I used to feel the urge to call her.
I wanted to tell her off. I wanted to scream down the phone, ‘you left an undying but seemingly pointless impression on me!’ but I knew that the act would never follow through.
I don’t miss her, no, but almost every sauntering thought manages to trail its way to her. And with every memory of her, and that episode of my life, a string of other recollections come back, too; the anxiety, the emptiness. Despair.
Depression held a tight grip on me for about a year and a half. It wasn’t healthy nor easy trying to love someone else whilst yourself wanting to die.
Okay, perhaps I didn’t want to die, I guess I just wanted to be fine. I wanted to feel anything else but depressed. I didn’t care how that came about, if it were to be through death – as long as I felt unrestricted by depression, then I didn’t mind.
It’s never been an easy chore trying to accurately explain what depression feels like. The core feeling of depression is different for each sufferer, I reckoned. The rather vague depiction I often give is this: some days you feel every negative emotion – anxiety, loneliness, sadness, frustration, confusion, self-loathing, hopelessness – so utterly explicitly, and other days you feel absolutely nothing at all. Nothing. No news, no person, no meal – nothing holds enough weight and influence to shift your mood or provoke feeling inside you. Like some washed-up rotting shell of a tortoise with no tortoise in it.
Right. So, the reason we broke up…
It was totally wrong and unacceptable, what I did. And if I hadn’t forgiven myself, ‘til this day I’d still feel guilty and ashamed. I started seeking comfort from a girl who was once nearly but not quite my girlfriend. She knew me better than anyone. I told her nearly everything, and she always knew what to say back in response. My girlfriend at the time was always sceptical about me talking to her. To cut the long story short, I said a friendly “I love you” to the girl who was once nearly but not quite my girlfriend after she’d just talked me out of self-destruction.
This obviously upset my ex-girlfriend, the fact that I went to another girl to console my depressive state with, and not her. And also the fact I said a rather desperate (but friendly, honestly!) ‘I love you’.
Assuming this was the reason she broke up with me, I reasoned it an act in futility to try change her mind. It was fair enough. With the tables turned, I probably would have done the same.
Moral of the story is: there are no “friendly” I love yous. So stupid! I mean, what was I thinking playing around so loosely and carelessly with those three, small but extremely powerful words.
I figure I still think of my ex-girlfriend because I wasn’t mentally prepared to let go of her. Or rather, her of me. I became emotionally detached from her gradually through the course of my depression, and then we broke up but my mind hadn’t quite come to grips with the break-up. In my head, there was a female who I called my girlfriend whom I was in love with. When I was going through depression, though, I didn’t feel emotions like love, happy, compassion.
So many analogies come to mind.
My theory is: I still had plenty love and care stored up for her, but I couldn’t translate it to her. And by the time I was cured (so to speak) from depression after she’d broken up with me, all that love and care just fizzled out into excess thought and recollection of her. I sometimes wish I could have put the whole thing on pause whilst getting myself sorted out. Then perhaps I wouldn’t have been slinging meaningless I love yous all about the place. Perhaps we’d still be together.
But part of me doesn’t agree. I came to a point of depression where I’d lost everything – my girlfriend, all my closest friends, the deep connection I once had with my family, the desire to live, and in effect, my mind – and it was not until then when I had decided I couldn’t go on like this.
I had to liberate myself from my crippling misery. I had to come to a point of realisation that all I had, all I needed, was me. That I had to climb my way out of depression, all by myself. I used to hold on to a fabricated sense of hope, thinking that maybe if I have a girlfriend, maybe if I have someone who understands, then it won’t feel so bad. Maybe I could bask down in that ditch, as long as I had somebody.
But it was not until I was entirely and surpassingly alone that I decide that enough was enough. That I needed to climb back up into existence. That I’d spent long enough in hell.
She wasn’t a bad girl. Despite us having two entirely different perceptions of the world and barely having a thing in common, we still enjoyed belonging to each other. Well, at least I did, to whatever extent I could. But I can’t confidently say I truly loved her. I was selfish. I needed someone. I needed something to evoke emotion in me for when I felt empty. Alone. But I grew to like her, very much.
It was a case of being with the right girl, at the completely wrong time.
I feel better these days, I feel good. But her name still echoes in the back of my mind, somewhere. Almost undetected. The reason it irks me so much is because I’ve out-thought her. I don’t remember her at all; the memories have dulled out into hollow, shadowy memoirs. I can barely recall what she looked like, what even attracted me to her in the first place. I’ve truly out-thought her.
It reminds me of a Chris Mihai quote when he wrote about the three women he’d loved, so much so that he forgot them and almost didn’t recognise the women he was writing about anymore.
“I trapped them inside stories. I wrote about them over and over again until I forgot how they look like, how they smell like, how their skin feels like.”
Only I’d thought her into nonrecognition, not wrote.
But I can’t stop thinking about her, whoever she is. It’s like her name’s been irreversibly etched into a dreary, semiautomatic part of my brain. It just lumbers there, eagerly.
“By the way, it’s not for children.” “What do you mean? He asks me, puzzled as if to say he’d already anticipated that fact. “Well…” I pause briefly. “You’ll see.”
It’s for grownups! I write about real feelings and real thoughts and intimacy and all that good stuff! I want to say, but don’t.
I feel quite odd about him reading my work for the first time. I feel like he’s reading my diary, only a little less sentimental and personal. Well, actually, far more sentimental and personal, just about a person he wouldn’t recognise. Like, I feel as though I’m giving him vivid insight into a side to my character he’d never seen. I almost want to stop him and say I was writing someone else’s story.
Sometimes writing’s like that, isn’t it? Sometimes you write because you’ve got all these idle, meaningful words circling an ocean of thought, so you just pin them down onto paper. At others, you write because you want to translate your thoughts and the world through your perspective to people. You want to invite your readers into your world. You want to teach them all about this hidden character of yours you can’t quite live out (or you can live out the character, but words just translate him/her much better than the inept, and sometimes timid, actions ever could).
But there’s always this shy undertone, or a feeling of being overly exposed.
Perhaps it’s just me. This character of mine likes to stay in his shell. He’s not shy. He just doesn’t want to interact with the world, he doesn’t want to be soiled, or judged. Deep down, he desires recognition. He desires to be understood. And appreciated. Not by everyone – just the right people.
(It’s like he wants to make a statement, but not too big of a statement. There’s always been this side to me. Just enough. Not too little, not too much. I don’t want attention, but I don’t want to be invisible. Make it just right. Sometimes I want to be known and understood, sometimes I’m content being this miscellaneous, enigmatic character.
Since very young I was always like that; paradoxical. Incoherent. Or perhaps simply coherently me.
As long as it makes sense in my head, that’s all that matters I’d say to comfort and reassure myself. It wasn’t a very scientific nor ethical way to go about life, but it carried me through my early teens. I kept myself to myself most of the time, and so I only attacked and shielded myself with these conflicting, controversial thoughts).
To my pleasant surprise, he likes it. A lot. “You seem to have found your voice. You’re actually quite a very decent writer.” he tells me. I smile diffidently. We talk over it for a few more minutes, and he gives me grains of valuable advice of which he keeps concluding with, “But, you know, I don’t wanna say too much, ‘cause you’ve got your own unique writing style and I don’t wanna direct or influence that too much.” His face hauls this impressed grin. The type of face a father pulls when his son hits a homerun in his first school baseball game.
I say nothing the whole while he’s talking, just nodding and agreeing with that little, ‘Mm’ indicating apprehension. When he’s done I thank him. To hear this kind of feedback from my brother, who has read tons and tons of all sorts of books throughout his 33 years of living, left me feeling tremendously encouraged and more confident in my art.
“Let’s go get lunch.”