I can still pull it up into consciousness: the memory of you telling me you’ve been diagnosed, for quite some time now, with major depressive disorder (MDD) lingers as a background to my thoughts…
There is no talking to you again. It’s eleven after midnight and I figure the incessant voices you hear must be gnawing at your thoughts more fervently now, as if they somehow know that the dead of the night fosters further overthinking, and bearing the weight of your demons becomes all the more difficult owing to the physical exhaustion of your body brought about by the day’s supposedly “mundane” hustle and bustle.
I opted to say “supposedly mundane” because with MDD, even the simplest things like getting up in the morning and eating breakfast becomes one of the most taxing tasks of the day. It’s akin to taking off the proverbial rose-coloured glasses and seeing everything in ash grey, drained of colour – drained of all vitality. I rack my brain for a way to make you see that you still have something more to live for and your worth isn’t solely tied on this ability of yours to do what you do best. I remember turning catatonic the first few seconds after I read one of your messages telling me that you have to go and try to study because it’s what you do best and that if you couldn’t do it, then you would lose what worth would you still have. I, of course, initially told you that your worth isn’t just tied to this gift of yours – it is and will always be inherent. But then I got to thinking: what do you tell a painter who has lost his hands or a singer who has lost her voice?
Functio laesa. (n) A medical term used to refer to loss or impairment in function. One of the core symptoms of MDD is the loss or the inability to function properly or go about your “usual” daily activities.
“I cannot function. I want to jump from the nearest building. I cannot stand it,” you said, voice cracking, your eyes glassy; threatening to break any remaining thread of forbearance you’ve mustered for the day. I sat beside you, not knowing what to say and not knowing what to do so I did the only thing I could; I listened and held your arm.
With that memory playing ad nauseam in my head again, and at this time of the night, I opt to go outside our terrace with my second cup of black coffee in tow. I think again of how you must be feeling with the fact that you’ve ceased to function. And what was once familiar, loved, and easy for you now seems impossible. My empathy tells me the pain must be unbearable while my logic tries to tell me that a human’s worth isn’t solely tied to the element of utility. A human being, lacking the ability to do what drives and inspires him, notwithstanding still has worth. I try to rationalize why we, as humans, think that worth is tantamount to the element of utility. Perhaps it’s because we have grown accustomed to this way of living where everything is measured by its usefulness––its economy. Perhaps we have lost sight of what matters. Perhaps we have failed to realize that a day spent solely on trying to take care of oneself, of even trying your best to stand your reflection in the mirror, of loving yourself on days when you feel like you don’t deserve it, is already enough. No measurable outcome. The element of productivity and utility can be thrown out the window, and yet, I daresay, it is okay….
I take another sip at my coffee and notice the scattered little flower pots around our terrace. They’re beautiful, I thought; buds yet to bloom, leaves yet to fall until I notice a couple of uprooted plants left on the side. Mom must have left them to be transferred to new pots tomorrow. It must feel so broken to have been torn by the roots, your very foundation shattered, left feeble… I snap out of my trance before I overthink and go off-tangent.
Now, where was I? Yes, on the element of utility and how loss of function can be acceptable and on the other hand, how function laesa can be unthinkable, unbearable, and unacceptable. Was I just being optimistic, seeing through rose-coloured glasses, when I told him it’s okay – that it would be okay? Or have I failed to see the gravity of how this was affecting him? I hope it isn’t the latter. I hope I haven’t downplayed what he’s gone through and what he’s yet to face. Or is it because the view point of a depressed person is absolutely, starkly, different from that of one who’s not? I guess it’s that. Therefore, it goes that I cannot compare my perspective to his, and what I choose to say may or may not get through to him at all. But when do I try to cheer him up, tell him he’s got more to live for and when do I sit in silence, simply listen to him talk about his demons and temporarily do away with all the pep talk that he already hears from everyone else?
I do not know where to draw the line. Another question left unanswered… I take another sip and finish my coffee, a little thankful for the rustic comfort it’s given me no matter how fleeting.
“Thank you for still talking to me on days when I don’t reply. It may seem like it’s doing nothing but it means a lot to me.”
I look up at the heavens and decide that there really are no answers to my questions that seem like a myriad of stars. I stand in awe at the marvellous tapestry above me. We have the same night sky above us. I wonder if he sees it the way I do. I wonder if I see a cluster of stars while he sees clouds of dust…
I’m exhausted from thinking. I’ll have to ask him tomorrow. I take one last look at the night sky and I sigh thinking how ethereal it is, how surreal. I go inside and before I drift to sleep, I only had one thought….
I would have to try tomorrow.