The Freedom That Paper Gives

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Marie isn’t ok

CW: The following episodes heavily surround themes of bipolar disorder, depression and PTSD. This includes but is not limited to; depression, mania, not eating, self harm and suicide.

If you feel uneasy around subjects surrounding depression I would advise that you skip the next couple of chapters (chapters 12-16). You will not miss too much in terms of plot. Check out my insta or Tumblr for a break down of those episodes.

Something seemed different about Marie though, her dark brown hair looked a bit greasy and was tied in a topknot as opposed to her usual fashion of wearing it down. Her clothes were more loose fitting and dare he say it casual, a jumper and jeans, and her clothes were darker. Marie wasn’t wearing any of her usual jewellery but the biggest difference was this was the first time Percy had seen her without makeup. Marie didn’t wear a lot of makeup, just her signature dark red lipstick, winged eyeliner and light eyeshadow that always complemented her outfit and Percy guessed concealer as well. Percy didn’t really know a lot about makeup. Without it Marie looked different, softer, younger, more vulnerable but Percy still thought she looked beautiful. To Percy she would look beautiful in a potato sack with dirt over her face, and honestly she would be able to pull off that look. Percy couldn’t be sure how much time had passed since she came to the doorway, but she hadn’t spoken yet and hopefully he wasn’t staring.

“Hey, sorry I must look like a total wreck.” Marie said, her voice slower than usual as though it was missing something.

In reality Marie was trying to sound as casual as possible, she knew she was failing.

“No, you look fine. I’m just glad to see you to be honest.” Percy replied and he honestly meant it.

“Your a liar Percy, and not even a good one.” Marie replied, making an attempt at a laugh as she went over to the sofa.

“I’m just glad your alright. I’ve been so worried, when you didn’t turn up I thought the worst had happened.” Percy said.

“Oh Percy I’m far from alright.” Marie said as she took a seat next to Percy.

Percy noticed she was moving slower, without her usual effortless grace, as though every step was a battle. He knew the feeling. When she sat down next to him she didn’t relax like she usually did and instead wrapped her arms around herself and found that she was unable to meet Percy’s eye. All Percy wanted to do was reach out and hold her, but he knew that she didn’t want that. As well as the huge basket still on his lap.

The basket!

In seeing Marie again he had completely forgotten the entire reason he was there in the first place.

“I brought this for you. I hope you like it, I’m not good at gifts and I don’t really know what you like...” Percy trailed of as it looked to him like Marie noticed the basket for the last time.

“All this for me?” Marie asked in a soft voice, barely audible.

“Yeah, I was really worried, I really care about you.” Percy replied, again finding he honestly meant it. He cared about Marie a lot.

Percy handed Marie the basket and she looked inside, Percy was suddenly becoming more embarrassed about it, he was sure he had gotten all the wrong things. As Marie looked inside Percy was watching for her reaction, but she didn’t really show anything. Whatever reaction Percy was expecting it was not this, it just confirmed his suspicions that he had done something wrong, overstepped the mark. Perhaps he should have asked Asha first.

Suddenly Percy was pulled out of his mind by a sound he hoped he would never hear, the sound of Marie crying. She was sat there crying over the basket and Percy didn’t know what to do.

“Hey, hey its alright. Why are you crying?” Percy asked as he was trying to remember if he was carrying any tissues.

“You did this for me. And I’ve been a terrible friend. I haven’t replied to your messages or told you I was alright. You were worried about me.” Marie said in between tears.

Percy took the basket off Maries lap and was starting to panic. He didn’t know whether to call for Kamila or Oscar or not. Or worse what if Oscar found Marie like this. He didn’t know how Marie liked to be comforted, or if she wanted to be left alone. He awkwardly put his hand on her shoulder and spoke softly to her.

“You haven’t been a terrible friend, you’ve been ill so its not your fault. Like I said I’m just happy to see you now.” Percy said praying he was saying the right thing.

Marie looked up at Percy, her tears still falling silently.

“I haven’t been ill Percy. I’m not ill or sick. Or at least not in the way you mean. So it is my fault.” Marie replied, feeling guilty for worrying him so much.

“No its not, you had your reasons. Are you able to tell me how your sick? Is is stress?” Percy asked.

Marie looked down into her lap as she knew that she had to tell him, she should have told him a long time ago. Marie is not ashamed of her bipolar disorder, but she is ashamed of how it makes people treat her.

“Percy the reason you haven’t seen me or heard from me is because I have bipolar disorder and I was in a depression. A bad one.”

As soon as Marie said it Percy wondered how he didn’t realise earlier, and felt even worse that he didn’t realise. But he knew now wasn’t the time to say anything. Marie took a deep breath and carried on.

“The reason why I didn’t tell you was because I don’t like the way people change when they know. You’ve seen Oscar, he’s overprotective and scared of me getting hurt. Sometimes it feels like his walking on eggshells is making me walk on them too. I’m not ashamed of my mental illnesses. People tend not to understand that no matter how much therapy I have or what medication I’m on I’ll always go through depressions and manias.” Marie found herself explaining.

Marie looked out the window and then back to Percy before carrying on.

“I think of it like a light-switch, off is depression and on is mania. Did you ever do that thing when you were younger of trying to balance a light-switch in the middle? Well for me the middle is what you would consider ‘normal’. When I was younger I couldn’t really balance the switch and every time I tried it just went to depression or mania, so I got a lot of medication that acted as a mechanism that allowed me to balance the switch. But every once and a while that mechanism broke and the light would go on or off and because it hadn’t done in a long time it was worse and harder to get back to the middle. Depression and mania are opposites, in a mania I feel all my emotions all the time. I loose my inhibitions and reasoning, so that means I do things like drain my bank account or kiss a stranger. Stupid, irrational, impulsive things... But the mind can’t deal with feeling so much so intensely, so I get angry at my friends who are just trying to help, or I cry for no reason or I burst out laughing at nothing. I say horrible things to people because I can’t keep my thoughts inside my head, and I also compliment recklessly. While in a depression, I feel... nothing. No emotions, no feelings, nothing. I don’t want to do anything and I often end up not getting out of bed all day. Because I don’t feel anything I don’t get hungry or thirsty and when I eat or drink I don’t get full so I don’t see the point. I’m so tired all the time but no amount of sleep fixes it so I just don’t sleep. I don’t have the energy to move or talk to people no matter how much I might want to. The mind also can’t deal with feeling nothing either, but instead of lashing out it lashes in. I want to end it. End this feeling or lack thereof. In both a mania and depression I feel like I’m trapped behind a screen watching someone else control my body and not being able to do anything about it apart from watch as I slowly destroy myself. But after a while and a lot of therapy I got better at balancing the switch on my own and I didn’t need the medication as much, I still take them every day but thats just because it helps me keep a sense of ‘normality’. Its like a contingency plan. Until a year ago I thought I was pretty good at balancing the switch and spotting the signs of when I was slipping and I knew how to plan for it and try and prevent it. If I felt myself going into a mania I would give Byron all my debit cards and stay away from people who didn’t know about my condition, and once it was over apologise to all my friends. If I felt myself going into a depression I would prepare all my coping mechanisms, tell my teachers I might not be in class. Remind myself to eat and drink and take my meds. Force myself to get out of bed. But a year ago something just... slipped and I went into the deepest depression I have ever been in, it was bad. I didn’t eat, sleep, drink, talk, wash. I hated myself and I just wanted a way out. And if it wasn’t for Byron I would have taken it. That was the only time I had ever been admitted into a psychiatric hospital, and I was only there for a month. I scared my father so much and all my friends too and I promised myself that I would never let myself get that far again. It’s a stupid promise to make because I can’t control whether I do or not. But I tried harder, and I guess I pushed myself to far. The mechanism snapped and I fell again. But this time I was able to pull myself out. I’m not back to ‘normal’ yet but I’m nearly there. The switch is nearly balanced again.”

Marie looked at Percy harder and while she wanted to reach out to him she couldn’t.

“I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want you worrying. Byron sleeps outside my room at night because he’s so scared to leave me alone. I don’t want anyone else to go through that. Ever.”

Percy remained silent for a while processing everything that Marie had just told him. He knew how brave it was to tell people things like that and he knew it was time to be brave too.

“I understand what its like.” Percy found himself saying, “People worrying over you constantly, you feel bad because you feel like a burden. I have mild depression and I have since I was around ten, sometimes it feels hopeless as you watch yourself go down that hole. I can get by mostly with therapy and coping mechanisms but I always need medication on standby. Both me, my parents and my sister are constantly watching for signs that I’m slipping. You know you can’t go through it alone but you hate how it affects other people.”

Percy found he was saying this to himself as opposed to Marie. But it felt good to get these thoughts out in the open.

“Ten, that’s really young. I was diagnosed at fourteen and that’s considered young.” Marie replied.

“Well mild depression kind of goes with mild PTSD. And nearly dying of sepsis at ten does that to you.”

Percy was shocked at himself, some of his friends new about his depression, but none of them knew about the PTSD and they definitely didn’t know about the sepsis. No one outside the family knew how he lost his leg because he didn’t like to talk about it. But around Marie he felt he could, maybe not all at once and definitely not today. But he felt she would understand and not judge. He also did something he hadn’t allowed himself to do in a long time, he allowed himself to cry.

“Percy thats a really big thing to tell me that. It’s terrible you went through so much at such a young age. And I’m glad you felt safe enough to tell me that. You know I’m listening, if there’s anything else you want to say. And if you don’t thats fine too.” Marie herself was speaking quietly.

This almost made Percy feel worse, he had come there to see if she was alright but here Marie was comforting him. Both Marie and Percy sat in silence for a while crying to themselves. They both felt calm around each other, like the other understood and was there even by not saying anything. They both felt safe and supported with each other, like they could say anything. Percy turned his attention to comforting Marie, after all this was the purpose of his visit in the first place.

“I get what you mean about pushing yourself too far. I do the same with my physio, I push myself to my limits because I want to be able to do things but I don’t want to be able to wait to do them. I want to be able to travel on my own and not rely on anyone, I want to be able to climb mountains and walk through the rainforest. And I want to be able to do that by the time I graduate because if I can’t then then my parents won’t let me go.” Percy found himself saying.

“You will, I can tell. I know that I’ll never be able to go about my life without having another depression or mania, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to keep trying to get better at managing them. I know that I’ll never be normal, but I’m fine with that.” Marie found herself saying.

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