Finding Audrey(8)By: Sophie Kinsella
‘Sorry,’ I gasp, and tear through the kitchen like a hunted fox. Up the stairs. Into my bedroom. Into the furthest corner. Crouched down behind the curtain. My breath is coming like a piston engine and tears are coursing down my face. I need a Clonazepam, but right now I can’t even leave the curtain to get it. I’m clinging to the fabric like it’s the only thing that will save me.
‘Audrey?’ Mum’s at the bedroom door, her voice high with alarm. ‘Sweetheart? What happened?’
‘It’s just . . . you know.’ I swallow. ‘That boy came in and I wasn’t expecting it . . .’
‘It’s fine,’ soothes Mum, coming over and stroking my head. ‘It’s OK. It’s totally understandable. Do you want to take a . . .’
Mum never says the words of medication out loud.
‘I’ll get it.’
She heads out to the bathroom and I hear the sound of water running. And all I feel is stupid. Stupid.
So now you know.
Well, I suppose you don’t know – you’re guessing. To put you out of your misery, here’s the full diagnosis. Social Anxiety Disorder, General Anxiety Disorder and Depressive Episodes.
Episodes. Like depression is a sitcom with a fun punchline each time. Or a TV box set loaded with cliffhangers. The only cliffhanger in my life is, ‘Will I ever get rid of this shit?’ and believe me, it gets pretty monotonous.
At my next session with Dr Sarah I tell her about Linus and the whole anxiety-attack thing, and she listens thoughtfully. Dr Sarah does everything thoughtfully. She listens thoughtfully, she writes thoughtfully with beautiful loopy writing, and she even taps at her computer thoughtfully.
Her surname is McVeigh but we call her Dr Sarah because they brainstormed about it in a big meeting and decided first names were approachable but Dr gave authority and reassurance, so Dr First Name was the perfect moniker for the children’s unit.
(When she said ‘moniker’ I thought they were all going to be renamed Monica. Seriously, for about ten minutes, till she explained.)
The children’s unit is at a big private hospital called St John’s which Mum and Dad got the insurance for through Dad’s job. (The first question they ask when you arrive is not ‘How do you feel?’ it’s ‘Do you have insurance?’) I lived here for six weeks, after Mum and Dad worked out that there was something really wrong with me. The trouble is, depression doesn’t come with handy symptoms like spots and a temperature, so you don’t realize at first. You keep saying ‘I’m fine’ to people when you’re not fine. You think you should be fine. You keep saying to yourself: ‘Why aren’t I fine?’
Anyway. At last Mum and Dad took me to see our GP and I got referred and I came here. I was in a bit of a state. I don’t really remember those first few days very well, to be honest. Now I visit twice a week. I could come more often if I wanted – they keep telling me that. I could make cupcakes. But I’ve made them, like, fifty-five zillion times and it’s always the same recipe.
After I’ve finished telling Dr Sarah about the whole hiding-behind-the-curtain thing, she looks for a while at the tick box questionnaire I filled in when I arrived. All the usual questions.
Do you feel like a failure? Very much.
Do you ever wish you didn’t exist? Very much.
Dr Sarah calls this sheet my ‘symptoms’. Sometimes I think, Shall I just lie and say everything’s rosy? But the weird thing is, I don’t. I can’t do that to Dr Sarah. We’re in this together.
‘And how do you feel about what happened?’ she says in that kind, unruffled voice she has.
‘I feel stuck.’
The word stuck comes out before I’ve even thought it. I didn’t know I felt stuck.
‘I’ve been ill for ever.’
‘Not for ever,’ she says in calm tones. ‘I first met you’ – she consults her computer screen – ‘on March the sixth. You’d probably been ill for a while before that without realizing. But the good news is, you’ve come such a long way, Audrey. You’re improving every day.’