I sat outside the psychiatrist’s office playing Tetris on my Nokia 3310. Or maybe it was Snakes. I can’t quite recall. I was seated in one of those fabric, wooden chairs that visually testified comfort but like puffy white clouds those tales of softness were a short lived fallacy. It had only been 40 minutes and my ass was already starting to go numb. I was stationed in the waiting area. Which wasn’t a room, It was just a narrow hallway with chairs pushed up against a naked wall that ran opposite side a row of closed doors with doctors’ surnames printed on acrylic, name plates. Neat. The scene wasn’t a chaotic mess like most hospitals or emergency clinics. In fact, apart from me having to tuck my legs in every time a doctor or member of staff walked by there wasn’t much else going on. No distant sounds of screaming or nurses trying to pacify an insubordinate patient — you know, like how psych wards were in the movies. Instead there was just a clutter of patience who sat silently as if lost in there own world, female nurses who giggled softly and batted their eyelashes as they conversed with a handsome gentleman, who I assumed was a doctor(though dressed informally) and in the background of it all was the quiet yet audible sound of Surfin USA by The Beach Boys.
The receptionist typed away on an old IBM computer which hinted at government budget cuts and an outdated system which is probably the reason it took 4 months for me just to get an appointment. Despite the retro gear, the strawberry blonde, 30 something year old, pushed down on the mechanical keys as if disarming a nuclear weapons code. She looked up and smiled as a mother paced towards her desk, holding the hand of her teenage daughter. I stared at a lonely clock that sat on an egg shell, white wall at the end of the long, monotonous corridor. The time was 12:51, 50 minutes after my scheduled appointment. I had already arrived 10 minutes late which was mostly due to the social laws that dictate all mothers be notoriously unpunctual — especially when it came to meetings that weren’t periodical. They made up for it though — by being 5 hours early for every flight abroad. Not that it mattered, not here. On time or not, you still had to wait. That was the nature of the health service. The demand was always greater than the supply.
It took another half an hour before my name was finally called out by a female doctor who stood halfway outside her office as if fully stepping out of her work space would take her out of her flow. Not til’ lunch, I imagined. I abandoned my non-ending game of Tetris and stood up allowing the blood to once again flow through my legs. A few glances were made my way. Mostly from those who were of similar age. I didn’t exist until she called my name. I stepped into her office and she closed the door behind us.
The room was a typical, therapist office but not the ‘lie down on the chaise longue while I sketch boobies’ type. There was no office desk or computer. No sense of authority. Instead there was a coffee table that housed a lamp and a box of disposable napkins. There was a wooden shelf incased with a library of books that most likely delved into the subject of psychology. There was a beige sofa sat against an alabaster painted wall that was decorated with framed paintings which were rather plain and non-resonating. There was also a faux leather office chair slumped with a family of polka dot pillows that didn’t really match anything in the room except perhaps the doctor’s personality. Overall the space looked like someone tried to shove their living room into a generously sized closet and somehow managed to succeed. I sat on the sofa and my ass thanked me for it. There was a window, covered with a vertical, cream, shutter blind that acted as a diffuser — allowing warm light to flow into the room and create a sense of coziness. The therapist introduced herself before gesturing her hand towards a young Asian male who stood awkwardly in the corner of the room with both hands in his pockets. She introduced him as an intern or a trainee or something like that. I wasn’t really paying attention. There was a toy tiger seated by the book shelf next to some boring wooden ornaments. How strange I thought. It seemed so displaced. Like the only thing in the room that harbored any sort of imagination. Like a purposeful distraction. The therapist went on about the intern. Something about him needing to be there to observe and take mental notes. She asked if I was okay with that and I nodded my head. I was more interested in knowing why the tiger was there.
The session begun and after regurgitating a list of symptoms made after visiting my family doctor, the therapist asked me a question that to me, seemed rather bizarre. “Are you depressed?” Well, fuck me Einstein, weren’t you suppose to be the specialist here? If you wanted a self diagnoses you should have just went through my Twitter account or followed my SoundCloud for a playlist of doleful melodies that would have made Rick Astley give up on love. There was a long moment of silence but I didn’t feel any awkwardness in the room. It was a friendly silence which was only tainted by the fact she was still waiting for me to answer her question.
I didn’t know much about psychiatrists but I knew enough about lawyers from the plethora of 90’s crime novels I’ve read over the years. I learned about how they rarely interrupted their client or prompted them to answer with haste. Everything was done to establish a necessary trust between both sides. A feeling of comfort. A realm where anything that was said, was said in confidentiality and would never leave the room unless the client gave the lawyer permission to do so. I thought attorneys and psychiatrists were similar in that regard. Their ‘clients’ trusted them with their deepest and darkest secrets. Was I suppose to trust her? “How does one know they’re depressed?” I finally asked, breaking the kind silence. She smiled as if she were waiting for the question and began in detail describing the difference between depression and clinical depression. I fitted more in the second category but I didn’t tell her that. Instead I asked her if there was a third option? She smiled. She’ll soon learn that I used humor as a coping mechanism or maybe more so as a deflection. In fact, she might soon learn everything about me. She took notes. I once again looked over at the tiger.
“You make music?” I turned back to the doctor. She was pretty. Not in the holy smokes, Jennifer Connelly kinda way but in the ‘I would have had a crush on you in grade school if you were my maths teacher’, kinda way. The question threw me off. I didn’t know how my music making found it’s way into the doctor’s notes. “Not anymore,” I replied. “Why’d you stop?” There was a pause as I thought about it. “I just don’t see the point.” “Just like you don’t see the point in being here? Or leaving your room? Or talking to anyone?”. I frowned. Where did that come from? I could tell I wasn’t gonna fly through this like a job interview so I readied myself for turbulence. I looked to the box of disposable napkins posed on the oval shaped, coffee table. I better not fucking cry. “Have you ever had any suicidal thoughts?” “Every morning I wake up and every night before I go to bed. I could never go through with it though. Not brave enough.” “Suicide isn’t an act of bravery, it’s an act of hopelessness. A terrible affliction. It’s a surrender.” “Maybe it’s both,” I mumbled, more so to the air than to anyone in the room.
“Why do you want to kill yourself?” I suddenly realized how weird this situation was. Here I was divulging all my deepest secrets to a complete stranger. Why? Was it because I trusted that she could actually help? Was it just because I wanted to put my mother at ease and stop her worrying? It didn’t seem fair that she got too peep through my mind and see the broken shards of memories, the messy chamber of ideas and proposals yet to see the light of day. The hunched back demon that salivated over his entrée of negative thoughts and the quiet boy who sat alone in a bubble of nostalgia, hoping to escape time and reality. “What’s your favorite kinda cake?” I asked, nonchalantly with the delivery of an A-list actor. I needed to know something about her. It didn’t matter if it was dumb or not. She pressed her lips together as she feigned a smile and leaned back almost discontentedly. As if I had dived into the deep waters to save her from drowning in the ocean only to unknowingly ruin her romantic scheme of getting rescued by the attractive, on-duty lifeguard. “I’m not really a cake person. I prefer Meringue or Tiramisu but I’m not that big into desserts.” Although I felt slightly triumphant at hearing her tell this frivolous tale, I also felt slight unease at the fact that I was now bestowing my trust into a person who didn’t like desserts. The fuck? Did she also dislike rainbows? “Why do you want to kill yourself?” She asked again, abandoning my improvised dialogue and going back to the former script. She gave me time to answer the question, as well as the next one after that and the next one but the more I spoke up the more I felt like my life wasn’t really a woebegone search for an interstellar. I mean it wasn’t that bad at all. I hadn’t lost a loved one or grown to old to follow my dreams yet. I hadn’t been diagnosed with a terminal illness or being a victim of sexual abuse or bullying — at least not beyond comprehension. I hadn’t lost everything I held dear or been abandoned by family and friends after having exploited my kindness. I hadn’t let the pressures of society turn me into something I’m not. In fact anyone that knew me, knew I was one in a million. A loser who would never conform. So why did I want to kill myself? Why did those thoughts exist in my brain? The psychiatrist gave me a short answer that I’ve heard a millions times before now but only at that given moment did it truly register in my head. Depression was a mental illness. It didn’t take a reason or a circumstance. It was a dark cloud on a sunny day. A lonely island in the middle of Paris city. A place where everyone spoke French except me. A rose in a thorn bush. The psychiatrist was now busy taking down notes as I sat there unloading an epiphany that seemed transparently obvious. I stared at the tiger on the shelf. The uncrowned King of the jungle. A symbol of manhood or perhaps just fierceness and confidence. It had no reason to be sad because though the world was a jungle it was built for the wild. But what if there was a tiger who felt like the jungle was much too harsh an environment for it’s passive self? Who felt like it’s heart was made of glass and it’s claws made of cardboard. Who didn’t understand why it was burdened to be a predator. To have such powerful jaws or sharp daggers for teeth. A tiger who never saw the beauty in it’s striped fur or it’s glowing amber eyes and couldn’t fathom why a rock band named, Survivor would orchestrate a fighting song about such a dull feature. Maybe that tiger would wonder why it was always so sad despite never having a reason.
The doctor finally looked up and gave me a brief analysis of her notes. She stated that in spite of her thorough questioning she was unable to come up with an exact diagnosis for my mental health. She expressed with concern that there could be multiple layers of psychological disorders that would each need separate attention and examination. She made a note to refer me to another specialist. After another short conversation she called my mother into the office. I took the chance to check my phone. Quarter to 3. So the session only lasted an hour and 20 minutes.
The psychiatrist seemed to be a lot more cheerful when speaking to my mom who sat there with her eyebrows burrowed for the entire conversation. The psychiatrist smiled throughout. Probably another façade to dispel parents of their perturb. The bubbly personality suited her though. It matched the pillows. Before long I was outside the clinic and back in the passenger side of my mom’s Nissan. I was left alone to wonder what my multi-faceted illness could be and when next would I be scheduled for an appointment. For now all I could think about was the sad tiger who had no reason to be depressed but never the less didn’t want to exist. It didn’t belong in that office but like me, it didn’t belong in the wild either. I wonder if it too would come to the patent realization that the very nature of depression was that it often existed without true reason or cause. It was in every regard, a sorrowful melancholy.