You look at the clock. Perfect, although time has dragged, you’ve arrived fashionably late back at the department. You are aware of a silly grin on your face, but you don’t care, David will be there waiting. He times his plane trip, so he is there just before you finish work, always waiting.
You observe unusually the door to the office is closed. You are aware of a strange impression but are too sensible to give into whimsy and imagine something ominous, but that sensation is still there. You tap on the door and Muriel says to come in. As you open the door, you see there is no David or overnight bag, only Muriel looking solemn.
As if from afar, you are aware of her telling you to sit as she hands you a cup of tea. Then she says, “I have some tough news for you.”
You gabble, “Its David, what’s happened to him?”
You are aware of her saying, “Nothing bad has happened to David. However, he has been waiting in the department for you on a Friday afternoon for months. Well, a few Friday’s ago he got talking to Colleen. It turns out they grew up in the same village. They rekindled their old friendship. They left early this afternoon. They’re getting married tomorrow at the registry office.”
Her words are a distant noise. You are only aware of a falling sensation. You are falling into a bottomless pit.
Muriel invited you to dinner, saying you should not be on your own. Your immediate reaction is to refuse. The last person you want to be near is her. She was aware this was going on under her nose, yet she did not warn you.
Somehow you manage the drive home and stumble into your little house. Although rented, it is your first home, as this job is your first job since qualifying. You sink onto the stool at the modest dining table. The table is your Dad’s old camping one given new life with a lick of pale blue paint. Dad made the stools and painted them cream according to your colour scheme. The lounge boasts two hellishly uncomfortable cane chairs with a couple of blue cushions.
Eventually, you stagger to the bedroom to change out of your uniform. The bedroom is clear of clutter, almost monastic in appearance, only because you haven’t been here long enough to acquire clutter. David also liked the house this way. You think of him and the plans the two of you had made. Tears trickle down your cheeks again.
Your sensible internal self says, stop this, he is gone forever. All the crying will not make things better ever again. The weekend passes in a daze, vaguely aware of doing the washing and ironing, so there will be clean uniforms, but it’s as if you are a husk doing these chores the real you has disappeared down that dark pit.
You time your work schedule to ensure as little time as possible working in the department. That way, there is no need to speak to Muriel. The last thing you want is her false sympathy. As the days go by, everything has become muted, as if you are in a cotton-wool world. The gardens have lost their colour. Even the sun has lost its brilliance and warmth. Food has no taste, so you don’t eat, water is the only drink you can manage. It drowns all the hospital noises. It’s too much effort to process words. It all becomes a meaningless mumble, so much so it becomes too much trouble to talk. Your world has become grey and meaningless. You are going through the motions of living but experience nothing.
One morning on the ward at the coffee break, your friend looks at you. She knows what has happened and has monitored this deterioration. You finally understand she has said you have to go with her to see the staff doctor. You shake your head, but it is too late. She is pulling you out of the chair.
“Come on. I’ve spoken to the doctor who is waiting to see you right now.”
You go, it is less effort than finding reasons not to go.
In the surgery, sitting motionless, your friend explains what had happened weeks ago. When she finished her explanation, she leaves you alone with the doctor. He looks at you. You continue to sit motionless like a statue, hands clasped on your lap with eyes cast down. Unable to change your posture even if you wanted.
He asks you some questions. Eventually, you raise your head as he says he wants to admit you. You nod, what does it matter? Everything is so far away. He takes you onto the ward where a nurse takes over, showing you into a bright room with a single bed and a locker to the side while on the opposite wall is a big window looking out onto a little garden. None of it affects you. The nurse says to undress and hands you a hospital gown. Like a zombie, you respond. Once in the bed, she smiles and leaves.
Later the doctor comes in and tells you he has spoken to his team. As you are in such a deep state of depression, they would like to treat you with ECT. You nod, not long after the nurse reappears to tell say the porters are waiting to take you to theatre for the procedure. You do remember looking at her questioningly.
She smiled and said, “The ECT, you remember the electroconvulsive therapy the doctor told you about earlier.”
It was too much effort to speak, much less argue.
In the theatre, the anaesthetist says he will give you an injection, you passively offer your arm. As the drug goes in, there is blessed darkness and relief. Hours later, you open your eyes. You have the impression of lightness. The sunshine through the leaves on the tree outside makes interesting patterns on the bedcover.
Over the next few days, you become aware the world is coming back. There is light and birdsong around. You can even understand what the nurse is saying. After a week of slowing coming back from what you think of as your hibernation, the doctor says you can go home.
However, before being discharged, the doctor suggests you move to another hospital to work. That way, you realise you need not see Muriel again and all the emotional hurt that carries.
A few weeks later, you are ready to go back to work. With the help of all the staff and the treatment, you have emerged from that dark pit. You are aware it will always be there to slip into if you aren’t careful. The lesson you have learnt is, if life treats you in such a way you become aware the edge of that pit is close, get help. You understand there is no stigma. Your mental health is as important as your physical health. Also, don’t think anyone can make you happy or sad you are in control of the way you react to the events in your life.