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Not too long ago, I posted on Twitter (which is linked to my Facebook), and I asked whether fighting for mental health, at the cost of your own mental health, was worth it.
I received a plethora of responses. As always I wasn’t able to respond to all of them, but I found each of them equally valuable, and I’d like to share a few below.
Basically, some suggested that it is worth it, because everything you do comes with an associated cost to your mental health. Most of my friends, however, strongly felt that it was not worth it. That nothing was worth sacrificing your own mental health for.
Now, there is a reason I put up this post when I did, and there is a reason that post features in this article. But before I get to that, I want to briefly touch upon the two sides that came forward in that thread.
My friend who suggested that since everything has an associated mental cost, it is worth it, was right in his own manner. Everything you do, and anything you intend on doing that you hope will be disruptive, definitely comes with a lot of baggage: sleepless nights, stressed out existence, severe anxiety, the continuous anticipation of failure, bursts of anger and impatience, and so on and so forth. There is a reason such ventures are literally categorized into something called the Suicide Quadrant.
However, my own leaning was always with the friends who said that it’s not worth it. It just seemed intuitive to not sacrifice your own mental health for any cause, especially if it was to do with mental health itself. One friend’s comment about not being able to pour from an empty cup really got through to me.
But, for some reason, I wasn’t ready to accept that, or to resign myself to knowing that I couldn’t do it. So, I chose to not accept their advice (though I doubt they knew when they were commenting that I was actively looking for advice), and went, instead, with the former; this I find ironic in hindsight, because I remember reading that friend’s comment and almost laughing it off instantly.
Why did I do that?
I ran into a friend at a mutual friend’s wedding. Okay, fine. We’re acquaintances, but Facebook thinks we’re friends. We hadn’t met or spoken in ages, but she had heard through another mutual friend that I was working for a mental health startup. And I will never forget what she said to me:
“It’s so great that you’re doing this! And it seems like such a natural progression as well, because you’re always writing about mental health and sharing things about it. But I’m so happy that you’re doing this — not just talking the talk, but actually walking the walk!”
And that was enough to pump me to keep going.
I finally did last month (March) what I had been thinking about since December — I resigned. I left my post of ‘Chief Operating Officer’ at a ‘multidisciplinary therapy center’.
And it was, by far, one of the toughest calls I’ve had to make.
Well, that’s an interesting story, but that’s not really the story for this article. But I’ll sum it up.
What it was at the end of the day was a job. And I lost sight of that. I took it on as something bigger, something greater, something that I could be proud to be associated with and ‘own’. And in words, I was motivated towards the same by my employer — I was the ‘COO’ after all. But in reality? It was a glorified secretarial position.
To add to that? My employer believed very firmly in the number of years you have been alive as being a large (if not sole) determinant of your capabilities, and since I’m a quarter-century old, I was constantly reminded of that. To the point that I now find myself constantly wondering if I even know anything, or if I’m even worth anything, or if I can even effect any good, because, after all, I’m only 25.
I found myself losing my self-confidence. Rapidly. And it would oscillate between having to pretend as if I was in control, to retreating almost instantly to a head-down, back-hunched secretarial role.
[I feel I need to clarify something. I am in no way, shape or form trying to show down any secretarial position whatsoever — any position of work that allows for an honest wage is of the utmost respect as far as I am concerned. What I am commenting on is the dissonance between words that were being spoken and actions that were being carried out.]
Why this post?
The point of this post is not to point fingers at any specific person or place. It is to highlight a trend, and a problematic one at that. Having been on the ‘inside’ of the mental health services provision ‘industry’ I have seen some things I wish I had not seen. Of course it did not help that my employer was also my psychiatrist — a dual-relationship that a number of my friends have criticized me for having established in the first place, but one that I had established in the good faith (or naiveté as my friend put it) that my psychiatrist would know what my mental health concerns are and the resultant work environment would be one where my mental health needs would be respected, and the environment would be conducive to my stability and growth.
Needless to say I was terribly disappointed.
From the get-go, I was told one thing: to not tell people that I am under his care, and to not tell people that I am on medication. And upon my inquiring why that was the case (for I assumed it would be nothing short of an inspiration story to tell people that you could be a fully-functioning human being whilst being on treatment for your mental health), I was told that people do not understand and that’s just how society is.
I suppose I’m sick of the silence now.
And so this post is me doing what I have been trying to do since 2015: raise awareness.
Getting to the Point
I find it paradoxical that a center established for the well-being of the community re their mental health, does not cater for the mental health of its own employees.
The reason is simple: you need to question the motivation behind what you’re doing. It’s as Simon Sinek puts it: start with why.
And when your why is a little more than making money, regardless of how you try and wrap it up and put it out there, it begins to show. Again. I am not saying (for the sake of this article at least) that there is anything wrong with wanting to make money. If you are a professional who is good at his job, then you have a right to receive remuneration for your services that you have been honing for years through study, practice and experience.
What is wrong is trying to cut costs through Pharma-sponsored printing, simply because you feel they owe you. Isn’t that part of the problem? It’s highly likely that the professional does not indulge in wrongfully advantaging one pharmaceutical company over another, but it’s something that does not sit well with me. To read about this relationship is one thing, and to see it happening is altogether another.
The physician-pharma nexus is just one example of an overall dysfunctional healthcare system crippled by malpractices. There is no authority where patients can take their complaints. Against the background of lack of accountability in the system, the onus on physicians to conduct themselves ethically becomes paramount. Doctors have an enormous responsibility to exercise their powers with integrity. Jung (2002) writes “once you have sold your soul, it can be a hard item to retrieve”.
What is wrong is for you to be a mental health professional, and to hold absolutely no empathy or regard for other people. When a very close friend’s grandmother (who, perchance, had also been his client) passed away, his response, a little while later, was to inquire whether the family was feeling happy and relieved that she had passed on.
Yes. I understand practicality is important. But is it important enough to become callous towards all emotions?
And then, it is problematic when you treat someone who has been giving you 14 hours a day, 7 days a week, like absolute crap on the opening day, simply for being 10 minutes late. It’s one thing to be told that you’re late and that it shouldn’t happen again. It’s another thing to have to bear a grown man’s passive-aggression.
My version of the opening day at the center? A break-down in front of my boss. And once the dam broke, the waterworks flowed for at least 10 minutes before only quieting down.
Sounds exactly like a dream job…
But perhaps the biggest problem, still, is not recognizing or catering for the mental health needs of your own employees.
The work timings stretched from nine to nine; and that’s not nine to nine effectively, even though it’s nine to five on paper. It’s nine to nine on paper, and nine to ten effectively. When I pointed out that it was getting too much for me, I was simply told that I should aim to wrap up at nine sharp and leave. Or that we might figure out a way in which I could take off a couple of hours during the day.
I didn’t realize it then, but I find it ironic now, considering that the same person, a year back, wrote this prescription for my previous employer:
At that point, my work hours were nine to five…
But the final nail in the coffin was the surprising realization that a mental health professional of his standing could not understand how debilitating anxiety could be. When, after working non-stop, I took a sick leave for a day after a month of the opening, which is after almost five months of me working with him, and then extended it to two days, I was greeted with the following message:
[When I eventually did resign (which was perhaps later the same day, or the very next day) I brought this up, and he still stuck to his guns. “I wasn’t expecting an hour-long conversation,” he said. “You could just call and tell me you’re not coming.” “BUT I DIDN’T WANT TO TALK TO ANYONE!” I almost yelled out in response.]
This of course is only my story.
I am not here trying to indict someone in particular or to try and blame someone else for my resignation. That is NOT my intention, and never will be: it was an active choice that I made, and I will stick by it.
The point of me writing this post is perhaps more cathartis than anything else. When you feel let down by someone you deeply trust, you hold faith in, and with whom you have been emotionally vulnerable, it hurts. Like a fly-bat made out of bricks just came and hit your body’s anterior with swatting force.
Everyone keeps asking me why I left (what could only seem from the outset to be an inspirational story of me) pursuing my passion and doing my bit to help people and their mental health issues and finally working towards what I keep talking about. And I never have a decent answer. Even though I know.
Because it’s hard to reconcile. And it’s tough to come to terms with.
But even if I withdraw myself completely from the situation, and view it as someone who has been fighting for mental health awareness and has been advocating for the same since 2015, I find myself feeling sad, despondent, and helpless if this is the state of affairs in the field.
Because this is just one story. And within that story, this is just my narrative. There are hundreds of such stories out there. But we’ll never know. Because we are on the outside.
And so I’ll leave you with this one simple question:
The title of this article is Latin for, “First, do no harm.” The same principle also forms part of the Hippocratic Oath.
Somebody hand me a quick fix. Something. Anything. Something I can put under my tongue, close my eyes, and open them to find that everything is perfectly fine.
Or maybe just a quick fix that comes with a trigger. Maybe I don’t have to open my eyes ex-post-facto.
WHY ARE YOU BACK? WHY? I DON’T WANT YOU HERE. I DON’T WANT YOU BACK.
It won’t respond to me.
It just worsens. Like a snake wrapping itself around my neck, and slithering its way up my back and up my neck. Tightening its grip, slowly, but surely.
I can’t breathe.
And my heart is racing. A hummingbird’s wings would have nothing on my heart. It’s past the point of no return. It’s just going to thump-thump-thump its way out of the vessels that hold it in place, and hold it back. And it’s going to thump-thump-thump right out of their grasp and, suddenly greeted by gravity, fall down into the pit of my stomach. Maybe a part of it has already fallen off, and is already in my stomach. Because I can feel the palpitations. I can feel the something fluttering there. But it’s not butterflies. This has weight. This has conscious weight. It’s there. I can feel it. Like a bit of my heart broke off, in all its messy fleshy nature, and is now writhing in my stomach, like a lizard’s tail after it’s been chopped off.
Oh. You think that’s disgusting? You’re revolted by it?
How about trying to sleep and waking up but an hour later to find yourself heaving and panting and covered in sweat–your shirt so wet you literally have to get up and go wring the water out of it–waking up in the morning to find salt stains against the navy blue background?
How about standing in front of people you know — people you’re familiar with — and not being able to say anything? Standing there. Silent. Mute. Seemingly still. But you’re not still. You might be frozen stiff on the outside, but everything inside of you is screaming. It’s chaotic. It’s everywhere. It’s all over the place.
EVERYTHING INSIDE OF YOU IS SCREAMING!
EVERYTHING IS SCREAMING. But you stand there.
How you wish your heart would be right now.
So you plug your ears and you put on one song, just one, on repeat, on loop, continuously playing, over and over and over again. Because you need that familiarity. Because you need that sense of knowing what’s going to happen. Because you need that predictability. And because everything on the outside is scary. And dangerous. Even the birds chirping can set you off.
They’re always so damned happy.
And if you talk to someone about this, they’re going to dismiss it. Oh they’re going to dismiss it.
And they’re going to tell you it’s all in your head.
And they’re going to tell you you’re being stupid.
But you know it’s real.
‘IT’S REAL!’ you try screaming out; but nothing rises above your insides already screaming inside of you.
Your soul is shaking. You’re not sure how you know this, but you do. It’s quivering, in fear. It’s cowering, and so are you. In your mind, you are already in fetal position, and you are awaiting the blow — the blow that never comes.
You lie down. But you can hear your damned heart. You can hear it yelping, like an over-active dog, over the sound of the music playing in your ears. You can hear it so loud.
You just wish it would stop.
PLEASE MAKE IT STOP.
And this is why you did not want it back.
Why did you come back?
WHY DID YOU COME BACK?
WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?
I have nothing more to give to you. I’m tired. I’m exhausted. I’m spent.
And I have nothing more to give to you.
I have nothing more to give to you.
I have nothing more to give.
There is something that protrudes
It is rude and unsightly
And it can no longer be ignored
Can’t I take it off Mother
And put it to one side
If doing so makes her feel safer
So that she can be at peace
And find the resolve to see me
With those very same eyes
That have seen other beings
With the same deformity
Be vile beasts and tell heinous lies
Then know that I shall put it away
And hide it
And bury it
Out of sight, out of mind
Cut off from me
Like the fruit from a branch
Plucked and peeled
Ready to be planted
Watered like a seed
This was not a seed
And now no more of it shall grow
No more of it shall come forth
And think of harming her anymore
Fuck this country.
Fuck the government.
Fuck these rat-ass bastards who don’t give a shit about us.
Fuck this life.
Fuck our jobs.
Fuck the economy.
Fuck our line managers and their insecurities.
Fuck the men in this world who make women insecure because of their own insecurities.
Fuck the women in this world who only know ’empowerment’ to be stripping naked or sleeping around.
Fuck the friends who stab you in the back, then smile at you from the front, and embrace you with arms wide open, only to twist the dagger in your back so that the bleeding doesn’t stop.
Fuck the friends who leave you in your hardest moments, so that you don’t ever feel safe with anyone ever again.
Fuck the people who make promises to you and never keep them, who tell you something and spend so much time ensuring it, and then… just leave you in the dark, so that you can never trust again, never believe anyone again, and never believe you’re worth it.
Fuck the artists and the musicians, who’ve sold their souls to become sell-outs and not worry about their art anymore.
Fuck the educationists who think that good schooling is about making money, and not about quality education.
Fuck the teachers who don’t know what to teach or how to teach it.
Fuck the medical sector and their exploitation of the weak and sick and the needy and those in pain, because who gives a fuck about their money when they’re sick, and they know that and they give a fuck about your money, so FUCK them twice over.
Fuck student societies and their fucking politics and their fucking nonsensical bullshit and their faltered grandiose notions about changing the world when their real agenda items are just getting fucking wasted.
Fuck these elitist bastards who think they’re all that just because they were born with a golden spoon in their mouth and being rich is all they’ve ever known.
Fuck the people who disguise themselves as beggars and rip you off, or disguise themselves as beggars and then kidnap little children and drug them, or who don’t need money but just need the regular hit of heroin because that’s all they fucking know.
Fuck the law enforcement people who take bribes and are corrupt and don’t give a shit about justice but only about their own self interests.
Fuck the police, who can’t watch out for the bad guys because clearly they can’t even watch out for their weight.
Fuck the politicians and the media, who divide our nation into twos and threes and fours and millions only to get them to fight against each other, so that they can profit off of their misery.
Fuck the big corporations and their marketing gimmicks and their lack of social responsibility and Fuck the charitable who do charity just because they want to show off how much money they’re giving away or who want pictures with desolate souls because they want to appear as angels.
Fuck the motherfuckers who think that rape is okay, that molestation is fine and that harassment is just how it should be. Fuck them to hell and then beyond, into the devil’s own personal fucking pit of fire and I hope the fire rapes, molests and harasses them and they then understand what that feels like.
Fuck the academics who don’t do research for objective reasons, but for an agenda, for the person who pays them the most – the highest bidder; fuck their research and fuck their arguments. Fuck the lawyers who defend these sick, twisted and evil bastards. Fuck the lawyers who don’t understand the lives they are ripping apart, and the souls they are crushing and the menace they are letting go free.
Fuck the doctors who can’t do their own fucking jobs and so come out on the streets in protest (against a government too busy in its own protests), so that the hospitals are empty and there is no one in the emergency to save the little girl and heal her, as she breathes her last in her mother’s arms.
Fuck the people who have an issue with saying FUCK, because fuck them, and fuck everyone who thinks that holding in frustration and releasing everything through passive aggression and diplomacy is how the world should function, and how every emotion should be hidden and objectivity and rationality should be the fucking endpoint of the world and the means to reach it too, even though they couldn’t be rational enough to discern between their biases and reality.
Fuck the people who think that just because you believe in happiness, you shall be happy, and that if you’re not happy that’s because your belief system isn’t good enough. Fuck the Maulvis and Priests and Rabbis and Pastors and everyone else who does the exact same thing but under the guise of religion.
Fuck the people who brainwash the little kids who trust them and look up to them and who want to grow up to be them some day, because they think the masters know religion and are close to God; fuck these sick minds who brainwash children into becoming radicals, and who brainwash masses and hordes and convince them to blow themselves up, only so that they can live a life of pleasure right here, right now – they’re just fucking fireworks to them.
Fuck the people who have poisoned our fruits and meat and vegetables by injecting hormones into it and making it grow faster, so that they can increase their production so that they can make more money. They don’t care how many people fall ill, or all the harmful effects of any of this, so long as they see green, so fuck them and their hormones.
Fuck hormones generally too.
Fuck the person who made nuclear bombs. Fuck the person who made drones and tanks and guns. Fuck the people who think war solves anything. Fuck the people who don’t see how we’ve been here before and who are so fucking adamant on making the same fucking stupid decisions all over again, just to fulfill their own fucking egos.
Fuck the two-faced people, who pretend to be one thing to your face and are another thing in your absence. Fuck the people who betray their friends to be friends with you, and then betray you to be friends with your enemies. Fuck them for ruining everyone’s lives for the sake of their own entertainment.
Fuck the materialistic culture, filled with materialistic things and objects and concepts. Fuck the replacement of ideals and ideas with shiny, glittery, new, handcrafted products, because they are the true asset you own, and not the fucking grey matter between your ears.
Fuck the aunties whose only job is to care about your marriage, and when you ask them who they have in mind, they show up with mugshots of their family members, or some random stranger they saw running in the park that morning. Fuck these aunties and their gossip sessions and fuck all the parents that put their children through hell for the sake of pseudo moralists such as these. And fuck the fucking culture of making everything about a son’s education and daughter’s marriage, as if the daughter doesn’t have an equal fucking right to good, quality, accessible education!
Fuck the system, the world, everything it now stands for, everything it has become and everything it is on the verge of becoming.
Fuck our generation and the “hope” they are and the “future” that they are and the “change” they are responsible for, because all this generation can fucking do is lay on their butts all day long feeling entitled to good jobs and money and cars and a raise and a better pay and more money and more facilities. Fuck them for thinking the world owes them shit.
Fuck the people who bully other people and who make fun of other people’s disabilities. Fuck the people for their apathy and their lack of empathy and their lack of understanding of how other people live their lives and for their lack of understanding regarding all the things that other people might be going through. Fuck the people who don’t understand, but fuck harder the people who don’t want to or feel they are not responsible for their fellow human beings or for contributing to effecting positive change in their communities.
Fuck the people who think the rules aren’t for them and that they’re above the law, that they can drive by and knock you off the road, that they can stop the traffic with an ambulance in its midst just so that they can pass and that they’re the ones whose lives are in danger when it’s their people who die every single time a bomb goes off. Fuck them and their hyper-inflated egos and their dehydrated, shriveled up minds.
Just. Fuck it. Fuck this shit.
A cat walks nimbly in the dark of night
Pitch black surroundings with reflective eyes
Deafening silence as the screams emerge
But die out within, quietly unheard
The perfect image of a shipwrecked treasure
As it washes up on the overcast shore
There is much more for you to notice
You are not who you were before
Rainbows and butterflies, leprechauns and fairies
Your belief system does not entertain
But the dying expression of a newborn child
As he yearns for his mother’s refrain
You seek the truth, wherever it is
And no matter how deep you must go
The result you are sure will be worth it
For knowledge does power hold
The reality of this life is upon all lost
Except for those who can truly see
You ask for a mark for those who notice
‘Tired eyes and half-remembered dreams’
There is no glamour in this post. Only a lot of shame.
Because I am a social leper and I am diseased.
There is no way for me to cloak this in literary verbosity, and present it to you like a MasterChef dish. Because what is the use of making it look pretty when you can’t even smell it, leave alone taste it?
I am a frightened little baby. I am scared. I am petrified of the inevitable, even though I can feel it coming. I can feel it approaching me.
I am a deer, caught in the blinding headlights of a moving truck, racing towards me with every bit of knowledge that I am standing right here, but with no intention or want to stop, to brake or to let me get out of this alive.
Death is inevitable.
But you knew that.
DEATH IS INEVITABLE.
Did you really know that?
Because you don’t really act the part of a mortal, aware of the finity of this journey called ‘life’. You take it all for granted. You go about your life with nothing to fear, with no remorse, with no guilt, with no conscious understanding of consequences, with no will to question, with no want to understand and with no desire to achieve anything worthwhile.
The good thing about cycling downhill is you don’t need to pedal so often.
In fact, if you completely forget there are pedals on the cycle, you can still get to your destination.
But then. Then there was Sisyphus.
Perpetually rolling the cursed rock up the mountain, only to watch it fall back down again. And yet, his Zeus-ordained punishment could never be complete until he succeeded in rolling the rock to the top of the mountain – a task that could never possibly be accomplished.
A task designed for Sisyphus to fail.
He kept trudging.
What a silly man Sisyphus was, you might now be thinking to yourself.
Except, what are you doing? You, with your glorified suits and your voyeuristic minimalism, treading through life as if you have nothing to lose, and everything to gain and everything that you do has some form of higher purpose. That it is so essential for you to earn more money to add to the pinnacle of the pile of gold you already have stashed in your basement, because no amount of ‘enough’ ever truly is enough for you. And so you keep on going through life, without questioning, without asking, without wondering – you just do.
But it’s the robots you’re afraid of – robots who you are so scared will take over your means of livelihood. Robots that will replace you, because no one else can perform the mundane, repetitive tasks quite like you can.
And robots don’t have morals. How will they ever find a way to circumvent any form of ‘guilt’ if they 1) don’t recognize what ‘guilt’ is, and 2) if they have no moral compass to guide them to imaginative lies that will help them sleep better at night for having exploited another human being because, let’s face it, robots don’t need sleep.
So. Have you tried turning it off and on again?
I wish I could.
Perhaps there is a bug in the system. Perhaps there is an error message hidden down within somewhere that just doesn’t get picked up and dealt with.
But I know as well as the next person – if you turn us off, we don’t get rebooted. With us, it only goes one way.
Perhaps I’ll let Albert Camus explain this from his famous work, The Myth of Sisyphus (Congratulations, you already now know who Sisyphus was).
But why am I writing all of this out?
Why am I telling you, a random person with no regard for his/her mortality and, therefore, no anxiety of the very notion of life, all of this?
Because that is where I am. And I need you to understand.
Because I am not the only one who goes through this. I am NOT THE ONLY ONE.
Have I wanted to end my life? Yes.
Have I wanted to do away with ‘me’? Yes! This narcissistic sense of ‘ME’ and this perpetually resonating ‘I’, the sheer noise of which makes
living surviving an impossible task.
People think that suicide is an act of weakness. That suicide is an act of stupidity and cowardice.
Perhaps, it is. It is weak, because the people who go through with it lack the strength to continue on with life. Except. Have you ever wondered how strong they have been and for how long? I dare you to hold up the smallest cushion in your house on the palm of your hand at shoulder level for two hours. Tell me if you are able to do it. No cheating, and no pausing in between. And now if you, with your gym-going routine and your physically buff biceps can’t lift that feather-weight for two hours, who are you to judge anyone else?
Perhaps it is stupid and cowardly. Perhaps people don’t understand the beauty of life and can’t see all that life has to offer or just how many people (claim to) love them and just how appreciated they are. Don’t you understand? They’ve reached the point of numbness where none of this matters. Even if it is true, it has hidden itself behind an ugly black Veil. And I don’t mean any veil. I mean the Veil in Harry Potter. The Veil that takes away Sirius and so many others. The dividing line between the here and now, and the complete unknown – the world shrouded in mystery and the world unbeknownst to any of those still alive. The truth hides behind that Veil. So how do you expect them to reach out to it?
Except. What if that is the truth?
What if they really don’t feel loved? Don’t you understand? Loving someone isn’t just about what you do – it’s about how it feels to them. And if they don’t feel loved, despite you uprooting the Tour Eiffel and placing it at their feet, then that just means the Eiffel Tower is not what they want and you need to reevaluate what loving them entails.
I have let people down. Left, right, and centre. I have let them down. I have been a terrible human being. I have hurt those closest to me. I have hurt them with no intention of hurting them, and, in my mind, loving them beyond my capacity. I have tried to be there for those I care about and I have failed. And now, all I am, is someone who doesn’t deserve love or companionship or friendship. I don’t deserve any of that. Not now. Not ever. For if this depression and this anxiety can turn me into a monster and render me emotionally abusive, then I don’t want to be with anyone, because it will only mean hurting the singular person I would never want to hurt.
Even the Hulk has more self control. Do you understand? Even the Hulk does not blindly smash anyone and everyone.
But I do.
And I annihilate the very people who mean the most to me – the very people that I would like to support in their growth.
It’s not just about being unloved. It’s about realizing that you don’t deserve any of that. You don’t deserve that emotion.
Restaurants have big shiny plaques that yell “Rights of Admission Reserved” in your face as soon as you walk in. And you just go there for a meal. An hour. Two hours. Three hours. Five hours if it’s a buffet and you’ve handled your plates with great proficiency. Except. This is a relation(ship). From your parents and siblings to your friends to that ‘special someone’.
So if you won’t go into a Michelin-Star winning restaurant in tattered shorts and a mud stained T-shirt, then you sure as hell would never entertain a relation with the sort of demons you have on your back.
And I see that now.
And once you see it, you can never un-see it. You can wish that if you gorge your eyes out, everything will be fine. Except, by now, it is a memory. And memories are tricky, tricky creatures (they might as well be creatures who are treated as separate entities because they crawl about your brain and make you sick inside). Instead of you having any power over them, they end up controlling you.
And so begins your Hell on this earth.
And so you lie back into the nearest piece of furniture – the bed, the couch, the chair, the floor – whatever you have around. And your insides are going ballistic. It’s a civil war inside you. The forces are clashing at Heart Central, and the mutiny is rising up into Thoracic Town and moving south on Abdominal Boulevard. You can feel the footsteps of these Lilliputian soldiers. And you feel the stampede. And you feel the canons bursting and the guns being brought out, and the occasional sword slicing through your insides or the stray arrow lodging itself under your skin.
You can feel every single movement. And you just want it to stop.
You try to drown them inside. You try to flush them out. You try to calm yourself inside so that winter descends and they freeze in their positions. But nothing works. The horses charge through the flood, and the lit torches melt away the ice.
But it’s this noisy, suffocating, omnidirectional tugging that is slowly making you go insane.
You can’t survive this mutiny.
The only casualty of this battle, it seems, will be your sanity. And the only casualty of this war, it seems, will be you.
The slime of dread crawls up your back, with goosebumps on your arms and the hair on the back of your neck standing upright at Attention to salute the sludge of dread as it crawls on by, activating your adrenal system at every step of the way, causing your body to misfire adrenaline all around like the fireworks on the Fourth of July.
Just as loud. Just as disruptive. Just as attention-grabbing. But not remotely as beautiful.
There is nothing beautiful about any of this.
You will do anything to curb this tsunami inside you. And when you say ‘anything’ you mean Anything. Because you just can’t take it anymore.
And you see no more options.
So you start creating your own: a blade to the wrist, a bottle of cough syrup down the throat, a noose from the ceiling fan, and whatever else you can Google and discover.
You take out an entire strip of anti-anxiety medication. You don’t even feel it. It’s just a swig of water. You know what this means, but you feel oddly calm. And the anti-anxiety medication hasn’t even kicked in yet.
But it doesn’t kill you.
It doesn’t kill you and it sure as Hell doesn’t make you stronger, because you spend the following day, after waking up in the morning (surprise!) in the worst hangover of your life – your head is heavy, your lethargic body is no longer your own, your words are slurring, and your eyes are probably giving you away.
Sometimes, it isn’t as chaotic. Sometimes, it’s just this this descent of a void into your chest – a black hole, with its unbearable weight, pulling everything inside you into its own self, while anchoring you down as if trying to pull you into the ground like quicksand. The more you fight it, the quicker you sink.
And so you stop fighting it.
And so you sink nonetheless into that void inside of you.
And while I have been there, I am scared. I am scared of this being just one more thing I have failed at, to be added to the never-ending list of relationships, friendships, family, academics, job, social life, pursuit of passion, and countless other facets of life, where I have already proven to be inadequate and a disappointment.
I am more scared because of my belief in the after-life. Because of my belief in God.
And since the hangover, every time my brain lights up like Diwali, the struggle is merely to convince myself to not go through with it. Except, the struggle soon becomes the disappointment with myself at not being able to go through with it. At giving in to the last-second wishful notion that perhaps ‘this time’ things will get better. That maybe this time it will not be so bad.
Except, it is – every single time, without fail.
Loneliness. Isolation. Desolation. Anger. Frustration. Guilt. Reclusiveness. Failures. Disappointments. Let-downs. False promises. Slipped-and-shattered hopes. Half-forgotten dreams. Crumbling ideals. Tainted notions. Lost motivation. Ephemeral inspiration.
Nothing seems just a little worth the fight against life. Nothing seems just a bit worth it to keep doing this every single second of every single minute of every single hour of every single day of every single week, of every single month, of every single year.
With no drive, how do you find a purpose?
And with no purpose, how do you keep fighting a battle you no longer believe in?
When you’re just so tired, and exhausted, and you just want to go sleep and never wake up again.
When you’re beaten, and bruised, and down, and you just can’t get up again.
What do you do?
What can you do?
How long do you suffer the insufferable?
How long do you pretend there is hope?
How long do you hide behind a mask of synthetic laughter that now plays on cue, and repeatedly practised jokes on self-deprecation, and this awkward giggle every single time life (or even a conversation on a singular, miniscule aspect of life) gets too much for you to process?
How long do you pretend you’re okay?
It turns out that the magical answer to all these problems is acceptance and the ability to love one’s own self.
Except, how do you love something you hate?
And how do you hate when you’re slowly becoming indifferent?
And how do you carry on with that indifference, when you become so numb to not even recognize your own reflection in a mirror – the looking glass on the wall, the eyes of someone very close, or even the stare of a stranger – any mirror?
And how long do you go on living for all those around you, when all you can feel yourself to be is a hollow shell of your own self – a remnant of the time gone by, decaying with each passing moment.
Give me something.
I will try everything.
I will try anything.
I will try.
As I often have before.
Until the perception of life shatters.
And even the reflection looks back as abstract pieces on the floor.
So until then, I think I’m just going to revert to my good old friend Kurt, and revel in his ability to turn my body inside out, so that my frail soul forms the exterior, open to being scratched and weathered, clawed at by life, and shred to tiny strips of inconsequential nothingness, until the moment when Mother can “throw down [her] umbilical noose so I can crawl right back.“
I will move away from here
You won’t be afraid of fear
No thought was put into this
Always knew it’d come to this
Things have never been so swell
I have never failed to feel
I’m so warm and calm inside
I no longer have to hide
Let’s talk about someone else
Steaming soup against her mouth
Nothing ever bothers her
She just wants to love herself.