Hey guys! Annie here. In October of 2015 I submitted this post to elephantjournal.com and they published it! Woo! If you'd like to see that version just click HERE. Over the next few days I will be re-posting old stuff I wrote that I particularly like, all edited, polished, shiny, and new! This story will always be very dear to my heart. Please enjoy!
I hung out with Depression yesterday.
He and I hadn’t spent much quality time together lately, and neither of us had anything better to do, so we spent the day lying on the couch, eating Doritos, and watching TV. I’d like to say it was nice, but that’s not really the word for it.
When I first met Depression, he was like that extra dude who always shows up with the people you actually invited over, and spends the entire party standing in the corner. You feel bad at first, but not awful. You’re like “Oh man, I should make a point to talk to that kid next time.” Or, “Maybe I’ll take a three hour nap instead of a one hour nap.” After a while, though, he just starts showing up unannounced and uninvited, and you both sit in tense silence while you’re wondering what on earth that guy is doing here…again.
It was like his presence cast a fog over everything, and though I despised the feeling, I wasn’t going to give his existence the honor of my acknowledgement. I silently and brutally tolerated him, and he continued to show up. There were times when he just sat there on my couch for an entire week, and still I said nothing. What could I do? There is no pest-control book on how to exterminate Depression, so I kept right on ignoring him until my life got to the point that I couldn’t take it any more.
“Why are you still here?!” I demanded one evening.
He was sitting on the couch next to me, respectfully adjacent to my nest of blankets and pillows, watching whatever movie I was watching with a bemused kind of interest—like he wasn’t so much interested in the plot of the movie as he was fascinated by the process and activity of movie watching itself.
When I spoke to him, he didn’t make a fuss about how I had never done so before. He simply looked at me in his soft, contented way and said “I’m here to help.”
What? “No you’re not!” I countered, completely distraught by his reply. “Look at me! I’m an unproductive pile of a human being. This is obviously not helping me.”
“I’m not here to help you be ‘productive,’ Annie.” His tone never changed from that calm patience. “But I am here to help.”
“Help with what, exactly?” I was starting to get really pissed off, but this only seemed to delight and amuse him. He smiled.
“I am here to help you hide.”
I opened my mouth, but then I closed it. Hide? “Hide from what?”
“I don’t know. Coming up with the reason is not in my job description. I just come here to help you when you want to hide from something. The ‘what’ that you hide from is entirely up to you.”
We looked at each other then, for a long time. I looked at Depression and Depression looked at me and suddenly I saw it. There was love in his eyes. So much love just pouring out of him, like I was his child. He wanted to take care of me. He wanted the best for me, no matter how gross I looked at that moment. No matter how much I was disgusted with myself. There was no fear in his eyes; no judgment; no expectation. I knew in that moment that he would be there, waiting, until I decided that I no longer needed him. Until then, he would be there beside me.
As this understanding settled around me, I began to cry.
Depression reached out then and squeezed my hand, and got up off the couch. I realized that he was moving toward the door and I cried out. “Don’t go!”
He paused and turned, but did not return to sit beside me. “You don’t need me anymore,” he said.
“But—but—“ I blubbered, unable to form a sentence, because I knew now why I wanted him to stay. The moment I saw him go for the door I knew who would come to take his place, and I didn’t think I could handle it. There was nothing to be done, however. The more I tried to sink back into that numb oblivion, the more the tears came. “I’m afraid,” I finally whispered.
Depression left then, soundlessly, and the fog that had rolled in upon his arrival lifted.
Without the fog, Fear could get in now, and Sadness, and Pain. Those first few days were hard as I fought to face these new companions the same way I had Depression. After some time passed, I realized that while Fear could now get in, Happiness could too. Love was now able to cross my threshold. Creativity was one new friend that I adored to have over for tea and conversation. I understood the role that Depression had to play in my life. While he was there, there would be no others than the two of us, but while he was there, there would never be any others than the two of us. It was the price I paid for protecting myself from the feelings I did not yet want to face.
So, when I finally dragged myself from my bed yesterday, I knew who would be waiting for me in the living room. I would like to say that it was nice to see him.
“I’m here,” he said.
“Do you know why?”
“So,” Depression said, giving me that same lovely smile. “What would you like to do?”
In lieu of response, I curled up on the couch beside him and pulled a blanket over my body.
Much later, when the sun had already gone to visit a new part of the sky, I could feel the exhaustion dragging me into sleep once more.
“Depression?” I mumbled into my pillow
“You have to leave tomorrow.”
He chuckled, and I could feel the vibration of the sound through the couch. “As you wish.”
Smiling, and feeling a bit lighter, I finally closed my eyes and slept.