My brother moved out of my parents’ house last month, which for some moms, would be a hard thing. Not my mom. She could not WAIT to clean out his room. I’m sure she’ll miss him eventually. Probably.
In the process of cleaning out what was left of his stuff, she moved it downstairs to my old room with what’s left of my stuff. She went through my desk, and found some columns I’d written when I was the features editor of my college newspaper, and half-filled notebooks of what looked to teachers like copious note taking, but was really me not paying attention at all. This could be the reason it took me seven years to finish college. Yes, seven. Although I guess I could also attribute it to the fact that my boyfriend my sophomore year of college was the social director of his fraternity and I had to set a good example by attending every event and drinking a lot, and also the fact that I like to sleep in and I changed my major three times. What? I’ve never been good at making decisions, especially ones that, in my head, might be construed as long-term. Anyway.
So my mom found a letter I had written to my old college roommate, Elaine. She had had a major breakdown the semester we moved away from each other – the middle of our sophomore year – she ended up in the hospital and everything, and I didn’t find out until a lot later. I wondered why she didn’t call me and I wondered why it happened. We both moved back home and still talked, but then she started falling away.
Elaine and I were great friends. We had gotten along wonderfully as roommates and not only that, we did everything together. Our freshman year, we had almost all of our classes together, ate three meals a day together and had the same friends. Our sophomore year, our boyfriends were best friends and were in the same fraternity. We still did everything together. And then we decided to move into apartments and we moved separately.
After we came back home, I continued on with school, but Elaine didn’t go back. She got a job as a server somewhere and if you’ve ever been in the service industry, you know it’s not the most conducive to, um, clean living. She got into partying and she got a new boyfriend, who turned out to be an abusive asshole. And like women in abusive relationships, she eventually stopped seeing her friends altogether. She got into a couple of bad situations and that, added to the fact that her boyfriend was a total prick, equaled out to her falling back into a depression.
It was weird, because she and I were so close, and she was also really close to Jeff, but she would never answer the phone when we called and never called us back. We knew she was having a hard time and we wanted to help, but she wouldn’t let us. Eventually, we gave up. It was hard for both of us, because we loved her.
I was pissed. And apparently, that’s what I wrote in the letter to her that my mom found.
I used to be exceedingly arrogant. I can still be that way, but I was much worse a few years ago. I knew it all and I would make sure you knew that I knew it all. Things were black and white and that was that. I was all about me and if you didn’t act the way I wanted you to, well, fuck you. And I’m sure that’s what this letter sounded like.
My mom didn’t read it to me and I don’t think I want to know what I wrote. Because I know it was angry and mean. My mom said that I was on a rampage about Elaine being depressed and how she should just pull herself out of it. That she was strong and she could do it and her friends wanted to help her. I’m sure that’s what I said. To be honest, I don't remember writing it. But I know I must have said those things, because in my arrogance, I thought that if she would just be strong, she could get herself out of the blackness she was in.
Thank god I never sent that letter. I would never want Elaine to read the mean things I know I must have said. Because I had no idea what depression could do to a person. And I know now.
Now I know that it’s not about being strong or not strong. It’s not something you can just “pull yourself out of.” It takes so much time and so much energy. Finding the right medication or combinations of medication alone can take months. Most depression medications aren’t ones you can take and then if it doesn’t work you take a different one. You have to wean yourself on and wean yourself off, because they’re strong. And it takes time. Sometimes people just give up, because the thought of weaning on and then off and doing the same thing with a new medication is so daunting.
People who have never been depressed don’t understand what it does. Most people wake up in the morning, get up, shower, have breakfast and go to work. Maybe they run errands at lunch, they go home, make dinner, maybe go to the gym. On the weekends they go out with their friends and do things around the house. It’s all very simple.
When you’re depressed, that just doesn’t happen. Getting up was a fight. Taking a shower and getting ready was overwhelming. Going to work made me want to throw up – for the entire 8 hours that I had to be there. I got caught in a cocoon while I was there and I didn’t leave all day long. When I got home, I just wanted to turn on the t.v., sit on the couch and not talk to anyone. I watched shows that I’d seen 8 million times just because it blocked out the noise in my head and I didn’t have to think about anything. I didn’t want to go out. I didn’t want to leave my house. I wanted to be there and be alone and that’s that.
Anyway. I feel like I should call Elaine and apologize for not being a better friend. For not being more understanding. But I won’t. Because I’m selfish and I don’t want to know if I hurt her, because now that I know how she felt, it would hurt me too much to know that I’d been a bad friend to her when she needed me.