She didn’t think she had it in her. The bottomless grief, sure. The creeping dread was also a given. But where does this tinge of hope spring from? The medications never worked and she wasn’t dreaming, so what could explain it? Something had changed.

She still worked, albeit sporadically. Just enough to pay for her share of the rent and utilities. Food was always scarce and she had to rely on samples for her meds. Thankfully, her psychiatrist was obliging and a decent person.

She saw her brother once every season, on average, and that was more than enough. He wasn’t understanding of her situation and in some twisted sense appeared jealous of her maladies. Imagine wishing you had been locked in a psych hospital for three months after overdosing on a hundred pills. Maybe he didn’t actually think that, but he sure resented the answers when he asked how she was feeling.

She tried making a few friends, but her temporary gigs in cubicle land didn’t lead to anything lasting. She was awkward and defensive in an entirely justified way. People can be unfathomably cruel when you show your real self. They only want to see what they imagine you to be. Reality is difficult and demands empathy if you want to be a true friend. Her roommates didn’t qualify as friends. They had attentive boyfriends and hectic schedules that didn’t include her. She was merely an extra income they came to rely upon, nothing more.

Despite the hurdles and self-doubt, she somehow managed to take care of herself. She was fragile and doubted every decision. This was not new: as long as she could remember, her self-esteem was shot. Maybe her parents didn’t help on this front, but who can’t say that? It was too late to blame. They were gone anyways. Rage and resentment would have to be swallowed. There were too many other emotions to fight with and she did fight-in her head, over and over. Anxiety poured into a blended bowl of deep shame and depression. Night after night, awake and ruminating as the streetlights shimmered on her wall. The Ativan never truly calmed her down, but the whiskey made her drowsy enough to get a few hours of rough sleep. It would have to suffice.

She rose early today, which was a change from her regular habit. She certainly didn’t do it out of any sense of determination. Discipline and motivation escaped her even in the fleeting moments where she welcomed them. Yet today, a tiny switch flipped in her subconscious, sparking a feeling she could not immediately identify. She struggled, briefly falling into her typical negativity, but became intrigued by the subtle tickle in her brain. What if this darkness isn’t permanent? Her ‘default operating mode’ as she called it. What if she could break through, even if it was only for a few hours? It could mean that she was wrong after all. She wasn’t doomed. She didn’t have to give in to the miasma of sadness, self-loathing, and despair. She could live.

© 2021 Jeff E. Brown. All rights reserved.

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