Overcast in Ithaca

by Ben Vajdos 6 months ago in depression

A Personal Essay

Overcast in Ithaca
Clouds march on the view from room 1212 of East Tower.

Sometimes it is already cloudy when I wake up. I'll look out my window at the white oblivion outside. I cannot see the ground or any of the campus buildings. While I get ready, I live in a single room in limbo, a small universe occupied by myself, my slumbering roommate, and my cup of hot coffee.

Sometimes the clouds can be beautiful. When I wake up and see a layer of fog shrouding Cayuga Lake, I like to imagine that its shores are the edge of the universe, the same way in which early explorers assumed there was a genuine edge of the Earth. Those mornings, my universe is expanded from the edges of my room to the edges of the city of Ithaca.

It hurts most, though, to wake up to a sunny morning that expands as far as the eye can see, as far as the sun can shine, because I know in the distance, it is shrinking rapidly. The clouds will move in, pulling with them the edge of the world until it is small and confined and claustrophobic again. The weather in Ithaca wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t so cloudy all the time. Some mornings, I can look out my 12th-floor window across the city and beyond Cayuga Lake, and see the wall of clouds that will surely be on top of campus by the time I finish with my classes. The sheer magnitude, density, consistency of the clouds is discouraging in and of itself. I know that I'll get to bask in the sunlight for the seven minutes it takes me to walk to Smiddy Hall from my dorm before the clouds charge campus, reenacting their conquest of South Hill and my mood from the day prior.

The sun is a tease, baiting me with its false promise of a beautiful day only to toss a wall of clouds at the South Hill of Ithaca day after day.

I never learn, though. When I wake to blue skies and green grass, shimmering waters and warm(ish) breeze, I overflow with excitement, bliss, peace. But the clouds creep in day after day, and day after day I find myself betrayed by the skies once again

I fall into an emotional funk unnervingly easily these days. I take my medication every morning at the same time, but it seems that as the day progresses, I feel the pit in my stomach grow, my lungs can’t seem to fill all the way, and my throat feels a little tighter. I find myself wanting to leave dinner with my friends at the slightest hint of tension or anxiety. I find myself sitting motionless at my desk, having finished my work hours ago. I find myself just waiting until it is late enough at night to justify going to bed, but then not being tired in the slightest by that time. I accidentally stay up until two in the morning every night. I fill my journal with entries I would want no one to ever read.

I wake up the next morning to the sun. I take my medication. I make my bed. I put my plants out on my bed to soak up the insufficient sunlight from the window. I make my coffee, a meditative ritual that helps ease my mind into wakefulness. I sip it quietly, practicing identifying the different facets of the beverage's complex flavor. I notice the clouds in the distance, and I remember the days, weeks, and months before. My excitement for the sunlight does not diminish, and I am determined to savor every last minute of it.

But just like the days, weeks, and months prior to this morning, the clouds invade. They envelop campus. They envelop my mind. I may be productive today. My grades may improve, and I may accomplish something. But at the end of the day, my stomach aches. My throat tightens. I can't seem to fill my lungs with air all the way. I'll be up until 2 a.m. lying on my bed, exhausted, but not tired. The sun's next appearance just hours away, I feel the weight of the clouds in the universe between my ears.

Ben Vajdos
Ben Vajdos
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Ben Vajdos
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