Rose stopped taking the pills. She was old enough, she said, to make up her own mind about what went into her body, so she stopped taking her pills. She said they made her feel like she was always under water. Like the world was muffled and suffocating. Heavy against her skin and dark. That she couldn’t hear music or laugh deep in her belly.
What was meant to keep the anxiety at bay, and calm her depressive, obsessive thought patterns dulled everything else too. Was it better, she asked me, over our notes on the verge of our philosophy final, to feel nothing or to feel it all?
“Is that on the test?” I responded, blurry eyed and frantic and searching through the college ruled pages for which Grecian orator quoted it.
“No!” she shoved me and a rare smile played on the edge of her lips. “I said it, I’m asking you. Is it better to feel nothing or to feel everything?”
I shrugged. Having to study for a test on the stuff, I was in no mood to play around with it for fun.
“I dunno. I guess if you never feel anything, then are you ever really alive?”
“That’s what I’m thinking too,” Rose’s eyes and voice trailed away, across the library’s main hall to some distant destination. “Are you ever really alive, if you never feel anything? But what happens if you feel it all?”
“I suppose you go crazy.” I was impatient. “Can we get back to the final, please? If I don’t pass this one, my dad’s gonna take away my car and I’ll have to bike everywhere next semester.” Dropping from four wheels down to two was my biggest worry.
I should have seen that her worries were running much deeper.
That there seemed to be only one black and white choice for Rose. All or naught. Everything or nothing. If I had paused, if I could go back and tell her, that we should try to feel as much as possible, without letting it control us. Into self-harm. Into desperate decisions.
We couldn’t let ourselves feel it all because we wouldn’t survive the chaos of the emotional reverberations of the world around us. We had to learn to filter. Some people used meditation to filter. Some people used counseling and talking to friends. Some people needed to take pills as their filter.
Some people said the pills made you feel like you were living under water.
Rose stopped taking the pills two weeks ago. She didn’t come back to Philosophy II after break. She didn’t come back to college at all.
I wonder if she suffocated in the wild, free air, after breaking above the surface of her water. I wonder if she felt it all at once. The light and sound and cold. I wonder if she felt too much. I wonder if she finally felt everything. I wonder if Rose above the water, truly lived.