Here’s the depression section of Joe’s essay. (If you’d like to read Joe’s entire essay, click here for my blog post, which also shows the positive feedback Joe received from a number of Psych Central readers.) And, yes, he got an A!
I make my way to my car, open it and sit. I sink into the cushions and feel enveloped like I was molded into the seat. I look at the key in my hand and get a weird sense. Unsure of what it is at first I check myself. I run through all the items I should have on me. Work shoes, nice socks, pants (wet but manageable), shirt, tie… I figure out the sense was one of remembrance. I forgot something. I have my keys in my hand, phone in my front pocket, and my wallet is molded in the seat cushions. I look to the passenger seat of my beat up Neon and see that it is empty. MY BAG! I left it all the way up in my apartment! Ah man, now I am not even going to be on time to work! I sink further into my seat.
Is it even worth it to go back up and get it? I’m sitting and contemplating this to myself. Is it even important? I mean, I don’t even use it that much; it just looks good to walk in with one. I’m not going to get that promotion anyways, my boss hates me. He will fire me, it doesn’t matter if it is tomorrow or next month, it will happen eventually. So what does the bag matter? A few missing papers won’t effect the outcome of anything.
So it is decided to go without the bag because honestly no one will care about it. I look out to the road and see traffic… moving … fast… why is everyone speeding? They’re all blurs. The world is moving too fast for me. They should slow down… there is no way I can keep up with that sort of velocity. Well I should turn on my car and try from there.
Put the key… into the ignition. I look at my hand loosely held onto the key. I cage the key with my fingers, one by one, to ensure that it does not lose my grasp. My head is stationary in the mold as my eyes watch my keys… carefully. I start to try raising my keys to the ignition… since when have these keys weighed so much? They don’t seem to budge from its immobile position. I can move them with my fingers, but my arm refuses. It’s like someone chained me onto my seat… I am not motivated to do this whole moving thing.
I move my eyes to my other hand to take a look at my watch. The sleeve covers the hour digits, but the minutes read fifty eight. Whatever the hour actually is won’t matter because I know I’ll be late… well, who cares. This is just one more day that I will be tardy, and a few dollars less that I will receive on my paycheck. It’s not even worth the energy to turn on my car.
Surely Joe didn’t completely capture what it’s truly like to be depressed. But I am convinced that he learned a great deal from this exercise and that he will now go through life with a heightened sense of awareness and respect for depression and all forms of mental illness.
What if this assignment became part of every high school curriculum? Might it make an important step toward mental health awareness?