I admit it; I have difficulty following through. Not necessarily with other people, but my promises to myself. My own goals. I’ve been contemplating this lately and believe I have found the source. High school. Tending to be consumed by melancholy, melodrama, and the usual narcissism of the average 20-something, I dwell on my high school experience as being The Worst of all high school experiences. And, sure, it wasn’t great. It was atypical. But was I shoved into lockers? Does that really still happen?
I graduated 8th grade at the top of my class. A class of eleven. That’s eleven people, including myself. And though I went on to a relatively small Catholic high school, the identity I developed and clung to throughout middle school was trampled and lost in a sea of several hundred other high school students who did not know me. Naturally reserved and observant, I initially tried to interject myself into their conversations and jokes, but 14 year old kids are not a naturally inclusive species and these kids had known one another for years through the incestuous web of Catholic elementary and middle schools. They had their friends, crushes, relationships, teammates – I was an extra, unnecessary effort.
I withered a little bit.
Still, seeing the same people each day in Latin and French and Science class begins to foster some degree of familiarity. I passed notes with a group of girls in Latin, written in English. None of us could actually speak Latin, but we could recite the Lord’s Prayer and the Hail Mary.
Emily was easily the coolest of the group. Unconventionally pretty in a way that you knew would turn into unconventional beauty. She was not self conscious about her family’s wealth, being unaware that hers was not the average family. She was quick witted yet overwhelmingly kind. No one could accuse her of being a snob.
Around Christmas time we were talking and laughing, discussing the difficulty in buying gifts when you have the income of a 15 year old. That is to say, none. Emily went into great detail about the long list of friends she had to accommodate. She trailed off awkwardly at one point.
“I mean, you’re my friend too,” she added hastily. “But, you know…”
“Oh, yeah,” I smiled, understandingly. “I just don’t know how I’m going to get my Christmas shopping done!”
It wasn’t cruel. We weren’t truly friends. We sat next to one another in Latin class. We had inside jokes about our Latin teacher and the impossibility of determining whether a word belonged in the vocative or nominative case. But a dead language can only take a relationship so far.
I withered a little bit more.
I mostly kept it together at school. I had good grades, talked to some people, showered regularly. My behavior outside of class alarmed my family. Showing up for another day of school inspired such terror in me that I began to have hysterical meltdowns every morning. Screaming, crying, begging and pleading to stay home. Rocking back and forth, pulling my own hair, punching myself in the head. They took me to the doctor. He prescribed a low dose of Paxil.
I didn’t want to take drugs.
It’s only temporary, he assured me.
I acquiesced, because it seemed to be what my mother wanted.
I began seeing a psychiatrist. Was I still depressed? Well, yes, I think so. School is still very difficult socially and I haven’t really made any friends and all of that is difficult for a pubescent teenager.
Okay, let’s increase your dosage.
Did you know that one of the side effects of Paxil, and many antidepressants, is moderate to severe weight gain? No one told me about that. How can we make a bad situation worse?