(Watercolor and ink by me, illustration of Depression)
Last evening, I turned on the television to relax a little.
It was late, and the night time shadows leaked in through the windows near my computer. I had a hot cup of tea in hand. I cut out coffee, I didn’t want to exacerbate my anxiety any more than necessary. Depression was around, but he had been quieter since I began this blog.
I could feel him sitting near me. Sometimes he just sat around, waiting to pounce like a lion at his prey. I don’t want to be a prey animal anymore.
It was the show I was watching that gave him the opportunity. It was something on the cult of Scientology by actress Leah Remini. I just knew her as the King of Queens lady. This wasn’t the first time I had seen this show. But every time I watch it, Depression gets stronger. I feel waves of anxiety wash over me, cold and hot and burning. Itchy. It was a bad sweater that strangled me and poked at my skin with tiny needles. Why. I never was a Scientologist. I didn’t make the connection the first few times I saw the show. It wasn’t until my wife pointed out that this program sent me into various states of panic attacks every time. I can’t watch it anymore.
Depression looked at me and I felt chilled to the bones. His face was nothing more than a black shape with intents for eyes and a mouth. When he spoke, it was right into my brain.
“Prayer time,” said Depression, his voice like an open sewer. I knew what those words meant, even if no one else did.
I grew up in a family of seven kids, and I was second to youngest– number six. We were strict Roman Catholic. We never missed a Sunday of church. I even went to Catholic school, from first grade through most of highschool. I had to wear a blue plaid jumper uniform. Some of my teachers were nuns. We didn’t eat meat on Friday during Lent and I had to pick a Confirmation name. There were some points of the year where we practiced fasting. My dad was into the Old Testament really, really hard. God was someone to be feared and adored.
It was Sunday, the day of the week both my siblings and I dreaded. We woke up and put on ill fitting church clothes. Even though most of the congregation wore jeans and t-shirts, we weren’t allowed to. There were so many of us we drove in separate vehicles. Nobody wanted to ride in dad’s car. Because I was one of the youngest, I usually got to ride with mom in her blue station wagon.
I liked the beauty of our church. It looked like an unassuming, giant gray cinder block on the outside–but the inside was a little treasure box. The walls were all old dungeon style stones with big black rafter beams that seemed a mile high. The entire building was lined in stained glass windows. Glittering mosaics of the Virgin Mary sparkled against the walls. At the very front of the church was a black altar with golden Latin words inscribed on the front. To the side was an old pipe organ where the music director,
Dr. Johns, a very talented woman, played every Sunday. Our church also had the best choir. They filled the building with a blast of sound that chimed in with the old bell, signaling the start of mass.
Our church and the grade school I attended were on the same grounds. Going to church often meant I was going to see some school mates, which I hated. I was always made fun of. I was embarrassed at the size of our family and how serious my dad took being Catholic. We were the only family in school with seven kids. We always sat in the back. My dad couldn’t stand crowds.
` Mass was a series of stand-up, sit down, kneel, over and over again. If we knelt and slouched a little– propping ourselves on the pews behind us for support– my dad would correct us. We had to fully kneel, even if it was uncomfortable or hurt. We had to sing, even if we didn’t want to. We couldn’t whisper to each other. Mass was only about an hour long, but it felt like eternity.
Once we got home, it was the same thing as every Sunday (sometimes Saturdays as well, depending on his mood.) It was spaghetti and prayer time. Sunday was the Lords day, so mass continued at home. My dad would gather my siblings and my mother into the livingroom, and he ranted.
He sat in a large, white leather chair at the head of the livingroom. He paused, stroking his black mustache and resting his meaty hands on his belly. He surveyed us through his plastic framed glasses and crossed his feet at the ankles. He told us about the evils of premarital sex and people of darker skin colors. Revelations and dragons. The Lord would strike down the wicked with a flaming sword. On the shelf was a marble statue of Saint George and the dragon, stabbing violently into the serpent. This was real. This went on for hours.
Until the night time came through the windows, darkening the carpet in shadows. He tired himself out, yelling. Our heads were bowed and he forced us to keep our hands folded in prayer.
The verbal abuse ended in an ‘Amen,’ and the sign of the cross.
I try to watch the Scientology show for enjoyment. People wonder how this could happen, how they could possibly go along with such insanity. Depression looked at me, and I heard him mouth the words, ‘prayer time.’