It's the middle of the day on a weekday and I have a hair appointment. I feel myself becoming unsettled as I walk to the salon. My stylist and I live in different worlds due to age and interests so it's always a challenge to keep a conversation flowing during a cut, an ordeal prolonged by the fact I insist on getting my sideburns colored each time as I continue to battle the inevitable gray signs of aging.
I have far less than usual to discuss. I've been in hospital for close to three weeks and I'm not prepared to talk about that. I can't talk about my recent (Canadian) Thanksgiving. Again, in hospital. No pumpkin pie, no roasted veggies. And I didn't have plans for this past weekend. I wasn't sure when I'd be discharged. I'm out of practice in planning a day or any part of it. I've forgotten what it's like to have options. And, honestly, I don't have the energy.
I briefly debated telling my stylist I was hospitalized for depression. (Never mind the suicidal tidbit. No need to be a total downer.) But being out with one's depression still comes with a degree of discretion. To my knowledge, there isn't some well-worn chant like, "I'm down. Don't frown. Get used to it."
A disclosure to Melanie might be somewhat cathartic and might even have some educational value for her, but in my mind I went all Jack Nicholson--"You can't handle the truth!"
Jack and I were proven right after only five minutes. She'd asked me if I was dressing up for Hallowe'en. She talked about Friday the 13th freaking her out. She bemoaned a broken fingernail and an unsatisfied craving for sour candy. "I was hospitalized for depression" just felt out of place. So I explained away my midday appointment by saying I'd taken a leave of absence.
"Good for you!" she said. "You work too hard." And then she segued into an anecdote about how menacing the mirror at her work station can be when she has a hangover.
I'm not ready for full re-entry into society, I thought. I wanted to flee. I even momentarily longed for the grim isolation of my old room on the psych ward. But then I looked in that menacing mirror and stared down big hair and old man sideburns. I steered the conversation to near silence. I inserted a fake smile in the right places and nodded at times when the scissors weren't too close to my ears. I made it through, departing with my secret still under wraps. Turns out the experience wasn't about bringing Melanie around to some point of understanding; rather, it was a chance for me to practice tolerance. And, these days, that’s something we can all work on, no matter what we’ve endured during the past month.