Sometimes, sharp memories of the phone calls we’d had would bubble up in my mind, but I’d push them back down. This didn't last for very long.* * *While I was in Spain, Thomas rarely told me what was wrong, but he would sometimes blurt out snippets of what was really going through his mind when we talked on the phone. His medication made him sick, so he would go off it for weeks. Although I tried to get him to see a counselor at UVa’s psychological services, he skipped the appointments I did get him to make.
He wasn't learning his lines for a student production of Macbeth — not because he wasn't trying, but because he couldn't. I wrote him letters every week, each one exhorting him to get help. I found myself standing in vineyards in southern France, ignoring the fragrant smell of the dirt, worrying about whether Thomas was taking his medication.
Trying to force terrible bargains, like saying you won’t go to class unless he calls a counselor.
Wondering every day whether he’s taking his medication.
He drove all the way to JFK Airport from Virginia to pick me up, and kissed me even though I was a sweaty, crumpled wreck. But he had become a Hamlet, not a spontaneous and loving Lysander. And that is the ultimate challenge of loving someone with depression: not losing yourself in the vacuum of that person’s emotions. Ford your own sea of troubles on a slipshod raft made of wineglasses and new shoes, poetry books and pizza boxes.
When we broke up, he told me, “I hope you’ll understand why I’m doing this someday.” Initially, I was furious at him for not caring enough to try harder, but as my acid reflux and headaches disappeared, I began to understand.* * *My advice to anyone who is experiencing something similar is short, but I mean it. Go out with strangers, just to make new friends, and stay in with old friends who will kiss your cheek and help you cry. A raft you write into being, a raft you eventually take out and show to others.
I knew that, logically speaking, Hamlet’s words had little to do with Thomas' predicament — Thomas was not suicidal, thankfully — but they kept echoing through my mind.
Was it really nobler to suffer, if suffering meant going it alone?As someone who started seeing a therapist at age nine, the matter seemed simple to me. Take arms against your sea of troubles, damn it.* * *When I came back from Spain, things got worse. “Bad days” meant that he wouldn't go to class, eat, or leave his room. I would bring him a flower or a book to read, trying desperately to cheer him up and stave off his panic attacks. “Nothing you do helps.” I became terrified of setting him off, so much so that I started to see bad moods even when they weren't there. Mysterious neck and shoulder pain led to several ER visits. This was joined by constant headaches and acid reflux that made eating difficult.I couldn't sleep, and I stopped focusing on my writing because it took so much effort.At the end of my senior year, I went off to the University of Virginia, and he stayed in Richmond to finish high school. He couldn't bring himself to care about things he’d previously loved. I told him that what he was describing was a classic case of depression and tried to get him to seek help.I expected our friendship to be shelved until Christmas break. Over the course of my freshman year, as these calls got increasingly desperate, I often wondered how his girlfriend was able to deal with this.College Student Breaks Up with Boyfriend, Few Care. However, if I have learned anything from writing, it is that no (wo)man is an island.