Fly to Colorado, where the altitude is so high you can’t take deep breaths. Smoke cigarettes on your best friend’s patio and lean your weight on her when you talk about the breakup. Drive to Boulder to see the girl she’s in love with this summer star in a play you don’t understand. Take rides in her stepdad’s vintage Jeep. When the wind blows your hair in your face, don’t brush it away.
Make an appointment with a bald school counselor named Andy. Let Andy do all the talking while you unwrap butterscotch candies. When he asks you a question, answer around the candy.
See a psychiatrist whose office walls are decorated with posters about accepting Jesus’s love. Excuse yourself to the bathroom when she wonders aloud if all of this is because of your ex-boyfriend. Hold your head between your hands until your pulse slows. Go back in. Agree to consider an antidepressant.
Pick up your prescription for Remeron after reading reviews about patients who turned into glassy-eyed zombies. Put clean sheets on your bed and take your first dose. Dream you’re climbing a tall stone tower. An acquaintance waits at the top. She looks at you blankly, then jumps.
Start spending time with a girl who barely knows you. Sip raspberry rum through a straw and tell her that the reason you don’t talk much is because there’s nothing to say. Drink so much that you lose track of what day it is. Drink so much that some mornings, you vomit in the shower and push it down the drain with your toes.
Swallow the bottle of Remeron. Call your best friend. Lie with your head in her lap as the room fills with people. Is that a police officer or a paramedic? Cover your ears while he yells at you. What did you do answer me come on open your eyes and answer me right now. It must be a medic, because the yelling continues in the ambulance. Keep your eyes open what town are we in what’s your name who’s the president what year is this. Then he’s gone and so is the ambulance, and for one night and one day, you sleep.
Let a nurse wheel you down a floor to the hospital’s psychiatric unit. Meet Don, who shot himself in the face last week. Meet Clyde, who tried to kill his cellmate with a razor blade concealed inside a bar of soap. Meet Jim, who shouts, “Ever notice how everyone in the psych ward is white” Sleep through group therapy. Call your friends and ask them to bring you chicken biscuits with ketchup and ranch dressing. Write This is stupid in your journal so you don't start believing you belong here.
Transfer to another psych ward, where the nurses take your clothes and shoes away to remove their drawstrings and zippers. Here the doors don’t close, and when you skip morning group, you aren’t allowed to use forks or spoons. Hide pens beneath your extra clothes at night so you can write in your journal. Wake up to find them missing.
Stand in the stairwell of your friends’ house and scream until you hear them get out of their beds. Break a glass jar. Hurl a deck of cards at the wall and watch them drift to the ground one by one. When they threaten to call the hospital, scream louder. Climb into the fireplace and drag your fingernails down the brick until they break. Cover your ears so you won’t hear what they’re saying and slam out onto the porch. Ram the backs of your arms into the side of the house until they’re blue and swollen, then go still. Wonder if this raw animal has been inside of you all along.
Sleep with someone you don’t like. Lie beneath him as he kneads your breasts like stubborn dough and moves inside you, rhythmless. Press your face into the pillow so he won’t kiss you.
Try Effexor. Forget about it until one day in early autumn, when you wake up feeling like you’ve been squeezed out like a tube of toothpaste. Remember the way a childhood friend used to hide her medication under her tongue and then spit it into her hand when her mom wasn’t looking. Remember your college roommate flushing hers down the toilet freshman year. Remember your ex-boyfriend saying how antidepressants took away his highest highs and lowest lows. Look down at the pill in your hand. Place it on your tongue. Swallow.
Take LSD at a campground in the Pocono Mountains. Place the square beneath your tongue as the sun begins to set, then wait. Kick off your shoes. Dart in and out of bushes. Flatten yourself against a tree. Rock back and forth on the balls of your feet and yell at the sky about how there really is no God, is there, so how come everything’s so damp and green and lush? Imagine wading into the lake and letting your lungs fill with water. When it starts to rain, don’t run. Stand with your neck craned toward the sky and scream without making a sound.
Lauren Bailey graduated from Susquehanna University in May of 2011. She is currently working for an investment company, but her heart is, and always will be, with creative nonfiction.