“Hello,” her hand raised, she assessed her reflection. Maybe not. “Hi…hey, what’s up?” Definitely not. This wasn’t some girl scout meeting (not that that would be much better), she wasn’t going to meet her best friends and sing kumbaya. Why did she even have to go to this stupid thing?
She knew the answer to that. She was fine most of the time, she didn’t need help. It was just that the days felt longer lately, and that wore her out a bit. Okay, it wore her out a lot.
It was usually math class when it hit. The middle of the day, with English and French over, was just the absolute worst possible time for math. Not to mention that Mrs. Donaldson was kind of the worst. Her dull voice could (and would) go on and on every day about whatever theories pleased her that day, yet somehow it never managed to make sense. It wasn’t just Rachel, either; no one understood anything in that class. Their teacher’s personal enthusiasm could in no way make up for her highly lacking teaching skills, as evidenced by their test scores.
It was sitting in that class, not in the front where she could be called out, nor the back where people could talk, but right in the middle, leaning against the wall, where she started to feel it again. Every day, like clockwork.
On the weekends it was less predictable. Mostly she slept through them, honestly. Sometimes she saw her friends, but usually she didn’t feel like it. If she wasn’t too worn out, she liked to take Bella for a walk.
Bella was her dog, and one of the few living creatures she still really liked these days. When she came home from school, too wiped out to even consider her homework, it was always Bella she looked for. There was something almost therapeutic about stroking the top of her head, keeping a rhythm and pattern that pleased them both.
There were some people she still liked of course. Her English teacher, Mrs. Alvarez, was quite nice. Rachel tried to come to school for her class because she always enjoyed it. Words were always the best escape, and Mrs. Alvarez understood that. She also had Megan, her closest friend. Megan didn’t seem to care what mood Rachel was in, she always wanted to talk to her. They’d known each other since middle school, and no matter what they were going through, Megan always treated Rachel the same. She really appreciated that.
It was also Megan who told Rachel’s parents she needed help. Rachel had noticed that Megan was talking even more than usual lately, and when her parents brought up the idea of group therapy, she was sure they couldn’t have come up with it on their own. She barely even talked to them these days.
That in itself had already caused concern for her parents. They had noticed her tiredness and how much she was missing school. She had stopped caring much about her appearance, too, usually wearing baggy clothes and sometimes forgetting to shower. They had hoped it was just a phase that some teenagers go through, and encouraged her to spend time with her friends on the weekends. When she expressed only apathy in response to their suggestions, they thought, well, aren’t all teenagers apathetic these days? In truth, they knew something more serious was going on, but they couldn’t admit it to themselves. It was after Rachel came to talk to them, and after they found the razor blades, that they knew they couldn’t keep lying to themselves. They had to help their daughter somehow.
Rachel didn’t even use the razor blades that much. She could stop anytime, really. It was just, sometimes the days felt so incredibly monotonous, almost like she was living in black and white, and that was hard. It was so hard. And sometimes it felt kind of good to feel something, even if it was pain. It was better than feeling nothing at all.
It wasn’t an addiction so it couldn’t really be that harmful. She was still in control of herself. She didn’t need this dumb therapy thing.
But she had to go anyway. Her parents were making her go, and, as much as she absolutely hated the idea and found it entirely pointless, she didn’t have the energy to fight them on it. She doubted she could win, anyway. If she had to go, she’d go, but that didn’t mean she had to like it, and it didn’t mean she had to care about how she looked or what she said.
She stepped away from the mirror and threw on some jeans and a sweatshirt she’d worn every day for the last week – it’s not like she was going to prom or anything – and brushed through her hair once before heading out.
The car ride there was silent. She sat in the passenger seat, her mother driving. No radio. Finally, her mother broke the silence.
“So, what will you say today?” Her tone was optimistic, but only just. The idea of group therapy was suggested to her by the school counsellor, but she wasn’t convinced the program could actually help. She just had to do something.
“Nothing, if I can help it.” Rachel’s voice stuck out in contrast to her mother’s as having no energy for optimism or pleasantries. At seeing her mother’s smile fade, Rachel feigned one of her own. “I’ll probably just say my name. It’s only the first day.”
Her mother’s face lit up a little again at that tiny bit of effort.
“That’s right, you have time. Get to know some people if you can.” Rachel nodded. She still didn’t think she needed to go to this, didn’t think it would help, but she also felt guilty for worrying her mother so much.
The car pulled into the parking lot. Rachel barely came to school on the weekdays, and here she was on a Saturday. The two got out of the car together – Rachel suspected her mom didn’t trust her to actually walk herself to the gym – and silently made their way to the gym. Though they didn’t talk, Rachel felt a small comfort in having her mom there. In having someone care so much.
After saying goodbye to her mom, Rachel took her seat in the circle of chairs they’d set up in the gym. She glanced around her and noticed some faces she didn’t recognize, but many she didn’t. She was surprised but didn’t say anything. They’d all be forced to talk soon enough.
“Hello everyone, and welcome to group therapy,” the school counsellor had also taken a seat in the circle, putting her on the same level as the students. “We have a new person with us today,” Rachel’s heart started racing suddenly, though she didn’t know why. She didn’t expect this. “Why don’t you tell us your name and why you’re here, and then everyone else will take turns introducing themselves to you.”
Shit. Shit. Shit. She was first. She wanted to run away. She wanted to hide. She thought about doing both of those things but doubted she could get far – the circle was in the middle of a pretty big gym, and even if she got out, she didn’t have a car. Plus, if she ran, all these people would see her do it. People she went to school with every day. What would they say?
“Hello,” she began, her voice trembling slightly, “my name is Rachel Kim, and I, um…I have depression.”