I’ve drunk coffee three afternoons in a row and that hasn’t happened since my last major mental breakdown.
I know it’s bad for me. I know when the time comes to fall blissfully to sleep my heart will race and convince me there are even more things to be afraid of than usual. I know the morning after a 2:30pm cup of coffee my depression will be worse and I won’t want to get out of bed. I know I will drink more coffee to stay awake. And so it goes.
People take you more seriously if you walk into a meeting room with a coffee cup in your left hand. You’re working so hard, they say. Drinking coffee? they say. Ah, you’re just like us, they say.
Coffee is a balm. It numbs that constant insecurity that I don’t belong, that I’m too loud, that I take up too much space. When I drink coffee I can be someone else. I can be that cool, hipster, young Asian professional who is falling apart but at least she has her coffee.
Coffee is a drug. As soon as the cup runs dry, the illusion of security evaporates and I have to buy more. Even carrying around an empty cup doesn’t do the trick. There has to be coffee in the cup. Trust me, I’ve tried, and not because I couldn’t find a trash can.
Coffee is an idol. It offers grand images of acceptance only to disappoint as soon as my body swallows the consequences of what I have done. Coffee promises to fill that gaping desire for another’s approval, then leaves me feeling more empty than before.
Yesterday in the office I drank half of a small Styrofoam cup of black coffee at 11 p.m. Within minutes my eyes stopped drooping but I couldn’t think any more clearly than I could before.
When I finally went home and fell asleep, stuffed animals clutched against my aching ribs, old high school bullies came up to me in my dreams to mock my depression. They laughed in my face and said it was just an excuse. Sure, they said. You’re “depressed,” they said.
Then my roommate showed up. “You’re all despicable,” she told them.
And I walked away into the woods.