Note: all names in this post have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals
I sat up till 1:30am last night as I got lost down the alleyways of YouTube’s music videos. The alleyways of memory. From Devil You Know, to Five for Fighting, to Coldplay. Eventually I came to “The Scientist”, a song which always takes me back to Jaspar. Back to the days I was fresh out of high school. The days I thought I’d been through the worst of my mental health and it would all be up from here.
It was enrolment day at Swinburne university. I had just signed up for a degree in psychology and was trying to find the exit to the building I was in. That is when I met him. I didn’t realise it at the time, but we weren’t just lost physically. No, we were also trying to find an exit to a seemingly endless disillusionment with our lives.
I saw him in class sometimes. I watched him leave. He was an awkward , stooped guy, as though carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. Sometimes we’d sit together, or hang out after class. He told me he was seeing the university counsellor. I didn’t know what to say to him; I had never seen a counsellor myself and thought that was only for the craziest of people. He also told me he had wanted to go up one of the buildings at university and jump off.
He came to class less and less. Then one day I received a message from him on Facebook saying he was in a psychiatric hospital. I went to visit him and brought him a giant plastic cylinder of rainbow jellybeans. This was the first time I had been inside a psychiatric hospital. There was a carpeted corridor with rooms along one side, a little like a motel. There was a living room with couches and a television. Jaspar had his own bedroom and had brought his guitar. He taught me how to play a simple tune, and he showed me one of his drawings, a black and white image of a tiny person dangling off a ledge being sucked into a menacing whirlpool. While we were in his room a male nurse came in and brought him two tiny cups, one containing a pill and the water. The whole experience was a little bit strange and confronting for me. Jaspar seemed to want to be there, however, and likened the experience to a “holiday”, a place to chill and get a break.
We left Jaspar’s bedroom with his guitar and he led me through the communal area and down another hallway to a room containing a piano and a very expensive looking dinner table. He challenged me to improvise a song with him. I didn’t have the confidence to play off the top of my head, so when I came back to visit him the following week I brought the sheets to Coldplay’s “The Scientist” which I played on the piano while he jammed along on the guitar.
Sometimes we left the hospital for a walk or a drive; Jaspar just had to let the hospital know we were going out for a bit. There were no locked doors in this hospital. I understand now that this was a private psychiatric hospital. It was how psychiatric hospitals should be. I visited Jaspar in hospital every week until he was discharged.
I’m not sure why Jaspar and I didn’t stay friends. Maybe it was the time we were together and he went to kiss me. I pulled back and told him how broken I was. A few seconds sitting awkwardly together felt like hours. He asked me if I wanted him to leave. Then there was the time we were watching a movie together at his house. I couldn’t enjoy it with him because I couldn’t see the screen. I needed glasses but I was too self-conscious to wear them. I don’t know if it was a rock he was after, a life saver, someone who could pull him out of the pounding waves and lead him to shore rather than drown there with him. He was in a fragile place and I feel like I just fucked with his head. He realised he didn’t want to study psychology afterall and left Swinburne. He stopped replying to my messages and I sensed he no longer wanted to see me so I let him go.
About two years ago I made contact with Jaspar again. He seemed to be in a much better place mentally. He was working and his life had been getting better and better. Mine, on the other hand, had been getting worse and worse. Since we last spoke, I had tried to jump off that very building he had contemplated jumping off. I had also started counselling which basically cracked me open. I became very close to my first counsellor and was in deep grief over this relationship coming to an end. My treatment and recovery has not been straight forward. It reminds me of that bath scene in Spirited Away where Sen tries to pull the object out of the monster only to find it is a never-ending string of junk the monster had accumulated. When I got back in touch with Jaspar, I was seeing a new counsellor. Jaspar and I were going to meet up, but suddenly my new counsellor pulled the plug on me and told me she wanted to finish up with me now. I was so shaken by this that I ended up in hospital myself, though it was a public hospital I was admitted to and I was made an involuntary patient so my experience was very different from Jaspar’s. I told Jaspar what had happened and asked him, teasingly, to bring me a cylinder of rainbow jelly beans this time. I never got a response. I then apologised if I made him feel awkward. Again, no response.
I suspect this is going to be a long battle with my mental health. As I listen to “The Scientist” and also consider getting private health insurance so I can stay in the hospital Jaspar was in seven years ago, I find a whole heap of emotions coming back to me. I found Jaspar on Facebook last night, and while I didn’t add him, I browsed the content that was public. While I feel I should be happy for him that he’s doing well now it seems, has found his path, and has a good circle of friends around him, I am not. I’m sad, I’m jealous, I’m hurt. He’s a different person now and probably wants to put his past behind him. It is hard watching someone move on with their life while you just seem to be going backwards. I think depression is a very strange thing. It can lead to unusual attachments a person otherwise might not have, so sometimes losing the depression can change or even destroy a relationship.
Oh and I rush to the start
Running in circles, chasing our tails
Coming back as we are