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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Feel (emotions) (08/26/10)

TITLE: Flatline
By Robyn Burke


I follow the nurse down the corridor to the examination room. Her white clogs are silent on the Berber rug. Her scrubs, a playful print of Disney characters, make for a pleasant contrast against an otherwise drab interior. We make the dreaded stop at the scales, where I dutifully shed coat and shoes and step on. The scale tips in my favor for a change. I guess the anti-depressants are working in that regard.

Once seated, the nurse takes my blood pressure, then hands me a clipboard, paper attached. It’s the same evaluation chart I’ve filled out the last 4 times. I circle my choices, testifying that while I am not contemplating death, I don’t exactly care to throw a party or dance a jig. As I sniff over the assignment, the nurse discreetly tucks a Kleenex box closer to me before she exits the room.

I glance around, taking in the classic poster of a mountain climber, perched on a precipice, hand raised in victory, as he looks out over a vast expanse of landscape. Some pithy motivational quote accompanies the picture but I am too lethargic to dig for my glasses.

I’ve been on anti-depressants for 4 months now. The depression has been with me at least twice as long. We’ve been adjusting my medication, trying different combinations in an effort to stabilize my moods. If I were in a poster, I would be standing on a flat surface with only shades of gray surrounding me.

If the doctor asks me how I am feeling I am going to tell her “with my fingers.” Because, the truth is, other than my tactile senses, I don’t feel anything. I don’t feel mad, sad, or suicidal. Neither do I feel happy, contented, or blissful. I feel nothing.

My doctor enters the room and the first thing I notice are her red clogs. I take note because I do love shoes. Her legs are tanned and bare. She doesn’t wear a lab coat. Instead, a dark pencil skirt pared with a red and white striped blouse showcases her perfect figure. She is at least 15 years younger than me, with flawless skin, her haircut perfectly skimming her shoulders in a classic bob. I should hate her.

I give the perfunctory smile and wait for the question. Her sharp eyes rest on my face inquisitively but she doesn’t speak. She looks over the form I filled out as she settles on her swivel stool. I wait.

“So, Lindsey, what do you think? Are the pills helping?”

“I’ve lost 8 pounds. That was helpful.” We exchange smiles, genuine ones this time.

“Tell me what’s going on. Can you describe some of your feelings for me?”

I hesitate, weighing my words. One hand in front of me, palm down, I make a sweeping motion, in one direction, across the air.

“Flat line” I say.

“What does that mean?”

“I don’t feel anything. I can function fine; I get up each morning and go through the motions of the day. No crying jags, no trying to hide. I participate in things around me. But I just don’t feel anything. Everything is…. beige.” I shrug my shoulders, helpless to describe it any more than that.

But she nods her head, making some notations on my chart.

“I’m going to prescribe some Vitamin D for you, 5000 units a day.” She scribbles some more in the chart, tears off a piece of paper and hands it to me as she stands.

That’s it? I think. Vitamin D? “Is this going to make me start feeling again?” I blurt.

She pauses, mouth open as if to speak. Then, she returns to sit next to me and squeezes my hand.

“It’s going to get better Lindsey. It takes time, but it is going to get better.”

I drive across town to the city park and watch in silence as children scamper across the park. Their carefree laughter pierces my heart like an arrow. I welcome the feeling of pain.

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This article has been read 523 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Charla Diehl 09/02/10
Realistic overview of a slice of time in Lindsey's day. I was interested from the first paragraph, but maybe it would have been helpful to give the reader the reason for her depression. I'm assuming, from the last paragraph, that she either wanted children and couldn't have them or maybe she had tragically lost a child. Or, maybe your intent was meant for the reader to draw their own conclusion.
Barbara Lynn Culler09/04/10
I have been there and know that feeling well.

I was also curious as to why the weight was an issue as well as hearing children play.

Loved the descriptions.
Gregory Kane09/06/10
Excellent writing. I liked the 'blip' in your emotional flatline in the closing paragraph.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 09/06/10
Depression is a serious illness. For so many years it was an ugly secret. Stories like this will help to bring it into the light.
Virgil Youngblood 09/07/10
On topic and well written.
Kate Oliver Webb 09/07/10
Poignant description of a depressed person's day. Oh my, it's truly spot-on. Great writing here. I, too, liked the blip at the end because of the children; but I also thought the attraction to the red clogs toward the beginning was a positive blip. She's not as flat-line as she supposes; something is going on here....
Rachel Phelps09/08/10
This story is very well done. I would say that devoting a few words to a why or how might have helped, but the more I think about it the more I like how this is simply a slice-of-life. Well done.
Robyn Burke09/09/10
Thanks everyone for your feedback!

I understand the readers wanting more information as to why my MC is depressed but I chose to omit that because it really doesn't matter what brought on the depression. What matters is that depression happens for a myriad of reasons. What matters is getting help for depression. What matters is that people with depression be treated with compassion. It's a serious illness that is often overlooked, misunderstood and even treated with discrimination.

My intent-- in 750 words or less-- was to give others a glimpse into the thinking and feelings of someone who is clinically depressed.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 09/09/10
Congratulations for placing in the top 15 of your level and in the top 40 overall.