I remember every face I meet and the name it owns. This seems like an interesting addition to a résumé and a useful parlor trick to use once the party is over. It should be but not when growing up and making mistakes in a city that fits in between a couple of hills we collectively decided to call mountains. The bodies of the faces saunter and snicker and carry on, passing by like it means something to me. It does. I remember every moment. The emotions they left with me. The secrets they told me. Annoyance makes my pulse radiate heat, just like how pavement feels on a southern day in July. Even though I regularly cut ties without much motive, I still reserve the right to selfishly froth in my own ill wishes. It’s only when they pass and I remain unnoticed am I shaken back into my senses. I realize it’s likely they’ve gone another day without thinking of me. It’s vexing to be overlooked. It festers and grows, turning real individuals into memories and ideas as flat as newspaper. No one has ever ignored me. They’ve just been walking past me, engrossed in their own valid thoughts.
I would love to call you dear. I know your name and what your backyard looks like, because you told me during polite, if not somewhat forced, conversation. I know you double knot your shoelaces and that your hair turns into curls at the nape of your neck, because I’ve snuck glances at your silhouette for weeks.
I would love to call you dear, but I don’t know you. I don’t know your favorite color or what song fills your eyes with light or how you take your coffee. I don’t know any of the things that matter. I only know the most mundane details you’ve thrown around since you were able to speak. You shook my hand and shared these with me, unaware that I’d tuck them away and say them quietly to myself to revel in the feeling of knowing.
For each of us, the symptoms are the same. The rushing heart, the twitchy little fingers, the swirling stomach full of nausea. I remember my sister telling me what hereditary means. “You’ll get it too.” And I did, I do, and I will until I don’t anymore. Most of the time it’s only a nuisance, gnawing at the frayed corners of my nature. When the conditions are right, its hooks sink in deep. The women in my family have taught me many methods of eradication. Watching her baby’s chest rise and fall in its sleep calmed my mother. Gardening gave her a sense of control in a world that wouldn’t love her for the right reasons. For my sister, exercise and routine quelled the pent up rage that comes from being silenced. I have yet to create the algorithm perfect for my own body, but I have been working on piecing it together. Free writing allows me to scratch off the thickened skin of my uncertainty. Warm water soothes and tames and washes away anything I can’t acknowledge just yet. Epsom salts and scrap paper come together to create a papier-mâché coat to shield me from myself temporarily. I can’t say that it’s a cure-all, but I’m so relieved to feel warmth again.
“If this is a life threatening emergency, hang up and call 911. For English, press 1.” 1. “To schedule an appointment, press 2.” 2. “Hi, my name is Kelly. How can I help you?” Hi Kelly. I need to schedule an appointment. “Okay! Can I get a name and a date of birth?” Angelique Peterson, 04/04/1997. “What is the reason for the visit?” Depression. “Do you have a psychiatrist you visit?” I have a psychologist. “So, what is the reason for the visit?” Depression. Specifically, medication. “Oh. Um, I can get you in on December 15th at 9 a.m. Would that work?” That’s over two weeks away. Is there any sooner time? “That’s our first available opening. Oh, and it looks like we don’t take your insurance.” Great.
Trying to get help while you still want to get help is half of the problem.
Tomorrow means waking up early if I haven’t taken a shower tonight. Class begins at 9:25 a.m. even though I always walk in around 9:31, because I know that specific professor doesn’t start until everyone is there. Tomorrow means class for six hours and feeling so completely drained afterward, because I spent the night before with my boyfriend, trying to give him the girl he used to know. Tomorrow means I have calculus and a general feeling of incompetence to look forward to. Tomorrow is Thursday. After tomorrow is the weekend. I work all weekend. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday remind me that I can still smile while refilling your diet coke for the third time in the past forty-five minutes. The weekend is for forgetting. On Monday, I go to the bank to deposit the tips that equate to my worth. I can’t remember if Tuesday is good or not. Usually, if you can’t remember something, it isn’t that bad. Wednesday is a toss up. Today is Wednesday, and today was hard. Today, he asked me what I was thinking about a lot. I couldn’t tell him, because it would hurt his feelings. When I finally told him, it hurt his feelings. The problem is that he’s the only one that knows how hard things have gotten for me, and the truth even frightened him.
The living room was always dark and warm and safe; mom kept the lights in the living room turned off. Thirty minutes before I woke up, she’d turn on the heating unit to “get the chill out” for me. She let me eat my breakfast on the couch with a tv tray. She didn’t let my siblings do that as children. My love for my mother knew no bounds. I remember crying, begging, pleading to stay home with her. Each morning, tears filled my eyes as the lump in my throat grew larger and larger until my cries turned into hoarse hiccups. Sometimes she’d hug me and laugh at my “big crocodile tears”. Sometimes, with a fist clenched around a whisk or a ladle, she’d threaten me to keep crying. Sometimes she’d humor me, roll her eyes, and let me stay. I know she thought I was faking, but the pain was excruciatingly real. Like clockwork, my stomach would twist into a mass of tangled knots every morning. I was expressing my emotional pain the only way I knew how. Physically.
I was always troubled, wound up tight, and confused. I thought it was normal to have achey muscles from the constant tension of dealing with not only life, but also the barrage of self doubt. I thought it was normal to think about what this place would be like without me. Is that what would finally show them that what I’m feeling is real? I don’t want to die. I never have. “It’ll get better” is stuck deep in my ribs and I want to see what better is like. But there’s a point when you’ve been so overlooked and so beaten down that you wonder, “When will someone notice on their own?”
The vibrancy of my surroundings varies throughout my life. Sporadically, I’m struck by the potency of the world around me. My autopilot malfunctions and I’m hurled into the driver’s seat. It’s as if I’m seeing for the first time. Edges are sharper; colors are brighter. The monotony of daily life is shattered. Avoiding the wreckage is impossible. My body is forced to come to a halt and acknowledge this random wave of consciousness. Crawling out of my own head is always the most shocking part of this split second experience. I never realize how much I don’t notice until I’m hopelessly hanging onto every detail. And as quickly as I was thrown from my mind, I’m sucked back into the vacuum of my thoughts until next time.