Depression and anxiety, two sides of the same deadly coin. People say you can’t get one without the other. These twins were birthed through mental anguish or trauma, a byproduct of childhood fears or social isolation. Both are equally deadly by themselves and together. Being afraid of everything while being afraid of nothing is the scariest feeling you can ever have.
I have never been one to take mental health seriously. As a child, I was taught that being depressed or anxious was a myth—a result of an over-the-top stimulus of the brain.
Never did I imagine the weight it carried as the slow passage of time caught up to me. Like a beast hiding in the shadows, or under the guise of a peaceful animal, it waits patiently until the prey is ripe for the picking.
Let me tell you a story of how I met him.
The first time I experienced my first anxiety attack was way back in my childhood. Being 6 years old at the time, finding out that death comes for everyone broke my fragile mind. I sat on the edge of the bed, rocking back and forth, with my arms locked in a tight embrace around my legs. Visions of people dropping dead and the Earth laying barren and in darkness filled my dreams that night. I would stir awake, checking on my mom if she was still breathing. It shook me so hard that I had developed the habit of watching the clock just to see if time was trying to speed itself up. I wasn’t aware that there is such a thing as anxiety or panic attacks. I convinced myself that I was just afraid. But something at the back of my mind said otherwise. Even until now, anxiety jolts me awake at night and lets me pace around the house just to calm down. And in worst cases, it changes into a snake that wraps around the body and slowly chokes the life out of it.
As the slow passage of time made me fear the inevitable even more, I found no purpose in living through life. What was the point in living if one day you won’t be able to wake up? What difference would living until I’m old and dying young make? An overactive imagination coupled with irrational and nonsensical fears; a combination as deadly as it is poetic. I cast aside my fears and emotions, choosing to be an unfeeling husk; a hollow shell of my former self. All in an effort to stay sane.
As the years went by, the thoughts lingered in my mind, slowly eating away at my sanity. Alcohol and cigarettes became my scapegoat; nights spent wasted on the streets almost to the point of blacking out. I feared the morning sun shining down on me because I know that my fears will be back, much worse than the day before.
I started having conversations with myself, unknowingly developing multiple personalities; the drunkard, the atheist, the soulful Christian, and, my personal favorite, the carefree intellectual. I also developed different speech patterns and body movements so I could tell them apart. Whenever I was laughing at everything and spoke in slurred speeches, I was the drunkard. If I tried to question religion and faith while citing Bible verses, I was the atheist. But whenever I got serious and stern with a raised eyebrow, I was the intellectual.
Every single one of them had the same purpose, protect “the child” at all costs.
But deep down, I knew that the child had to “die” soon. He is too innocent for this world and if he ever came out, it would be disastrous. He was clingy and annoying by today’s standards, and I couldn’t bear the thought of corrupting him more. It was much better to “kill” him off as opposed to letting him grow up, I thought.
That’s when I saw him, a sophisticated gentleman that was as alluring as he was strong. He stood with purpose, smiling and tipping his top hat as I gave him a glance. But there was one thing that bothered me, he wasn’t a product of my imagination nor was he one of my personalities that evolved somehow. I knew because even they don’t know who he is, especially the intellectual. This new guy, he felt real, like he was me but not “me.” I couldn’t see his face, but his smile was the same as mine. He never spoke that time, only showing up at the corner of my eye and smiling at me. He brought with him a sense of peace, yet there was a foreboding shadow that always seems to accompany him. I welcomed his presence wholeheartedly.
As the days pass, he got closer to me; out of touch but never out of sight.
And as he got closer, something was changing. One by one, my personalities started to disappear; first was the Christian, then the drunkard. The intellectual and the atheist grew quiet, I still felt them but they never came back out. So the only one left was the child. I hated him, but I had no choice. I begged the two to come back but they only stared at me, their eyes emotionless and grey.
Was my child self the real me? I thought. I knew that he wasn’t, so why did my other personalities just shut themselves off?
“It’s because of me,” said a voice. I turned to where it came from and saw the gentleman, sitting on the edge of my bed. It was morning but he was still enveloped in shadows. I rubbed my eyes, thinking that I was just imagining things. But seeing the crevice he left on my bed proved to me that he was real; to me, at least.
“Who are you?” I asked him.
He took off his top hat, and showed me his face.
That’s why he felt familiar, why it gave me a feeling of peace the first time I saw him.
His face… was mine.
“I am the part of you that you tried so hard to ignore. That feeling that broke you. You tried to drown me out with alcohol and laughter, so I had no choice but to break the walls of existence. You will never get rid of me. I was with you when you were but a child, watching you grow up. And now I will stay with you; drag you down whenever you feel elated or break you when you feel stable. I stayed in the cracks of your sanity, becoming the very thing holding it together. You thought I was a friend and welcomed me. If only you embraced me sooner, I wouldn’t have grown this much hate towards you.”
I heard him in my head, but I could see him in front of me. He was right. I shouldn’t have ignored him. I shouldn’t have shut him out. He was that part of life that people get scared of. He was that aspect of life that I couldn’t accept.
He was maturity. And now that I didn’t nurture him, he became something nastier. He became a monster that will forever haunt me all throughout my days. He became the very thing I feared in my childhood. A harbinger of suicidal thoughts and sleepless nights.
I was “Anxiety” and he was “Depression.”
If only I had killed “the child” sooner…
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“He became a monster that will forever haunt me all throughout my days. He became the very thing I feared in my childhood. A harbinger of suicidal thoughts and sleepless nights.” | short story by @WeirdArtThou https://t.co/3FL3hW65fW pic.twitter.com/tEKGquP0ag
— Ibalio Stories (@IbalioStories) October 1, 2018
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