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The Catalysts

The Catalysts

She never really believed in destiny; fortune; kismet; not even in the three old hags, the Fates, that she read about in Greek Mythology. But as she stood outside the office, something inside her felt like all that she had gone through led up to this one particular moment and that her life was going to change forever. She still didn’t know if it would be a good change or not yet, though. But she felt like she had to try, at the very least. She didn’t think she could continue living the life she had.

Her mind flashed back to something she’d been thinking about a lot often lately. In fact, it could be considered as one of the catalysts to the reason she was even there in the first place.

It was just another monotonous day. She was cleaning up her room, something she’d finally gotten herself to do after months of procrastination. She was sifting through boxes filled with old notebooks when something familiar caught her attention: her journal from three years ago. Abandoning the task at hand, she sat down cross-legged and opened up the journal to a random page.

This happened to be one of those times where she believed there was higher power watching over her, because what she found then struck a chord in her: “I fear for the day when my senses close off to the beauties of the world and the blessings that surround me.”

“I definitely had myself pegged real well,” Evelyn said, recounting her thoughts. “But anyway, that’s one of the catalysts I was telling you about.”

“I see. Tell me though, what exactly do you mean by ‘the catalysts’?” Dr. Richmond asked, with his usual blank stare.

“Oh that. Well, do you remember how reluctant I was to have these sessions at first? I wouldn’t really talk much at all.”

He nodded.

“Well, when I finally grew tired of the silent sessions and your eyes staring deep into my soul, you asked me what made me come to therapy. I never really answered you but that did get me started on a train of thoughts. I realized after a few more sessions that I had started to compile key moments in my life that brought me here, to therapy, to recognizing depression and anxiety as being very real illnesses, and that just because they didn’t leave any outward mark on me didn’t invalidate what I was experiencing.” Evelyn said. “So yeah, those key moments are what I call the catalysts.”

“That’s a very fitting name for them, I must say.” Dr. Richmond smiled. “Sometimes your brain fascinates me, Evelyn.”

Uncomfortable with emotions and compliments, Evelyn said, “You fascinate me, Dr.” That made him laugh.

Evelyn Anderson had been a patient of Dr. Richmond’s for about a year now, and he had grown quite fond of her. She had the tendency of blurting things out without mulling them over at times, yet she was capable of very deep and profound thoughts as well.

He remembered a conversation he had with her not too long ago in one of their sessions:

Evelyn had had a rough week so her usual hyper and jittery self was instead replaced by a moody and contemplative soul trying to analyze the puzzle that was her mind. She stayed silent for a whole five minutes before she finally said, “Why is it that we get attached to people and objects sometimes but it turns out to be unhealthy for us? Why is caring about some things toxic for you but when it comes to others it’s completely okay? How does one draw the line between those two?”

Before Dr. Richmond could add to that, she continued, “I think it all boils down to that fine line between affection and addiction. It’s okay to love because we want to and we care, but it’s not okay to care so much that you can’t focus on anything else. And most people tend to do the latter, or at least that’s what I’ve done in the past. And that never ends well. In fact, it brings you to a point where you don’t want to get closer to anyone ever again.

I think that when we reach the point where we don’t want to form meaningful connections anymore, we try to make up for it by investing in materialistic and worldly things. I think we do the same when it comes to people. We want more and more.

I think wanting everything at some point is like your body’s one final effort before it goes numb and stops caring about the world altogether. It’s like one final push towards empathy and trying to care about things, even if they appear to be petty and meaningless. I feel like that’s when you’re deprived of things so much that you try to care about everything at the same time, for the last time.

Perhaps when we find ourselves wanting everything, it is because we are dangerously close to wanting nothing; and perhaps that’s the point where we need saving the most.”

It was at that moment where Dr. Richmond realized just how much depth and potential Evelyn Anderson had.

He smiled fondly as he remembered that day. Perhaps it was a catalyst for him as well, but in a completely different context. That day marked as one of the most teachable and memorable moments that he had with any of his patients in his career as a psychiatrist.

“What were the other catalysts, Evelyn?” asked Dr. Richmond.

An uncharacteristically sad smile flitted across her face. “Well… There were about two main ones that I can recall at the moment.

“One of them was during a particularly hard time in my life that lasted for about two years. Basically, I was afraid. I was constantly afraid of everyone and everything. I can recall countless nights of clenched jaws and grinding teeth from stress; the constant need to disappear because I was convinced that no one would notice my absence; and worst of all, the constant fear of the people who were closest to me.

“I think that was the catalyst.

“Imagine being afraid of the people you love, people you live with, and never being able to rest for a single moment because being around them would only induce the fight-or-flight mechanism in you. It was exhausting being afraid 24/7. And I didn’t want to be afraid anymore. I think that’s when I started considering the possibility that perhaps I needed to seek some help, because this definitely was not normal,” Evelyn sighed.

She looked up to see a hint of sympathy on Dr. Richmond’s usually blank face.

“That sounds so incredibly hard; when the people who are supposed to be your source of comfort become the very reason for your distress,” he said.

Evelyn nodded.

“But on a slightly more positive note, the last one is a little more cheerful,” she said. “I used to have a lot of mood swings and my anxiety would hold me back from doing a lot of things I wanted to.

“There were people who would tell me to ‘man up’ and stop being so nervous all the time. They wouldn’t understand when I would say I literally could not relax; or maybe they didn’t care enough to try to understand.” She frowned.

“But there were friends who stuck by me. They were patient through my moments of panic and they were more than willing to help whenever I needed someone to take over the reins for me.

“They accepted me, anxiety and all. And instead of being ashamed of my anxiety, they taught me to, firstly, accept it and not run from it. When I’d learned to do that, they taught me to try to challenge it as well. I would tell them how anxiety would make me think of the worst possible scenarios, and they would not just hold my hand through it, every once in a while they would also say ‘So what if that happens? It’s okay, you’ll still live.’ It didn’t work all the time, because with anxiety, nothing is black and white, but the gesture was much appreciated.

“Anyway, they made me comfortable about the fact that I had anxiety, something I didn’t think was possible. And they encouraged me to seek help. I think it was their support that finally made me willing to accept that I needed help and see a therapist.”

Dr. Richmond smiled. “It’s so good to know that you have such supportive company in your life, Evelyn. I’m glad to hear that.”

She smiled back.

The timer on the table across Dr. Richmond went off, signaling the end of the session.

“I think you’ve come a long way, Evelyn. You’ve made tremendous amount of progress in the past year, and personally I feel quite proud of you,” he said.

Overcome with emotion, Evelyn only sniffed in reply and gave him a watery smile.

Noticing her fiddling with her hands, Dr. Richmond prodded, “Is there anything you’d like to talk about before you go, Evelyn?”

Taking a deep breath, Evelyn blurted out, “I want to declare a friendship!”

Dr. Richmond, amused, raised an eyebrow. “I’m sorry, what was that?”

She blushed with embarrassment. “I just wanted to say that I’m very happy and thankful to have known you, Dr. It might seem weird but you should know that I consider you a friend as well. I hope that’s okay.”

He smiled. “That is more than okay, dear child. The sentiments are returned.”

“On that note, I should head out now before I accidentally say something untoward, as always. Goodbye Dr. Richmond!” And with that, Evelyn rushed out the door.

Used to her antics, Dr. Richmond only laughed lightly and started preparing for his next patient.




Contributed By : Eesha Irfan


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