There has been nothing fake or imagined about these last six weeks. It’s real happiness, but unfortunately, it’s also the calm before the storm. It’s very gradual. At first, I try to pretend the clouds aren’t rolling in, but I can’t hide when the first raindrops fall. Some evenings, I burst into tears for no reason. Leslie tells me this is normal, that it’s safe to feel now. I believe her, and then I’m fine for a while—until it happens again. The tears are acceptable—but slowly, the pain comes creeping back as well. I ignore it, reason with it, relabel it, sit with it. I don’t want to admit to myself or to Leslie that it is back. But eventually, I’m no longer able to deny it. Not only has the pain returned, it is back with a new force and power that completely knocks me off my feet. I have let myself down; I have let Leslie down; I am so bad that nothing will ever help. Its pain plus complete hopelessness. And this time, I know there will be no second miracle.
I thought I understood depression. It’s been my unwanted friend on and off for twenty years. I have no unit of measurement, no accurate test to confirm or deny our relationship. But at a fundamental level, I do know this: I know the difference between being depressed and being upset, between the emotional fluctuations of life and those caused by the illness. They may be intertwined or outwardly similar, their interplay complicated and subjective; but I am a self-appointed expert. But despite my expertise, I am still not prepared for my first real depressive episode.
That evening, I take June Bug for a walk in the soft air of dusk. It’s wonderful out, a warm breeze gradually sifting through the layers of the night. After a while, I try to lead June Bug back to her stall, but she plants her feet. I give her ten more minutes, gazing contentedly across the grounds while she roots around in the dirt with her nose. She still doesn’t want to come in, and while I could make her, I don’t. It’s too right, the two of us out under the comforting glow of the moon, speaking through our silent connection. We aren’t alone—a horse show never sleeps—but a curtain has been drawn over the frenzy of the day.
I am afraid. Not because I am in danger, but because my sense of hope won’t die. My insides are electric, though outwardly I am composed. Her office is like any other: a small room with a desk and places to sit. Unassuming and clean, decorated in a simple palette of beige with touches of darker colors, it is a space that has no feelings—perhaps to make allowance for mine. Casually dressed, she fits her room. She has tight brown curls like Leslie’s, although she is taller. We greet each other and take our seats, me slumped in defeat but also wrapped in my own tension—because as I’ve said, there is hope where there shouldn’t be any. She curls her knees up onto the chair, the informality of her posture putting me slightly at ease. Settled is the word that comes to mind. I get to the point. “Can you help me?” “I don’t know,” she answers, “although I have helped others in the past, and will continue to try to do so.” Her voice is liquid, with no edges at all. She makes honesty sound inviting and kind.
Elspeth Roake spent her childhood on the move, between Canada, Germany, and California, before settling on the East Coast to receive a B.S. in psychology from Vassar College. She has twenty years of experience in the horse show industry, and currently lives with her bunnies in New York State. This is her first book.