis. There are times where I have a surge of energy for several days that enables me to write thousands of words in LaTeX in a single sitting and I camped in my usual spot hammering away as best I could but barely made it through anything waiting and searching for the words to say to Rachel. Depression is a sensitive thing to bring up and sometimes involving more people is worse. Though it is not a shameful thing at all, it feels shameful to be in it. More people, more problems, more hands, more clamoring and worrying all builds up and feels more unbearable as you suck more time away from more people. Harold was out of the picture until she decided to include him. I had some idea of what I would say, something about what she was going through and a list of symptoms to see if she felt any of them in an attempt to pry conversation out of her if she was mildly depressed and looking for someone to help but I would have to have a demon to sell my soul to if I she was severely depressed because no words work any magic against that mind — it’s already walled off and spiraling down into death at that point and very few things even take the edge off of the hellscape. I had my plan, as sketchy as it was, and waited for the right time.
Harold and Rachel had come back from a short walk to get coffee. She shuffled behind him once she was in the house and stared at me pitifully like she had just been through hell and wanted to be free. Harold hadn’t consciously noticed that something was wrong but rarely left her side and hovered around looking distraught and distracted without knowing why or what to do and buzzed and she shrank from his nervous energy — I couldn’t bring anything up with him flying around annoying her to death. My thesis was done and I remained downstairs most of the week still camped in front of their bedroom waiting for him to leave for most of the day as I half heartedly read a collection of H.P. Lovecraft that I remember nothing from. And then Harold had a test at night and would be gone for the entire day flying between classes, cafes, and libraries. After he left I knocked on the door. She didn’t answer. I knocked again and she moaned and I let myself in. As far as I knew she hadn’t left the room for anything but the essentials since she came back from the short trip to the cafe. I only saw her out of the room twice in my observations and the room testified to the lack of showering. Harold must have grown used to it. She was laying in bed watching television on her laptop that was open on the night stand while she laid on her side facing away from it listening to the voices of 30 Rock pass the time between waking and sleeping. When I entered she rolled over and stared vacantly at me. I asked how she was doing and she said fine. I wasn’t sure what to say other than to retort that she clearly was not fine and I knew more than she thought I knew, but I bit my tongue. I wasn’t sure if I should come right out and say that she was depressed and that she needed treatment right away or she might end up like me or if I should softball it and hope that something sticks or if I should come up with something entirely different. For several seconds I hung frozen in the door way and then let myself in. Sitting down on the bed I noticed how she had bundled herself into the blankets forming a cocoon around her pajamaed body in an attempt to stay away from reality and perceived cold though the room was swelteringly hot with the radiator turned all the way up — she looked like she wanted to disappear into the warmth of the blankets as she snugged them closer when I sat down.
I started off with small talk that in the back of my head knew wouldn’t work. When Grace tried to small talk me it would bounce off as I deflected it with lies or vague answers. With Rachel, she did the same thing. The sentences flew by her and the words that she grasped were simply rejected. I brought up clinical details, asking if she felt like any of those, and she lied and said no. Lying is passive when depressed, not malicious, it’s just a way to get away from anything that can get close. I was fumbling for words, I never did this and I never wanted to, but I felt that I had to step in since Harold was not going to. So I told her how it began for me when I first leaned on Grace.
It was a missed class. It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary for a college student to not want to go to class, but the apathy that comes with depression is not the weariness of mental fatigue that comes with chronic studying. I just didn’t go to class. All I did was watch Futurama all day and feel like nothing. I made it to more classes later in the week, but the pull, the subtle unconscious pull toward simply existing in a bare state crept up. As I mentioned before, depression and mental illness is insidious. The baby step approach that my depression took was like boiling a frog to death. I had experienced depression before and I knew exactly how it felt, but it is only in the later stages that it becomes obvious from an internal perspective. It was the same for her. Small naps that looked like fatigue but grew until they encompassed the entire days spent listening to Tina Fey.
Grace didn’t notice anything, she wasn’t that inserted in my life at that point beyond knowing that I took a lot of pills that she was too polite to ask about — what came next would take her by surprise. Instead, Grace watched the slow decline and handled it by doing more things around the house. At first she complained that I wasn’t picking things up, but quickly noticed that I wasn’t 100% and did a little more. Multiple times she cajoled me to go to the doctor’s because I was so tired, she thought it was mono. I told Rachel that I should have seen it then, the perpetual exhaustion that came from daily tasks, but I didn’t see it. If Grace had known and looked up the names of the pills I had she would have pieced it together rather quickly, but she didn’t and she hadn’t. Unlike Rachel I’m not a sleeper, I’m a starer. She slept her days away and stayed in the warmth of the bed wishing for the day to disappear so she could possibly claim that she made it through another one — only to repeat it tomorrow. I stare. I go comatose in a cognitive way that leads to lethargy but not sleep. Instead I devour television. Not new television and searching for novel stories and ideas to expand my point of view or entertainment, it’s reruns. Over and over I would watch episodes of things I had seen a million times and memorized the lines to and passively absorbed until the shows transformed into a comfortable blur that made the comatose state progress at a quicker pace than its slow blurring of time and events. I would sit and stare for hours on end to the point that the backs of my knees hurt from resting against the frame of our cheap dumpster-dived loveseat that had collapsed cushioning in the front from years of abuse by likely drunk sophomores enjoying their first taste of freedom and beer and the nerves running down my legs were pinched against the hard wooden frame.
Events outside of the living room and bedroom seemed distant and intangible. The abstractness of time itself, which we take for granted as linear and concrete, slowly tore itself apart and became a wash of possibilities that never fully came together into a concrete plan. Instead, the linear progression toward commercial breaks and laugh tracks guided me in a way that made a modicum of sense. Classes went first and then reading, slowly my eyes seemed to wear themselves out and I couldn’t even comprehend books. It was all disjointed and out of place, I wanted sense and I couldn’t supply it myself and I wished to whatever deity that could exist irregardless of good or evil that I could make sense of it again one day. Never did it occur to me that I had a problem because my mind had already unraveled to the point that self diagnosis was impossible.
All that there was was a hole in my mind and my soul, a lacking, and emptiness, I wasn’t sad, I was just absent and slowly couldn’t bare to feel nothing anymore. I would cry sometimes without reason, just sitting and crying but without weeping — tears would form and flow and I felt like I was missing something. It felt like sadness, but it wasn’t, it’s something else, it’s something else.
One would think that at this time Grace would have noticed, but that is the brilliance of what happens every time. There is a deep dark shame that developed, always develops, and requires perpetual lying to cover up. We held different schedules and it was easy to cover up the fact that I never left a room, all I had to do was shower and change clothes. But that too started to slip toward the end. Later, I would learn that Grace was concerned about me but didn’t know how to interact with me anymore. What first seemed like someone slipping under the pressure of classes devolved into a bizarre series of lies that never quite lined up but made enough sense considering their disjointed origin. She should have stepped in, but then again, that’s asking a lot of someone. Now Grace always steps in — after slipping so far it becomes necessary to have a rock of some sort to absorb the inability to function or take care of oneself.
I survived in that state through Christmas, scaring my family because of how distant I was. They recognized that something was wrong, I even got a pep talk about suicide. But words never stop someone from acting, never. Action is the only thing that ever can produce a result. I had moved on from television to David Sederis that Grace had given me in an attempt to cheer me up for the Holidays while she was with my parents talking about what to do but coming up with no answers about how to approach me in my state. I listened to his albums over and over and they brought me a modicum of joy to listen to the disfunction of his family and his life play out in such a public way. David Sederis did not save my life, it only lengthened it. I went back before New Years with her to escape and feel normal but I didn’t do anything and I didn’t feel normal and I wanted a vacation that going to my parents couldn’t supply, a break from reality. Grace went out and I stayed in but lied to Grace that I was going out. She would be back late and I could always say that I drank too much and came back early. That’s also something I was doing at the time. I was drinking heavily.
Alcohol is a depressant and is possibly the worst thing to imbibe when depressed. It’s bad when manic, and when mixed, but depressed is by far the worst. What makes it so tempting is that it lifts the fog of nothingness into a pleasant warmth that feels comfortable. Life seems bearable and living from hour to hour becomes day to day. The only thing is that it worsens the next day, and then the next, and then the warmth dies away and only leaves a habit that barely scratches the surface of the waking coma but I continued because it was the only thing that was working and I couldn’t think straight enough to stop. By all measures I’ve been an alcoholic at multiple points in my life, most alcoholics are self medicating, I self medicated myself into oblivion sometimes. For New Years, I drank myself into oblivion in a desperate hope that I would find some relief. It was a lot. I drank nearly a third of a 1.75 liter bottle of gin. I was not hungover the next day — depression always feels like a hangover so maybe I was but couldn’t tell. But it did me no good, I was just as bad and desperate for a release.
Grace had noticed my drinking by that point and was going to mention something, it’s hard not to notice a fresh handle of gin nearly half gone in a single night when I was supposed to be out having fun. But again, she didn’t say anything hoping it would clear up on its own. She didn’t see what would happen next, nor did I, she didn’t expect it because she didn’t think it was possible for someone who was as high as I was during the summer to fall to such lows. The joyful fun friend couldn’t just disappear.
Voices started. Sort of. It was a perpetual onslaught of thoughts about worthlessness that started to drive me insane. Every second of every day was filled with thoughts of despair. With increasing speed I would start to relive events in my life. Having a good memory like mine is useful in life, but in depression it is a weapon against myself. Events of humiliation, failure, of every negative thought and event left in my mind started to leap forward in my consciousness as I relived the events over and over until all I ever wanted was an escape, any escape, I was worn down to nothing after living in a world absent of anything but the horror show of the depths of my mind that nothing was able to cut through, not even alcohol. So one day after about three weeks, when Grace was gone and I had no one around to possibly lean on I tried to escape. I didn’t want to die, I just didn’t care any more. Anything that would blot out my mind and the reliving of every last humiliation dating back to when I was 7 was what I wanted and I wasn’t able to think in any cogent way imaginable.
Half a bottle of Klonopin, 2mg – 15 pills, half a handle of gin.
I passed out feeling good, feeling relaxed, feeling like this was a good way to go.
Grace found me.
I was lying on the loveseat with my legs propped over the armrest and was not responsive. She called for an ambulance after she saw the empty bottle in the kitchen. It saved my life that she found it and they knew what happened.
I remember waking up, I still don’t remember how many days it was that I was out — klonopin interferes with memory. I wasn’t in a psych ward yet, I was still too sick, but I was quickly ushered up into that strange hell hole.
There I met the army of professionals who were hell bent on making sure that I wouldn’t die by my own broken mind. All day I would stay in my room and nap and try to read. Most of my time was spent on my bed too bored and too tired to do anything else besides curl up on the gurney that never felt like a bed but rather a foam mattress that a child might have in his bedroom so that it didn’t cater to curves but resisted any pressure on it. I just stayed like that for hours looking out of the fifth story window at the snow covering the roof of the parking ramp. It wasn’t the overdose that was doing it, it was simply the depression dragging me down into an abyss of nothing that I was now trying desperately to claw my way out. Food was automatically ordered for me if I didn’t select anything for myself. Surprisingly, the food tasted good, the mac and cheese was excellent. But I wasn’t hungry most of the time. I didn’t order food the first day I was there and it wasn’t until dinner that they noticed I hadn’t even left my room for anything and they carried my food into my room. I didn’t eat that day. I wasn’t hungry, I didn’t eat, my brain couldn’t be bothered to eat. Twice a day I met with psychiatrists and psychologists. Once in the morning which was a team of psychiatrists and a pharmacist and residents learning the ropes and then in the evening to talk with a resident who was still learning how to work with the mentally ill by examining them in the most extreme throws of illness. There I also met people who made me want to live. It isn’t inspiring, not in the slightest. This isn’t one of those stories where I went to some dark hole of an asylum that was filled with good people and I developed everlasting friendships and eventually freed myself from the evil doctors and lived a happy life. Those places don’t exist and the doctors saved my life as well. One Flew Over A Cuckoo’s Nest is a lie. A sad pathetic lie that has no relationship with modern reality written by a man who fabricated tales for a living. What I was confronted with was vocational therapy, whatever the fuck that is, I never went, round the clock surveillance that included getting my vitals check at 4 fucking AM, and the cast of the place made me see where I was, and what I was. People with fresh cuts down their forearms going lengthwise and not laterally, half a shaved head with a bullet wound in the wrong place, schizophrenics zoned out on too much Seroquel taking in the latest advice from HGTV — I was a part of this group and I didn’t want to be. I downed the maximum dose of olanzapine, 10mg, felt vaguely more stable after two days and lied my ass off to get the hell out because I couldn’t stand the thought of being associated with that cast for one more minute (4am vitals check also). I still felt like shit, I felt like shit for a long time after that, but being disconnected, being trapped in my room with a book I couldn’t read or comprehend and to this day I still don’t know anything about and have reservations about ever reading again for fear of dredging up that experience through tangential association, that made me feel worse than being back at home with Grace. So I lied. I probably shouldn’t have, but I did and somehow I’m still alive.
I wanted to go back to Grace, who saved my life, because she came to see me. The day after I was admitted to the ward she came on the bus, riding 45 minutes out to the hospital and probably standing, waiting, for the bus for 10-15 minutes just to make sure she could make sure that I was still alive and breathing and not permanently ruined. I wasn’t talkative at that time. I was still pretty far gone and depressed. And she cried. She didn’t just cry about the fact that she nearly lost her friend, she cried because she didn’t care enough to step in and help, that she needed the wake up call of me falling into a coma to act in any way to save my life. In the saddest way possible, it brought us from being friends to being siblings. She would never let me out of her sight again.
This I told to Rachel.
She said she felt like some of the things that I said, a lot of things, and that she might do the same thing I did. All she had to do next was agree.
It was a Friday.
I took her to University Health Services for an emergency appointment.
I sat with her holding her hand while she waited to see the psychiatrist on call. At first they said that they didn’t want me back there with her, which is normal, but she insisted and I came along. I never said anything, I had to let her talk and respond to their questions. But her inner life unfolded for me in brutal details down to the cuts on her legs that she was slicing into herself in an escape from the cloud of depression and emptiness that cried out for anything, even pain, to fill it. Harold didn’t know this, they hadn’t had sex in two months. She brightened up when she talked about cutting herself in detail. The feel of the razor blade initially scared her with its lightness and it felt like it would be painful against her index finger and thumb which would rest against the side of it when she would apply pressure. At first she just held it, not knowing what to do. She thought of just cutting her arms but then Harold and the rest of us would know. So she sliced the insides of her thighs. The instant adrenaline shock to her mind from the rough tearing of her skin and smooth slice of the blade deeper down in her flesh set her free from depression for a split second. She knew where she was cutting and the possibility of nicking her femoral artery added excitement to the pursuit as well as a possible final relief from everything. Soon she dulled the blade by raking it against the metal that encompassed our skin so that when she pulled it across her skin it wouldn’t slice but tear like a paper cut making it more painful and more fulfilling. Later I would discover that this was how she planned to kill herself one day. She would just press a little harder and cut a little deeper and it would all just go away. She didn’t have to show the scars for me to know that this had been going on for a long time. I found blood in our bathtub one day about 6 weeks before and she claimed it was her period. She lied, like all depressed people do to cover their shame.
She revealed this only to me and the psychiatrist as she squeezed my hand tighter as she tore more and more of her life out for display and analysis. No one ever would know the full story beyond her being depressed and seeking help. I would never tell and neither would she. It was a rather easy diagnosis in the end and the doctor proscribed an antidepressant. We set up a regimen to protect her from possibly overdosing on antidepressants in a last ditch effort to end everything. She would also have to show me her razor blade. At the pharmacy we were early to pick up her meds, both pharmacists know me by sight due to my years of experimenting with nearly every drug on the market. We waited twenty minutes in Walgreens for them to process the prescription. It came to $5 in order to save her life, without insurance it was over $100. Back at the house she led me into the bedroom. Underneath the dresser where a small cut out in the baseboard left a gap between the floor and the wood she stowed the blade. I bent down to my knees and fished it out. It was caked with dried blood and slightly rusty from the blood corroding it. I turned around and saw her standing there with her pants and underwear around her ankles sobbing showing scars running from her vulva to her knees. She asked what I thought of her now. The lines of scars were criss crossed with scabs and fresh cuts just starting to heal over. I hugged her and said she would survive.
After pulling her pants up she continued to cry, not heaving emotionally just tears naturally falling while she remained placid as she felt the full weight of what was happening slamming into her vacant mind. She had no plans for the holidays since she told her parents that she was going to Harold’s which actually meant that she wanted to stay alone in the house and would probably kill herself in the process after going mad with loneliness and failure. She would come with me and Grace to my parents and heal, they had been through this before.
My parents had seen me at my deepest and darkest just before the lights went out where I spent my entire time on the couch, often curled into a ball, repeating the same task over and over like a CD caught on a scratch. It is a frightening thing to see someone who is not mildly depressed but massively so because their mind is no longer really a mind but an empty shell that goes through the motions of being alive. It’s only a matter of time that the motions start to fall apart and the shell wonders why the lights are left on. My parents had seen this and would see it and they would respond without being overbearing or over questioning, they would provide supports, along with me and Grace, so that the mind wouldn’t wonder why it was still on. It doesn’t come in the form of pep talk about why life is worth living. It doesn’t come in the form of hugs and kisses. It’s usually food and company along with an antidepressant.