“Hey, I need to talk to you about something,” I said, falling onto the couch. Lila sat down on the corner a few feet away from me.
“What’s up?” she asked. She was staring intently at me. I could tell she was trying to figure out what was going through my head, anticipating what I was about to drop on her. I don’t normally start conversations by saying, ‘I need to talk to you about something,’ so I could tell she thought something was up. I gazed into the ottoman in front of me, searching for the right words.
“I’m going through something right now,” I spat out. “There’s…something going on with me. I’m not the same person I was when we met. I don’t know if you notice it or not, but I definitely do.”
Lila adjusted in her seat. She put her hand on the side of her face, leaning against the back of the couch.
“What do you mean?” she asked.
I laid it all out. I’ve gone through something like this twice before. I remember clearly sitting on my bed in high school, staring at the ceiling and feeling completely numb. I remember it again in college, and it happened again a few weeks ago. My confidence is gone. More and more people are asking me if I’m okay at work. I can’t control what or how much I’m eating. I’ve started smoking again. I haven’t been able to write anything of substance in weeks. Compared to March, this is a complete 180 degree behavioral change.
I told all of this to Lila and watched her nod along. It was obvious that, of anything that could have come out of my mouth, this was the last thing she expected. There was sympathy behind her eyes, so much that I wasn’t able to look straight into them. At the end of my speech, a pause hung in the air. She looked at me.
“This is a very ‘Lila’ thing to say, but is there anything I can do?”
“That’s actually why I wanted to talk to you,” I said. “I need to take some time and figure my shit out. I don’t know what’s causing this, I can’t pinpoint it. I think the best thing for me right now is to back up, get some room to breathe and clear my head. I’m going to tell this to Hillary and all them when I see them tomorrow, but I wanted to talk about this in person.”
She nodded. I could tell she felt defeated. I felt awful. One of the worst things you can do to someone who truly cares about your wellbeing is to tell them there’s really nothing they can do to help you. Sure, they can listen and let you vent, but at the end of the day, there’s a weird yearning to give you the answer. They want to give some amazing advice that changes your outlook on everything and fixes you, but really the key is just being there.
“I’m planning on looking up some therapists in the area and going from there,” I continued. “And it’s not like I’m planning on holing up in my room alone for the next month like a teenager who just learned about My Chemical Romance. I just need some time away from everyone to think about me.”
“Okay,” she responded, “I know you said you can’t pinpoint the cause, but can you at least think of a point in time when you started noticing this?”
It was a good question. It seemed like forever, but I knew that wasn’t true. I looked back over the last month or so and could think of a few contributing factors. I don’t want to get into it because, frankly, I’m already getting vulnerable in front of a huge audience. I’d rather not talk about the events that are super personal to me.
Either way, I told her some of the things that came to mind and she sympathized with me. When someone tells you something that you can’t even imagine going through, it’s always hard to figure out what to say. You can try to empathize, put yourself in their shoes and hope you provide that magic key that makes it all better, but most of the time that doesn’t work. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting Lila to say. I knew she’s never really gone through something like this before, and I know she just wants to be able to help.
“Well Charlie,” she said, “I’ll be honest. I can’t imagine what you’re going through right now. I’ve never had something like that before, and I can’t speak to this experience. But I want you to know that I’m here for you if you need anything.”
The intensity of the conversation died down and we returned to our regularly scheduled programming: ordering in food and watching some movie. Tonight’s pick was Hopcat and Manchester By The Sea—which, in retrospect, was a decision that I can only look back at and say, “C’mon, man.”
That was Friday night. I spent Saturday reading and writing, caught dinner with some other friends that night to have the same talk, and then spent Saturday night and all of Sunday laying low. Writing, reading, cooking, doing laundry, and looking up doctors in the area that I can talk to.
And honestly, it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made in a very long time. It hasn’t even been a full 24 hours and I feel better. I’m not there yet, but there’s a sense of normalcy restored in me. That’s the first step. Gotta start somewhere..