Light at the End of the Tunnel

By , Lawson, MN

Depression isn’t some far-way disease that only crazy people have.  I’m willing to bet that you know someone right now who’s struggling with negativity.  It’s everywhere, and everyone can get it.


 A lot of people are a bit surprised when I tell them I struggle with depression.
“What?  You?”
Yes.  Me.  And a whopping amount of other people, too- roughly 350 million people, according to Media Centre.
They think that it’s somehow impossible that I can be that way.


“You can’t be depressed- you have a good life!” 
“You get good grades, do well in soccer and art; have friends.”
“Isn’t depression for insane people?”
“So you want to kill yourself?!”
“You have nothing to complain about.”
“You’re too loud to have depression.”


Etcetera, etcetera.  I do have a good life, and I’m very grateful for its blessings.  I really do.  Just because I’m susceptible for depression doesn’t mean I’m ungrateful.  But depression isn’t some far-away disease.  It’s very, very, real.  It feels like you are constantly buried under a pile of rubble.  Total cave-in.  And the longer you stay in there, the harder it is to get out.  You run out of oxygen; can’t breathe.  When you scream, you’re choking on soil and rocks are clicking harshly against your teeth.  You know the bright sun and open opportunity are out at the surface, but you just.  Can’t.  Break.  Out.


I’ve always been an extreme child.  As my father says to me, “You think too much- you are your own worst enemy!”  My childhood was mostly happy and carefree, but as I aged I found myself in cave-ins more and more often.  I usually recovered after a short while and returned to normal, but in my seventh-grade school-year I was in my worst cave-in yet.  This time, I couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel.


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“Yo, I'll tell you what I want, what I really, really want . . .”  Ah.  Isn’t there nothing like waking up to some Spice Girls at the crack of dawn?  I originally had set my alarm to a more normal setting, but when I realized nothing short of an atomic blast was going to wake me up, drastic measures clearly had to be taken.


I rolled over, paused with my hand over my phone, and debated hitting “Snooze” for a fourth time.  And then I had three more seconds of sleepy tranquility before memory clicked and my bad mood caught up to me, along with my seemingly ever-present headache.  Soccer.  I hit the “Off” button much harder than necessary and climbed stiffly out of bed, much like how I imagine a vampire arises from their coffin.  Except I don’t have cool fangs.  Or live forever.  Or do anything interesting.  My mouth tasting of something akin to a soggy grey cloth, I rummaged through my closet.


Would it be weird if I wore these sweatpants for a fifteenth time this month?


******************************************************************************


Exactly two minutes later, I was setting records for the three-hundred yard dash running after my bus, yelling at the top of my lungs like the idiot I am.  The infernal yellow chariot finally- finally- stopped at the next stop, where I clambered on, feeling hot, sweaty, and miserable already.  It was the second time this week that she was early.  Didn’t she know that there are undead twelve-year-olds waking up around the time she said she was going to be stopping by?


Maybe you shouldn’t stay up until midnight reading, the small, rational, and extremely annoying section of my brain said as I picked the first available seat- thankfully empty.  (I did not have the energy nor patience to deal with myself, let alone another homo sapiens.)


Maybe you should shut up, I told myself.  My stomach growled in complaint.  I had skipped breakfast.
Outside, the early morning Pennsylvania sky was the color of faded violet china, expectant of a warm, sunny day.


I hate sunny days.


******************************************************************************
   

“What do you mean, ‘I don’t have it’?”
   

“I mean, I don’t have it.  Zip, zilch, nada, zero.  Nowhere to be found.”  I answered flatly, all attempts of needling and persuasion abandoned.  Ms. Ack opted out of giving me the standard, teacherly frown and instead stuck with giving me that I-can’t-believe-I-have-to-deal-with-you look that most people just happen to wear in my presence.  My head aches in tune to the beating of my heart.  Ms. Ack is just like her name- ack!  She’s one of those fresh-out-of-college types that have that dead, glazed look because the university stole their soul.  Everyone says she is so grumpy all the time because her boyfriend hasn’t proposed to her yet.  It must be that lovely, charming personality.  Ms. Ack stares at me for one second more, and I shift uncomfortably as she rummages through her “I’m a math teacher, of course I have problems” mug for a blue grading pen- her most feared weapon.  She must’ve read that article that says red ink creates an unhealthy amount of stress on us poor students.  I say it’s a load of nonsense.  Everytime I see blue ink, I almost get a heart attack.  She says-
   

“You do realize that not having your homework is a zero?” Ms. Ack drawls, as if speaking to someone rather dumb.


I swallow, hard.  “Yes.”  Ms. Ack scratches something down in her gradebook- probably my newest zero- as I slink back to my desk as fast as I can.  Eyes were glued on my hunched back.  I can’t believe it.  Another forgotten assignment, another zero.  My head throbs as I fight back tears; I can’t cry now.  What is wrong with me?  Plays in my head over and over, a broken record.  It seems that I am always was messing up things lately.  I don’t know how it started, but somehow it feels like a punishment just to be waking up everyday.  I forget, more and more.  My head was constantly wrapped in layers of lead.  And I hated, hated soccer.  Is this what being depressed feels like?  Maybe I’m just being melodramatic.


******************************************************************************
   

“Hey,”  I look up to see what was blocking the sun in front of me to see a high school girl in front of me.  I glance behind me to make sure she wasn’t talking to anyone else- someone who’s less of a loser, perhaps.  The girl leans forward and taps my shoulder, her faded green ponytail swishing.  “I’m talking to you.”  So she was talking to me.  Feeling a bit of my better self show through, I flash her a smile. 


“The one an’ only.”  She nods briskly, as if correcting her suspicions, and gestures for me to stand up, which I do.  She walks briskly, too, I noticed as I keep pace.


“I’m Autumn.  I’ll be your mentor.” she added.  I do a mental double-take.  Autumn? As in, the Autumn?  The “best soccer sweeper we’ve had in ages” . . . my brain does a full three-sixty in my skull.  Also, mentor?  I recall the coach mentioning that some girls will work with the older players, but me?  Not only am I, the most rotten, unstable person on the team, am getting a mentor, but Autumn?  Why would they waste their time with me?  Autumn continues, as if oblivious to my thoughts.
   

“... So I’m going to er- mentor you.  Let’s start off with some kicks, shall we?”
   

We started off, with me feeling so light I couldn't even feel my headache anymore.


******************************************************************************
   

And so it continued for every practice after that.  I worked with Autumn, and she wasn’t afraid to bruise me in the process, let me tell you.  I forced myself to think positively, and much to my mother’s exasperation, I was surprised it worked.  Day by day my skills improved; more importantly my attitude.  I grew to learn and respect a good attitude.  I became sweeper of my team, the last resort for the team to defend the goal (besides the keeper of course).  I eventually became team captain, and played many games with my team after that.  I made a lot of friends.  I enjoyed life.  I don’t know how it quite worked or how it started, but by just pushing down my self-doubt and hatred, everything got better.  I still play soccer today.  And I still value that lesson.
   

I can’t just turn off my depression, but a positive attitude certainly helps ward it away.






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