The New Old Depression

It was a Friday afternoon, the day before my son’s eighteenth birthday. The weather was cold or warm, overcast or sunny, but not raining. Too early for rain; it wasn’t even spring yet. We pulled into the underground parkade as if leaving civilization behind. It felt like hospital. Somehow every parkade felt the same, even the new ones where the zones have sweet names like “forest” and “prairie”.

We checked in and I sat down, glad to not be back in the triage zone having to explain the unexplainable to a nurse trying to make my unexplainable fit into a drop-down menu category. We were placed in one of the “mental health” rooms in Urgent Care, and told to sit on one of the vinyl chairs. Me, in the farthest corner from the door, my husband four feet away but beside me. Opposite him stood a bedside table with a phone. I wondered how old the phone was and if anyone ever used it. “Is that a real window?” my husband asked, knowing the answer before I looked through the blinds at the mirror behind it. Why had we chosen these two chairs, I wondered? The third chair sat empty, waiting for the psychiatrist. I stared at it, waiting, trying to imagine what the psychiatrist would be like. Old, probably.

She walked in, and she was breathtakingly beautiful, with a smile that warmed up the room. Not what I expected, and I almost forgot where I was. She asked me dozens of questions about my life growing up and my life as an adult and then asked if we wanted to know her diagnosis.

“Please,” we both pleaded.

“It’s depression,” she replied, in the same tone she would use if I were being diagnosed with a cold.

We were both surprised. I’d never had any problems getting out of bed. I never wondered if I should be alive. I never felt alone or unloved.

“But I never feel worthless or guilty,” I said, confused by her diagnosis.

“You need cognitive behavioural therapy,” she replied. “You’ve been ill for a very long time,” she added, “and you’re going to need medication and therapy to get better.”

She gave me a prescription for Seroquel and Cipralex and wished us luck. She promised to see me in a month, and we came back, dutifully returning to the parkade and the vinyl chairs.