a monthly feature by Agampreet Kalra
The pain we feel
I never truly thought about mental health until I began to feel this way. Every time when I went through something and felt whatever my reaction came out - was normal and not worthy of concern. Honestly, I did not even think about what I was doing. It was like a flow, it was just happening and I was floating along with it, never turning back.
I believe things were always bad. So I don’t have a story about how they worsened or how something utterly wretched suddenly popped up. Faces of problems kept changing but the extremity of pain always remained the same.
So I recently reached out to a mental health line because a close friend of mine was dealing with problems I felt needed strict attention. Seeing the situation I called in, I did not see I too had issues until I started crying. Tears started to stream out and I felt as if my throat became a handicap. It was the kind of feeling when you’re about to faint and your ears start to ring and your knees go weak. It was happening but I was conscious and living, which is basically one of the most helpless and worst feelings. It’s like you have no control over.
I started telling a complete stranger the ‘story’ of my life. From sexual abuses, physical violence, depression, anxiety, loneliness to stomach aches and breathlessness from tension. I spoke about it all. After I was done I felt I wanted to say more, tell everything because these things were not half of the list of things I have been through. I felt like there were shards of glasses blocking my windpipe to breathe. From these things only talked about, I found out that crying for the whole day for no reason is not okay, taking dad’s sleeping pills - waiting for something to happen is not okay, googling ‘painless ways to die’ is not okay, choking yourself on purpose is not okay, missing school so you don’t have to meet people is not okay, not getting out of your room for more than 8 hours is not okay, avoiding family members until it’s really necessary to talk is not okay, sleeping for 10 hours is not okay, beating yourself is not okay and cutting wrists is not okay.
This month I found out that the majority of my life—I lived through some kind of mental illness and somehow managed to fool myself into believing that everything was okay. I remember when I used to cry the whole damn day for no reason - morning to night. I would hide in my room, pretending to be asleep- crying for hours until actual sleep would embrace me. I thought it was normal, maybe I was crying because of tension. I had anxiety (always have). To cover for my overflowing days - I would write in my diary—“It’s okay to just cry sometimes.” No it’s not.
I remember when I would scratch my arms in my sleep from tension and wake up to gleaming red marks and when anyone enquired, I would say ‘I had fight with my dog you see’ or when I would wear my winter gloves as mittens to save myself from myself. I thought it was okay, I have a justification for this too in my mind - mosquitoes I called. In a room which is always closed and has net wired windows...mosquitoes, huh.
Or when I would miss school so I wouldn’t have to meet people. People was one thing, faking myself was another. Whenever in school, I would force myself into being happy or active. I would laugh at things and make lame jokes. In school, I craved for acceptance. I always felt the need to be accepted by all. No one wants to move around with a pile of sadness. So I pretend to be all the things they thought a ‘normal’ Friend should be - if happy it is, then fake happy I could be.
But in the end, when you come home. When you enter your safe haven - in my case it was my room. When you’re standing there, unclasping the mask you were wearing about, stretching your tired neck. You know what a lie you were living.
It’s even worst when it’s 2 am and you’re staring at your ceiling, thinking nothing, just feeling paralysed by an odd feeling in your stomach and fast palpitations. At that moment, you know anything can happen in any second and you will be able to do nothing about it- but nothing happens. Nothing ever happens to your honest paralysed body with your heart palpitating in your ears—that’s when you know how real this is. How real it is with your staring eyes at the ceiling, thinking nothing. It’s like monsters crawling through your breathing nostrils and struggling their way into your body.
I always thought it was not real— no matter since how many years this has been living inside me.
I found that avoiding people in general is actually a sign of mental sickness. I can relate to when I was in class at 10 or 11 and I would be very nervous to get out of the house. I would get utterly self conscious to cross my street and or walk 200 metres in a street with 3-4 people. Reason being, ‘I felt ashamed’ and ‘didn’t wanted to be seen’. I realised talking to people was worse than getting up the morning. One thing about mental illness and mornings— Morning can be one of the most painful things that can happen to you. Waking up by opening your eyes to a new day (tough already), knowing the fact that there’s another day to get through. It’s like a war field. You feel like you might die in a way. Waking up is a disaster through its every atom, no wonder people with mental sickness sleep more. Maybe mentally ill are smart.
I even try to avoid my family members. It’s a bit helpful if you have maintained a good relationship with your folks, but in my case - hostility had an upper hand. Most of the time, I would ignore my family, I did not had anything to say to them, they did not have the patience to take in my moods. I would only talk to them when really necessary - which makes me the selfish one of the house.
My brother and I do not share a good relationship and haven’t really talked to each other for several months. You might think that is impossible since we’re living under the same roof, but we don’t even share more than five sentences. My mother however spends her time on her phone which comes as a package with her job and we have a bit better relationship than earlier, but there are days when I crave for a hug or a word of sweet love from her. You don’t know what a single hug can cost sometimes. Anyways, my brother believes I’m useless and will not make much out of life. Fortunately, my mother has pleasant hope for me on this one. She believes I will be somebody good in the future. That’s what I tag along with.
Tagging along sparks my memory of going out with them, which I never do. I try to avoid going out as much as possible. If it’s with family I try hardest, you don’t know what black holes that small space of car and familial proximity takes me into. Anyways, my family believes I don’t go out with them because I am prude, which is untrue. The honest truth is I can never bring myself up to going out. It’s harder than it looks. For a normal person, getting out of house is getting out of the house. From me it is like walking on burning coal. It’s terrible.
Tears fall on my hands and clothes as I write this. My aim is to tell you how small things matter the most. Even when you cry or feel terrible in your own body. You must try to heal yourself. These small moments make you. You don’t know what a sponge this heart was until you reckon the chunk of broiling pain it has soaked inside. I recently found out about everything that was going on with me through my life. I wasted the maximum of it believing that it was normal and this happened to everyone and nobody talked about it. No, feeling these feelings may be normal. Doing things we’re doing may not always be. Ask me what I felt when urging the knife to my skin in motive to end it all, I did not want to feel this anymore.
Mental health is more important than physical health. Feelings are what make us humans. And it’s common for us to shout out if we’re feeling happy and idyllic , but why not if we’re sad? It’s okay if sometimes our emotions overload. We need to sometimes accept that we’re in pain and are wounded if we want to heal. You can only consume a medicine for those wounds you diagnosed.
Agampreet Kalra is a Senior High Schooler from India and an amateur photographer and writer. Her life revolves around writing, reading, staying up late and drinking coffee. She mostly write poems and short stories and her upcoming poems will be appearing in the next issue of Moonchild Magazine. She had been a regular blog contributor in the Hebe Poetry Magazine and is also the reader and reviewer of Delhi Poetry Slam and the Staff Writer of Redefy.