(Artwork by me, watercolor and ink)
I thought I really needed to talk to him, or someone, anyone. But, my face flushed and my heart facing, all I felt was anxiety. It circled around me like a shark. It closed in, mouth red as blood and teeth like pointed knives. I was falling, sucked into a pit of worry, a vortex of spiraling thoughts.
“Depression,” I said. “This has to stop.”
“I am here to talk,” he finally said. I couldn’t see him. He was somewhere in the room. At least he seemed a little amiable this time.
“You’re getting worse,” I said.
“I want to hold you back,” he responded, his voice like a whispering ghost.
“You have no goal. No ambition. You’re not trying to hold me back for any other reason than to hold me back.”
“That is what I am,” he said matter of factly, as if he seemed a little proud.
I sat alone in my livingroom at my computer desk. It was dark out. The shroud of night blanketed my forest home. At my desk was a bay window, and all I could see were curtains of black. My wife was in her room, working. Only the small ticks and pops of house noises could be heard. And, occasionally, the licking of my cat. I could feel his presence, though, wide and large and engulfing.
“I want to talk about yesterday,” I said. “About your face. I think I know what you look like. I figured it out.”
“I come in many forms,” he said.
It is hard to shed your former self. I carry her around like a weight. It was heavy, and I carried so many things around. It manifested in over a hundred and eighty pounds of excess weight. I dieted. I exercised. I tortured myself for years. The further I got from believing in my true passions, the more weight I carried. I knew what I wanted to look like and who I wanted to be– but it seemed impossible if even the base of my very body was wrong. I had a vision of being a cool artist and writer who also just so happened to be male. I didn’t have the same vision of myself as a woman, because it just wasn’t what I really wanted. Instead, I was an overweight woman with no face of her own. Like Depression, the person I used to be had a molded countenance made of clay, able to shape shift into whatever identity I needed to be.
I had a sports bottle that I took to work every day. I wanted to drink more water. I knew water was the key to losing weight. I listened to my doctors and all the advice. I wanted help. I was trying. The call center was busy, as it usually was. The Michigan January air was bitterly cold, and frosted the parking lot.
I had been sick for weeks. The air in my lungs felt like tiny pin-pricks of needles. Everything was frozen. Breathing was agony. I had gone to the ER back in November, thinking that I had walking pneumonia. The doctors were dismissive, blaming my weight. With all of my vacation days and sick days used to this phantom illness, I had to go to work. Customers were already waiting to bitch about their cable bill.
Depression was with me, I felt him holding me down to keep me drowning. At the time, I didn’t acknowledge him very much. He followed me around, a lonely spirit lurking in the shadows.
He watched me as I fell. He watched as the ambulance came. He watched as the doctors worriedly sliced open my bra. I wasn’t alone as my vision tunneled. He sat quietly in the room as I was given a fifty fifty chance of living through the night.
The diagnosis pulmonary embolism was a surprise to everyone. Even to this day, the doctors weren’t sure where the blood clot had started. It had been building for weeks, ever since I had started feeling like I had the flu. I remember my breath catching every time I had to walk up the stairs. I remember, just days before my collapse, finding that walking to the bathroom was agony. I couldn’t breathe. I was slowly asphyxiating for weeks at a time. Every breath strangled me. Depressions hands closed around my throat, slowly, so slowly, squeezing until he felt the slightest amount of pressure under his thumbs. Then, he pressed a little harder.
“Just breathe,” I said. “Just breathe.”
My heart hammered in my ears and everything went dark. I wanted to make it through. I knew Depression was trying to silence the air from my lungs like the snuffing of a candle’s flame.
“Just breathe. Just a little longer.”
And I gasped.