Shower steam messages have always been a habit of Sadie's. Her roommate hates how hot she lets the bathroom get, but how else is she supposed to write and erase her deepest thoughts if the mirror doesn't fog?
Her therapist tells her to do affirmations each morning.
I am strong.
I am beautiful.
I am Sadie.
She scrawls the last one across the mirror. Her cat pushes the door open and trips her, falling towards the sink. She steadies her hand on the wall. More specifically, the mirror, smudging the i and e away.
I am Sad.
Her cat meows up at her naked body. He's hungry, again. She swears she that she lives to feed him. That and clean up his poop, because her roommate refuses to, even if she was the one to bring him home.
Wrapping her body in a towel, she moves to the kitchen to feed him. The lid to the can gets stuck. It's taking longer than it should, and her towel is drooping, and why can't this cat understand the concept of patience?
She's left the bathroom door open. The fog has passed, the message gone.
Or is it? She goes for a run that afternoon, as they swear the exercise will help, and falls into a mud pile. So it's back into the shower, with the door firmly closed.
I am Sad.
The message is back, and so is her roommate, hovering in the doorway.
"Smokey was scratching at the door." He may not have opposable thumbs but she does, and she's let the rascal in. She's also let her eyes settle on the mirror.
"I'm naked!" Sadie snatches the towel off the rack. She's known Vivian since middle school. She was there for the bikini incident in seventh grade, but that was years ago, and she doesn't need a reminder of what is under Sadie's clothes.
"And sad, apparently. I thought you said the therapy was working."
It is, sort of. She's gone from always sad to sometimes sad. That's more than she's been able to say for months.
If only there was a peggable source of her depression. Like an ex-boyfriend, or losing her job. She isn't too fond of her night shift at the corner store, but it's better than nothing, and she sneaks free sips of soda from the fountain once her co-worker leaves for the day.
Even having a dead pet would be something.
Smokey meows as if in protest. As if it wasn't his fault that she was stuck in this predicament.
"That's not- Viv. Things take time." There's no sense in protesting. She's been strong willed all these years, taking the lead in their relationship. She's the one that makes a fuss, and Sadie is the one that nods quietly in agreement. It's easier this way.
She makes a noise, the one that she makes when she's biting back her words. Sadie knows that she wants nothing more than to shake her silly, hope that she can knock some happiness into her. Like it's a physical switch that she can activate.
She knows that she regrets the promise she made.
'I'll take good care of her,' she had told Sadie's mother. That consisted of driving her to her therapy appointments and making dinner. The latter was moreso because she was a picky eater, and often meant ordering pizza.
"Okay." She says the word as if things are entirely not okay. They both know they aren't, and they both nod, signaling an end to the conversation.
Once they leave the room, Sadie wipes the message away. She can still see it when she closes her eyes, arguing with her. She stares back at the mirror.
I am doing the best I can.
I believe in myself.
I deserve to be happy.
She hates these affirmations. They feel cheesy. She knows that Vivian can hear them in her bedroom, her eyes rolling.
Without the fog, she has full view of herself in the mirror. There's not much to her. The depression has removed her appetite. That means that usually the only thing she eats is be that pizza, skipping breakfast and lunch. She's gotten better about it, setting an alarm for noon. Every day she downs a Pediasure. She knows they're for kids, but they taste like s'mores, and it's an extra couple hundred calories keeping her afloat.
Shirt, then pants, and she can't see the wrath of depression on her frame. The bags under her eyes tell a different story.
"Mushroom tonight?" Vivian is back in the doorway, phone to her ear.
"Double cheese too, please." Anything to fill in the valleys of her ribs.
With a nod, she's out of the room again. The pizza arrives half an hour later, and she takes two slices, sandwiching the together as she shoves them in her mouth. The cheese is scalding.
"Did you ask your boss if you can go to the party tomorrow night?" Vivian has been nagging her to meet her friends. She thinks it'll help, because Natalie totally had depression after Luke broke her heart, and she can give her pointers on how to fake it until she makes it.
The only thing she has faked is her enthusiasm for this plan.
"No can do. Sorry." She hadn't asked. She's pretty sure he would have said no anyhow.
"Well, what day are you off? We can work around your schedule." Vivian is trying to be patient, and Sadie is trying to shut her down without looking like she is, because her next therapy session is Tuesday, and she knows that she isn't opposed to crashing it to tattle on her. Again.
She catches her reflection in the toaster. Her anguish is written on her face. If she can contort her features long enough to finish her dinner, she can pretend that she is actually considering this.
She can pretend that she wants to be happy and confident.
There's a word for how she feels. The internet calls it cherophobia, the fear of happiness. As much as her depression kills her, there is some sort of security in knowing that the world can't be stolen from underneath her.
You can't steal what's not there.
"I'm busy that day."
"Yes, all day."
There goes that noise. Vivian is holding her frustration in again.
She takes her time eating. It's easier than talking. With her mouth full, she can't blurt out words she will regret that void out promises she already does regret.
"I need to get going. Don't want to be late for work."
Vivian nods, setting her slice back down. "Alright. Have a good shift."
Unlike her roommate, she doesn't make promises she can't keep. Which is a good thing, because she doesn't, saying affirmations in the reflection of the sunglass display mirror.
I am enough.
My depression does not define me.
This feeling will pass.
She really hopes one day she believes it.