2. In the pink.
My psychiatrist had a pink waiting room long before breast cancer hijacked the colour.
As soon as I saw the, chalky rose walls I thought I’d stepped into something straight out of Brave New World, the part where the kids visiting the hospice were given chocolate éclairs when someone died.
For the next ten minutes all I could think was “Fuck, I hope he doesn’t offer me cake.”
I got here because I thought I had Aids. I was losing weight and feeling anxious and the only reason I picked Aids was that it was the late eighties and there were all these ads on TV about it being EVERYWHERE.
Plus, I’d been losing weight at great speed for three weeks for no apparent reason. I was in my twenties, working in advertising and supposedly living the dream on Sydney Harbour.
I didn’t actually feel ill. I felt lethargic, heavy and increasingly paralysed. I couldn’t move my arms and legs because my brain wouldn’t let me.
I think I saw every single doctor in North Sydney: each produced a battery of tests and every time the tests were normal.
I didn’t have Aids. I didn’t have anything.
But I was exhausted.
I flew back to my hometown of Melbourne and saw my childhood GP.
“You’re depressed,” he said. It sounded like bullshit to me.
“%&*!!!>”:#??,” I replied coherently.
“I’m going to recommend you see a psychiatrist. This guy is one of the best.”
Some people take great pride in saying they were the first in their family to go to university. I was the first to see a psychiatrist but I couldn’t talk about it, not even to my family, because nobody understood it.
In 1988 the only person I could talk to was Dr. D, a man who made a good cup of Earl Grey. Thankfully he did not offer baked goods, though he seemed to receive an awful lot of them from patients.
I’m not going to write about living in dark tunnels nor; am I going to pen moving or elegiac words about the beauty beneath mental illness, because really, it’s a fucking bore.
I’m a clinical depressive. Unlike the girls in the Maybelline ads I was born with it, which explains my cross face in every baby photo. I'm sure I would manage to be severely depressed the day after winning the Pulitzer Prize. (This, alas, has not yet happened. I’ll let you know when it does.)
I don’t need reasons to get depressed. I have these moving men in my brain who turn up unannounced, shift the furniture around, then disappear for days, weeks or sometimes months.
I give them drugs and they eventually leave. But the drugs are only part of it.
Dr. D’s waiting room is my safe place. When the day has been cruel and I’ve felt lonely in a crowd of friends, or my anxiety levels are through the roof, this is where sanity lies.
Other waiting rooms are pretty homogenous, in that everyone is there for the same reason. Dr. D’s waiting room is different. There are people who probably have no idea why they’ve been invited, while others can’t remember how they got there. Does it feel crazy? No, it feels normal and very sane.
In here is my Normal.
When I’m here I’m reminded just how fucking crazy and demanding it is out there in the world. Many of the people in here are far too clever or cerebral to cope with the trivia of life, while others are just damaged or balancing on life’s emotional tightrope, where they’ve been hanging since childhood.
We depressives are pretty much the least exotic of the bunch. You’ve got your bulimics, anorexics, bipolars, schizophrenics; in fact I suspect there’s probably a fun infographic that circulates on a closed psychiatrist Facebook group. I can’t say that I feel I’m amongst friends when I’m in the waiting room. It’s a bit like Liam Neeson’s infamous Taken speech: “I don’t know who you are, I don’t know what you want.’
I’m not even sure they know what they want. But actually, that’s pretty normal.