when i was 20 and depressed

by erinohsays

In May 2008, I was 20 years old and living in the Netherlands. I was depressed and living in a sad home with a sad woman. One morning I woke up around sunrise, went into the bathroom and cut off all my hair, as close to the root as possible. My hair had been growing long for several years and reached down to the middle of my back. It was beautiful and I was complimented on it a lot. With the sink full of my hair, I went back to bed and slept for a few more hours. In the afternoon I biked to a hair salon and asked the stylist to shave my head. She asked me why I had cut off all my hair. I don’t remember what I said.

In June 2008 I went to Barcelona with my dad for one week. I was at the lowest depth of my depression and although I enjoyed being with my dad for that week, I still felt hopelessly sad.

I wrote a lot during my twentieth year, kept a blog by that name, and filled my notebooks and blog mostly with entries about my observations of other people. Mostly, I just thought about how sad people were and how I felt sorry for them and how I hated feeling sorry for them but how I couldn’t feel any other way.

Today I decided to honour that year of my life by going through some of my writing from that time and putting it together in a book. I think the book will be a summer project. And this entry will be included in that book…

about one week before I cut my hair


May 30, 2008, written in Barcelona

Our first night in Barcelona we eat at La Fonda, recommended in my Lonely Planet guidebook. The couple seated next to us is from the northern part of England. They are going on a cruise the next day. He is 61. She figures he’s got 10 more years of travelling in him and they are taking a lot of time to do just that. They went to Mexico. Cancun. Heard Thailand is great, will also go there. “Tomorrow is promised to nobody,” he says.

A French couple on our second night out to dinner. He’s an engineer for urban planning. Designs traffic lights. Trying to get more people to ride bikes. I ask his wife what she does all day while he works. She opens up her wallet and points to the credit card. Giggles.

He has dark, kind eyes and his grey hair is pulled back into a ponytail. She wears all gold and carries a gold purse. Her eyeshadow is shimmery white. No mascara. I wonder if she takes her makeup off at night. That’s why I don’t like to wear makeup – you’ve got to take it off each night.

He watches her purse while she goes to the bathroom. Puts his hand on it and I imagine him dressed as a woman. I consider how comfortable I would feel, how absolutely fine it would be, if he was dressed as a woman at this moment.

At the bar last night dad and Julio play chess. Julio’s English is very good. He also speaks Dutch because he lived in the Netherlands for four years. But he had to return to Spain because it is his home. He missed it too much. Missed swimming in the sea.

Julio is learning Arabic and Chinese. He makes sure to learn one word every day. He says that the human mind is incredibly elastic. I like this word choice. He says that it is especially easy to learn other languages when you are young. You just have to listen. We can learn as much as we want. You just have to BELIEVE that you can.

Prostitutes line the streets one block from Las Ramblas [the major tourist avenue], during the day. At night they make their way to Las Ramblas. They are young, pretty, and black. I do not know where they come from. I ask dad how it’s possible to be aware of the fact that these women are put into this position because of not having much money and just one block away is excessive wealth and spending. How to acknowledge this imbalance and to not be disturbed by it. Upset by it.

Dad says there are so many disturbing things in the world but you have to decide which of the things will occupy your thoughts and use your energy. He says that a clam can let in some sand and that sand can irritate the clam until the clam isolates the sand and then turns it into a pearl. You can take something that irritates you and isolate it so that it does not consume you.

I am thinking about how I think it is also good to sometimes become outraged by the vast inequalities all around us. Because outrage can lead to change.

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