“Yet why not say what happened?” – Robert Lowell
There’s two of them, this session, in the room with the couches and their practiced smiles that try to convey this: trust us. Please trust us. We won’t hurt you. Let us help you.
“We’re both in agreement and we’re going to start you on two medications,” the psychiatrist says. “One for depression; the other a mood stabilizer.”
I scan the small room. The windows, four stories high. The door, closed. I imagine sinking into the couch, then, until I am one with it, this inanimate object and I hold my breath, willing myself to stop living, to stop existing but then my chest rises without my consent and I live on in this new reality.
“You’ve been brave, telling us your life story. We know this isn’t easy. There must be some part of you that knows you need to get help,” he continues and I want to hate him, want to but I cannot because I know he’s somebody’s grandfather and he’s being kind to me too and then he asks, “Are you going to take these medications?”
I nod, trying to force the words out I so desperately want to say but cannot, as if my body has been rendered useless in this new world I find myself in and for a horrifying moment, I imagine myself on the coffee-stained floor, then, at my parents, having to learn to crawl again, to form words, to walk and eat non-pureed foods.
“How long…” the words jerk unsteady from of my mouth. The room is silent, then, only the soft shuffling of one of the psychiatrist’s feet against the floor. I give up then and imagine myself as a caged animal, imagine the restless, lazy walk of the bobcat I saw at the zoo, how the front of the cage had a worn path around a small tree, past his food bowl, this trajectory caused by paws going up and down, up and down and how I knelt then, put my hand against the glass and felt only sorrow even as the excited banter around me continued, and I wondered how long he would walk until his spirit longing for freedom was crushed. I wondered how many times his nose had to bump glass before he stopped trying to find home, and I cried then, there in that crowded zoo and I’m crying now too, here in this tight room and I wonder if I, like him, will ever find my way home.
“How long…” I ask again and the doctor sighs and shakes his head. “Likely all your life but that doesn’t mean you won’t learn to live above it,” he replies and since that day, I’ve wondered if he wasn’t trying to tell me something: acceptance towards today’s trials is not synonymous with giving up hope for tomorrow.
In an instant, I snatch the prescriptions from the doctor and exit quickly, head bent low as if against a bitter wind and all I want is to go home.
But what is home? Does home still exist? Will my wife, when she finds out, stay? I imagine myself buying her a plane ticket, a one-way ticket home and begging her to escape this person, no, this monster I’ve become. I have heard if you love someone, sometimes you have to let them go but our love isn’t like the usual love. It doesn’t sit idle with cliché statements and it breaks down walls that supersede the imagination and if I were to give her the plane ticket home, she would march straight to the shredder and be done with that notion and she would wrap her arms around me and tell me that sometimes, when you love someone, you have to stay and fight.
That night, it’s just us against the world and we find each other while the moon lands in stripes across our bed and eventually, we lay in the gloss-edged darkness listening to the hum of the fan and I say it, trying to whisper the words but they come out loud, as if forced into a world not yet ready for them.
“Really,” she whispers.
And then she does the most remarkable thing. She yawns as if bored, curls herself into my arms, tucks her iceberg toes under my legs and falls asleep.
I’m left awake, then, alone and yet not lonely and I know this place, next to her, will always be home.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 38:8-9)