Chapter 17 - Negative self-image
Tuesday, December 13th, 2016
I’m curled up beside Calo, who is asleep in my bed while I can’t sleep because my stomach hurts due to the bruises. Mom was furious about what happened, and since Calo and Lorenzo agreed to watch me, her and dad - the latter came home from work as soon as mom told him what had happened - went to school to talk to the principal, yet again.
Lorenzo every so often checks in on me ever since Calo fell asleep, dived into his sweater as if shielding himself from the world.
Eventually, I give up on sleeping, heading downstairs to get myself a drink, some food and to see if mom and dad are back yet.
I find Lorenzo in the kitchen, bend over a couple of school books.
He looks up as soon as I hop into the kitchen.
“Hey, something wrong?”
“Can’t sleep...” I shrug with one shoulder. “My body hurts too much.”
He nods and the look in his eyes tells me he wishes he could do anything to ease the pain.
“And I’m afraid I’d wake up Calo with my twisting and turning to find a better position.”
“If him sleeping in you bed bothers you, we should tell him to sleep in the couch until we’re going home.”
“No, no!” I shake my head carefully, “him sleeping doesn’t bother me. He needs some rest, I think.”
“He does. But you do too.”
I shrug again, grabbing a drink myself, sitting down slowly, across from him. “Can I ask you a question?”
“Why is Calo depressed? I mean, what triggered it?”
“I don’t know if I’m the right person to tell you. I can tell you that Calo has always been struggling to be happy and I don’t think something really triggered it. The first time they diagnosed him being depressed, he was only 12 years old.”
“Does it...” I don’t even know if I can ask my question, which is if it has anything to do with his sexuality, since I don’t know if Lorenzo knows. “Do you know why he was bullied?”
Lorenzo looks at me for a while, before he nods, his whole demeanour a sad one. “I do, and Seino knows too. We’re the only two at home who know what exactly happened. It’s not up to us to tell anyone.”
“I know too. Well, not what happened. But I know... about his...”
“Sexuality.” Lorenzo fills in the blank. “It’s part of the reason he is depressed, Neo. Calo doesn’t like himself, or his sexuality. He hates it. He hates himself. And on good days, it doesn’t show. But on bad days, it’s evidently there.”
“But why don’t your parents know about it? It caused him to try to take his own life.”
“Calo never explained. Not even to Seino or me. We just linked certain events together and Calo didn’t deny. But he refuses to tell. In all honesty, Calo doesn’t have a good relationship with our parents and he simply refuses to tell them anything.”
“But... they love him, don’t they?”
“We all do. But if you do not like yourself, it’s hard to believe others do like you. And then there’s the fact Calo does not like dad. I don’t think he hates him, but he doesn’t like him either.”
“And why is that?”
“Dad is one of the best psychiatrists, mostly for compulsive disorders, but for body dysmorphia and bipolar disorders too. Calo wanted dad to treat him, but dad declined. Said he was too emotionally involved with him to treat him. It’s not even allowed as they’re father and son. But even at home, dad refuses to use his knowledge to help Calo. Calo hates the fact dad refused and ever since, they’re like fire and ice. They do not go together.”
“Oh, I see.” I stare down and for a while, Lorenzo and I sit in silence. He eventually returns to whatever he was doing before I interrupted, and I observe him. He has the same chocolate brown hair and light brown eyes as Calo, or any of their siblings. He has the same skin tone, just different facial feature. Whereas Calo and Seino have this daring smirk, a mischievous glint in their eyes and a flawless skin, Lorenzo has a smaller face, a less daring smile and kind eyes. Compared to the twins, who always have a frolic air around them, he seems more calm and collective. It’s simply less... attractive.
“Do you think Calo is jealous because your dad accepted to treat me?”
“No!” Lorenzo even chuckles. “He is thankful for dad trying to help you as Calo knows, I think, you need the best.” Lorenzo smiles. “He just wishes dad would see he needs the best too. Which he does. His situation has been deteriorating again since he joined South Haven a couple of weeks ago. We hoped his friendship with you would help. But...” Lorenzo’s voice falters and he takes a deep breath. “You remind him what he hates most about himself. He likes you, more than just a friend.”
“I know, he told me so.” I frown, biting my lip and squirming in pain as I remember I have a cut lip. “So, it’s my fault his... condition... is worsening?”
“Don’t blame yourself, Neo. Calo needs to accept himself the way he is. And it’s exhausting to him because the first step is admitting he doesn’t like himself. Which always puts him in a bad mood to admit it aloud and show his weakness.”
Friday, December 16th, 2016
“So, Neo. How are you feeling?” Dr. Delgado sat down opposite from me, his note block and pen ready to write anything down that could help solve the mysteries of my compulsive behaviour, my anxiety or my fear of germs.
“I’m mentally drained.” I admit timidly, fiddling with my fingers nervously. I was adamantly sure about letting him in on my deepest, darkest thoughts. But now that we’re here, I’m not so sure if I could admit it aloud.
The first step is admitting Calo doesn’t like himself.
And it should be my first step too. Maybe I don’t know what to do with Angela’s confession the other week, because I’m not open to accepting other people liking me, while I hate pretty much everything about myself.
“And is that because of what happened to you? Or are there other reasons?”
“Well, obviously it isn’t helping to have two people constantly tell me I’m not worth anything. That I’m a freak and I should just die.”
Maybe telling Dr. Delgado that Jimmy and Luke repeatedly tell me to kill myself is a step in the right direction of talking about my resurfacing wish to die.
“Is that what they tell you?” He sounds a bit shocked.
“Yes. How I’m useless and faulty and a bother to people.” I shrug for a bit, still avoiding eye contact and now also focussing on not crying over it, again. “And some of it is true...”
“What parts of it do you feel are true?”
“I am a bother, I do malfunction.” Now I look up at him, to see he hasn’t written anything down so far. His pen is lingering over the paper, but he’s looking at me instead of the paper. As if he wanted to write something down but my words distracted him. “People would be better of without me.” The last part comes out in a hoarse whisper.
Dr. Delgado shakes his head in disbelief. “None of that is true, Neo. You should listen to your own words more often.”
“What words?” I frown, surprised he isn’t trying to talk me into believing those words are lies instead of truths.
All other therapists would just loudly overpower those words, while they didn’t even know as much about me as Dr. Delgado does. So how would they know if it’s true if I never really told them anything about myself?
“Weren’t you the one that told Calo name calling isn’t simple? If repeated enough everyone would start believing the lies they are fed?”
Calo told him that? “I didn’t know Calo told you that.” I whisper surprised. “I didn’t know he told you anything.” Those words visibly sting him, as a sadness flashes over his face shortly.
“Calo tells Harper a lot. And she every so often praises you for the things you do for Calo.” Dr. Delgado smiles for a bit.
“But Calo isn’t the reason we’re here talking today. What I wanted to say, is that you should listen to your own wisdom more often. If Luke and Jimmy repeatedly tell you those lies, it’s hard to ignore. But it’s what they are, Neo, lies.”
“But I do bother people.” I whine, pouting as a child because I hate it that he uses my own words against me.
“When do you feel like a bother to people?”
“Every time something happens, and mom has to stop doing whatever she does to pick me up again. Every time school is struggling to come up with ways to solve whatever happened...”
“Tell me, Neo, the last time you had to go home because the day went bad, what happened?”
“I was texting with Calo, Jimmy and Luke cornered me and they hit me a couple of times. They told me some of those things and I simply shut down.”
“And before they cornered you, did you feel restless, or anxious? Or anything negative?”
“I guess I was a bit worried over Calo because he went to a therapist.”
“But despite that, did you struggle with compulsions, or anything that could be sign you might needed to be picked up early?”
“No, it was a good day until that happened.”
“And why do you feel like a bother because if that?”
“Because dad had to come home to pick mom up and go to school again. They needed to talk to principal Jameson about it. They needed to stop their every day business because of me.”
Dr. Delgado shakes his head. “Not because of you, but because if what Jimmy and Luke did to you.”
What is he trying to say? I must look confused, since Dr. Delgado now smiles calmly.
“You didn’t bother anyone. Jimmy and Luke bothered you, bullied you, even hit you multiple times. They bother people. And they force you into a position that you feel like you’re the bother because you need people to calm you down, pick you up. But anyone in your position would need that. It’s not because of you, or the fact you have OCD.”
I press my lips together, overthinking his words, knowing he is somewhat right. I didn’t go home because I panicked.
I didn’t panic.
I was hurt physically, and I needed to rest.
“I want you to take a moment and go over some of the moments you felt like a bother and try to tell me if those situations where caused by your OCD, or by the bullying, or any other outside factor.”
I know dad’s accident can be blamed on my OCD. If I wouldn’t have panicked, he would’ve just stayed home. But thinking off all the latest times I had to be picked up or driven home by others, it had been because I was bullied over my OCD. The OCD in itself isn’t causing me to go home. Yes, I have altered classes like P.E. and arts because of my conditions. And yes, I do things my own way. But as long as people let me, I’m mostly fine.
Even more so, 9 out of 10 times when I fail to execute compulsive behaviour, it’s because other’s bother me first. Jimmy and Luke forcing me over those lines in between the tiles in the shower area. Jimmy and Luke replacing a decent sized desk by the teacher’s desk. Calo sliding my notebook around when we first met. It’s always others who keep me from doing things my way.
“And?” Dr. Delgado is already smiling, and I think he’s good enough at reading people to know I came to the conclusion he is right. I’m not so much a bother; others are to me.
“So, then how do I fight the thoughts about feeling like a bother, wanting to be dead to liberate others from my existence?”
“By reminding yourself you’re not the one who bothers others. You’re the one being bothered.”
“Right. Okay, I guess I can try.”
It’s silent shortly, as Dr. Delgado writes something down on the paper for the first time today. When he looks up, he looks serious again. “Those thoughts, about wanting to be dead?”
And there we go. Now there’s no way back. I /have/ to tell him.
“Do you want to talk about those?”
I pull up an eyebrow at his chosen approach; asking me if I want to talk about them.
“I just... I struggle with so many things and I feel exhausted and even lonely at times. And nobody seems to really get how I feel and how I think. Mom, dad, Pyper, Calo, they accept my behaviour. But they don’t get it and I think they never will. And the fear and the anxiety attacks draining me. Sometimes I think things would be easier if I’d be dead.”
“You talk about it as if dying isn’t bad to you, but you choose to use a less active way of talking about it.”
I look at him quizzically.
“You don’t say you want to kill yourself, you say you would think being dead would be easier.”
“I don’t think I’m suicidal right now.” I shrug for a bit. “I would feel too selfish if I would kill myself...”
Dr. Delgado seems to give me the time to collect my thoughts without interrupting me.
“It’s like, most days I hope a car would run me over. You know? So, I don’t act selfish, but at least I would be freed from this hell. I do hate my life.” Even I’m surprised by the absence of emotions in my words.
“I can give you medication that will take the edge off of those emotions. To give you a little push in the right direction, help you fight the thoughts that are exhausting you.”
“As in... antidepressants?”
Dr. Delgado nods, still smiling calmly. “I don’t think you are suicidal. You don’t want to end your own life. You’re hoping someone else will do it for you. That is a sign of depression. To be honest, you show lots of symptoms of a depression. Which is logical after all that has happened. But you don’t have to feel this way.”
“Will they help me sleep better? I have trouble sleeping lately.”
“We can give you medication that will also help you sleep better, yes.”
“Well, it’s worth trying, right?”
“I’ll prescribe you the meds and you and your mom can pick them up today. We’ll discuss how things are going once a week to see if things are improving.”
“Sounds good to me.”
“And Neo?” Dr. Delgado and I stood up, as our time is up, but he stops me from leaving by calling me back. “Not as your doctor, but as your best friend’s father. You could maybe confine in Calo about those thoughts. The worst part about depression is the fact that most people, just like you, feel misunderstood and alone. As if nobody gets what it’s like.”
“Tell Calo about my wish... to die?”
“He knows those thoughts. Better then I do, better then any therapist or psychiatrist does.”
“Right...” I nod. “I’ll think about it.”
“It is your choice. It’s just my advice as a father of a son who struggles with similar thoughts. I would discuss group therapy if you wouldn’t have slight social anxiety.”
I smile carefully and nod. At least he read my complete file, knowing I’m not a fan of groups. And maybe talking to Calo about this, is my form of group therapy. Mayne it’ll help to tell him, as my best friend, how I truly feel.
“I’ll see you on Tuesday.” Dr. Delgado waves instead of offering me his hand to shake. Another on of the small gestures that tells me he’s really investing time in getting to know ever little thing about me in order to help me get better. It’s another one of those tiny things he does, that make me open up to him.