The Painting of Depression

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: True Confessions  |  House: Booksie Classic


I wish I could paint. I’ve been looking at images on the website of the Bethlem Museum of the Mind and the gallery, trying to find one which captures the essence of depression as I’ve seen it. I wish I could paint so that I could capture my sister’s eyes. The tightly stretched smile, head thrown back in a laugh, careless flip of the hair. Her eyes, twinkling, until her face falls back into its resting pose and you can see the wells deep in her eyes. Until you can see the concealed wariness and barely perceivable fear. She’s afraid.


I never connected with my sister. She irritated me. There was something always there, bugging me imperceptibly. This year, when she left home for the first time, I breathed a sigh of relief and spoke to her rarely. I said hi when the entire family called, and then escaped out of the room. She commented on it – light, breezy comments of ‘long time no speak!’ and ‘miss you!’ but she knew not to probe too deep, for fear of hitting on the barrier. What she was hiding.


Until May came, and she couldn’t hide it anymore. In a flurry of movement, my parents announced that they were flying out to where my sister dormed, something about a hospital and a casual ‘it’s a simple stomach issue’. She flew back, ostensibly recovered but very weak. And that’s when my parents told me. My sister, my beautiful, light-hearted, laughing sister, had attempted suicide. She had been ill with depression for a few years now. They were sorry they hadn’t told me before.


I no longer saw the hair flip, or the wide, hearty smile. I only saw the fear. The worry of upsetting us. her fear that she would always be this way. And mostly her fear of herself. She was confused, lost. We welcomed her and I felt a relief that the barrier was gone, I could see her for who she was. Until the confusion hit. Was this her, or was it her depression. Who was my sister? I started avoiding her again, wary of saying the wrong thing, pushing her too much, or too little.


I started observing. I saw how some days she pushed herself to be around us and smile, and how some days she couldn’t summon the energy to brush her hair. I saw as she struggled, how some days I could see the demon crushing her from the inside, sucking her soul with it.  The demon swallowed her, until she couldn’t even stretch her lips wide across her unbrushed teeth enough to show us that she was trying. 


The demon called depression devoured my family. We snapped and bickered, the house made of prickly glass, except around my sister’s room, where it was made of eggshells.


We expected it, when it happened. They say depression is treatable. So, what did we do wrong? We blamed ourselves of course. And each other – though we would never say it outright. We tried to peel the layers back, how could we have been different. We all had ideas for each other, but we couldn’t face our own failings, at least not in the daytime.


At night, I heard my father pacing til 4, when he fell into an exhausted sleep. My mother, restlessly waking at five, picking fights all day. My phone was my constant companion. Not for communication, which I had disowned, but for distraction and numbing. My brothers withdraw into their sullen haven of testosterone. 


We all left, seeking to find happiness, build a home that would be different – we would never let that happen. And then I saw my daughter writing this story, about her sister.

 


Submitted: May 23, 2021

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