A Long Day’s Journey Into Therapy, pt. 5

I was afraid that Emily was somehow me in a dark mirror. She was what I could be if I left my depression untreated: standing along the highway, trying to work up the courage to jump in front of a speeding eighteen-wheeler, or verbally exploding at my friends and family at the slightest provocation. When she was listing the reasons why she hated me, she told me she hated that I “had my shit together,” that I could handle myself and my feelings and express them constructively. She had always confided in me because she felt that we were similarly damaged. There was indeed a common thread between us: we were both people who knew what it was like to feel bad, and who came from homes with absent or negligent fathers. But Emily was miserable in a way that I didn’t understand: she was angry. She was full of venom and jealousy. She compared herself to other people, and felt that they were superior; yet, where I would grow sullen and withdrawn with my perceived inferiority, she grew violent and hateful. The night that she was screaming at us for calling the police on her was the first time I had been uncontrollably angry. I have a history of suppressing anger, but I’d never felt nor swallowed that kind of rage before her provocations. I was scared of the way the anger robbed me of my reason and control. I didn’t want to be Emily. Even after she moved out, my depression wasn’t subsiding. When we were meeting with Dean Gatti about Emily, he noted that I’d mentioned my depression in my written testimony of her abuses, and he asked if I would like to meet with a counselor. I made an appointment through him, and though I thought frequently about cancelling it during the three week waiting period, I resolved that it was finally time to get professional help for something that had hobbled my life for nine years.

And so that brings me to where I am today. There was a definite comfort in the diagnosis that I was genetically predisposed to depressive behavior. It gave me a concrete reason for why I’ve felt so indescribably and complexly bad for so long, and why I’ve been unable to fully shake that mantra of self-deprecation, even when my life is going smoothly. I’ve been on antidepressants for almost three weeks, and they’ve started to take effect. They are a blessing. They give me the energy to get up and do things, to go out with my friends, to run errands, to get work done. They shut up that mantra of worthlessness. I still have sad and anxious days, but I have the energy to deal with those emotions healthily; they no longer waylay me for weeks. Therapy has been immensely helpful. Having an objective but concerned third party listen to you—without judgement, without trying to change the subject when they get bored—is such a comfort. She’s going to work with me not just to mute that defeatist inner mantra, but to obliterate it altogether. We’re going to work together to build up my self-confidence, to cultivate a healthy self-image. I’m working hard to see myself and treat myself like the talented, intelligent, deserving person I am. I don’t want to be the reclusive, sad person I was growing up, and I don’t want to be angry and out of control like Emily. All I want is for my emotions to enhance my life, not hamper it. I’ll probably never be able to fully shake my depression, but I can manage my madness. I haven’t seen Emily since I fled the house, so I don’t know if she’s getting help. I hope every day that she is. She’s hurting deeply and in desperate need of attention and assistance. I know how it feels to live with the pain of mental illness, and now that I’ve seen the other side, I hope she can realize that it can get better for her, too, if she’ll just reach out her hand.

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