A whole other beast

2016-09-30 09:59
‘What a luckless word, this “depression”, is, seeing as the illness has not much to do with feeling sad. Sadness rests on a human’s palette.’

‘What a luckless word, this “depression”, is, seeing as the illness has not much to do with feeling sad. Sadness rests on a human’s palette.’ (Supplied)

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In a strange way, ending up in the psychiatric clinic was a unique kind of validation for me.

Admittedly, my first impression was a fearful one. The clinic is nestled in a side street parallel to a rustic playground and two sickly, corn-coloured buildings well into the process of urban decay. Once inside, I noticed a glass wall on my right, into which I gazed with wide, Bambi-like eyes. Three youths looked on at me in amusement. One of whom began tapping on the glass, as if they didn’t already have my undivided attention. Almost causing myself a mild case of whiplash, I wrenched my gaze to my notebook. I predicted nothing more than three gruelling weeks.

Cringing as the winding staircase protested noisily against my heavy ascent to the second floor, I was greeted with the view of a glass-walled office in which a man was measuring out pills in various pastel tones.

After bidding my parents farewell, I sat mournfully on the unpigmented bedspread in a room barren save for three rudimentary cupboards leaning awkwardly against the walls, and two other beds.

Soon I found myself seated for ‘‘reflection time”.

Who are you? Why are you here?

Words like “addiction”, “behavioural issues”, “PTSD”, “depression” and more burst forth from their mouths.

Proudly, in fact.

They were proud of that which had cast them aside as the “unstable”.

Too intrigued with the process, I twitched in alarm when I noticed myriad shifting eyes taking in the novelty that was me.

“Well …”

I thought of Jack Kerouac. His words had crept into my mind sometime during the day and had chosen now to present themselves with a firm poke behind my receptors. “I didn’t know what to say. I felt like crying. Goddammit, everybody in this world wants an explanation for your acts; and your very being.’’

However, in this tale, I am not of true importance. In this tale, one of the greatest lessons learnt in my life came at the expense of another’s.

Two weeks into my stay, after something so moot as being caught with a cigarette in hand, the individual stormed into the boys’ dormitory while the rest of us stared down the nurse whose infuriating nosiness made her the catalyst of the evening. An anxious itch began to cajole at the back of my head. The sinews of my jaw twisted. Something was wrong. I knew it, yet my mouth did not twitch.

Muted, my eyes darted around the room.

A monumental crash erupted and sent the nurses scrambling through. Some boys followed and upon arriving at the scene, their horrified groans of angst were painfully audible. As per protocol, the head psychologist tried to usher us into another part of the centre. Unfortunately, I could not comply.

My brain, hell bent on traumatising itself with a view that it would never forget, led me around the back route to a window into the room. This boy, victim of his own anger and inner turmoil, was strung up by the cords of the blinds. The nurses had elevated his body and were fumbling to snip the string that cut into the tender flesh of his neck. Above, his face resembled a bruised plum, and froth bubbled within his slack mouth.

I thought it was over, that my new ally had succeeded in his attempt to quieten his demons.

My thoughts were at fault.

From my shrouded view, hand over my mouth and rooted to the spot, I watched as they lowered his body. He arched skywards, the white of his eyes pin-wheeling and berserk. From his mouth came a string of nightmarish, guttural screams. My eyes did not flutter. I bore silent and horrified witness to the emergence of the true force of what possessed his mind, and his attempt to exorcise it. What a luckless word, this “depression”, is, seeing as the illness has not much to do with feeling sad. Sadness rests on a human’s palette. Depression is a whole other beast.

I did not see him again. My curiosities are not satisfied.

Why should they be? As far as meets the eye, his social media depicts a new type of life for him. Having found love, his pictures are littered with evidence of intimacy and peace.

The boy lives.

Yet, something about his new demeanour disturbed me and brought out envy in me — a dangerous inspiration too. More importantly, a lesson. Seeing his suicide attempt from the outside and the repercussions his success would have brought forth made me thoughtful. The girl would never feel his love — his father would continue to destroy his liver, and his mother her lungs.

On the day of my departure, I scraped a determined blade across the bathroom wall: “STAY ALIVE, things get better”.

Fern Bamber is 18 years old and is finishing her final year of school. Reading is her passion and next year she plans to study in Cape Town. She would like to pursue a career
pertaining to literature.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  true stories of kzn 2016

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