Things I can’t tell a therapist about my depression

© Mali Maeder, Pexels.

My mind is made of boxes, I decided long ago. My imaginary worlds are contained in individual boxes, colour-coded, numbered, shut tight. I only open them when I want to visit that place: when I want to have a specific daydream that I’ve been working on; a world cultivated from pop culture and interests and the hopeful goals of a girl too realistic to know that she’ll ever get them in real life.

The boxes are shelved in an endless row — this is how I picture them. The shelves are five high, five boxes to a shelf, twenty-five to each section. Each box is closed until I open it.

That daydream I had as a kid in which I was personal friends with Sonic the Hedgehog remains shut far down the line, bottom shelf, pale blue box. I do not open it when I pass by. It has the number four on it, but I don’t understand the numbering system here.

My opinions on feminism are in a yellow box, middle shelf, and I can see myself opening it often. It’s never too far away, and whilst the box itself is messy, it’s also clear cut. I know what’s in my feminism box without having to search.

My depression is a box with a lid that likes to slip off sometimes, releasing all the dark and dangerous things I’d neatly stacked away. My depression box is dangerous, a rose pink, and I can’t destroy it no matter how hard I try.

I also do not know how to explain this to the therapist I will be meeting next week. I do not know how to explain this to the kind doctor who referred me to them, who sat in the office and made too much eye contact with me as I cried, who spent the final five minutes of our meeting sitting in silence as he typed up everything I said, but only the parts which I regretted as soon as the words came from my mouth.

He’d asked me who’d called me ‘loud’, and I felt like I was blaming other people when I told him. He asked me about bullying as a child. He asked me if I had friends. He did not ask me about the boxes in my mind or how I store my thoughts or if the depression had a way of seeping into the other boxes — because it does that, it moves by itself, and some days it’ll sit, dormant, in the bottom of the rose pink box, and other days — the bad days — it’ll climb out and crawl its way into a space it shouldn’t take up.

When it finds itself in one of the worlds that I store inside carefully closed boxes I have the sort of daydreams in which I’m living a perfect life before I become paralysed in a car accident, before the girl I babysit dies, before my family is murdered, before I’m kicked out of the house, before my pet is run over and my house burns down and everything is coloured black at the edges and hateful everywhere else.

My depression ruins my golden daydreams of happiness and peace. It ruins my hopes of a small farm, of chickens, of dogs, of living in an art commune, of Cornwall or New York or California or London or Paris or Tokyo — it ruins the faces of the imaginary friends and the real ones, the imaginary family and the real one, the everything I store in my boxes to make each world feel as real as the one I’m actually in.

And I do not know how to explain this to a therapist.

I do not know how to explain that my depression will run rampant around the shelves of my organised mind, throwing boxes to the ground and letting their contents spill out. It will make a riot and a mess and a waste land that I have to sort through after, picking and choosing what goes in each box — does this version of the imaginary best friend fit in this box, or this one? It will fill the white ceilings and white floors and never-ending white walls with a murky black, billowing and curling and flooding everything in my head with its unlimited reserves of numbness and hollow feelings — and then I’ll go to sleep, and the next day the room is in order, the boxes are stacked, the shelves are standing upright.

The worlds are all back in their places and the depression is sleeping calmly within its rose pink box, waiting to become restless and irritable once again.

The problem is this: I am so used to the depression box becoming unlatched that I have stopped locking and chaining it shut, knowing that it’ll break through any restraints that I give it.

The problem is this: on the bad days I will just lie in bed and stare at the ceiling and wonder if its made of asbestos, and if it is, how long would it take to kill me if I knocked it down.

The problem is this: the bad days, dark days, numb days are so empty and lifeless and grey that there is nothing to think about other than how the box is open and I can’t find the lid and that this feeling will seep into the next week before it finally burns itself out.

The problem is this: I do not know how to tell a therapist any of this.

The problem is this: I don’t know if I want to.