May 8th to the 14th marks Mental Health Awareness Week. Therefore, I would like to share with you my story and I encourage you very much to open up about your own journey wherever you feel like doing so, be it in the comments below, on your blog or on social media for your close ones. Be loud.
As my senior high year was coming to an end two years ago, I started encountering intense feelings that I had never truly come across before. In my one too many diary entries entitled ‘Another bad day’, I wrote:
I have given up. I lost it all — my mind, my confidence, my optimistic mood. It does not seem sane anymore. There’s a minute when I could laugh till it hurts, while the other minute I would gladly vanish like I would’ve never lived. When the sun is shining, I forget about all the negative thoughts and the pain I’ve been feeling for so long. I pretend that everything is okay. Everything will be okay. And I never overcame such a hard time on other days. I truly believe it. Whereas on these other days, I wish I could kick myself for being so stupid, for lying to everyone including my own self. When I am not home, I’m such an excellent actress, though it is not the case on the theater’s stage. Nevertheless, through the years, willingly or not, I worked to master the art of containment. I became a real pro at bottling everything up. Now, I cannot get a piece of it out. It is locked up and the only way it could be unveiled would be an explosion. It would have to be so strong that I would never see it coming. As it is becoming heavier each day, I wish for me to get rid of it. This is a burden I do not want to endorse anymore. Get rid of it and get to fly. I used to have such a positive attitude, always looking forward to what was coming up next but I have no more hope.
I’m tired of coming back from school each evening, hoping for something that is not going to happen. I know I do not do much to change it but I feel like it will never matter anyway. I am sick of trying. Sick of pretending. Sick of not knowing how to act. Sick of my life. Sick of myself. It is so screwed that I can’t see any worth anymore. I do not know what to do anymore.
In another entry, I described the feeling of life lingeringly leaving me:
It is difficult to keep on waking up knowing that there’s nothing beautiful awaiting for me in a near or far future. It keeps getting harder to feed a positive mind. I am not going anywhere. My soul is down this empty road. I want to stop moving forward. Why do I feel stuck on this lonely road? There seems to be no point in walking ahead while I’m actually moving backward. I am not living. So why do I keep holding on to life? Why do I inflict myself so much pain? I can’t even discern any crossroads nearby? I may not be leaving life but life is clearly leaving me.
Do you ever feel like you’re a nobody? Because I do, most of the time. What is all the fuss around social media and reputation? In the end, there is a thin line between reality and fiction. It’s a blurred mirror. I go over through my Facebook profile and all I perceive is a fake version of me, sometimes at least trying to be me. There are those smiles and irrelevant numbers as regards to friendships. It’s a world you create without being aware of it. And as soon as you realize the whole trap you fell into, it’s too late — you became an obsessed shallow person. There’s no way out of it.
I found myself multiple times on the verge of pressing ‘Publish’ on my social media profile after confessing my feelings in lengthy posts.
I am not all right. I’m just a total mess. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life. I admit to being depressed. I apologize for always being a fake person when I’m around you, at school, or when I message you online. I’m sorry I never get to be my true self with you. I’m hiding behind my eyeshadow and my fashionable outfit. I pretend I feel perfectly in peace with myself with my high-heels but in fact my mind is constantly pulling me down. Thoughts are always emerging from the plainest comments. I never say a word and act like I have got nothing to because I am scared and I feel like my opinion doesn’t matter. I often feel out of place. […] And I get that I must look like I’m in my own world, not giving a damn sh*t about what’s happening around me. But that is not the case. I do care. My mind has created barriers to hinder me from reaching out to you. When I feel sad, and I want to break down, I’m always containing myself. Because I master the art of building this mask up.
Apart from my notebooks filled with notes about those ongoing gloomy days, I tried to reach through online forums.
I am sad, tired to be an audience of my own life. I don’t do anything. When I go to school, I often have tears in my eyes that won’t come out and stay all day long. At times, these tears come out at home arguing with my parents or sisters. I try to keep that sadness in me so maybe tomorrow I’ll think about it in class and I will break down. But no one will notice. Any joke will make me laugh and then again I’ll look normal. I’d rather show my emotions, be transparent, show my pain to all of them. But the next day will be the same. I’ll wake up, get up, dress up, put some makeup on, take my coat and go to school. On my way, I will ask myself a few questions; will anyone talk to me today? Will anyone notice me? I’ll take some resolutions that won’t last. I’ll try to show my sadness. Try to prove I can’t manage any relationship since I have none. I’ll try to make them see that I have no friend to hang with nor to talk to. Thus my only wish is that something really bad would happen to me. I would break down in front of them. I would tell one person at least how I feel. Lost. I want to tell them I’m worried about my younger sister going to foster care, and my older one not finding her path in life. Tell them that I am sick of their jokes about cancer because my mom got it more than twice; and that I’m sick of them smoking pot all day because my dad was a drug and alcoholic addict and I know what it’s done to him. Tell them that I’m just exhausted to be on my own always, to have nobody to open up to, and to be always alone because I see all of the others matter most. I am lost and I know if I fall down no one will be there to lift me up.
And eventually, I received some kind-hearted, deep and encouraging messages from people I didn’t even know.
I looked for explanations everywhere I could and found some resonating pieces of writing such as these ones articles (article 1 and article 2), discovered the work of organizations like TWLOHA, or read some books and poems to which I couldn’t relate more. I stumbled upon this striking video. Thus, I started documenting my journey on a blog called ‘Letters From My Senior Year’ and tried harder to open up to people by getting published on The Mighty, a mental health community website (Finding A Way To Say Depression Out Loud, June 2016) or on this very blog (What If Hiding Was Self-Injury, March 2015). I tried expressing my feelings through art, like in a short film From My Room I made with the few means I had.
I would not be honest if I said that today I do not feel this way anymore. Once in a while, those heavy feelings come back crashing at me. What has changed, however, is the fact that I gained an ounce of confidence and strength to finally open up about it. It remains far from easy but from time to time I succeed at talking about my experience almost freely. It has been a long journey, the battle is not over yet, it might never really come to an end, but through thick and thick I am working on it, I am working on improving my life, getting to know my true self and to live in peace with it, embracing all of my flaws and qualities.
And I hope that you are working on yourself too, whatever place our are in life right now. I hope you hold on to hope, to life, to love. And I hope it gets better soon for you.
▪︎ You can read more of my articles on mental health here. ▪︎