It begins with the shivers
Raw arms, racing heart, tapping, screaming, sweating, eyes dart, room spins and the volume of the world increases to a pulsing nightmare.
I don’t want to die but I don’t want to be alive.
I’m enslaved, imprisoned, a plaything for my own mind
But I’m not the victim and I don’t feel like a victim.
This is me.
The sadness is part of myself that I can’t control, but part of myself nonetheless.
It runs in my veins, mama. It always has.
All my life, you were crying and popping pills from orange bottles and you were happy one minute then sad the next and I couldn’t make it better mama, I always just wanted to make you proud I always wanted to be good enough.
I hate the sadness, mama, that takes over the happier person in me. And that happy person is forced to watch, to scream without a voice, and it tells my mind and body that it is not okay. That I am not okay.
And I’m scared, mama. I don’t know what to do when I feel the panic approaching and I don’t know who to tell and who to hide it from or how to make it stop, mama. See, it’s not the kind of fear you get about a monster under the bed; it’s the kind of fear that comes from looking in the mirror during a panic attack and praying not to see yourself staring back.
The first time I went to a psychiatrist he told me my anxiety is hereditary. It was a gift from you to me, mama. And I want to have children and I want to raise them up to be happy and strong with beautiful minds that don’t want to hurt them. And that’s scary. And it’s scary to know I could bring someone into this world who might hurt as much as I do and I’m sorry, mama, but I don’t know if I’m as brave as you were.
The first time my psychiatrist talked about pills I looked at him wide-eyed as if taking them meant I would be giving up. As if it meant I would be losing this fight against myself, against my own mind.
The first time I told my friends back home about my diagnosis one of them said, “Why am I not surprised?” and I cried the whole drive home. See, I wanted them to say it was going to be OK, that they would love me anyway. See, it’s hard to talk about what makes me sweat and scream and shake, what makes me lose myself in my own mind and scratch at my arms until they are red and raw.
And just like you, most people don’t know, mama. They don’t know that sometimes when I get sad I can’t calm down, that I need to call people for help when I’m out, that I keep all of my sharp objects in one place and cut my fingernails short so I don’t hurt myself too badly.
And most of my friends can’t see mama, they can’t see that there’s a side of me I keep under lock and key, that I keep hidden away behind closed doors, under covers, out of sight but never out of mind.
And for my friends with GAD, OCD, PTSD, ADD, who are living with disabilities that nobody can see, know that you are not alone. People like me are here and we understand you. And I believe that one day other people will understand too.
But for now I am learning to live and love knowing that I just can’t calm down sometimes. And when I can’t take care of myself I’m learning to understand that it’s not always my fault. And I’m doing my best to be the best person I can be.
And I’m gonna be better one day, mama, you’ll see.
But for now I’ll turn this pain into poetry.
Contact Maya Eliahou [email protected].