Life Sentence

Everyone compares it to drowning. I think it's more like being stuck at the very top of a ferris wheel, with no one else on the ride, and the conductor abandons his job, perhaps to get a beer or a quickie in the bathroom. So you're stuck up there with only your thoughts to entertain you. You can't really yell for help because people aren't inclined to look up when they hear a disembodied voice; they look around frantically for a few moments and then decide they just imagined it.

Drowning would be a quick, easy, yes, probably painful, reprieve. So, I think it's more like being stuck. Just stuck. Stuck. Stuck. Stuck on a ferris wheel, stuck in traffic, stuck in a brain that is not your own. Stuck with thoughts and feelings that have no descriptions because no one else knows what it's like. What its like to be surrounded by love and lovers and still feel stuck.

Depression is my least favorite battle. It's a never-ending war that is so annoyingly cyclic. When my depression and I first met, I was ten years old. It was the first time I ever disappointed my parents and the trigger in my brain flipped; it was so quick I hardly had time to massage my whiplash. At first I just thought I was tired all the time. I slept nearly eighteen hours a day and my mom thought I was "just growing." In a sense, I was: I was growing into the horrible demon that would become my inescapable, medicated, drunken life.

I remember the first time it tried to escape me, the depression. He, it has to be male because everything terrible is always male, right? Anyway, He told to dismantle that razor by my bathroom. It was kind of cute in a way, because the razor was so girly and cute, and I was neither of those things anymore. He took those things from me a few months earlier. I took the razor apart with the adeptness of whomever made it in the first place, then, He told me, "it's time." However I knew what that meant, I'll never know, but I took that tiny, surprisingly malleable blade, in my right hand and tried to dig out the inescapable pain.

The blood, oh god, the blood. It was so horrifically beautiful. It was as glorious and uneventful as losing virginity or getting a new puppy and realizing that he just shit all over your favorite shirt. He didn't come out, the depression. The only thing that came out was a lot of blood and some fatty tissue, which just made me angrier because I thought I was going to be free. I was supposed to be freed! I was entitled to it, wasn't I? I thought I was going to be able to get up from that bathroom floor, emancipated, new again, and leave the shackles of this invisible "He" in the bathtub, swirling around in the water and going down the drain.


He wanted to stay with me. I didn't want to stay with Him. And that would not be our first or last time on the bathroom floor, watching my own blood roll down the drain and Him clinging onto my body for dear life.

My two little brothers clamored at the bathroom door that day, wanting scrambled eggs, as my mother walked in the door and told me it was time to go get my learner's permit. The fake smile, that's what I remember about that learner's permit picture. The smile and the long sleeves that I had to don in that humid, hot Kansas City July, because of the Ace-wrapped, soon-to-be scars on my left forearm.

I went off to college in California. That's what you were supposed to do when you were raised rich and white, in a nice town, in a nice family, with nice things. Mommy, Daddy, and Alex (and Him, always there), packed up the car one day and went on the three day journey to California where I , Alex, was supposed to enter my undergraduate years. I moved in my clothes, I went through the movements, but He is just so heavy all the time. I kept that fake smile for those days, for the heavy days when I was stuck on the ferris wheel, with the conductor gone, and no one to make it rotate again.


When I quit swimming, I overdosed. I didn't have exercise anymore so I had to do something to stay pretty, white, and thin. It was when ephedrine was still legal. I took a lot of diet pills, I think maybe twenty or so, and locked myself in my small dorm room bathroom as my room mate did her Philosophy homework at her desk. My plan was to get so fucked up that I didn't even care that I was electrocuting myself in the shower of some shitty dorm in the middle of no where, California. He told me it was time to go, and his voice was, is, IS, just so loud sometimes.

Just when I was at the beyond-cocaine high of all of those pills, grabbing the hair dryer, and stepping into the shower: the cord wasn't long enough. Had I just put my foot down sooner or had the cord just been two inches longer, it would've been all over. I could've just another fourth page tragic news story. I should've been. Even to this day, I can still hear my mother's voice in my head, after that day, "woulda, coulda, shoulda."

When my room mate finally broke into the bathroom and found me, undoubtedly laying on the floor and frothing at the mouth, she called the police. The police came in and He had taken over my entire body, I wasn't Alex anymore; I was just Depression, horrible, broken, inescapable Depression. If He had a face He would've been standing over my broken, tiny body, pointing and laughing saying, "I told you so! I told you you couldn't do it! You're a failure. You can't even kill yourself right!" But He didn't have a face, his face was just mine. He hid, hides, in my freckles, always there and always menacing; taking his sweet time and coming out whenever He pleases.


On the way to the hospital, the police officer asked me, "why?" How can someone answer that question? Do you see my scars? My fake smile? My dead eyes? Are you just not observant enough, are you blind? So, I just looked at her with my dead hazel eyes and said, "I don't know."

It's because I don't know. I don't know why I got chosen, I just did.

I got to the hospital, texting a very good friend, a soul mate really, and he told me to, "get it together. You're smart enough to get out of this." As the doctor was taking my blood pressure, I mentioned that I needed to use the ladies' room. He obliged and I walked past the bathroom door and right out the entrance of the hospital. The shame of the Sharp Family Legacy would be shamed by my suicide attempt and I had to escape, there was no other option. My mother, my father, my adorably brilliant little brothers would never recover from my "indiscretions." Being the oldest child is a burden unknown to a middle child, or a youngest child; it's also something you never sign up for, very akin to depression.


My doting mother flew into California the next day and we had a meeting with the Dean. I didn't say very much. I had to hide out in a friend's closet overnight because there was a campus-wide search for my out-of-line self, so I was really quite tired. My mother cried a lot, the Dean tried to soften the blow of, "your daughter tried to kill herself last night and then got a police escort to the hospital, where she later escaped from." I thought it was pretty impressive to try to soften something like that, but I didn't say that at the time because my mother was crying so hard. She wanted to get me "the help I needed" then; I guess she didn't know that no amount of help would ever save me from Him.

My rights were stripped from me, as if I was a toddler, unable to make my own decisions. I was twenty-one. I went to rehab. I left rehab; it's a story for a different time.

I unwillingly went on Cymbalta: a serotonin-norepenepherine reuptake inhibitor. Four words that I researched so intensely that I actually know what they mean now. I've always been anti-medication, thinking that the natural way is the best way. But one day I laid on the floor of my therapist's room, making deals with gravity just to loiter a little longer for fear I may leave this world; I know longer felt alive. I was all dead, all purple scars, lonely red taillights on a country highway. Apply any lonely, morbid metaphor you want but I could fill all of them at once.


The skid marks on my arm are slick like incomplete U-turns. Fresh and dangerous like three in the morning, and the way smoke dances in artificial light: brave and rising. It always dares to rise. Mingling with all that's fake; daring it to come undone. But when we come undone like that; it's ugly.

We turn away. Because it's inconvenient like a line at the coffee shop that no one wants to wait in.

Those are the times I feel normal, regular, average, when everyone else is inconvenienced but I'm laughing on the inside, because I can wait (oh I can wait for hours, maybe days, for my tea) but they need their coffee. Where does the need come from?


I don't think they actually know where true desire. That painful, aching DESIRE comes from. That desire creeps up my spine and He takes over my brain as I take that, sometimes rusty, razor across my left forearm. That. That right there? That is desire. An incongruent desire with the will to live, but a desire nonetheless.

It actually hits at 3:26am when you realize there's no level of drunk that can fix you, and you've left messages for all the people who are 'qualified' to fix you....

And, they don't answer.

So you're stuck. Stuck with you're slow thoughts, the heat turned up to 86 in your car (when it's only 66 outside—perhaps there's something poetic about being 20 degrees cold? 20 degrees dead? Who knows).


Just watch the smoke rise a little more. Know your wife is inside asleep. She works in three hours. Your dogs love you. Your best friend is a rock for you. You live on past all of this pain, all of this suffering you've endured.

It'll get better.

Repeat it like a mantra; until it does.

It's not like the Ferris wheel anymore, it's more like an empty theme park where I'm the only patron and no one is even employed there. It's a playground for only He and I. After sixteen years together, we've finally learned to live with each other. He takes out the trash, I do the dishes; I sleep on the right side, He wakes up early.


At twenty-six we've come to this sickening ceasefire: I carry Him while He plagues me.

In the past eight months, I met my wife and she sees the purple scars on my arm and doesn't pine for any additions. I do though. Seemingly nightly. I'll text my absent therapist, "I want to do that thing." And like clockwork, she responds, "Are you drinking?" Of course I'm drinking, do you know that being drunk makes Him despondent? He gets quite and slow; he becomes like a slow, quiet symphony, easy listening, almost silent. It's so nice when He's like that. It's almost simple to bear him as a passenger at those times. Is it a problem: perhaps, actually, most definitely. But the bigger problem is Him. So, I drink.

One of my favorite parts of Depression is the after-cutting. When you bleed out in the mammoth pain and simultaneous release of your own tears, He doesn't leave, but something does. Even after ten years of housing Him, I don't know what it is that comes out of my forearms, my skin, but it definitely is something. Sometimes it's better than an orgasm.


I'm medicated beyond belief now. I finally broke down and decided to get on Cymbalta. Cymbalta has saved and ruined my life. I gag it down each morning, all 120 milligrams, the maximum dosage. It doesn't make Him go away but it makes everything go away; Cymbalta is the erasure of everything. If I had the capability of being optimistic, I would say that it was a super-drug. But since I don't have that capability, it's more like if you were to walk into a Roman stadium and have the ever-living shit beat out of you: and feel absolutely, entirely, nothing. Just zero. Emotionally, physically, and everything in between. Sometimes it's a wonderful sensation to not feel indescribably sad for no reason, but all the time, it's maddening to never be able to feel happy.

It's an unavoidable burden that I carry like a Sherpa, up and down Machu Pitchu, day in and day out.

That's an inescapable, basic, and ghastly truth: Depression stays.