Ben Grenrock has struggled with chronic depression, but he's lucky to have a supportive family and access to the treatment he needs. This compelling story draws attention to all the young people who aren't nearly as lucky as Ben.
Ben Grenrock: The homeless guy outside 7-Eleven buys beer for me and my friends. He places the six pack in my underage hands like passing a torch. This is the first time I'm drinking to escape my chronic depression and I'm feeling too low to bother distilling the man's, "you kids have fun now," down to a warning, down to the words, "fun." Now that I remember the smell of it and the alcohol on his breath. As we walk away, I hear him either coughing or crying, the echoes off the concrete overpass blending sickness and sadness into a single sound. I turn and see a glass bottle pressed to his lips, a stopper for the noise, and keep walking.
Once the beer has stained my breath sour the world starts to blur like everything not on the merry-go-round. Once I'm inside the bottle it's suddenly easier to crack smiles into my face. It's glass becomes a prism, bending the grays and blacks of my depression colored.
As I fall asleep that night, I hear myself making a sound. It's soft, hard to hear, it could be coughing but I know I am crying. I first realize that sadness and sickness can be the same thing when I am diagnosed with depression. Prescribed medicine to paint my gray days vibrant. At first, I was scared of letting doctors mix the colors on my palette for me, but all the pills did was make me feel better, better enough to start to rebuild, to break the cycle of hopeless without the hangover, the cursed out friends, the undone homework, the aftertaste of fermented sadness.
The first day I drank to feel better, the liquor store was my pharmacy. The homeless man, a psychiatrist doling out the only medicine I knew how to get in that moment and now I can taste the burn to his warning. So many homeless youth use drugs or alcohol like medicine. On the street it's the only psychiatry available. So much cheaper than pills when you don't have health insurance or parents who will support you like I do. Homeless youth are not given the tools I was.
There is a name for my sickness, but a population that suffers from more post-traumatic stress than war veterans isn't even given the privilege of the words clinical depression, who can't get SSRIs with crazy, unstable, fucked-up written on your prescription slip. Without access to any pharmacy but the corner store, every day sick with sadness or sick with liquor, how can you get well enough to start to rebuild, to break the cycle of hopeless.
I started every day for a year with an orange capsule. A little bit of color. What if those days had begun with a drink, if it was the only medicine that I could get if every morning I'd climb into a bottle, a prison I pray would bend my days bright?
I've spent the last four years learning to live in color and I still cannot do it alone. These days when I sink back into depression I have a therapist to call, pills I could start taking again. These days when I drink I have the luxury to let alcohol just be fun. Just be now. I couldn't have gotten better from behind glass, couldn't have done it having to hustle for my medicine, rattling a change cup for hours before I could get my pills. Without the plastic bottled health, money, insurance, parents, privilege can buy maybe right now I would be slumped against the wall of a 7-Eleven coughing or crying, sad and sick, trapped inside a glass bottle without access to the tools to break it.