The following took place January 2008.
I’m on the floor in my bedroom. I don’t know how long I’ve been here. I’m on my back. My fists are clenched. So is my jaw. My eyes finally open. Everything’s blurry though the tears. I see the sun sneaking through the blinds and the stupid Utah Sky blue we painted the walls. There’s so much pressure. It’s suffocating. I know it’s not a heart attack. It’s not panic induced either. This is what I’ve been going through since the third grade.
This is the basement of depression.
This is where my body locks up and I squeeze and wait for it to pass. It always passes. That’s what I’ve learned. That’s what I tell myself, even when my mind keeps flashing to the skyscraper downtown.
I drove by it last week. They have a rooftop bar. It’s over seven hundred feet from cocktails to concrete. There aren’t any security guards watching the four-foot barrier around the edges. The barrier is transparent thermoplastic so people can gaze at the smog over Southern California.
If I go now, I’ll beat the crowd and lessen the chance of someone trying to grab me before I jump. At night, the place turns into a club, one of those trendy hangouts where trust fund babies and wannabee actors snort cocaine and talk about their amazing yoga teachers.
I need to get up. I don’t want to be lumped in with those people. I don’t want anyone thinking this has something to do with my career. Even if I was successful, it wouldn’t change anything. My brain is a toilet pumping poison. I’ve been flushing it for twenty years, but it always fills back up. Now, it’s overflowing.
I need it to end.
People who’ve never experienced real depression think it’s sadness, something we all go through; what they don’t understand is that for people like me it’s always lurking and it gets stronger, or maybe I’m getting weaker.
I’m just tired of fighting this invisible monster. It’s not this single bout; it’s the years in the ring. Each body shot has taken its toll, each elbow to the ribs has made it that much harder to breathe. The worst part was when I realized I have no say in this. I’m just a sparring partner, the monster’s punching bag.
Something clicks. I hear footsteps.
It’s Jess. She’s already off work.
Fuck, Anthony, get up.
I promised myself I’d be gone before she got back.
I have my date with the skyscraper.
Just get up. Or crawl to the bathroom. Don’t let her see you like this.
The door opens. “Oh, my God. What happened? Anthony, are you hurt?”
My throat’s closing. I can’t say anything. I force this smile and shake my head no.
“Oh, baby, hey, it’s okay. It’s going to be okay.”
She’s holding me, and I wish I had the strength to push her off. It’s so much worse having someone in the room. Jess and I have been living together for over a year. Normally, when this thing hits, I find my way to the bathroom or take a drive. Jess knows I get really down, but she’s never seen me like this.
In four months we’re supposed to get married. Maybe this isn’t the worst thing to happen. She deserves the truth. Plus, I’ve been trying to blow up the wedding for the past three weeks, cowardly picking fights, yelling for no reason. Maybe I’ve done this on purpose?
She needs to see how bad it gets. I mean really see it, so she can walk away.
Her voice changes. I’m waiting for her to say I’m a piece of shit, that I should just kill myself, that I’m the biggest mistake she’s ever made.
She says, “Get up.” Her voice is cold. It’s like a drill sergeant. “Anthony, I said, GET UP!”
“No, I’m…I’m sorry—”
“I don’t give a shit if you’re sorry. Get the fuck up. Now!”
I don’t know who this person is, but she’s pulling my arm and I guess I’m helping because suddenly I’m standing, looking down at her. She steps into me. She doesn’t blink. “We’re going to get you help. This is what we’re going to do. You hear me?” She’s nodding. I must be nodding too, because next she says, “Now, I need you to put on your shoes. Can you do that?”
I’m a fucking child.
“I need you to work with me here. Can you put on your shoes?”
“Yeah,” I say.
“Okay, I’m going to pack you a bag, while—”
“A bag for what?”
“Just in case. Now, get ready. It’s going to be okay. It’s going to be okay. It’s going to be okay…” She keeps saying that as she puts a notebook, some clothes, pencils, and a few books into a backpack. One book is Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut. Even in this crisis, she knows exactly what I like.
“Baby,” I say. “Hey, look. I’m okay. Let’s just stop here for a second. I just need—”
“We’re not talking, Anthony. Put on your shoes.”
“No. Where are we going to go? We can’t go anywhere. I don’t have health insurance.”
“I don’t care.”
“We cannot afford it.” I’m feeling stronger. My mind is working. “I’m going to be okay. I just–”
“STOP! JUST STOP!”
She throws something. I feel it whiz by my head, but I don’t see what it is. I just hear it crash against the Utah Sky.
I don’t understand why she’s so angry, so adamant, but when she looks at me with those eyes, I realize this isn’t the first time she’s seen me like this. I thought I’d been so clever, keeping everything hidden. How could I have been so stupid? Of course, she knew. On the floor, I see the comedy CD I recorded last year.
“Okay, you almost ready?” Jess says. “It’s time to go.”
“Yeah…just, uh, let me get my belt.”
I need it because I haven’t been eating. My pants are almost falling off.
Jess takes my hand and leads me down the hallway, down the steps, and around to the car. She’s dialing a number on her cell phone. I’m not paying attention, just following orders. I strap in. She’s talking to someone.
She says, “No, he hasn’t hurt himself.” She looks at me for confirmation. I shake my head no. “No, we don’t have health insurance. We just need him to see someone…No, we’re not planning on committing him…We just need to see a doctor…”
“…Culver City…Yeah, okay, hold on…” Jess writes down the directions.
I don’t know how long the car ride takes. Buildings, trucks, and billboards pass by like streaks of fingerpaint.
We park and walk into this non-descript medical building. There’s no one in the lobby. This can’t be the place. It looks deserted. Jess takes me upstairs. The walls are pink. There are a few wheelchairs sitting at odd angles, but not a soul on the entire floor. It’s like one of those zombie movies when a person wakes up and the whole world is dead. Maybe I’ve already jumped?
We’re heading back down the stairs. We find a small placard for psychiatric/urgent care. The doors are locked. I see a security guard through a little window. He buzzes us in. There’s a metal detector. We pass through. There are a lot of people who look homeless wandering around. Jess talks to the guard, then a nurse. I see a TV off to the side. The sound is off, but there are six or seven patients watching. The walls are cream-colored and soothing. The carpet is green. The nurse behind the desk is asking me stuff, but I only hear someone screaming in the other room.
“It’s going to be okay,” the nurse says. “We just need you to step over here.”
“Just follow the guard,” she says to me.
Jess touches my arm. She makes me look at her. “They just want to evaluate you. It’s going to be okay. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want. They just want to talk to you.”
She’s nodding again, and I nod, because I can tell she needs me to. I follow the guard to a folding table. He says, “Do have any needles? Anything I might stick myself with?”
He’s unzipping my bag. “I need to know if you have anything in here I might stick myself with.”
“No. I mean, wait. I have, uh, pencil. Front pocket.”
“Okay…just relax.” He takes out the pencil. “I can’t let you have this.”
“Can’t let me have a pencil?”
“Yeah…keep it.” I look over at Jess by the door. She’s doing everything not to cry. I give her a smile and wave to tell her I’m okay. I’m in good hands. See, they won’t even let me carry a pencil. It’s all safe. She walks out. Now, I’m doing everything not to cry.
“It’s alright,” the guard says. He looks bored. “We’re almost done. I just need your belt.” He says, “Sir, your belt?”
It’s so I don’t hang myself.
“Sure,” I say and pull it off. I hold my pants up with one hand while I grab my pack with the other. The nurse walks up. She gently touches my arm.
I gulp and nod, suck snot up my nose.
“Hey, it’s okay. Don’t worry. We’re here to help you. Isn’t that what you want?”
“Yeah…I think so.”
End of Part 1
I’ll be posting the rest over the next couple of days. If you or anyone you know needs help, please don’t hesitate to call 1-800-273-8255
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/neilarmstrong2/5480543083/”>Neil Kremer</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/passion_in_action/4673134750/”>sagriffin305</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a>
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikechen-metalman/4864576059/”>Mike Chen aka Full Time Taekwondo Dad</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>