“iPhone” and Two Other Stories about Depression

Adapted from true stories

Karen Hao
Karen Hao
Dec 27, 2015 · Unlisted

I sit at the dining table idle. The door opens. Pause. Shuts. Coat rustles, socks rub against shoes. My dad walks in with a white rectangular box.

“Karen! Guess what?” he asks excitedly.

I look at him to acknowledge his question.

“I got you an iPhone 5 instead of 4!”

I consider this. I consider him –– his face lit up in excitement and anticipation of my reaction. I feel nothing.

“Pretty cool, right?” he says as he hands me the box.

I take the box from him and shimmy it open to reveal the iPhone nestled in its packaging. As I lift it from its shell and examine the polished design, I think about how I should be grateful.

“Thank you, daddy,” I say because it is the right thing to say. But I still feel nothing. It takes a Herculean effort to force the corners of my mouth up.

Thoughts wander aimlessly through my mind. I think about how my dad is trying so hard to make me happy. I think about how disappointed my lack of reaction must be. I think about how if I felt any emotion, I would feel guilty for being unable to show him happiness. Guilty for not having accepted his gift with more grace and grandeur.

I let these thoughts sit in my mind for a while, then I let them drift away.

I brush my thumb over the plastic screen covering before slowly peeling it off. My reflection looks faded.

I feel nothing.
I feel nothing.
I feel nothing.

Grocery Store
The cold of the evening air is just beginning to set in. Music pounds in my ears. I recognize when I feel like this –– or rather, feel like nothing –– and it scares me. I try to pour music into the void.

A grocery store comes into view, and I realize I have not eaten. Perhaps I can find solace in food. I walk in.

I stand in front of the fruit, but after a while I realize I haven’t actually considered buying the fruit. I have just stared. It does not seem appetizing.

I turn into the aisle of vegetables, looking for inspiration. I walk back and forth along the aisle three times before I again realize I haven’t actually considered any of the vegetables. I pick up a carrot. I put it back down. I pick up a bag of spinach. I put it back down. The scent of something flavorful draws me to the soup station. I open and close all the lids one by one. Nothing looks appetizing.

I gaze listlessly at the shelves.

Pick something. I command myself. You need to eat. You need to take care of your body to stay healthy.

I grasp the first thing that comes to mind. Butternut squash. Looking over the pre-cut butternut squash options, I find a butternut squash soup starter kit. Soup is warming and easy to eat, I reason. Good enough.

I finally make it to checkout and head home.

Phone Call
Tears begin to roll down my cheeks.

“How do you feel?” my boyfriend asks through the phone.

“Honestly?” My voice cracks as I fail to control my emotions. “I’m so tired of not knowing when it will happen. One moment I’m fine. The next moment I feel completely empty. No motivation, no energy, no emotions. And I just lose hours of my life because I am incapable of doing anything productive. In my head, I think, I know if I do this it will make me happy. But I don’t have the energy to do it. How stupid is that?”

“It’s not stupid. I’ve had moments like that, too. I know what you mean.”

Silence. Tears rush out of my eyes faster and faster.

“And I’m frustrated. I’m frustrated that I can’t control when it happens. I’m frustrated that I don’t know why. I think I know why and then I change my life to fix it and it comes back anyway. I’m scared that maybe it’s something that I just have to live with. And I’m angry at myself–– what is it about me, my personality, that makes me have these depressive episodes?”

Silence. The release of words is cathartic. My erratic breathing begins to stutter a little less.

“Babe, I know you are going to be okay because you are the strongest person I know,” he says.

Silence. I frown. Is that what he actually thinks? Or is he just saying that. I don’t feel strong. I feel broken.

“Bella,” he whispers, “I love you.”

Fresh tears begin to roll out of my tear ducts, slowly this time, as I feel the tide of anxiety and frustration and anger begin to ebb.

“I love you too.”

The Coffeelicious

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