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Degeneration: The Pandemic Depressive

Farrin Khan

I have a secret to tell you. For the past year and a half, I have been fighting my damn heart and mind out. It’s a silent war, hidden in the confines of my chaotic mind. Locked inside my pumping aorta, rushing and demanding, inking an invisible decal onto the tissue there. It’s a war that rages with such ferocity and vigor that my poor, very human body, cannot take all its abstracts and dimensions. Day and night, it seems to cease for mere moments at a time, before continuing to rage on once again. There have been but few truces that the obstinate heart and the formidable mind have accepted in their devotion to warring. These truces have only been accepted because of periwinkle flowers, clandestine hugs, and pink, a disgustingly copious amount of pink.

You see, for the past year and a half, ever since that fated email was sent out at exactly 5:22 PM on a Wednesday afternoon, I have been as raucous internally as the panicked crowd I left the day UMass Boston announced its online transition. It creeped up on me, like the shadow our childhood selves planned futile escapes from. It seeped slowly into my veins, grappling for an entry, and then, invading all at once.

Depression has a way of doing that to a person. It knocks the wind out of you, but if you and I were to witness the incident from afar, we’d see it in slow motion, both part of a mangled and terrifying dissociation. And it certainly isn’t just me. Since the beginning of the pandemic, scientists have tracked a surge of depression in adult populations. New variants bring fresher fear, and new developments are nothing more than an imperceptible mist in perpetual the scent of trepidation. No, it isn’t a surprising reality for me, being a pandemic depressive. It’s statistically logical. But logic is the one thing that seems to have abandoned me.

Logic, joy, motivation, excitement. All these nouns have escaped the lexicon of my body, my facial expressions, my mind, my heart. In their place, a new lexicon has emerged. Stress, anxiety, sadness, numbness, lethargy. They war with each other in their various conquests over parts of my body. Anxiety won a muscle here, sadness settled cheerfully in my heart, or maybe numbness managed to win the whole damn integumentary system.

Depression isn’t meant to be logical. It isn’t meant to be exciting. It isn’t meant to be growth. It is a constant, linear progression of more negative nouns at every interval. The only positive thing about depression is its slope. And while it progresses on the upward trend, committing to crusades and conquests to form an empire in my heart and mind and body, I lose more of myself. I am nothing more than a lexicon of WebMD mood symptoms.

I’m not entirely sure when depression decided my being would make a good home for itself. Perhaps I am doing it a disservice by making it the subject of my sentence, assigning entire blame to it with action verbs, failing to acknowledge a trigger. Perhaps there were many triggers (least of all which is a global pandemic). Perhaps it was long due because of overlooking mental health on my part. Perhaps it was fate.

Sometimes I get so lost in the “’why” that I lose sight of everything else. I get so stuck in the past, thinking if I pinpoint an exact moment, an exact encounter, an exact expression, that I could unravel its empire. And so I fight. I fight hard. I fight with everything I have left in me. I fight with a credit card, inputting numbers onto a keypad for a delivery of periwinkle flowers, finding momentary joy in material things that capitalism has instructed me so well in. I fight with the purest and most loving relationship I have ever fostered, seeking solace in clandestine embraces, quick eyes, and chocolate smiles. I fight with blanketing my room in pink, a “fuck you” to societal standards that made me resent the color in adolescence because of internalized misogyny. I fight with pink pillows and pink tapestries. I lather myself in the self-care influencers and books recommend— scrubbing, scrubbing, scrubbing— trying to bring forth what used to be. Trying to rid myself of the dust and heartbreak littering my pores.

The raw scrubbing, the pink, the materialism— they all seem futile in the end. The war is inevitable and hungry. It has countless victories, its shards taking purchase into my body, cutting away until I am unrecognizable even to myself. But it is a war that is not yet over. Lexicons are written and modified over and over again. Empires are toppled with exchanges of power. Who knows? Even logic might make a surprise appearance. For all the negative nouns that define my pandemic depressive body, my paragraphs are still incomplete, my sentences deserve worthy subjects, and the verbs demand a renovation. After all, periwinkle and pink have a much bigger role to play.

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