Mental illness has been this fiend that I’ve been fighting for almost a decade now. Unfortunately, I can’t be sure of the timespan, I’ve been stuck with it for awhile. I hid (or at least tried to hide) my problems from the world by submerging myself into an ocean of music. It was my only escape. As the first child of a first-generation immigrant family, I was forced to be independent and useful at a very young age. The responsibilities I had to uphold varied from translating phone calls to doing chores, while taking care of my little brother in between. Although this quality has garnered some praise from outsiders, looking back, I felt as though that was the beginning of the end of a very short-lived childhood. The increasing seclusion from my friends due to the enormous amount of time spent on extracurriculars and babysitting my brother had left me “friendless”, to say the least. At that point, it didn’t bother my music, my books, nor myself.
It was only until I started high school that I noticed how this comfort in a gloomy mindset was not normal, potentially unhealthy. However, it was still a harmless habit that didn’t bother me. I even relish those moment when I could dive into the lyrics during my alone time. Mental breakdowns developed around this time period and not only grew, they were swallowing my life at an alarming rate while I chose to look away and hoped it could some day disappear. I became increasingly conflicted with the need for help and the need to hide the mess I became.
Between late night tears and the “responsible, well-behaved child” image, the struggle only increased exponentially when my friend was forced into therapy. She was just like me: pressured by her family to succeed and be “perfect”, never received much recognition for her achievements, and constantly had hidden suicidal thoughts. Not only did I bore the burden of my own demons, but I worried greatly for this friend and for my potential future if I was “exposed” as well. I couldn’t trust the school councillor, we were 14! We were allowed our own privacy regarding our health! No need to call parents without notifying the student, no need to humiliate the student by calling her out in the middle of class and taking her to a “therapy meeting”! No one can be trusted! And yet, I was there, seeking for a way out of this hellhound’s hole.
High school was a miserable time where devastating thoughts dropped my mental health like an anchor, and as always, it pulled me with it. On and on it went, until it hit rock bottom. The piles of school work mimicked mount Everest, exams were ready to slaughter my chances of a decent CEGEP application, and family matters spread me as thin as ice in spring. Amidst all this chaos was this infinitesimal, sincere, urge to end it all. Suicidal thoughts were regular customers, but never of serious matter due to this fear of death, of failed attempts, of repercussions.
So, I cut myself instead.
I hated it. Shame was all I could reap from this. It was my last resort and yet useless to me. It was so frustrating, I lost hope.
I accepted my reality. I would (potentially) live on as an empty vessel treading through life as it comes and goes. I would attempt to reach my parents’ standards while concealing those puffy lifeless eyes, those dark circles, that empty mind.
Several years later and I still haven’t won the fight. I’m not even close, but there are some days when I don’t want to die and increasingly more days when I feel like it’s a stalemate. It’s still progress, I think? The first time I went to meet a psychologist was a horrible day. Traveling there with this suffocating anxiety and the worry of vulnerability. That was another fight against whatever madness I have, but I still need to go back to the drawing board to try other ways, but I guess (at least) I started trying.