He felt along the edges of his desk, noting time-worn scratches made by countless pens; students who couldn't care less about algebra or World War II. The graffitied words spelled out certain four-letter words alongside professions of love, probably unseen by their objects of affection. Lee's eye caught a large blue marking: M + J 4ever. He couldn't help but internalize a doubtful thought—'4ever? Really? That's just stupid.' Picking up his own pen, he scribbled over the romantic phrase.

It was just after 1 o'clock, fifth period, and the school day was winding down as restless teenage boys tapped their pencils and fidgeted in their seats. Lee was among them, and his eyes darted back and forth from the clock hanging on the wall. He wanted nothing more than to get out of there, out of class, out of school—out of the watchful eyes of his peers. Lee closed his eyes, feeling a headache creeping into his temples.

The doctor—I forget his name—shuffled yellow papers until he seemed to find the one he wanted. His eyes were large and watery, and I hated that. I hated everything about him, from his tranquil voice to his stupid tweed jacket. He looked at me as I gripped the edges of my seat in anxious wait.

"The results came back…" he finally stated.

No shit. That was the whole point of my coming. I didn't say anything, just glared at his wide eyes until he elaborated.

"Okay. If you take a look at this scan, you can see…"

I don't remember what he was saying at this point; mostly medical jargon. I do remember him placing a scan of my brain in front of me, acting like I knew a thing about neuroscience. But the last words he said were the ones that mattered, the ones that marked me for life: my diagnosis.

"…Depression with psychotic symptoms."

Lee distantly heard the bell ring. The commotion of chairs scraping the ground and many voices woke him from his reverie. He had that feeling again—the feeling that he was waking up from a vague dream, barely conscious. His eyes slipped out of focus as he stood up and swung his backpack over his shoulder. The headache was now throbbing along his forehead, bringing with it a lightheaded fugue. Lee knew what this meant, and he certainly wasn't going to let anyone see an episode.

He walked as fast as he could to the boys restroom, feeling buoyed out of his mind like a balloon. His hands slackened as they lost their grip on the straps of his backpack, and lay deadened at his sides. Though his brain filled with fog, he maintained just enough self-awareness to panic at the thought of "losing it" in front of everyone. Once he made it to the bathroom, he shut himself in a stall and waited it out.

With no one around, Lee relaxed his muscles enough to let the rush of sensation wash over him. Suddenly, the walls around his mind collapsed, and the hallucinations started. That one drop of sanity left in his system drove him to hide his head in his hands, trying desperately to drown out the howling. The sounds were the worst part—howling and screaming, moaning and whispering. The voices scraped at his eardrums like raked fingers, spitting out strings of words that only occasionally made sense. The ones that spoke the softest were the ones that tore at his psyche the most; the honeyed voices dripped with sarcastic praise, awful insults, and evil, evil things. Thoughts that bordered on the edges of his mind were thrust to the forefront, taking on the tone of an angry father, a disappointed mother. And overlaying the gibberish was a chant containing only two words: kill yourself.

Lee found his hand scratching at his scalp, trying to scrape the voices away. When that didn't work, he swatted at the air like the voices were persistent blackflies. Then he let out a strangled moan that sounded more like a sob. He knew that nothing would work, and nothing could drown them out. He didn't dare look around, knowing that the tiles of the bathroom walls would stretch gruesomely, becoming hands that groped, trying to grab him. He knew the floor would be covered in blood and rust, and other things that played a macabre picture in his mind. But the sounds—there was no hiding from the sounds.

He didn't want to do this again; he thought he would be safe from the intrusion of insanity. But he found himself reaching into his backpack, pulling out the blood-caked razorblade. A small voice under the commotion warned him, begged him to stop.

Lee laughed. His laugh was not one of mirth, but of desperation. It started on a high-pitched note, loud enough to drown it all out, then dwindled to a sob of the deepest melancholy. The dual sides of his mind battled as he fought the urge to cut his arm. The worst part was that, though psychotic, he was aware of everything.

Unfortunately, the darker side won. Lee bit his lip as he dug the blade into the skin of his left arm, where other scars of various ages trailed. He managed not to cry out, but bitter tears formed at the corners of his eyes as blood blossomed out of the wounds. The pain and high caused a temporary lapse in hallucinations, enough so that he had a moment of peace. Lee sobbed out a sigh of relief. He knew this episode of psychosis was almost over.

I looked at the medications in my bathroom, piled up like a goddamn mountain. One by one I chucked them out. There was no going back.

As I closed the medicine cabinet, I caught my reflection in the mirror. My hair was unbrushed and messy, and my eyes were red-rimmed. Other than that, nothing much changed. I widened my eyes and laughed. The laugh sounded like the cackle of a madman, and that made me laugh even more. I was so fucking pathetic, it was hilarious.

Psychotic depression. I guess that meant I was one sad psycho. I remember the look in the doctor's eyes when he made the diagnosis—like a look of pity. Fuck doctors, what do they know?

Lee managed one more sob, then felt ready to face the real world. All he needed to do was clean himself up, and no one would suspect a thing. He carefully listened at the door of the stall to make sure no one else was in the bathroom, then slowly opened it. He failed to suppress a surprised gasp when he saw someone standing there.

A thin young man leaned against the sinks, a look of confusion and concern in his blue eyes. When Lee opened the stall door, the boy's lips parted slightly, then closed again. Lee himself froze, fear coursing through his body. This was something he never expected; he chose the boys' room on the third floor, which nobody used. Now, as he stared at the stranger, he became painfully aware of the blood running down his arm and dripping onto the floor. His pale face flushed, but the boy didn't say anything.

For a moment, neither boy moved. Lee simply glanced back and forth from the boy's startling gaze, trying in vain to form some excuse. He didn't know why he felt the need to justify himself to a stranger, but a feeling of guilt welled up inside him.

After what felt like an eternity, they boy moved toward Lee. With a swift motion, he grabbed Lee's hand and directed him to the sinks. Lee himself was speechless, too stunned to react as the boy grabbed some wet paper towels and started cleaning Lee's bloody arm. His thoughts were scrambled now, but one thought reached the front of his mind: 'who is this guy, and why is he doing this for me?' Though he could vaguely remember seeing the boy around school, Lee could not think of a reason for this show of concern.

Both boys were silent as Lee's wounds were wrapped in clean paper towels. Then, before Lee could say anything, the stranger looked up at him, blue eyes shining. "Why?" he asked softly.

Again, Lee was too stunned to speak. He tried to move his mouth, but words stuck at his throat. He felt the burning need to cry again, though he didn't know why. So instead of questioning the sensation of grief that washed over him, he allowed tears to form at the corners of his eyes. He sustained enough guilt to hang his head down, but somehow this stranger's presence seemed comforting.

When Lee looked down in what seemed like shame, the boy knew he wasn't getting an answer. Instead of asking any other questions, he placed a sympathetic hand on Lee's shoulder. This gesture caused Lee to look up, once again noticing the subtle darkness in the other's eyes. All this seemed to take place in an alternate world where time was slowed down, allowing Lee to process the new emotions spilling out of his brain.

Once again, the blue-eyed stranger spoke. "I know you weren't expecting me to be here. I'm sorry; I just wondered where you were going in such a hurry."

Lee started, then remembered why this boy seemed familiar: he was in the class before Lee had his breakdown, fifth period history. He was about to stutter his excuse, but the boy raised his eyebrows, as if to stop him.

"It's okay, you don't need to tell me. I was just curious, that's all. I'm Seth, by the way."

"Lee." That was all he managed to say. Even that took almost all the energy left in his system.

Seth's expression became unfathomable. Then he frowned. "You—were Ashley's brother?"

The ambulance sirens grated my ears as I searched for her. Dense trees hindered my path, making me scream in frustration; I needed to get to her. I needed to save my sister.

When I saw the clearing, my heart stopped. Yellow police tape wrapped like spider webs around the trees, blocking me from the scene. But it did not stop my frantic eyes from seeing her mangled body. Words escaped me. My vision faded to black…

Once again, Lee's voice caught in his throat, threatened by tears. The last thing he wanted to remember was that day.

Seth saw the pained expression on Lee's face, and dropped the subject. He felt stupid for bringing it up—of course it was his sister. They were twins. Instead, he looked away, as though searching for something else to say. All he could manage was, "I'm sorry." He was apologizing for both Lee's loss and his own insensitivity.

Lee shook his head, clearing away the creeping depression that was threatening to take over. Not this time. He was not going to let that happen twice in one day.

"Look," Seth said, "I know who you are, and I know what you, um, have." He stumbled over the last part, trying to think of a good way to say it. "You have a psychological, um, problem." He felt really stupid now.

Seth expected Lee to deny it, but he didn't. Lee just stood there, his scarred hands in his pockets, feeling a new kind of shame. As much as he didn't want to admit it, he knew it was impossible to hide his condition from this guy. "Yeah," he said weakly. "Psychotic depression. It's not a really common disorder, so most people don't understand it."

Seth nodded, trying to make Lee feel accepted despite his confession. "I knew it was something like that. I won't pretend to understand it, but I won't make fun of you either."

That was really all that Lee wanted. It was refreshing to meet someone who didn't bully him for something he can't control. His psychosis was one thing—that only came in waves. But depression was difficult to hide. Lee smiled for the first time that day.

Seth's shoulders relaxed when he saw Lee smile. He didn't know why this guy had such a strange hold on him, but he didn't question it either. Seth was not quite used to this feeling; it was like something heavy dropped to the bottom of his stomach, then lifted at the sight of Lee's smile.

"Thanks," Lee whispered.