Ode to Joy

Ash Mehta is a senior in high school who loves writing everything from short form creative nonfiction to high fantasy novels. They are particularly interested in emotional, character-driven plotlines and speculative pieces. Their favorite author is Kurt Vonnegut and their favorite book is Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. They’re currently working on publishing a young-adult adventure high-fantasy novel called “Fateful Equinox” (text your email to (650)-796-5210 to be notified when it’s released!)

Ode to Joy

tw: mention of eating disorder, mental health

This isn’t a “good month.”

No, a “good month” is when life goes on, and the notebooks are color-coordinated, and the overdue tab empty. A “good month” is always feeling just a bit cold, a bit lethargic, a bit hungry, but I’ll live. A “good month” is when my life is dictated by that pit of dread in my stomach, my anxiety dragging me through existence against depression’s consistent efforts to pull me into the ultimate, inescapable void. Sometimes, a chuckle might escape my mouth at a joke, a smile at a song, but it is only an echo of true joy.

This isn’t a “great month.”

A “great month” is when life is fun sometimes, when things are calm, and the notebooks aren’t color-coordinated, because they don’t need to be, and the overdue tab may be cluttered with one or two assignments because that’s okay. I can eat a brownie and not think about it for the rest of the week. I can laugh! A lot! Still at jokes, still only at jokes.

This isn’t a “perfect month.”

A “perfect month” is every afternoon spent at Their house until 11 p.m., life goals and homework be damned, when I’m so jubilant around Them that every moment without Them feels meaningless, when the food is gone and the overdue tab is in the double digits, when every hint of abandonment sends me back to the void, but then it’s all forgotten when I catch a glimpse of Them for a second. I cancel my therapy because I’m so, so happy, I’m “recovered,” I just want things to be like this forever. But this isn’t healing, and I have to let Them go and –

it all

comes crumbling


This isn’t a “bad month.”

A “bad month” is when life is blank, when my soul is an empty vessel to be filled with no emotions but devastation and terror. A “bad month” is when I don’t know where the notebooks are, what the overdue tab says. When I don’t care about the food – I could eat, I could not, although not eating causes me pain, and that grounds me. Pain is a tether to caring about something in this world, because you can’t not care about pain. 

And then, suddenly, you can not care about pain.

This isn’t any of those months.

This is a lovely month.

Where I smile at the flowers, the half-empty cup of coffee on the windowsill, the way the books line up on the shelves. Where I laugh for no particular reason, because the happiness must spill out somehow, and laughter is to joy as sobs are to turmoil. Where every little instance of life makes my day. A good song, a snack, a nap, nature, a butterfly, a loved one, a pet, a summer breeze.

Where I’ve found someone who makes me happy, and who I make happy, and they’re not the sole barrier keeping my depression from seeping into my soul. Where my friends don’t respond as much, and of course, it’s summer, and it’s okay that we’re not texting 24/7. They’re not going to leave me, because they love me. Where I truly know that there are people who love me.

Where, when I hang out with my friends, my partner, I finally experience that 2 a.m. delirious laughter; we fence with marshmallow skewers, we picnic at the Baylands, we set hand sanitizer on fire in our hands. We kick around an inflatable punching bag in the cul-de-sac, and make out with said punching bag on a dare, and name it the “little man.” It’s magical. It’s something I know I should have experienced for years and years, but depression used to mute every ounce of joy.

And the hunger and coldness are getting worse, and the insecurity occasionally erupts from my chest, and the insomnia and nightmares may never leave me. And that matters. And that will get better, and the sadness will get worse, and then that will get better, and the anxiety and dread will get worse, and that’s just how it goes.

But for the first time in my life, I can truly say that I don’t want this short, beautiful life to end.