Looking back at what has happened so far during my sophomore year at high school, I have realized that I have undergone a major change in my personality and my outlook at life. Or maybe I haven’t; maybe I just affirmed my position in life. Either way, something big happened. And it started with one book. That book is J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher In The Rye.
You see, I started getting depressed last year when I was a freshman in high school. I don’t know how it started; maybe it was a combination of pressures from home and school. But I knew who was giving the pressure- myself. And I couldn’t help it. Sometimes when it was raining I would walk down the hallways thinking of dying or pretending I was drunk so I didn’t have to worry about the world anymore. The point is, however, that I didn’t see what was happening that time as depression; I only saw it as me being negative.
I had this attitude for the rest of my freshman year and during the summer. The thing was, I really couldn’t put into words how I was feeling. Of course, this all changed when I started reading the book.
My first thought when I began reading the book- I hated it. I hated the voice, the language, because maybe it was too different from what I used to read. I was like- why in the world would an English class make students read this jumble of crap? Until I realized- it wasn’t a jumble of crap. It was pure beauty. My English teacher during one class took one tiny passage out of the book, and from that one tiny passage she revealed to us Salinger’s ultimate purpose. By the time she finished, my jaws were so wide and my eyes were so big. I was awestruck at the beauty- how Salinger managed to give a symbolic meaning behind every single detail.
But soon as I read the book more and more, I came upon another beauty. The beauty of being able to relate to the character. The beauty that because of this, I was able to FEEL Holden. And somehow, I came upon the understanding that through Holden, I was able to realize what I was feeling was depression. Holden became a symbol of my depression. He was my depression conceptualized. In a sense, Holden became me and I became Holden. I soon started talking like Holden, using words like “phony,” “sonuvabitch,” etc. I even started feeling like Holden more than ever. Sometimes I even started lapsing into panic attacks. Somehow me and Holden became one.
Perhaps this is the reason why my depression went worse. Because I related too much to him. I remember when I stayed at school late for track tryouts, and when I was walking home alone, it was all dark. And I just started talking to myself, thinking that you know maybe I could wander the streets just like Holden wandered New York. Only if I had the dough.
Just like how Holden ranted, I felt the need to rant to ease my stress. So I ranted when I was talking to my friends, I ranted on Facebook, I ranted and ranted and ranted. And I wasn’t thinking what I was saying, so soon I was letting out so many negative thoughts, so many negative emotions. And the thing is, I guess I scared people. And so my fellow students reported me. And the next thing I knew, my whole world turned upside down.
I remember being dragged out of my math class by the dean. I remember being handcuffed in front of my crying parents. I remember being transported by ambulance to the place where I would live for six days of my life. To a mental hospital. And I remembered how I laughed at myself, thinking that my life is so much like Holden’s. Crying at myself, thinking my future was ruined. Pitying myself.
But maybe it was those six days that perhaps had the most impact on my life. It was during those six days that I contemplated about myself. That mental hospital was the site of my apotheosis. And I also realized- I wasn’t the only one out there. Perhaps more importantly, there were people much much far worse than Holden and I.
I met people who cut themselves. People who do things such as lying out in the middle of the road. People who tried to hang themselves. People who were so depressed they had hallucinations. People who were verbally, emotionally, physically, and sexually abused. People who were mentally retarded. As alien as it seemed to me, however, they and I shared one thing in common- we all felt neglected, and we all supported each other. And I’m glad that I met people like that. I’m glad I met Aidan, my roommate, who I will never forget. Because I felt them, and their experiences became mine.
When I was discharged, I felt I changed. But it was only the next day, when I came back to school, that I truly changed. And somehow, I don’t know why, that very same day I came back to school, it rained. I was in track class that time, and just like Holden, I just stood there, letting the rain soak me. Letting myself be reborn again.
So what happened later? Well right now I’m seeing my psychiatrist weekly. I’m still being watched.
So this is my story. You might ask, why make such a personal story public? Let me tell you- out there in the world, people don’t talk about depression much. But then there are those few people who do. And from their sharing, they have begun a new movement- a movement of making depression aware to the public. And so I would just like to contribute this story to this growing library, this growing movement. My story alone cannot accurately convey my feeling of depression, but a library of these stories collectively can. And besides this, there is one more reason why I want to share this story-
Cause Holden would have wanted me to.