Sitting in the doctor’s office, I hear the words. They leave her mouth like an anvil and slam upon the floor, the noise made by each previous contact making the next syllable more impossible to hear.
“You have depression.”
I leave my body and float out of the chair. I’m outside the hospital, gazing down on all that was. I’m flying further, and further, overcoming the very curvature of the world, and then I see it. My future, everything that will become of me, and all that was, laid before my very eyes.
My first sense is loss. Loss of mystery, of individuality, and most importantly, of choice.
My head is spinning. I’m falling, crashing through the sky. I miss the chair and my body and drown below into the depths of hell. I’m confronted by all that has ever scared me, a violent torture to my all-seeing soul.
I’m fired, divorced, my family has shunned me. Strangers spit on me, I’m left to rot. Slowly I decay into nothingness until the coolest realization, as I’m forced to linger while all I once loved is forgotten to me.
My heart skips a beat and I’m back in the chair. The doctor is still talking, I realize to myself. I haven’t heard a damn thing she’s said to me in the last five minutes. I hope it wasn’t important.
“The important thing is that there is hope, treatment, and I am going to help you.”
I stumble home from the office, dreading the moment I finally stop. When my footsteps no longer crowd my ears, I’m left with my thoughts. Depression. What does this mean?
It takes a while, but my life takes a surprising fork as I journey on the path to recovery. I actually get better. I’m working again, and somehow, my relationships are more fulfilling. It’s a Saturday, and I want to go to the park. Why? Just because. It’s a refreshing release, to finally do something because.
On Monday, I’m back in her office. She’s asking me questions and I can’t stop thinking about this chair.
“How are you feeling?”
I speak for a while and we exchange pleasantries. She’s happy to hear I’m doing well. In a way, it feels surreal. The doctor catches my smile and asks me what’s up, and I give a small chuckle.
“Last time I was here, I thought I was drowning.”
Editor’s note: The above is a fictional piece I wrote, as inspired by a recent conversation I had with a patient regarding the meaning of a diagnosis. They had felt a diagnosis made a lot of assumptions about them, and what their future looked like. They were glad to be proven wrong.
Dr. Travis Barron is a resident physician in Toronto, Canada.