We had a counselling office at school, but I never knew its actual location until that week. I never had any reason to search for it before, and I wish that I’ll never have to again. After a couple of nights frantically calling Wini, we were back at school for the last day of year eleven. My friends and I have decided that the best thing we could do right then was to seek help, because we all realised that we had absolutely no idea about depression. So instead of lazing on the grass during lunch break, we went around the school in search of the counsellor.
It turned out the office was located in a corner of the second floor that I rarely passed, tucked neatly in with some science labs. There was a little note tacked onto the door that made me sigh in exasperation.
“Miss Blakeley is absent for the day. Please come back another time, or book an appointment.”
It was the very last day of school! How were we supposed to come back? But my friend, Cassie, had the bright idea of leaving a note under her door. True, it was the last day of school, but we knew she would get the slip of paper because teachers didn’t officially finish until a week later. The trouble was, we didn’t have any paper at hand. And so we scouted around for any blank pieces.
That was when I noticed the shelf holding boxes and boxes of brochures. It was lying just beside the counsellor’s door, a squat little thing that was so short I completely overlooked it. Bending over, I pulled out a yellow slip and handed it to my friend. The back of it was blank, and from a quick inspection there were plenty more there so we were free to use it. Cassie commenced writing our message, with the help from my other friend Kim. I was still completely caught up with the brochures.
“The ones on depression are here,” said Kim after she realized what I was looking for, “Should we take one each?”
I came over to where she was, and Cassie followed. The message was abandoned temporarily as we searched through the tubs containing advice on how to deal with depression. Most of them were very similar, outlining the symptoms and briefly telling the readers how to react to it. I took the thickest one and skimmed through it, dog-earing the pages that contained any sort of instruction on how to aid depression recovery. Cassie and Kim took some of the other brochures, and together we shoved the box back into its place.
The bell was due to go in about five minutes, and so we frantically finished our message. I prided myself on being a writer, yet I could not find a single right word to phrase our plea for help. We couldn’t say it out right, because we needed to respect Wini’s privacy. But we had to sketch the situation if the counsellor’s advice was going to be of any use. In the end, we managed to convey the issue in very general terms, and tacked on our contact details at the end. Hopefully that should be enough.
I didn’t get around to reading the brochure until later that day, when I was alone on the train trip home. Turning to the dog-eared pages, I began to inspect each and every advice in detail. Most of it was painfully obvious. But after depression became personal and not just another illness, I couldn’t view those advices in such simple terms again. Black and white words became huge areas of grey, and I struggled to see how I could apply any of these things.
How do I remain positive around her without crossing the line into being unrealistic and dismissive of her sufferings? How was I supposed to ease her pain by lending a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on, if she did not want to talk about her depression at all?
It was then that I realised that there was no set formula to healing depression. No matter how logical the brochures make it, I just couldn’t do it. I saw a trap with every instruction, and I was so afraid of triggering more pain than helping to heal it. And so I did the only thing I was sure of. When the clock struck five that day, I dialled Wini’s number. It was the only thing in my control now, my promise to her that I’ll call each day, and I was going to keep that promise no matter what.