It’s nearly 11:30pm, and you’re driving alone on the highway, singing along to Pearl Jam in your best (unintentional) Eddie Vedder voice. Lately, this is the only time you’re happy, the only time you feel free. It’s always either Pearl Jam or Hootie & the Blowfish on nights like these, even though it’s 2013, and neither band has been relevant or popular for almost twenty years. On the rare occasions when it’s not one of them, it’s Swedish House Mafia. You don’t even like house music, but something about “Don’t You Worry Child” speaks to you when you’re feeling manic.
You come to the realization that you’re depressed. It’s not something you were actively thinking about; rather, the thought just popped into your head. The depression that almost drowned you during middle school, high school, and the early part of college is back, but it’s different this time. It doesn’t necessarily make you want to destroy yourself, at least not in the physical sense. Instead, it turns the contrast down on everything around you, until your world seems gray and uninviting. These days, you’re always tired no matter how much you sleep. Often, you don’t sleep during the night, instead being kept awake by your racing thoughts. Despite the fact that you don’t have to get up terribly early for work, you struggle to get out of bed each and every day. You stop calling your friends and find ways to cancel plans as often as possible without coming across as a bitch. You prefer to be alone, carving yourself a place in the world that’s so secluded no one will ever be able to reach you if you keep it up. Your weekends consist mainly of Gossip Girl and Homeland marathons. The former provides a mindless escape from your not-so-charmed life, while the latter makes you feel both uncomfortable and fascinated by how well you relate to Carrie Mathison’s emotional instability.
You fucked up your relationship of four and a half years, the one with The Boy you started dating halfway through college and were supposed to marry. Once again, you expected too much of him, just as you expect too much of everyone else in your life. You became that woman – the one who nags and pushes for a perfect life and a ring on her finger without considering the other party’s feelings. He put up with it for a long time, but there’s only so much a person can take. Now he needs to figure out if he can trust you again, or if you’re just too much crazy in one package.
To fill the void left by him, you make an online dating profile but quickly realize that no one is as good as he was. Even the nicest guys do little things that piss you off, like using too many emojis in their text messages or calling you “cutie”. You would do anything to work things out with The Boy, and that includes agreeing to be friends with benefits. You normally hate fucking people you aren’t dating, but you tell yourself that if you do it often enough and well enough, you just might win him back.
Your job, the one that was once your dream job, has worn you down into a near-perpetual state of misery. The long hours, the schedule packed with committee meetings and training webinars and networking events, wear on you. You’re being underpaid and doing the jobs of three people, and your boss doesn’t appreciate you. You fantasize about flipping everyone off and passing through those double doors for the final time, but you wouldn’t have the balls to be unemployed. Now that you’re single and have successfully isolated all of your friends, work is all you have left, and that leads to one miserable existence. You fully realize that you were a hundred times happier working a simple administrative job in an office where you were respected, but $14.50 an hour and no benefits is not appropriate for someone with a Master’s degree.
You realize as you’re driving that you need to be a more positive person, that you complain too much. You need to roll with the punches and be okay with things not working out the way you’d planned, but that’s just not how you tick. If you give The Boy space to think about what he wants, he very well may come back; it just goes against your nature to leave something so important out of your control.
You’re still killing yourself, you realize. You may not be carving your flesh with razors anymore, but you’re suffocating yourself under your own pressure and building a system of impossible expectations. Something needs to change before you dig yourself an early grave. Unfortunately, these answers cannot be found in mediocre 90’s music. You need to do some soul searching, even if you’re afraid of what you might find.
Gretchen Corsillo is a writer and librarian living in the suburbs of NYC. She holds a B.A. in Literature & Creative Writing from Ramapo College and a Master's of Library & Information Science from the University of Pittsburgh. Gretchen is a columnist for Public Libraries Magazine, and her writing also appears in Salon and Feminine Collective. Find her on Substack at gretchencorsillowrites.substack.com.