Monday, February 21, 2011

A Product of Silence

The following is a work of fiction. (I know. Such a stretch for me. I'm dreading it, even before I start writing.) I'm doing it because Kristine at Wait in the Van (a truly HI-larious blog) has a monthly-or-so meme where she stretches her writing muscles. It is, she writes, "an exercise, one of discovery and confidence-building."

Her latest prompt is "depression." Since I have a well known interest in mental health and a personal history of depression, I figure I should take up the challenge. Who knows where it will go? Wish me luck! 

The Long Dark of Night

Jim's snoring filled the room comfortingly as Cheryl, lying beside him, curled into a fetal position and sobbed quietly. A refrain of "Make it stop" was running through her mind. She moved closer to Jim and, without fully waking, he curled himself around her, grunting, "Mm-hm," as his hand cupped her breast and he drifted back to a light snore.

She let her tears fall onto her pillow. Why isn't this enough? she thought. Why isn't his love enough to lift the darkness that drags me down?

Part of her wished he would sense her crying and wake up to comfort her. It was that magical thinking again, the wishing that someone - anyone - would just know that something was wrong and would reach out and make everything better.

Cheryl remembered sitting in class one day and trying to telepathically communicate to the teacher that she, Cheryl, was hopeless and helpless, that she was failing the course because her mind was consumed by depression. She tried to make her eyes as pathetic as possible.

What a crock. It's the distorted thinking of mental illness, she thought, that supremely self-centred thinking. Psychotic, really: out of touch with reality, highly distorted.

But then, while it was unrealistic to expect her teacher to sense her telepathic messages, Jim had no such impediment. She'd told him how she was feeling. So how could he just sleep peacefully while she struggled? She became angry at him; it felt like rejection. She shrugged him off of her.

For a moment, the anger stopped her tears, but then they resumed as she felt the impotence of her anger: there was nothing she could do about it, or with it.

And perhaps that was the essential struggle of this depression: she was trapped in it. Even if she ran away (and where was there to go, after all?), the depression would stay with her like a blood-borne disease. It was part of her, a parasite sucking her life, her joy, turning everything grey.

Grabbing her pillow, Cheryl got out of bed and walked toward her cramped closet. On the floor, a stack of blankets formed a nest. She stepped inside and, pulling the door almost closed, curled into that soft cloud.

There, she was a child again. She pictured her small self: a needy waif ready to be loved, crying over a lost toy or a bruised knee. She reached out and lifted the weightless girl. She imagined herself spooning the youngster. Her breathing slowed, the tears stopped, and she slept.

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