I was a fucking millennial mess. In and out of the psych ward, psychotic, bipolar, whatever comorbidity du jour; for a year I ended up chemically lobotomized by antipsychotic wunderkind Abilify, and it’s out-of-vogue older brother Seroquel.
I slept 16 hours a day, awake all night in an Etobicoke basement suite with jail windows and a shower so small I couldn’t extend my arms. Not that I showered. I routinely walked to 7/11 at 2am in -20c° Toronto winters, exploiting 2/$5 specials on Ben and Jerry’s or Doritos. Unable to afford internet, I watched my Friends DVDs on repeat until the sun came up. I barely saw or spoke to anyone.
I gained sixty pounds, couldn’t climb the stairs at the mall, could barely walk to the mall. On library wifi, I bemoaned my existence on Facebook. I was heartbroken when no one liked my status update, couldn’t sleep if someone didn’t reply to my message, couldn’t sleep if someone replied with something unsavoury, facilitated meaningless banter and discussion in order to feel human contact.
I showered maybe once a week. New aquamarine civilizations grew in my sink. Psychiatry sucked, my broken family sucked, my #metoo moments sucked. A gut-wrenching loneliness corroded every moment of my life.
One evening, I went in for Open Gym, the last hour of operations where we are free to ask questions and train on our own. I went up to one of our coaches to clarify a point on body shots. Mid-thirties, a former pro, the enigmatic smile of someone who likes mischief. “Hey Indu, how’s it going?” — and for a moment I was stuck.
I stood and stared for a couple seconds too long. Stop being awkward! I screeched at myself. I brought myself out of this stupor and said hi, asked my question about shovel hooks, worked out and went home.
On the train ride back to the suburbs, my mind went back to that scene. What had shook me up about that moment? I analyzed it as I sped past False Creek, the illuminated globe of Science World shining in the darkness. My memory went back to his eyes. They emitted a genuine happiness to see me. Fat-little-me, who could never tell left from right (still can’t), who had nothing to offer but underdog eagerness and crippling anxiety. I was shown kindness when I had done nothing to earn it.
In much of my life, worth was dictated by skills: academic, artistic, or the aptitude for filial obedience. This moment was the antithesis, a rupture in the emotional continuum of my existence. Realizing this, I burst into tears. I had 15 more stations to go, another 45 minutes. The entire time, I wept like a maniac.