‘I’m just taking time out from everything. I’ve been through a lot of shit.’

This is Chelsea’s reason for erasing me from her life.

At work I’m bored. I want to waste some time. I’m not ready to leave the cafeteria, even if I am more than ready to eat the slice of chocolate cake I don’t need. Human Resources is on a Depression kick this week. I pick up a leaflet from the display. Nice, colourful. Attractively presented. I have a pretty good idea of what it’s going to say, but I need some reading material for back at the desk. I’ve already flicked through all the Woman’s Days.

‘The depressed fixate on a cause and on a cure. This is not always based on logic or reason, but on the desperate need to relieve the pain of depression.’

Chelsea always told me that the cause of her depression was her tainted soul, her innate ugliness. The cure was death. But she said she was too chicken to kill herself and how pathetic was that? She envied those who succeeded in ending their lives, especially around Christmas time. Her words seemed incongruous as I admired the handmade Christmas cards she’d painstakingly worked on that year, ready to be distributed to friends and family.

‘The need for immediate relief can become so strong that they may use physical pain in order to gain a small respite from the psychic pain of depression’.

She showed me the deep scratches embedded in her wrist on more than one occasion.
‘I don’t show these to anyone but you,’ she’d whisper. I’d feel my own blood freeze within me at the thought of the blood dripping from her arm as her head bowed, the long blonde hair covering her features, and being dipped in the deep red flowing from her veins. She would seem pleased at my discomfort, so I began to feign nonchalance.

‘The depressed want negative feedback. They seek, remember and rationalise the negative and forget or discount the positive.’

‘Wow, guys love you. Did you see how those two were fighting over you?’
I had never had quite that determined a reaction from two members of the opposite sex before. A feeling of envy overwhelmed me. I took a puff of Chelsea’s cigarette, but only because I was drunk.
‘I’m sure they’d be happy to fuck me and then leave me for dead,’ she deadpanned.
‘I only ever had one guy who was willing to be seen in public with me and now he’s back with his ex. I’m just a worthless slut.’
I’d heard it all before, so I just shrugged and took another puff.

Chelsea’s never been interested in guys that want to treat her well. I guess that’s pretty common with women our age. I know she takes their compliments as lies, offensive lies. She sees their kindness as weakness. She wants someone strong, to counteract her weakness. Someone hot.

Chelsea’s mantra was always ‘Happiness is just an illusion.’

‘The depressed think that their problems and pain are unique, they feel that they are all alone’

I seethed as Chelsea drank the last of my Midori. Me and Tim broke up the day before but I didn’t feel comfortable mentioning it at the time. Chelsea was about to go on holiday with some friends to Queensland.
I wasn’t invited.
It was so rare to see her excited about something that I felt as though I’d be breaking some kind of spell if I told her about Tim and me.

Chelsea, usually when drunk, would join in on a group hug with Tim and I, letting us know how great we were and that we gave her faith in relationships. She said that we got along so well and showed so much respect for each other that we proved that not all relationships were destined for hell. I loved her in those moments.

I was scared to tell her what had happened – the strong relationship was an illusion, like her happiness. It was a failure. I had liked being part of something that gave her a smidge of faith in humanity.

‘Some adhere to the basic concept of Tough Love, where you express your genuine regard for a person by encouraging them to take charge of their life and solve their own problems. But, when dealing with a depressed person, this approach will most times back fire and will alienate your friend, possibly causing further depression.’

‘Come on, it’s time to come back to life!’ I told her as I dragged her from her bed after that terrible time she’d had.
She looked bloody awful – her hair was matted and stringy, not smooth and fair like usual. Chelsea had dark circles under her eyes and she seemed to sag like a rag doll.
I turned the shower on, and got her in there. Success.

It took a while to sort out her hair. She still sat, lifeless. But I could tell she was feeling a bit better. A bastard had broken her heart and she hadn’t left her room for days, but this would be the beginning.
Next, I would take her to the shopping centre. I smiled. We’d made progress!

It’s been eight months now, since I last saw Chelsea. Eight months since I last heard from her. Last time we spoke, she called me to tell me she had ended up going home with Josh Findlay. The post-mortem lasted a couple of hours and I didn’t think much about it after that. I called her a couple of days later for a chat – no answer. I emailed and messaged a few times that month.
I invited her to join us in the city for drinks after leaving her alone for a while. Not a whisper.

I sit at my desk and contemplate doing some work. Nah, I’ll read the email again. Get my head around it. I can’t believe Chelsea actually replied.

‘I’m just taking time out from everything. I’ve been through a lot of shit.’
Chelsea was always going through a lot of shit – so what? Hadn’t I been her friend through plenty of shit times?
‘But maybe we can all meet up next month for my birthday.’
It’s a group email, not just for me.

I screw the Depression leaflet up, but that’s not good enough. I smooth it out again and rip it to shreds. A couple of people look at me as though I’m nuts.

It stops me from emailing back, at least.

I feel like writing ‘Fuck you! How can you visit friends here every fortnight and never once visit me? How can you hit the pubs with that guy in Payroll and not even ask me? Is it because he’s a guy? Is it because he sucks up to you and wouldn’t know tough love if he tripped over it? How can you confide in me every day for three years and drag me to the pub every Saturday night only to decide you don’t want to know me? And you can take your birthday and stick it up your arse!’

But I don’t write back. I don’t write anything. I’m not going to be manipulated ever again.

I’m still not ready to go back to my work, so I pick up the shredded pieces of paper and assemble them, like a jigsaw puzzle. The bottom of page two is legible now.

‘IMPORTANT! Your commitment to help a depressed person is an awesome responsibility. It is frustrating, emotionally draining, and must not be taken lightly. You should commit for the long term.’

I can’t help anymore.
I just can’t. The long term is over, and that must be for the best.
I’m selfish and impatient, and I don’t want to care any more.

With a light touch of the ‘delete’ key, I feel an empty sense of victory and wonder what I would get Chelsea for her birthday if I still cared.


Michelle Rogers

Joined April 2007

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