November 15, 2007
By Emily Block, Novato, CA

There is nothing, nothing. A type of violent emptiness erupts within me, combusting in a small area in my chest and hurtling outward, filling every part of me with a numb sluggish chill. My mind races on without my notice, thoughts circling around themselves back and forth like turbulent eddies in defiance, denying the cold pool that spreads through my chest. “What happened? Why are all these people here?” Words tumble from my mouth. I become aware of them, watch them fall gently from my lower lip and land softly on the floor. A woman in a dark blue police jacket was pacing in our front hall; a man in a Yakima toed the line where the rug of our living room met the tiled hallway. Perhaps I hear the mutter of faint voices with alien tones filling the house, perhaps I hear my grandma sobbing through the hall in the other room. My foot brushes against something on the floor. My bag? Wasn’t I holding that? When did I drop it? My mom’s face is blotchy, wet, shining. “Emily, come sit down.” I can’t sit down. The last thing in the world I want to do is sit down on that old formal couch, stiff and uncomfortable. I can’t sit down. I sit. The pins in my bun press themselves on the back of my head, my tights itch uncomfortably. “Emily,” that tone, alien, alien, what does it mean its all ok is it all ok? “Emily, your father,” yes, what happened? It has to be ok why are all these people here? “Passed away.” It was something about the tone. Something, soft, maybe, something, timid, yielding. 39 year olds don’t pass away. Old people, lying in their beds with their family gathered around, their memories of long and pleasant lives surrounding them, pass away. 39-year-old fathers don’t pass away, give up, and give in to the sweet eternal blanket of time. I’m running, I’m in my room, on my bed, sobbing, sobbing, completely uncontrolled, and completely unaware. Sobbing on my mom’s shoulder, is that my aunt over there? Is that my teacher? “I’m going to wake up now mom,” I am? Really? Well that’s a relief. I’m going to wake up and it’ll all be ok. How do I know this is a dream? Well I just said it didn’t I? I’m going to wake up and its all going to be; “How, how did it happen?” It did. It happened. He’s not, he isn’t, anymore. Wasn’t it a dream? No, no, it happened. See? I just said it. It happened. “Honey,” it could have been my mom, it could have been my aunt. It could have been father time himself, for all I cared. “Sometimes, when people start going down a long dark tunnel, they don’t know how to get back.” That’s funny, I can see his silhouette. There’s the tunnel in my head, there he is, looking at the light. Wait, I’m looking at him from behind. I’m not ahead. What’s ahead? What’s that light? It turns cold, that light where I’m not, where he is. “Oh.” The thought is quiet, unassuming, almost uninterested in what’s happening. He killed himself. Matter of factly, calm, collected. “Oh.” Words surround me, picking at the edges of my conciseness, a small babble in all the white noise. “Emily, you have to be
strong, you have to be strong now for you mother and everyone. I know you can be strong Emily.” Who was that? Was that me or the man sitting across me on my bed? “Emily, its ok, you don’t have to be strong, you have people here to be strong for you, everything’s going to be ok,” “Emily, be strong Emily, it’s all ok,” “Emily, it’s all ok Emily, just let it out Emily, we’re all here for you Emily, “ Emily, be strong Emily, you can be strong can’t you Emily, “Emily?” “Emily?” Do internal voices question their own creator? I consider the possibility, figure that they probably don’t. There are probably other people around; I decide, coolly, calmly, matter of factly. “I have to go to the bathroom,” the calm, collected, almost alien voice says, pushing me up from the bed and through the multitude of people, out into a private space. “Its ok sweetie, your dad killed himself. It’s all ok.”

Suffering isn’t a tricky thing. Neither is pain. It comes to us all, entering our lives and leaving us a little more jaded, or a little more appreciative of what we have.
Depression is a wildly tricky thing. For a tragic few, suffering does not leave. It stays, it grows, and most of the time the person has no idea why this is happening. It only seems natural that it’s their fault. It only seems natural to hide it, to protect near and dear ones from the pain they feel. For some, it becomes an all consuming disability, bringing them to their knees, or more accurately, beds. Manic depression shows up as wild mood swings and erratic behavior. Whether moping in bed or rushing about like a rat on speed, in this day of modern medical developments, a depression seems easy to spot. Commercials with happy blobs on Prozac dance across our TV sets, movie stars go to therapy villages and 60 minutes specials document sobbing bedridden mothers of four in various stages of waxing and waning weight issues. But then why do 18.8 million Americans still suffer? Why do 15% of these still choose to end their own lives?
Officially, Depression is defined as a feeling of misery that lasts for at least two weeks. However, this can be brought on by a myriad of issues, all of which affect the length and severity of the suffering. Short-term depression, lasting anywhere from a couple of weeks to months, can be brought on by a sudden trauma. Long-term causes include traumatic childhoods including sexual abuse, criticism, neglect, or violence. In addition to these environmental issues, chemical imbalances caused by faulty neurotransmitters in the brain have also been proven to cause depression. Head trauma, genetics, or types of medication can also cause this misfiring.

The main issue of depression isn’t the disease or its treatment, but our gross lack of information about it and its causes. Because it has so many causes and many people claiming to suffering, many doctors are prone to misdiagnosis. Often for the lonely or attention starved, a depression is a fashionable thing to have. Because causes range from living in a horrible environment to chemical imbalances in the brain, diagnosis must be treated subjectively, leaving room for pretenders to slip through the cracks and into an open bottle of Prozac. In addition, 54% of the population believes that depression is a sign of personal weakness. 92% of men will not seek out treatment for emotional trauma, because of embarrassment or denial. Because depression has many symptoms, including physical pain, many people, especially men, will seek out medical help for this. Because most doctors aren’t active in their patients daily lives, they have no reason to believe that their patients pain is merely a symptom of something deeper, and will address this issue with pain medications which further upset the chemical imbalance causing the depression in the first place. Furthermore without the explicit knowledge of what precisely makes some people more prone to a chemical imbalance, it is difficult for doctors to know to whom they can prescribe strong pain pills, and who will be more negatively affected than helped.

Some people are sad. Some are in pain, some suffer. Some want attention; some just want some happy pills. Some feel alone. They abandon themselves on a rickety old lifeboat and sail determinably away from the one lighthouse in the distance, removing themselves as one would a greasy smear across the lighthouse glass. They don’t want attention. They don’t want happy pills. They sit alone, staring morosely at their prescriptions wondering why none of them work, why with each passing day, with each passing pill, they only become more of a pain to the rest of the world. Maybe there’s a tunnel. Maybe they see a light. Maybe they walk head on into darkness, for fear that if they struggle; their loved ones will be sucked down with them. Maybe it was something they saw, or heard, or felt, or maybe just something they always had. Who would ever know that at the bottom of a bottle of pills would be the smoking barrel of a gun.

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