Sometimes I don’t wake up to sunlight peeking through my windows. I wake up to a dark invisible cloud looming above my head. I don’t hear the chirping of birds and the rustling of wind. I hear my own heart bashing against my chest and the blood surging through my veins, and it is in that moment where I want to lie back down and pull the cover over my head and pretend that everything is okay, even though I know it’s not. I’m having anxiety or maybe heart failure. I can’t tell the difference.
My brain isn’t functioning, and a headache is threatening to spill. I’m shivering, and I feel like my heart is about to pop out of my chest. Tears are forming in the ducts of my eyes and I can’t seem to breathe, but I have to force myself up, even when every cell in my body is begging me to lie back down.
The simplest things seem like a burden, and I can’t explain the explosions going on in my mind and in my stomach. The day won’t go well; I know this beforehand. Deep inside, I’m wishing for night to come so I could hide beneath it, but the hands on the clock seem to be moving slower and slower and there is nothing I can do to make them move fast enough.
I drag my legs out of bed and change for school. But I silently sit on the sofa hoping my mother wouldn’t notice the panic crawling on my features, but she does, and she asks me. I can’t get the words out. I can’t tell her that I’m having anxiety. I can’t tell her that everything around me is ticking like a bomb and I can’t control my heart from beating at a rate I can’t calculate, or I can’t control my limbs from shaking. I can’t explain that I can’t breathe because it feels like I have a heavy elephant sitting on my chest.
“I’m okay.” The words seem rehearsed. I lie to her and she believes me, not because she actually does, but because she has seen me like this, and to her this is normal because that’s what I make it look like.
I have to force myself from leaving the house, but incoherent thoughts erupt in my mind. The stupidest things that would make any normal person laugh, are haunting me. I’m afraid the pizza guy next door is an agent and he’s trying to kill me. Even though deep inside I know he’s a kind father of five and he won’t do anything to harm me. I’m afraid that a meteorite will burst out of the sky and against all possibilities it will fall on me. And the one thing eating my insides is that I’ll have a panic attack in the middle of nowhere and the people around me will laugh. They won’t understand because no one ever does. I have to bite back the tears and suck it up even though there is a storm brewing inside of me.
School isn’t better either. There are familiar faces that look so distant. I have friends gathered around me and I can’t tell them that I don’t want to talk. I can’t tell them that deep inside I am drowning. I’m scared that if I tell them they’ll either leave me to drown or they’ll drown with me. Both possibilities are equally terrifying.
It seems better to have no friends. I know I’m hurting them because I am being hurt, but it’s just something I can’t control. And they don’t ask me, because they don’t know. But how do they not see? How do they not notice?
It’s hard telling them why I cancel plans last minute. It’s because I don’t know when my anxiety will tow with me. And even I don’t understand how it transforms into depression, and then it morphs into anger and I can’t control it and I hate myself for that.
Sitting in class is suffocating. It feels like the walls are closing in on me. I can’t focus on the teacher’s words because I’m scared that the girl sitting next to me will hear my heart, or that she’ll see I’m sweating even when the classroom is cold.
It’s hard explaining to my parents that even though I’m brave, that even though I look strong, deep inside I’m not. Sometimes I feel like I am breaking, and I am falling apart. It’s so hard telling them that even though I’m a grown adult, I still need them to hold my hand. I still need to lean on them. I still need them to speak for me because I honestly can’t do it.
It’s this odd suffocation that can’t be cured with oxygen. I’m drowning, and I can’t be saved with an anchor. But that’s not the worst part. The worst part is: I am ashamed to feel this way. I would rather burn and turn to ash than to accept that I have a mental illness. I feel like a disgrace. There are times where I am disgusted with myself. No one around me knows how to deal with this, but I can’t blame them, because I don’t know how to deal with it myself. I’m afraid of being judged, afraid of hearing the word ‘Mental illness’ because it feels like some sort of plague that will spread if I accept it. Like it’s an airborne disease and I’m not allowed to say it out loud. I come from a culture where Mental illness is taboo. Something we don’t speak of. Something we don’t acknowledge.
I am just one, out of countless people who feel this way. Mental illness is not something that will go away on its own, even though sometimes I wish it could. It’s not a phase that you’ll snap out of. It has the ability to transform and morph into something new. Something much worse. It can lead to depression and even suicide. It needs to be addressed. It needs to be talked about. Like any other disease, it needs to be cured.
Picture drawn by me.