Open Window

This weekend, my small sliver of a piece of the world is due to have some seasonably cold temperatures. The leaves have only just started to change colors, but it is very obvious that autumn is here. One walk down the aisle in any store will present you with signs boasting of Halloween treats and costumes, and if you look just far enough past these signs, the aisles of Christmas decorations are beginning to peek out.

This is the time of year that always brings with it a blast of nostalgia. For me, it’s not difficult to recall the festivities of the past. My memory, while not good for short term storage, has kept an account of the past with vivid details that are impossible to forget. Not all of the mental images are positive, but all of them have made an impact and continue to do so to this day.

It was more than 10 years ago that I reluctantly took a break from my college career and at the insistance of my psychiatrist, began an intensive round of electric shock treatments, known as ECT (electro-convulsive therapy). Over the course of the autumn months that year, I received four of these treatments on an out-patient basis in order to ‘jump-start’ my brain. My mental health had deterioriated to a point where I was barely functioning normally. The self-inflicted cuts up and down my arms, in combination with severe swings of my mood in both directions, and medication that didn’t seem to help, were all factors in the decision of my doctor to begin these treatments.

The first of these treatments fell on a day that had a distinctive chill in the air. My then, fiance and his mother, waited at the hospital as I had my treatment. My own mother couldn’t get over her aversion to these treatments, having been offered an opportunity to have them during her own battle with depression. This belief of hers that what I was about to experience was too barbaric, prevented her from making the trip to be by my side. While the resentment I felt towards her absence has since faded, I know that what my husband and his mother endured as I healed is something that I will never be able to forget or feel that I can truly ever repay.

Leaving the hospital on that first treatment day, I was groggy and barely awake for the duration of the 45 minute ride home. While my mother and society may think this is an inhumane way to treat depression, it was anything but what is seen in horror movies. I was under anesthesia for the entire process, leaving no memory of any pain that may have been caused otherwise.

I don’t remember much else about coming home that day, but the image that is etched into my memory is of laying on the twin bed in my bedroom at my future mother-in-law’s house. I didn’t live on campus anymore at that point, choosing instead to commute to school. I was wearing comfortable sweat pants and a sweatshirt as I rested the weight of my still sedated body on my stomach. Somebody had opened the window closest to the bed I laid on. For a brief moment, before I fell asleep once again, I peered out of the open window and saw a scene of a wet street covered in orange and yellow leaves that had fallen from nearby trees. There was a slight breeze that rustled what leaves remained on the trees and sauntered gently into the window and across my face. And as the cool caress lulled my eyes closed, the last thing I remember was the scent of rain. That familiar, refreshing scent that will now always remind me of that day, when a new season was beginning both out in the natural world, and in the new healthy world of possibility that was laid out before me.

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