BY DAVID JEJI IN MENTAL HEALTH ON DEC 13, 2018
#shortstory #memoir #depression #creativewriting 8 min read
The following short story is a creative piece that aims to show the reader my depressive thought process on a typical day. The piece is written in four parts and displays how my thought process worsened during a year in university. The piece also contains philosophic elements; I criticize our culture’s obsession with being optimistic, and how it alienates those with depression (or with any negative commentary) as a result. I was inspired to write and share this work in an effort to show readers a sense of relatability through the feelings and observations that I have experienced. This is relevant to mental health (the topic of the month), as depression is a common occurrence among university students who are often unsure of their direction in life, and who may reach fatalistic conclusions.
Happiness is fleeting: A Short Story on Depression
By: David Jeji
Image source: Photo by Aphiwat chuangchoem from Pexels
(Beep) (Beep). The alarm clock sounds. Grudgingly, you flop out of bed and shut it off. Another day begins.
As you get dressed, a stream of thoughts come rushing into your head with all the things you have to do today. You glance at your agenda, but only for a moment, as you do not wish to be reminded of what lies ahead.
As you pack your bag for class, your anxiety makes its first round of the day: “What should I pack exactly, and how?” While doing these mental calculations another 20 minutes pass by. “Shit” you mutter to yourself. “I’m always so slow, why am I like this?” Eventually, you have wasted so much time, that you gather everything you need in one quick swoop, and head out the door.
Breakfast goes smoothly, as you order the same thing everyday, in order to eliminate the stress of deciding. Class flies by without a second thought, as you emphasize key points through notes that not even a detective can decipher.
After class, you have dinner. At that point, you will either dine: alone (easiest option), with acquaintances, or a group of friends you know on a deeper level. With the acquaintances, time spent becomes somewhat more pleasant, as you discuss intellectual topics without end.
Information is readily exchanged, but the feelings remain safe, sterile, and scripted……rarely deviating from established pleasantries.
With friends, it is a different matter altogether. With them, you experience relief. A sense of bonding and being put at ease come about. It is an open feeling in which feelings flow freely, everyone feels heard, and when all feels right with the world.
But, alas, how long can anything good last? There are two ways that this blissful state can end: 1) the conversation runs its course and everyone departs or (worse) 2) More people join the group leading to a shift in dynamics and eventually creating “mini-conversations”.
“Great” you think. “Here are people who have arrived with whom I am barely acquainted, yet they are chatting with my friends like old pals”. As these “mini-conversations” take place, you always feel at a loss for words. The topics that present themselves rarely pique your interest. If you opt for another strategy in conversational discourse by listening; the other person will gleefully discuss their lives in depth while mysteriously forgetting to talk about yours.
And here you are again, playing the role that you know best: the role of the observer. You are unquestionably present, yet you are not really there.
Stories are exchanged. Laughter ensues. You try to get a word in, but to no avail. Or, alternatively, it gets in; but it fails to spark a dialogue.
And the more you attempt to add to the conversation, the more you feel like an intruder. You feel like an interloper who will surely ruin the “good vibes” through your ill-timed interruptions and attempts at communicating which all seem unwelcome.
You politely excuse yourself as you retire back to your room. At least the others notice your departure.
You go to sleep and the cycle begins again as it always does: with the alarm clock. Wake up. Get dressed. Eat breakfast. Go to class. Dine alone, with friends, or with acquaintances of some sort. Sleep. Repeat. The cycle continues with minor variations, but the general structure remains.
Days turn to weeks. Weeks turn to months. Through it all, you persist as your energy dwindles.
Every daily task requires a gargantuan amount of effort to complete. Sorting through papers becomes an archaeological site of endless searching. Your clothes sag as you struggle to put them on, (not that your appearance matters anyway, there is nothing or no one to look good for). Meals become tedious and tasteless. Chatting becomes tiresome as the same scripted narratives make their way through conversations. Happy people seem dishonest and naïve. The news makes you cringe with agony.
The internet becomes a burden to use, as links lead to more links with the click of a mouse…..with unending information needing to be read. Readings and homework pile up. E-mails become unanswered.
As you blame yourself for these daily “failings”, you then target the bigger picture: “Why am I here? What is this all for?”
As you ponder about the future, your ambitions begin to shrink in order to cope with the world. As the pointlessness and futility of careers and dreams rear its ugly head, you retreat without hesitation. You eventually conclude that you would be happy with a basic income as a janitor, so that you can eat and sleep without others intruding.
But, even then, you begin to ask yourself: “So, is this it?”
Part 3 :
You imagine life after school. You imagine that it would be much like the cycle before, except you work instead of going to class. And, with the prospect of work, you will now have the added pleasure of working with the general public….a collective entity that has the intellectual curiosity of a goldfish. It is a magical society that produces the finest citizenry….grown adults who scream when their internet doesn’t work, people who have no concept of quality beyond superficial appearances, and who collectively have an opinion on everyone and anything (regardless of their actual knowledge!). And, best of all, you get to work at the mercy of one of these fine people so that you have the “privilege” of living among them. Yay!
Want to have a family? Forget it. They will only turn on you and force you to adhere to the greater “society”. Love is conditional, and you finally realize that it only works when both partners “adhere” to their respective hidden contracts.
As you look over the state of humanity in daily discourse, you secretly wonder how we will ever be able to unite and actually tackle the problems that plague us as a whole. Better yet, forget about saving the world, how do we save us from ourselves?
At this point, you are no longer angry. For you see, anger would imply a sense of hope, as you are reacting strongly to the idea that things could get better, yet you are angry over the fact that they aren’t.
No, you are no longer angry. At this point, you are too cynical to even be cynical. You are simply tired.
This sense of tiredness is rooted in fatalism; the idea that nothing will ever get better regardless of any effort or action. This sense of tiredness is its own type of hell: it is existence, yet it is not living.
How did you get to this point? Remember the loneliness that I illustrated earlier? This is caused by that fact that, in this society, you are not allowed to be sad.
Attempt to explain your sadness, and you will be refuted with countless stories on how others would kill to live and study here. Moreover, you do not have “enough” hardships to “justify” your sadness.
As a result, you feel as if you don’t deserve anything in life. People from other places do so much more AND remain optimistic! Why are you so weak and pathetic?
Now, you are not only tired and disgruntled…..but you hate yourself now as well. Congratulations!
How dare you want to be happy when you already have so much! How dare you feel sad when you already have friends and acquaintances! How dare you want a girlfriend, you are not competent enough! Why can’t you be more positive and outgoing?
At this point, the toxic voices, pain, and scripts become too much to handle. You want to pull the trigger…….yet you cannot. Thus, you only “mentally” pull it. You binge on videos, porn, and reading. While it brings temporary relief, it never fills the void nor answers the looming dreaded question: “So, what do I now? Is it really just me in the universe?”
Sadly, dear reader, I have yet to find an answer. Perhaps this is the human condition……yet we are scared to admit it.