Between shades of sadness
I haven’t been honest with the shrink when he asked about the things I felt. Not completely, at least. I had parked myself in front of my computer, beaming at the forty-ish doctor in a white uniform through the screen, mincing my words, placating the urge to let unfiltered thoughts take the lead in this seemingly pleasant conversation. He asked questions, looked interested, and he sounded kind and generous. Despite these, I found myself making this conscious effort to look half okay, when in truth — at that time — I had hit rock bottom.
Our conversation ended with him giving out the diagnosis. “So,” he had said, “you have anxiety, mild depression, chronic fatigue syndrome. I’m going to prescribe certain medications…”
The usual, I guess, for people like us. Pills to make me less of a bummer at daytime, caplets at night to seize me from bouts of overthinking and into that fun blank plane of dreamless sleep.
I am writing this now, half a year later, hunched over the same laptop, reflecting on the thoughts that lead me to tell my watered-down version of pain to the kind smiling doctor. I haven’t talked to him since November, and my bottle of benzo would have to be replenished soon. I suppose I’d have to see him again.
I am not writing this because I am in any way excited to meet him again. Far be it from me — as someone who hopes to find ways to emerge from a thick muck of loneliness without disturbing someone else — to be too happy at the prospect of having to answer questions about my feelings. I feel the pressure of having to be honest, and the guilt of being unable to do so for fear of not making any sense.
This is not to imply that I have not been happier in the past half-year. I was, on certain days. On rare occasions, I would even feel like I’ve come to terms with myself, like I have a stronghold on my sense of purpose, or that I am, quite possibly, invincible. But most of the time, the only plausible answer to those who cared to ask about my week was, “I’m reeling in between shades of sadness.”
I just knew that “mild depression” is but a mild way of pinning down the thing that consumed my thoughts, time, and will. I am pretty sure that in that surprisingly wide-ranged spectrum that could approximate what being “sad” meant, I had at certain points spiraled around an extreme end. To say that it wasn’t mild would be an understatement. It was pain, it was suffering, it was an overdose of self-hatred. I had gone from gray to pitch black.
To say that the “sky turned gray” is synonymous with someone hinting about unhappiness. Yellow, happy. Green, peace. Red, rage. Gray, sad. Blue, I guess, denotes unhappiness too, but gray has always been a more fitting color for me, for this feeling that had fed and consumed so much of the beauty brought to the world by painters, singers, poets.
I am now thinking of the word “melancholia.” Beyond its medical connotation, I understand this word as that mood you get when you come across something so beautiful that you want to stay despite the pain. The sort that makes you look out of a window with your chin resting at the back of your hand, observing the empty road, listening to distant foliage ruffled by the wind. The kind of sadness that soothes the soul.
And this is strikingly different from outright hopelessness. The leap from melancholia to that desire to obliterate the self is comparable to that shift from gray to black. When the skies are gray you still see the world around you. But imagine a sky robbed off of any light, even of a stray star. There’d be nothing to see then.
This is what I haven’t told the doctor: I’ve tipped over to that pitch blackness, quite a few times, before and after the first consult. The mind, soaked in the purest form of sadness, becomes too tired to even hope. It simply craved to drown.
I am writing this now because, after a few months, I am still here. Which means that I didn’t simply stay suspended under the surface of the black muck, but have also managed to sometimes swim my way beyond, where colors exist. Or at least, where I could bask in the shades of gray.
These shades of sadness could be good too. When the skies are gray and a torrent threatens to wash away everything that one deems important, one realizes the beauty of what is there. One day, we won’t be around anymore, but that wasn’t the point. The point is that we are here, still. And, despite the pain, the fact that we are still around is in itself a pretty solid argument against the void.
* * *
George Deoso, 25, is the author of “The Horseman’s Revolt and Other Horrors” (UST Publishing House, 2020), a collection of dark short fiction. He is a literature graduate, currently resides in Quezon City, where he lives with his family, three dogs, and a cat named Mingming.