Author’s note: I would have liked to put a preamble on this story (if you can call a persona’s plot-less thoughts a story) but I could not come up with anything.
TITLE: DEPRESSION IN EGO II
I sleep and I sleep. And the first thing I think of when I wake up is how much I want to go back to sleep. I don’t like injecting my body with chemicals whose consequences I don’t understand. If that weren’t the case, I would probably be knocking myself out with drugs every day. I wish I had sufficient willpower to just be immediately asleep whenever I want; a comatose sleep that no one can wake me up from, unless my unconscious mind decides to comply.
The issue is not that I am physically tired. I cannot possibly be, not with all the sleep I’m getting. The issue is that I’m tired of being conscious. Consciousness takes work, when every morning, you wake up thinking, “Not again”; when you cannot understand a bit of why you are doing what you are doing; when you think that your way of life is equivalent to what you would consider living death; when your inspiration level as you go through your daily processes is zero, reaching the negatives. Even if I would rather not be dead, which I haven’t made my mind up about yet, I would also rather not be conscious.
So I sleep and sleep and sleep. And the first thing I think of when I wake up is how much I want to go back to sleep.
There is something psychologically wrong with me, and I do not know what it is.
The world is far too big for me to continue being unhappy. It makes no sense in a world where there is space for everyone.
On days like this, I have enough of a sliver of positivity in me to daydream. So I daydream about the other end of the world. I daydream about getting out of here.
The other end of the world is not as far away as it was a century ago. This is why I fail to understand how we think it is so impossible to change our directions when we start moving, or to make decisions that will take us off course. It’s an irrational phobia. We are afraid to step onto roads we would like to step onto, because we don’t know where our destination lies. At the same time, we cannot see the direction of the path that we’re on. The only thing we know is that we’re not going where we want. But, perhaps, the real phobia lies within the knowledge that we are at least going to end up somewhere, whereas on our alternate paths, we don’t know if we might simply end up nowhere at all.
I feel like I am going nowhere at all.
Behind all the extended boredom is the thought that I should probably shake off the feeling of helplessness altogether – get out of that zone of self-pitying and DO SOMETHING.
But I can’t.
I do not know how to explain to anyone that I can’t do anything. It is as if there is a blockage in my heart that prevents me from functioning. My mind does not cooperate. I just stare at nothing for hours at a time.
Beneath everything that I can and cannot describe lurks fear.
I want to leave.
They won’t let me leave.
They say my future will crumble to pieces if I leave.
But do I want a future?
I am afraid of consequences. Deathly afraid. I am afraid of the consequences of doing things. I am also afraid of the consequences of not doing things. I am afraid of the consequences of remaining alive with either decision I make. I am also afraid of the consequence of dying as a result of either decision I make. And I am afraid of death. And if I don’t want to make decisions, and I don’t want to not make decisions; if I am afraid of life and I am afraid of death, the last option is unconsciousness. And that is why I sleep and I sleep. And the first thing I think of when I wake up is how much I want to go back to sleep.
I am lying with my back down on my bed, staring up at the white ceiling. My room is illuminated by a miserable bulb that is so dim that I have no anxieties about imminent blindness as I stare up at a spot that would otherwise have been dangerous for my eyesight.
I am watching two or three mosquitoes zap around the room in a frenzied search. I do not know what they are looking for. On an ordinary day, this would really bother me – the zapping – and I’d be trying more actively to kill them. Right now, however, I cannot be bothered to do more than half-heartedly clap my palms together when I see they are getting too close.
My mind, at the moment, is blank enough to leave room for aimlessly watching and contemplating the frantic search of the mosquitoes. I do not understand why this triviality has taken up so much space in my mind. I never thought I would get to the point at which I am speculating about the activities of the very same creatures who will probably cause me to wake up with irritations all over my skin in the morning.
Why do they constantly move? Do they have ADHD? If it’s food they want, I’m right here. And aside from my breathing, I’m not even moving. Why don’t they just all flock to me and enjoy the feast? It makes them seem a bit demented, to me. When your goal is right in front of you, with no obstacles in the way, why are you still zapping in all sorts of wayward directions?
Passively, I wish that at least one of the mosquitoes is a female anopheles, carrying a plasmodium parasite. Hopefully, it will inflict me with malaria. I give up on this thought when I remember who I am and where I live. I’m Ghanaian. My childhood was filled with sporadic cases of the disease. I may even be immune to it by now, I realise with disappointment. It is not so much that I am masochistically overjoyed with at the thought of being diagnosed with an unpleasant disease; it is merely that such an opportunity might afford me a ticket out of this hell-hole they call a boarding school, for at least a little while.
In this mental state, I am incapable of feeling sharp, distinct emotions. Resultantly, a faint amusement arises in the back of my mind about the ludicrousness of my situation. Is this what I have come to? Wishing for a potentially deadly sickness just so I can get out of here? I don’t know whether it is this, or the fruitless plight of the mosquitoes which amuses me more. I am not even sure whether I am actually amused or not.
I am not doing anything productive tonight. Welcoming the mosquitoes to commence their festival, I induce sleep. Again.
I sigh. I have woken up. Again. I have to move through another “today”. Again.
Every morning’s the same, really; large numbers of people being stirred from sleep by various alarms set on all the quarter-hours imaginable and then some; their reluctant owners acknowledging them most of the time, then snoozing, waiting in trepidation for the next quarter-hour alarm, which, they insist on deceiving themselves, will be the one to truly rouse them from slumber.
I hate them.
I hate the alarms.
Now I’m starting to hate the quarter-hours. 4:00am. 4:15am. 4:30am. 4:45am. 5:00am. 5:15am. Why can’t you wake up, you morons?
I am on my way to school. I do not know why I am on my way to school.
Everyone is talking about irrelevant things. Their lives must be absurdly uneventful if this is their morning’s subject matter. And they are walking too slowly. On normal days, this would annoy me, because I can barely stand being impeded in my ambulatory progress. But right now, I feel numb. They are just like the mosquitoes that I do not currently have enough energy or interest to properly clap at. Except that the mosquitoes were far more interesting.
I realize that I walk slower when I am depressed. I think it is because I fail to see a particular point in going wherever it is that the world says I am supposed to be going.
I used to think that when you feel enough don’t-care, you can’t feel much of anything else. Of course, now I know that this is false. At the moment, I am filled with absurd levels of dread. It is bordering on a phobia. I have a phobia of entering classrooms now. And it isn’t a phobia that is in spite of, but it is a phobia that is because of all the don’t-care inside of me.
I hate these teachers and their self-absorption. I do not know who told them that their subjects were the geneses and Armageddon of the world, all in one. A few unfavourable results in a very arbitrarily marked test, and they would react by attempting to summon pillars of fire from the sky, and all of our ancestors from the grave. Such uselessness.
I will not speak in class today.
I will not look at anyone in class today.
I will be mentally absent in class today.
Otherwise, I will kill something.
I walk slowly – very slowly – to the classroom. And I keep my mouth shut.
She begins the blasting. The insults. The threats of failure. Of losing our diplomas. Of being moved to the certificate program. A raging fire begins to burn within me.
I do not give a shit.
I wonder if she can tell that I do not give a shit. Not about her stupid test, not about her stupid subject, not about anything within these incarcerating walls. She is still talking. I calm the fire. She will not get an emotional response from me. I do not give a shit. She calls my name. She cannot make me feel shame. She asks me a question. I do not answer verbally. I meet her eyes, full-on. I hope she can see that my soul is empty, and that her inconsequential, scripted, futile, role-playing-to-the-point-of-belief, over-shit-giving anger cannot change that. In my eyes is a daring, challenging, unashamed question: “Can’t you tell that I do not give a fucking shit?”
Sometimes, I find myself caught in long spells of unproductivity, because my mind is utterly unwilling to engage in any activity other than merely dwelling inside itself. Then I start to stare. So I am staring again. At nothing. I can’t take it anymore. I can’t handle living inside my head.
I walk outside as if I could take my mind to air it out as easily as I can carry my body for a little fresh air. I rest my hands on the balcony and look down, in wildly fascinated contemplation. How far up am I? 18ft? 20ft? I spend the next 10 minutes wondering if I would immediately die if I were to “fall off” this balcony – or if I would be severely injured, but salvageable. I shudder when I realise how comfortable I am with the thought that either option would get me out of here.
What is wrong with me? When did I turn so masochistic? Someone needs to rescue me from my own mind. Please. Someone save me from myself. Anyone? Who is there? Anyone…?
I am alone.
I am always alone.
Jesus? Where are you? Are you there? Would you mind so terribly, coming down now? No, not for a visit. I mean for the end. The final. Kick off the Revelation prophecies. Destroy the world and make all things right, et cetera.
With all due respect, Jesus, some people, namely me, have been waiting for you for quite a while. You see, we can’t take it anymore. There are too many irrelevances over here to deal with all at once. It’s the fact that they’re irrelevant that’s cheesing me. Why do people act like they are relevant when it is so obvious that they aren’t?
I, for one, know that once you show up, my diploma suddenly won’t matter anymore. Neither will my prospects of employment. Or how my family reacts to…well, anything. Because the world will be over. You understand, I know you do. You can end all the unnecessary anxiety, right now, if you just show up, right now.
Please. Just come. Or just take me away. I’m sorry. I’m sorry I’ve failed you. I can’t take it anymore. I can’t take it. I’m sorry.
It is happening again. I am crying. I cannot move. It happens every time I thought I had conquered all the emotion within me. I need to stop convincing myself that I can grow numb. I no longer believe that I can grow out of this depression.
Why am I crying? What am I going to tell someone if they hear me crying? I cannot even explain it to myself. Explanations – those things that humans are always looking for, and are never satisfied until they receive. Even if they receive a lie. They will accept it to feel appeased. They refuse to understand that sometimes, there is none. It is blasphemy for an answer to their “Why?” questions to be “I don’t know.” If they themselves are not omniscient, how do they expect me to be? I am not ready to explain. God, please let no one hear me crying. God, why am I crying? God, please. It’s too loud, God, please. Someone will hear, God, please.
I know what some of them will think. They will think that depression has hit me again. For the umpteenth time in five years. They will be wrong, of course – as usual. Depression has not hit me again; it never left after its first arrival. I wear it constantly on my person, like a thin, invisible layer over my skin. And I have no power over when or how it seeps through my pores and finds my heart, time and time again. Somehow, Depression is always there, even when I appear to be fine. But people only notice when it finally breaks thorough and overwhelms me. They only notice when I start crying. And sometimes, not even then.
I am blowing my nose. Two tissues – three – four tissues gone now. Can I pass it off as an allergy if my roommate walks in? Has Depression forced all of today’s quota of tears out of me, yet? Yes? Good…
No. The crying recommences. I cannot breathe. But I must – I need – to be quiet. BE QUIET!
I cannot do this again. I cannot break down again.
I need to leave.
I cannot leave. I do not want to see another psychologist again. The first five have not helped me. I hate this country. I hate myself. I need to leave.
I cannot leave. People will get worried. Who am I to worry people and interrupt their busy lives?
Why are their lives so busy? What are they doing? Do they not know that everything done under the sun is irrelevant? Why don’t they know?
I need to leave.
Why do I need to live?
I need to live. I need to leave. I need to live.
I will live. I will shut up. I will stop crying. I will not cause anyone any more stress. I will be fine. I will be fine.
I will be fine…
I…have broken down. Again.
This time, I know why I am crying. I am crying because I am lonely. I am crying because I have no friends and no confidant. I have no available family members who will not fear that the last likely option for a solution is an exorcism. There is no one I know to whom I can explain anything that is going on. I am crying because there is no one that will give me a hug and not require an explanation, not ask me questions, not try to send me to a shrink whose psychoanalysis will end up either inconclusive, or lacking in a solution, or both. There is no one who will look at me in this state without balking and running off, spiritually terrified. There is no one who will simply hug me and not ask irrelevant questions.
I realise I have been crying on and off for the past two hours. I have the energy to do nothing else. Again, I sleep. And I know that the first thing I will want to do when I wake up is go back to sleep.
– Ivana Akotowaa Ofori