“I am happy.”
These were the first three words for my school project, three words a day for a month. Simple.
It started off light and happy, never delving into the full extent of my life. Why would I want my teacher to know my deepest thoughts. Especially since my day was never really all sunshine and rainbows. There was always the shadow lurking around the corner.
About a quarter way through it I didn't really realize my words were changing into slightly darker words. Instead of great it was okay. Then okay slowly changed to bad, and bad changed to miserable. They were so small that I didn't really notice that I was doing it. By the time the halfway mark happened all three words were so depressing, you would never know that I knew the word happy.
The reason for this was it was my fault he died. I killed him. Everyone says that I didn't “It wasn't your fault dear.” “He was to far gone.” “No one could have stopped it.” Yet I knew I could have stopped it. I let him get so far gone. I killed him.
By now everyone though I accepted it. They thought I believed them. I let them think that. Why would I want to go back to therapy, when all the therapist would do is try to get me to believe false facts and take medicine to make me “better?”
By the end of the project, I went back and read all my words. I saw the change. I could feel the shadow surrounding me again. I was too tired to change my words. Let my teacher find out. Let me go back to therapy. I didn't care anymore. I didn't care about anything anymore.
The day I turned in my months worth of words was the night my nightmares returned, I wasn't surprised. The next day I was called down to the principal's office. My parents were there. “I thought you were better.” “You were just happy a month ago.” “What happened?” I just tuned it out. I was going back to therapy. I had to take the medicine again.
I went back. I didn't really listen. Didn't talk to her unless necessary. Even then I only muttered one-word answers, two if needed. It only took me a week to figure out how to hide the fact that I wasn't taking my medicine. The nightmares came every night. I only got worse. After all, it only gets worse before it gets better.
I had only one thought on my mind. “It's my fault.” I didn't, no, couldn't think about anything else. I went through the day like a zombie, and at night I relived it all.
It soon became clear that I wasn't taking my medicine. My therapy sessions increased from once a week to three times a week. I had to be watched when taking the medicine. About two weeks after this all started I started paying attention to my therapist. I still, to this day, don't completely know why.
My therapist was someone I never listened to. So to suddenly start, surprised everyone. I would look her in the eyes and I would finally understand some things she was trying to say. Once I started listening she made me realize he was gone. Something I never wanted to believe.
Then there was this new kid at school who was in three of my classes. She had taken one look at me, and I swear, she saw right into my soul. She came right over to me and said, “I'm Lily. We are now friends, deal with it.” She didn't treat me like I was a delicate piece of China. She treated me like a human.
Soon I started taking my antidepressants with no argument, the nightmares decreased, and I could think again. Part of the reason might be because I finally accepted that he was dead and wasn't coming back. Or it might have been because someone had brought some unintentional sunshine through the shadow. It was honestly most likely a mixture of them both. After that, it only went up.
Three months later, my last year in high school ended. I was back to only one therapy session a week and my prescription went from two pills a day to one. My nightmares had decreased so much that I rarely got them. Lily hung out with me all the time. I was content with life. Then Lily had to move away. I felt the shadow creeping back. “Be strong. You've come so far. It's time to accept it and move on. I will visit you, and you me. I love you best friend.” She was my true soul sister.
Three weeks after she left, I was tunneling. When, who I thought was, my single opportunity to be happy left, the shadow had come back and wasn't leaving anytime soon. I didn't know what to do with my life anymore. At this time I didn't realize the way to happiness was myself.
It didn't take long for most of my progress to disappear, for me to become a living zombie again. This time though, my mom and dad noticed right away. But this time they sat down with me and just hugged me. Then they gave me a question, “Do you want to live?” This question is one I still every once in awhile I have to ask myself.
This question had made me think. Which had led me to wonder about what Lily said. I was the one who watched him slowly lose his life and give it to the bullies, and I was also the one who found him hanging from the beam in the basement with a note under his feet. Maybe I could have done something told a teacher, stand up for him, gotten Mom and Dad to move us. But maybe, maybe that wouldn't have changed anything. What if he didn't want to be saved.
It had taken me three years to read the note. I had buried it along with the fact that I might not have been able to do anything. The note was so simple. But it spoke volume for me, “I love you sister.”
The night I read the letter, I had a dream and he was there. He just stood there looking at me. Ethan, he wasn't angry, but at peace. It had brought me to contentment, and probably started my journey to freedom.
It didn't instantly get better, definitely not. Rather then that, it was a very, very slow process. For about three months I was still in a trance. The only thing that changed was the fact that I was always thinking about a happy life, a future that I could have. I didn't know, at the time, that I could make it happen.
Then two weeks later I made the first attempt at happiness. I decided to ask my therapist something. “How do I get better?” She had been quite surprised at first but then she smiled and said, “You can only get better if you're ready to be.” I didn’t talk anymore that session, but when I returned I said the simple word, “Yes.”
She wasn’t shocked, she just seemed incredibly happy, something that I didn’t understand. She just asked me if I wanted to talk about anything. I just asked my previous question. “How?” She didn’t respond for some time. She just sat there studying me. “That depends on you. I never got to know you through you, just from what I’ve heard. I know almost nothing about you.” It took me a few seconds to figure out that she meant that there was no magical cure for everyone.
In the end, we spent that therapy session with her asking me some questions. Most I forgot how to respond to. I didn’t know my favorite food anymore, it all tasted the same to me, I didn’t know what I liked to do, I stopped doing anything when he died, I forgot all the songs I used to rock out to, I forgot me. She gave me some suggestions. Listen to some music, startup doing stuff I used to love doing, I was scared. What if I didn’t ever find something to love again?
When I got home I asked my mom what I used to love, I didn’t remember the feeling. She went into the basement and came up with a box full of drawings and paintings that I forgot all about. She gave it to me silently and I went into my room. I spent that whole night looking through them. I felt motivated for the first time in a long time.
Over the next few weeks I would pick up a pencil and draw the smallest doodle, that led to bigger doodles, until I drew something I used to love drawing. It was a scene at a lake with my whole family in it. It wasn’t as good as it once was since I hadn’t drawn it in a very long time. I still have this drawing and it has tear stains on it, but this is what really started me on my journey.
After that, I started drawing many things, but I also started going out to places besides my therapy sessions. I went to the park often and got my first job at a nearby cafe. I even took up a yoga class once a week. I made friends with my co-workers and fellow yoga classmates. It was nice.
Three months later I decided to try and get into college. I hadn’t wanted to before, I saw no reason. Now I wanted to, and was finally ready to completely move forward from this chapter in my life. I got everything ready and applied to community colleges far enough away that I could start over, but not too far where I couldn’t visit my parents, my friends, and Ethan's grave. I got accepted and majored in art.
The four years certainly weren’t easy. I had multiple relapses, they weren’t as bad as it once was. I knew to take my meds and I went to see my therapist during them. In daily life, I went to monthly therapy sessions for awhile, but they slowly dwindled down to only once every blue moon. I had friends and I was finally moving towards something I always wanted, even if I forgot for awhile.
I know I will always miss Ethan, and that my depression was something that could always relapse, but now I know how to work through it. I’m finally happy with my life.
“I am happy” these words haven’t been true for awhile, but now they are.