When Your Friends Tell You They Love You, but Depression Says It Isn't Enough
Let me tell you a story first, a true story — last night’s story. It won’t take long, don’t leave just yet.
I’m pausing the scene so I can describe it to you. There I am, sitting at the desk mid-laugh. Can you see me? My hair is still salty from the surf, my body is buzzing with the bass and the MDMA. I’m grinning down at a homemade bong, sun-browned legs tucked underneath me as I pack the cone. There are far too many of us cramped into the colorful bedroom. Sophie is behind me, curled into a horrifyingly orange armchair that I stole from verge collection.
Max has just put on my cap and city2surf medal and is rapping 2pac. One hand clutches the brim down over his forehead and his other arm sweeps wide, above Noah’s knees. Noah himself is sat leaning against my wardrobe, his head back and his eyes closed. Blonde curls that fall to his shoulders are jerking and dancing as he turns furiously.
The desk is a mess. Lighters and balloons are scattered between beer cans and jars of pickled gherkins, and green crumbs cast shadows over neatly set-out notes.
A couple of teenagers are passed out on the cramped single in the corner, silent mounds under a sky-blue blanket. A child’s teddy-bear can be seen amongst the arms and legs. It leans drunkenly against a pillow. That’s my bear, from when I was a small child. If you think about it too long, you get sad. How disappointed would little Charlie be if they could see me now?
The Sydney night wind flutters thousands of posters and pictures tacked to the walls, and the room feels tuned, alive. Everyone in the world is asleep. We have already been disbanded once tonight by the deputy-dean, and there will be consequences and a probable disciplinary-hearing in the morning. I skate thin ice in this room, high as a kite at half past 4 in the morning — the adrenalin gives me tingles.
Sophie is talking.
“Why does everybody love you Charlie? No seriously, I have never met a person who doesn’t like you, I have never heard a single person say anything bad about you. Seriously if I was in trouble, only Hannah would have my back, no one else. But everyone I know would die for you…”
I remind her of all the people that love her, paint a quick, vivid picture of how everyone would have her back if she got into trouble. It comes easily — I am good at making people happy — and I can tell she is pleased. My hands are busy with the bong as she asks again, “Why does everyone love you so much?”
I laugh, and I know my eyes aren’t green anymore. They’re black suns in a red sky. Max tells Sophie, “There, that’s it right there. That fairy-floss laugh. That’s why everyone loves Charlie so much.”
There’s a moment then, when the room holds its breath. Noah has an odd little smile on his face as he watches me, and I remember that he used to love me. Sophie’s upturned face is open, and admiring. Max is grinning at me, but his eyes are serious and ask me to believe him.
If I chose to, I could let it all go, and feel them catch me.
This is the part where I tell them how much I hate myself. Where I show them my arms and my legs and what I have done to them, where I let them see how repulsive and shameful my secrets are. I could start crying, and give up all the choked down tears that keep my throat aching.
They must feel something, because they are waiting for me.
I could tell them that I often wish I could kill myself without anyone noticing. That I haven’t called home in weeks, and I can’t sleep unless I get high. That I dissociate and lose control for hours at a time. That I’m becoming “not me” for longer and longer, more and more often. That I’m a high achiever; so just because I’m still passing courses and playing sport doesn’t mean that I’m functioning. That I’m not cool for ditching class. That I’m not cool for getting in trouble all the time. That it doesn’t prove how clever I am — just how much I need help.
This is where I tell them that I’m not OK, that I’m not coping. In this little room, on this drug-fueled bender, pulling cone after cone above the misty skyline; this is where I could finally say something.
But I don’t.
Instead I stand up, and feel the stillness wobble and shatter around me. I check my pockets for a lighter and push open the balcony door into the icy Sydney morning.
“You druggos aren’t keeping up!”
I flash a wolfish grin, and roast the top of the bud. The curling fog over the race-course green is so beautiful it makes my chest ache. There is laughter from my room.
We haven’t slept, this is crazy.
I take a deep pull and keep it bubbling as the bud flares and then disappears. The smoke scorches my lungs and I feel nauseous, and blissfully light.
I make faces through the smoke so they’ll laugh.
Max raises his beer and yells out, “No one can keep up with you!”
I look over the balcony at the hard, pale ground five stories below. My eyes are often drawn downwards in this way. I let out a long breath, and the smoke hangs in front of me. Have you ever smoked so much you’ve felt like you’re just a cloud? Trapped inside brittle bones and paper skin? For a second, the washed-out morning lights the smoke up from behind, giving it corporeality.
And it feels like the only thing holding me up.
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Unsplash photo via Ilya Yakover