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THE OPPOSITE OF LOVE - CHAPTER ONE
The Opposite of Love
I sit on the fluffy beige couch, which is a little too soft for my liking, across from Anna, who sits in a beige armchair. Why do I get the fluffy couch that you practically sink into if you lean back too far while she gets the armchair? I wish the couch was at least a little stiffer. I’m at therapy after all, not home watching a movie.
“So what brings you in to see me today?” Anna asks me.
It’s not day. It’s actually seven o’clock at night, but I refrain from pointing that out. “I’m pretty sure I have anxiety,” I reply. “And I think I might be depressed too.”
“And what makes you think that?” she asks. She glances up over her notepad at me, a strand of mousy brown hair falling out from behind her ear.
“Well I’m pretty on edge most of the time. And I get angry really easily,” I say. “I’m tired a lot too.”
“Have you ever had any suicidal thoughts or wanted to hurt yourself in any way?” she asks, and I’m not sure how to answer because I wouldn’t mind dying, but I don’t want to kill myself. If I were to get hit by a bus when I left this therapist’s office, I don’t think I’d be upset. As long as I died instantly. I don’t want to suffer.
“No,” I reply, picking at a hang nail until the skin around my nail is pink and raw. That seems like a pretty personal question to begin our first meeting with. She doesn’t even know my favorite color (black) or what type of movies I like to watch (stuff with dark humor, psychological thrillers, anything by Quentin Tarrantino), but she knows about my suicidal tendencies. Or lack thereof I should say.
“And how long have you been experiencing this anxiety and depression?”
I scan my brain for a specific moment, but nothing comes to mind. “I’m not really sure. For a while I guess.”
“Is there anything you can think of that may be causing you to feel this way? How is your home life?”
“It’s alright. I live alone.”
She stares at me as if waiting for me to continue, but I don’t have much else to say. I glance around the room, at the bookshelf filled with books that I bet she’s never even read, at the computer that sits on the desk behind her chair, at the vanilla scented candle that sits burning on the end table wedged between the window and the arm of the couch. It kind of looks like a very boring person’s living room in here. Everything is a shade of either beige or brown. Even Anna’s outfit: a pair of dark brown slacks, brown boots, and a beige sweater.
“Okay,” she says, scribbling something down. “So what made you decide to come see me now then? Since you said this has been going on for a while.”
“I guess I’m just finally sick of feeling like shit all the time,” I tell her. “And my boyfriend broke up with me two weeks ago.”
“Why did he break up with you?” Her eyes come up from her notepad to look at me, but her hand continues moving across it.
I think back to that day in Chipotle. Sitting down to eat, thinking everything was normal. Then before I knew it I was being broken up with over a burrito bowl.
I wish he’d chosen somewhere else. He knows how much I love Chipotle. The least he could do was break up with me somewhere that I didn’t like very much. Now every time I go to Chipotle, I’m going to be reminded of that day.
“He just got sick of me I guess,” I reply. “He said my anxiety was too much for him, my depression was too much for him, my insecurities were too much for him... He said he needed someone more stable.”
I’m paraphrasing. What he actually said was, “Liv, we need to talk.” And I looked up at him, my mouth full of rice and black beans, sour cream on my lip, and he said, “I think we both can agree that things haven’t been going so great lately.” He was wrong. I didn’t agree. I thought things had been going fine.
I finished chewing and swallowed my food, dabbing at my lip with the brown paper napkin that lay on the table in front of me. “What do you mean?” I asked.
“Well I knew going into it that you had some issues, but I thought that maybe you were just lonely or something. I thought that us being together might have fixed things and you’d be happier.”
At this, I scoffed. Leave it to Brad to think that his mere existence in my life would be the solution to all my problems. He’s such a narcissist.
“It’s just really hard on me being with someone who’s so unhappy all the time,” he continued. “You’re either starting a fight over nothing or you’re just completely shutting me out. It’s a lot to deal with.”
I said nothing. He wasn’t wrong. I wasn’t ever very happy.
“I love you, but I just can’t be with you anymore. I’m twenty-six years old now. I’m ready to settle down and I just don’t think it can be with you.”
I had known that Brad eventually wanted to get married and have children, but I thought that was something he wanted to do in the future. I thought I still had time to decide whether or not I wanted to do all that. I didn’t know that I was being evaluated these past nine months, being judged on whether or not I was settling down material.
I crinkled my napkin up into a ball and threw it in his direction, then slammed my fists down on the table in front of me. “So that’s it?” I demanded. “It took you nine months to decide that I’m too messed up for you?”
People were looking over at us now. Brad’s eyes darted around nervously and he leaned in over his barely touched burrito bowl to talk to me. “Please lower your voice,” he hissed through clenched teeth.
“Why? You afraid people will hear how crazy I am?” I yelled, louder now. “You didn’t seem to think I was too crazy when I gave you head on the way to your family’s house for Thanksgiving. Or how about when you were in between apartments and I let you stay at my house for those two weeks? You snored so loud and used my razor to shave and didn’t even clean it out afterwards, but I still let you stay there.”
It was at this point that the manager came over to our table, and I couldn’t help but wonder if things would have been different for me if I had more money, if my “craziness” would be more glamorous and less revulsive. Take Angelina Jolie for example. Back when she was married to Billy Bob Thornton, she walked around with a vile of his blood hanging around her neck, but everybody still loves her.
If you’re rich and crazy, then you’re eccentric and misunderstood. If you’re poor and crazy, then you’re making a scene and “need to please leave Chipotle now”.
“And how did that make you feel?” Anna asks me. I glance up at her. Is she for real? How the hell does she think it made me feel?
“Like shit,” I remark, leaning forward in my seat a little. “Imagine dating a guy for nine months, thinking everything is going fine, and then one day out of the blue he decides that you’re just a little too messed up for his taste. How would that make you feel?”
“Well, I imagine it would make me feel very hurt,” she replies evenly. “Do you have anyone in your life that you talk to about your feelings? Family? Friends?”
“No,” I say. “My dad is dead, my mom thinks the solution to my issues is finding a good man to marry, and my few friends are all self-absorbed assholes who care more about how many likes the picture of their vegan stir fry gets on Instagram than they do about things that actually matter.”
She nods her head, jots something down on her notepad. “So you and your mother don’t have a very close relationship then, I take it?”
“No,” I reply.
“Why do you think she is so insistent that you find someone to marry? You’re in your early twenties, correct?”
I nod. “Twenty-four.”
“So why is she rushing you into marriage then?”
“She and my dad got married when they were twenty. They were high school sweethearts, never been with anyone besides each other. Then two years later, my mom got pregnant with me and by the time she was my age, she had a one-year-old daughter, a happy little family. She thinks that her way is the right way. She thinks that being a wife and a mother is what makes a woman whole.”
I dig my nails into the palms of my hands, anxiety clenching its tight grip around my chest.
“So marriage and children is what your mom wants for you,” Anna says, pushing her thin-rimmed glasses up the bridge of her pointy, birdlike nose. “How about what you want?”
I look up at her. “I don’t know,” I admit. “Not that though. Not yet at least.”
She nods. “So you and your mother aren’t close. How about your father? Were you two close before he passed away?”
“No, not really.”
She opens her mouth as if she’s about to say something more, but then closes it. She jots something down on her notepad and I watch her pale, boney hand move across the paper, noticing that she isn’t wearing a wedding ring either.
“Okay,” she begins again. “So it seems as though your ex-boyfriend—what is his name?”
“It seems as though Brad had a big role in your life, like he was one of the only people that you were truly close to. Maybe you opened up and let yourself be a little vulnerable around him and now that you two aren’t together anymore, you’re feeling rather betrayed...isolated even. Would you agree?”
I hesitate for a moment before I nod. I hate the word vulnerable. It’s just a fancier word for weak.
“Well that is completely understandable and your feelings are totally valid.”
I can’t help but roll my eyes. I don’t need some stranger validating my feelings for me. Who is she to decide whether or not my feelings are valid anyways? She barely even knows me.
“I can tell that opening up isn’t easy for you,” she says. “Which is why I’m so glad that you took this first step coming to see me. That was very brave of you.”
Brave? Jesus Christ. Brave is going skydiving or running into a burning building to save a cat. It’s not coming to a therapist’s office and crying to her about how your boyfriend broke up with you.
“I’m not a psychiatrist,” she continues, “so I can’t prescribe you any medication for the depression that you’ve said you’ve been experiencing, but I can refer you to someone who can.”
“What if I don’t want to be on medication?” I ask her. “What’s the point of going to therapy anyways if all you’re going to do is prescribe me a bunch of meds that are just gonna turn me into a zombie or make me fat or something?”
Her brow furrows just a touch and the corner of her lip twitches before she regains her even composure. “Well, yes some medications do have side effects, but we would monitor those and find a medication that you don’t react negatively to. Therapy is great for talking about your issues so that you aren’t bottling them up, as well as learning coping methods for when the anxiety or depression gets to be too much.”
“So if you’re supposed to teach me coping methods then why do I need to be on medication?”
I’ve never been to therapy before, and I was nervous going into it because I wasn’t sure that I wanted to pay a bunch of money to open up and be “vulnerable” in front of some stranger just for it to end up not working. Now everything she’s saying is confirming all of my worries about therapy. It’s just a huge scam. They get you hooked on meds and hooked on “venting” so that you keep on spending money, but nothing truly gets better. Being on medication and telling Anna about how lonely my life is isn’t going to make me any less lonely. Talking about how Brad got tired of me and left isn’t going to make him untired of me or make him come back.
“Well antidepressants balance out the chemicals in your brain that are causing you to feel depressed. That can’t be done through therapy, which is why I’m suggesting the possibility of medication. Of course, there will still be days that are harder than others, which is when the coping methods come into play. Coping methods are also a great way to deal with anxiety. There are different breathing techniques and sensory awareness exercises that can really help ground you when you’re feeling on edge.”
I can’t imagine how taking deep breaths could possibly stop me from feeling as though I’m about to combust or prevent my volcanic bursts of anger, and I’m irritated that she really thinks the solution to my anxiety is that simple.
“Can we try to fix this without the meds first to see if it works?” I ask her. I don’t think it will work, but I may as well try.
“Of course we can,” she replies with a warm smile. “Does this time every week work for you then?”
“Yeah, that works.”
She logs onto her computer and puts my name in her calendar for the next four Tuesdays at 7:00 pm. Then she goes over the insurance stuff with me and has me fill out some paperwork. The copay is thirty bucks, so if there’s four weeks in a month, that means it’s going to cost me one hundred and twenty dollars a month to not feel crazy anymore. If it works that is. It seems a little expensive, but I guess my sanity is worth it.
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Honestly, I don't usually read fiction but your first paragraph pulled me in. You've done very well at setting a scene and allowing the reader to be inside the head of your character.
Thank you!! I really appreciate your feedback! :)