Regardless of a pair of perfectly intact lungs
Courtesy: Ola Abulshalashel

I have struggled with my mental health for as long as I can remember. Major depression, general anxiety, panic disorder, borderline and bipolar personality. I received so many diagnoses and medication prescriptions that I had almost forgotten I was a person. A person who loved to stand under the rain, play with stray animals and drink coffee. A person who had aspirations and hopes. One that was lost along the way.

When you’re struggling with your own mind, everything becomes a burden. Not just going to work, studying or fulfilling family responsibilities. Being alone with your mind is very burdening, too. Especially this. And for an introvert like me, it’s not exactly comfortable either, being constantly surrounded by people. So this leaves me in a persistent dilemma. Always on the run. Away from myself and everyone else. Perpetually cursing my loneliness.

After all these years of daily struggles, I came to realize what an immeasurable bliss it is to wake up in the morning actually wanting to do so. To have a peaceful moment with an exceptionally quiet mind. And to breathe normally without having to gasp for air. People like me know how to cherish these simple things really well. We know it won’t be long till everything goes downhill again. Till we’re told how better off the world would be without us. Till the wild thoughts rush through our minds and give us those terrible headaches that end only in complete numbness and an inability to think. Till we let out those sounds of suffocation because, regardless of a pair of perfectly intact lungs, we simply don’t seem to get enough air.

I could cry you rivers, but I wouldn’t want to bore you. I could tell you about how ugly it is to feel ugly. I could tell you about how my mind has taken over my whole body, tackling my digestion, my respiration, my blood pressure, my skin, my hair and even my eyesight and my hearing. I could tell you about groaning in pain because of how quick the thoughts race through my head and then, only minutes later, staring at walls for hours on end without moving or answering anyone because that’s what numbness is. And I could tell you about the horrifying thought that, one day, I might not be able to hold myself back and will end up losing my life.

That’s how real mental illness can be. But you already know that. Or maybe you don’t. Maybe you’re one of those people who think there’s no such thing and we all just lack faith, fake it, or whatever. That’s okay with me. I don’t have to wait for a justification for my condition. And I don’t need anyone to tell me how real all this is because that I already know like the back of my hand. And yet, I wish I could say that I don’t need your support either, but sadly, I do.

You see, supporting a mentally ill person could save a life. Every 40 seconds, someone in the world dies of suicide. Every time I remember that terrifying number by the WHO I wonder how many lives would have been spared if the world was just a little bit more aware of mental illness. These people probably had families and friends, jobs and dreams. A favorite book or a favorite football club. But their minds functioned in different ways. Ways that mostly didn’t turn out in their favor.

Engy Ashraf 

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