“So what brings you in today? What’s going on?” She smiles knowingly behind her glasses. A plus six-foot-tall lady who towers over me while walking or standing. Luckily sitting down we are closer to peers, but not really. Her: The Help, The Knowledge, The Cure. And me? Utterly Fucked Up; a flawed and defective human unable to function at a basic level in life.
“Well,” I sit back and think. I pick at my fingers nervously. I shake in my usual way although a bit more driven by anxiety over the situation. “Well, I think…I think I struggle with depression.” She raises her eyebrows and nods, allowing me to continue on. “I hate my life. Something is wrong. Something I’m not consciously aware of. Others seem more…functional than I am? If that makes sense. Everyone seems okay with life and…I’m not.” I shrug and smile the smile that I always wear when talking about serious topics; a mask which I happily wear to drive away the inevitable pressing questions. If anything life is a joke and you need to be able to laugh about it.
And was I even that dysfunctional? I didn’t feel depressed or suicidal at the time. No, I had taken the first important steps to getting help and that meant I was probably not depressed at all, right? Not dysfunctional. I felt fine at the time; the depression was false. It was a lie. I was looking for attention, something like the school shooter’s desperate attempt at asking for help, the bridge jumper’s way of screaming to be noticed, but if I made the effort to find help didn’t that imply that I was functioning at a normal level? Was I a fraud even coming here and talking to her?
Something about the last two months stirred in my mind. The haze, the blur of it all. Sitting in the yard drunk off of ten beers and crying didn’t seem right — normal people didn’t do this (or did they?) — but everyone was unique, right? Maybe it was normal. Or that I was normal and everyone else was fucked up. And was debating jumping off a bridge in the early morning hours after work normal? Probably not. Something in the past few months caused me to make the desperate phone call for help, even being as socially awkward as anyone could be. The phone call itself was the sign that I needed help. I couldn’t even call the internet company to negotiate a lower monthly bill, so would I really call a number hungover and jittery and tell them I suffer from depression and that I Wanted to Talk to Someone? No, I probably wouldn’t. But I did, and this was a sign. A symptom of desperation. Maybe I did need help after all.
She peered at me through the glasses daring me to go on; there was always more to the story and everyone was hesitant at first. Please tell your story Defective Human and I’ll listen; it’s what you’re paying me for, her eyes said.
As if acknowledging her silent cues I said, “Okay, fine. I, uh, I think I hate myself. I hate everything I am. I know I’m supposed to love myself and I totally agree with it in theory…but I don’t. I don’t like me. I don’t want to be me. Sometimes I want to scratch my skin off and escape to another body — the same ugly bastard greets me in the mirror every morning — because I just can’t take it anymore. I overthink everything. Everyone hates me: at least I think so. I’m pretty sure of it actually. And I have nothing to offer the world. I don’t have any gifts — nothing that makes me unique or special — and I hate myself.” I put another fragile smile on my face and shrugged. It’s all a joke, everything is a joke. Maybe I got that from my dad.
She cleared her throat and looked at me from the clipboard she was violently scribbling notes on. I imagined what it said: Total nutcase, crazy, lack of self-esteem, possible alcoholic, severe past family issues, bipolar like no one else before, anxiety, fear of social rejection, McDonald’s after work? Maybe. But no; Taco Bell sounds much better!
She smiled knowingly over the glasses again and finally said something. “If you could take a stab at it, why do you think you feel this way? What specifically are you unhappy with in your life?”
I looked down at my shaking hands and thought for a moment. I looked out of the window at my parked car. I watched the clouds creep across the sky. I watched an old man hobble to his car. I wondered what he was suffering from. Was he too old to be a Vietnam veteran? PTSD? Scarred from the war fifty years ago? Or some other problem, maybe alcoholism to cope with the war? I scratched my head. My mind locked up as I felt her glare on my face. I fidgeted a bit to look casual. I looked at the scuff marks on my shoes. And why are there blankets and pillows on the couch I’m sitting on? Was I supposed to be lying down?
This seemed to be endless but I eventually came to a conclusion. I looked at her with a blank and helpless look and shrugged. “I have no idea. But four days ago I was, well, this probably doesn’t mean much, but I was…”
What I’ve learned is that any session that doesn’t leave you crying in a parking lot behind a fast food restaurant wasn’t productive. Some sessions you have don’t go anywhere. You should be okay with that. You’ll get there.
That was the comment she left on my social media page. The old “she,” the past “her,” not the new one. The new “her” doesn’t say much although I still crave anything from her. Four years later and the cycle repeats, stuck in a rut and unable to escape.
Although I disagree with her. The session wasn’t productive at all — I felt more lost than usual — but here I was crying in a park. Where was the fast food? Where was the enlightening moment? After finally getting help wasn’t I supposed to feel better? When was the magical moment supposed to happen? When was I supposed to be happy, or at least functional, in this thing called life? The more questions the therapist asked the more answers I lacked. I had no idea why I did what I did. My actions didn’t make any sense, especially to me. I knew other people to a higher degree than I knew myself. I have no idea why I’m writing this now at 1:05 in the morning trying to tie it all together: nothing makes sense. At all. Even the bare trees in February don’t make sense. Why were they there? I was seeing a fragment of the world in this tiny city in America, but was I even really here? It felt like a dream, a terrible dream, with time fixed that I couldn’t escape from. The dream was reality, the place you escape nightmares to find comfort in. But when reality is a nightmare what else is there for you to wake up in comfort to?
I thought of her for a bit randomly and without thought or reason. Maybe she was right. But maybe I didn’t care about what she thought anymore. And this made me more depressed somehow. And then back to my old habits. What does she think about me? Does she approve of me? Am I cooler now because I’m seeking help? Is it honorable to admit to your problems? Does she sympathize with my struggle? Is she impressed that I’m writing consistently now? Does she randomly think of me like I think of her? Or am I some past apparition that is just a ghost in her past, some fragment in her imagination, some shadow in her dreams?
And no progress. I am me with no escape. Thirty years of living with the same person and you’d think you’d grow to like yourself being stuck with yourself for so long. It’s the opposite. Every year I spend with myself I hate myself: my roommate of depression and gloom. He is stubborn. He is bitter. He is depressing. He can’t help himself. He is as ineffective at life as his mother and father. He is insecure. He is brutal. He has no self-esteem. He farms approval from everyone else and is pathetic. He can’t function in life. He lives at a basic level only surviving day after day just trying to pass time. He harms himself in some grand quest to transcend himself. He tries to escape himself despite himself. He wants to love what he hates which turns out to be himself and everything he is. And despite his best intentions he is inevitably trapped inside a prison that he cannot escape.
I looked down at my arm blurred by tears and started to scratch. Desperately trying to escape myself. No escape and only pain that I can’t avoid despite my dissociation. It’s always a part of me, the pain. And this is me. Stuck behind bars until I die. Escaping into reality that is outside the nightmare.