Today is the Birthday I Don’t Want

I know. Birthdays are inevitable, and I just turned 63 today. This year is significant for me because my grandma Lilly died at 63, and I keep thinking about her. I was twelve years old when she died very suddenly, but I thought her age was old. I was young, still a kid with a lot of life to face ahead of me, and 63 sounded a world, a universe away from where I stood. I was just beginning to feel the signs of depression apart from Lilly’s death, and four years later, I would be in the grip of an illness, no one could either define nor understand. Including me.

I wonder if Lilly hadn’t died then, would I still have had depression tighten its tentacles around my brain? Or not? That’s not really fair. No one really knows why some people contract illnesses, especially mental ones. And I know it is normal to be depressed at times in our lives and that sadness is inevitable. It’s just that the depression I have is not “sadness.” It’s part of my life, my view on the world. Some days I can see pretty, and some days I cannot. I’m not writing for anyone to feel sorry for me. In fact, I could have had much worse happen to my brain.

Let me tell you about a student I had who always struggled to learn but tried anyway. I used to work with him on almost every subject, every school day. But then, one day, he walked into my office to work, and he was different. He spoke differently, and it was almost as if his personality had changed. As I talked with him, I realized something was very wrong. And then he looked me straight in the eye and said,

“Miss, you know when I told you I talk to God?”

“Yes,”

“Well, now I am God!”

I tried to stay calm. It was as though all the air had been sucked out of that little room when he said that. I don’t remember what I said next, but I tried to continue his English lesson as usual. I thought he was joking around, but the next day, he told me again, this time, leaning back in his seat, “Miss, I am God.”

Very soon, the counselors got involved and everyone else who deals with this sort of thing in the school pipeline. In a few days, we got a verdict.

Schizophrenia.

That’s worse than depression. I think.