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Saturday, September 11, 2010
Tropical Elevation by Kim Sheard
Colleen practically skipped out of her doctor's office and into the waiting room. The young man behind the reception desk noticed her and slid open the glass window. He smiled at her; his teeth were crooked but very white, and his pleasant expression made her own grin even bigger.
"Ready to check out?" he asked. A name plate pronounced that he was "Dan Johnston."
"Oh, yes!" Colleen answered. She didn't know this man, and she knew she should be quiet, but she couldn't help adding, "Possibly forever!"
"Treatment is going well, then?" he asked, genuine interest in his dark eyes. Colleen rested her elbows on the counter. "Two years ago I thought this day would never come. I thought I would be depressed forever."
It was true. On her darkest days, pounding headaches had kept her in bed, where she had no trouble sleeping twenty hours straight. When she'd moved through her "normal life," she had done so in a fog, performing actions that seemed to have no meaning. No accomplishment brought her joy, and spare time brought no fun. The only emotions she seemed capable of feeling were sadness and anger, and anger actually felt good to her, if not to the subjects of her wrath. At least when she was angry she was feeling something. Caring about something, even if it was only a typo in a report.
She hadn't been happy, and she hadn't been very nice, either. Thank goodness she had finally sought help due to, of all things, a commercial on television.
But those days were over now. She'd suffered through samples of several different antidepressants until she found the perfect one for her and talked about frustrations until she had no words left. "I have worked very hard in therapy, and I've taken my meds religiously. I deserve to feel better," she said.
"Yes, you do. Congratulations," Dan said. Lowering his voice he asked, "Are you concerned about recurrence?" Colleen knew that something like half of the people who suffered a severe depression once would suffer it again.
She shrugged. "It might happen. I try not to think about it too much. But at least now I can notice it sooner, and I know it can be licked!"
"That's a very valuable lesson. Congratulations again on your recovery," Dan said, handing her a receipt for the day's services and smiling at her once more.
Colleen also tried to not think about the stigma that was usually associated with "mental illness." Why psychiatric problems were treated so differently from physical ones, she had no idea. After all, the brain was a part of the body, with its own physiology and hormones. She'd been careful in the last few years to discuss her problem and her treatment only with those she thought would appreciate and understand the discussion. She certainly would not bring it up with her parents or, God forbid, her boss, who she thought could use some Prozac himself. But she dreamed of a day when she could casually talk about her depression like others talked about sprained ankles. She might even be able to help someone else through it. She would hate to think of one of her friends or family members sliding, without help, into the darkness she had seen, lived in, and finally survived.
The strains of Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" echoed in her head, although she changed the lyrics to "I Have Survived."
"Ask me how I'm going to celebrate," she said to Dan, suddenly realizing she was still standing in front of the reception desk.
"How are you going to celebrate?" he said obediently.
"I'm taking a trip to South America," she said. "I've been wanting to go since I was a kid. It's a goal I set for myself when I started getting treated for my depression."
"The tropics?" Dan asked. At Colleen's nod, he said, "That's great. Exotic. Adventurous. I like that in a woman."
Colleen blinked. Was he actually flirting with her? Was he allowed to do that, considering he worked for her doctor? Well, former doctor. She bit her lip nervously, though her heart sped up with joy at the possibilities. "Thank you," is all she could think of to say.
"Think you'd be willing to show me your pictures when you get back? We could meet for coffee or, if you're up for it, dinner."
"Are you sure that's what you want?" she asked. "You know my medical history. Doesn't it bother you?" There was that stigma again. She'd managed to run off several men with her temper even before her depression had been diagnosed, though. She'd certainly be a better date now.
He rose from his chair and leaned forward so that they were now looking at each other eye to eye. He smelled faintly of wood smoke. "Let me ask you a question. Which feels more like you, depressed Colleen Waters or exotic, adventurous Colleen Waters?"
She took a step back and thought for a moment. "Well, obviously I like this 'me' better, but the depression was, and is, a part of me, too."
"Sure," he said, and "I've seen both, if you recall."
Colleen was ashamed to admit to herself that she'd never really noticed him the past. She was surprised; he was quite attractive, with wavy black hair and a strong jaw. Plus, he was obviously kind and understanding.
"If this is the Colleen you want to be," he continued, "I'm fine with that and everything it took to get you here."
She almost sighed with relief. Not only could she lick depression, but she could be attractive to someone who'd seen her in both conditions. She was going to like this new life!
Very clearly, very distinctly, she said, "I would love to show you my vacation pictures, Dan. Shall I call the office when I get back?"
He grinned again and shook her hand. His was large and very warm. "Please do," he said. "I look forward to it."
So did Colleen. But first, she had some toucans and monkeys to meet.
There was a wonderful world out there, and she was ready to see it all.
About the Author: Kim Sheard left corporate life in 2008 and now spends half her work day walking dogs and the other half writing. Her EPIC Award nominated romance novella, Movin’ Up With J.J., is available through The Wild Rose Press, and another, The Show Must Go On, has been published by Bookstrand. Visit her at www.kimsheardauthor.com. Writing LiveJournal: http://kimsheard.livejournal.com