that old cafeteria smell (part one)
Updated: Sep 13, 2019
monday morning, here i was, drenched in sweat, riddled with anxiety, awake at the crack ass of dawn. i lay in bed with my eyes bleeding, my mind racing, and my stomach in knots.
"i am twenty fucking six years old. masters degree. im personable... right? twenty fucking six, zara. god, why does this feel like the first day of middle school?! what am i going to wear? i wonder if im gonna make friends..."
i tried to rationalize with myself, i had just taken four months off. four months of what was supposed to be a vacation, four months of what was going to be an enlightening saga, i was going to find myself, uncover the artist within and work diligently on branding myself as such. i pictured "Eat, Pray, Love"... but what i got was more "Girl, Interrupted". A spiraling black hole of frequent depression peppered with suicidal thoughts, lack of disposable income, a relentless sarcasm, and many baggies of marijuana. i realized my definitive self-worth plummeted when the checks with my name on them stopped coming in. what's worse is when i met new people at bars while i was trying to drink away this nagging cynicism, they would ask me what i do and the curmudgeon in me would answer, "i'm unemployed and broke." they would scan my 2018 e-class and my full face of perfectly applied makeup, eyes swollen but the pretty kind - with a look of disgust on their face, remark on how they'd like to be "that kind of poor," i'd hold out my $28 glass of white wine to toast them, many times, tears welling up in my eyes as an innate reaction to my lack of discipline and a shit eating grin on my face -- "cheers. to this crippling debt that im working on building!"
depression really kicked my ass for four months. what i thought was going to be this beautiful journey of self-reflection and relaxation became one of self-doubt, lots of crying, panic attacks, and my boyfriend's seemingly everlasting patience. i couldnt articulate whether i was just an irrational monster in my adult life or if the sleeping dragon had awoken, once again, after so long, i had thought that it was gone forever. i had defeated depression without an iota of medication, i thought, once upon a time. i, zara lone, was the dragon slayer with nothing but sheer determination and a charming smile, i had cured myself. and then all of a sudden, here it was, staring back at me through the reflection of my blacked out phone screen and at my inability to get the fuck out of bed. it bared its ugly fangs when my friends called me to hang out, it grinned confidently when my family wanted to go out to dinner. and perhaps the most damaging to me, it planted itself at the tips of my fingers as i sat in front of blank word documents day in and day out, begging myself to come up with anything to kill this dreaded writer's block. i picked up pens with loosened grips hoping that the words would just come, as they always did. i tried to read but my attention wouldn't hold, i tried to watch tv but i couldn't focus on anything other than this strange, never-ending emptiness inside of me.
as my mornings started later and my nights ended earlier, i realized i spent more time in bed than i spent anywhere else. soon, i started spending entire days wrapped up in my blanket, recognizing my condition but not having the energy or the drive to do anything about it. my mom would come in and occasionally check on me where i would pretend to be asleep, later lying about what i had accomplished while she was out grocery shopping or running errands. "no, i haven't been in bed this whole time. i just got home from an interview.. no i changed back into sweats.. i just laid down for a quick nap" and pretty soon, she started leaving trays of food on my desk without speaking a word, quietly acknowledging my condition but not knowing where to start with a conversation.
i didn't understand how bad shit had gotten until one moment in particular, it dawned on me that i hadn't gotten out of bed in 2 whole days. i crawled into my shower and half an hour later, came out completely exhausted. fatigue has overridden my body, everything felt tired. and although my chest constantly felt heavy, it also felt empty. i felt so horribly empty. I laid down in my bathrobe, still dripping wet and freezing, and i stared at the ceiling. I stayed in that position for the next 3 hours, wondering when the fuck this would end, if it would end. it didn't feel like it would end. so i picked up the phone, i called my primary doctor, and when the nurse answered "what's the reason for your visit?" i almost didn't recognize the voice that answered, "im depressed. it's never been this bad. i need help."