Darkness, My Old Friend

I am the epitome of a morning person. I don’t wake up particularly ecstatic neither do I wake up grumpy, I just wake up. I wake up slowly, feeling my breath and life course through every limb and tendon in my body. I feel my soul open her eyes and luxuriate in the precious gift of having another day. She loves mornings; I love mornings.

That’s why it was especially devastating when it took the joy of mornings away. The first morning I woke up and wanted to curl back into my shell, wanted to blot out the sensation of life coursing through me, I cried like my soul was cracking. Because it was. I didn’t understand what was happening. I didn’t understand why the very pores covering my flesh felt like they were trying to close up and block out even a wisp of air from flowing in. I felt broken. I wouldn’t say it was unexpected though, but I didn’t necessarily see it coming either. I have always been a planner; I make lists of the lists I need to make. Feeling like I have some level of control over what happens to me gives me comfort akin to a warm cup of tea on a rainy evening. When things spiral out of my control, or when they seem like they’re about to, I make more plans. I would worry a little, but bottom line would be me regrouping and planning how to put things back on track. But I never thought, or even slightly suspected, that these were the very prepubescent markings of what would morph into parasitic co-inhabitants of my brain and body.

I don’t remember the specific day it grew into an omnipresent, over-cloying cloud of fear and I certainly don’t recall when it brought along another permanent resident, but I remember my first in-your-face interaction with this new part of me I did not know existed. The circumstances leading to this experience aren’t vivid in my mind, which leads me to believe that nothing particularly extraordinary occurred that day.

It was around dusk on a Thursday, I remember because I had only had one more day of classes left that week, a day of classes I didn’t attend. I was lying on my bed in my dorm room and making plans for some event I was helping organize. A small voice in my head started listing possible things that could go wrong and I made contingency plans for these possible scenarios. This is how I normally work. Then the voice started getting louder and louder and louder. Soon, I couldn’t hear any other part of my brain, especially not the part that came up with the solutions. All I could hear were the problems -how this could fail, how that could come crashing down, how the universe had to be done dishing out good things for me and how I couldn’t do anything to stop any of these things from happening.

My heart started to beat at the rapid pace of a village talking drum, the middle of my chest ached and I couldn’t take deep breaths. I was hyperventilating -breathing shortly and quickly as if I had run 5 miles. I felt like I was having a heart attack, but as it turns out, it was a panic attack. The voice continued to get louder and faster and just when I thought my head would explode, it reached a crescendo – of silence. The silence descended like a cloud of noxious gas, it was suffocating. It was like a film of plastic was covering my nostrils, making every breath painful, and a weighted blanket was covering my whole body, making all my limbs heavy. I laid there in bed, unwilling and unable to function as a human being. I didn’t want to move, think or breathe. I didn’t necessarily want to die, I just did not want to live. My brain had fully absorbed that good things couldn’t possibly keep happening to me and my world would eventually implode into nothingness, and it was spreading this message to the rest of me. I don’t know if I slept that night but when I realized it was morning, I curled into myself and tried to blot out life. A part of me believed that when morning came with its softness and rebirth, I would revel in it like I always used to. I didn’t. This was the moment I broke and cried, screaming like I could forcibly expel the darkness in me through my throat. I was, for all intents and purposes, comatose from that Thursday up till Saturday. I was pulled out of this state when a friend who hadn’t seen me out my room came and knocked my door until I opened. She later said I looked like either someone had died or was dying. I didn’t tell her I felt both of those statements were true -I felt dead and dying.

This is why I make lists, plans and contingency plans incase my lists of plans don’t work out. Structure gives me peace of mind. A sharp pain streaks across my chest when things are, or seem like they are about to start, spiraling out of my control. I get a visceral need to scream and I get this image of my brain violently trying to pull the gates of my mind of its hinges. At these times, I feel caged in mortality, unable to tangibly arrange my future and the futures of those around me. A part of me thinks it’s the god in me, frustrated with the limitations of my humanness -I wasn’t built for things to happen to me, I was intended to bend things to my will and since I can’t, I’m stuck clawing my way through the abyss.

As for the darkness, I’ve only really gone there a handful of times in my life, and whenever I come out, I feel like a part of me was left behind. I never get a warning -like how dark clouds forewarn a storm on its way- I don’t get that. It sneaks up on me and blankets me unaware, stealing the joy from every crevice in and on my body. Sometimes, I feel like if only I had warnings of the impending chaos, and I could pinpoint what leads me there, I would be better prepared for it. I guess that’s the difference between regular sadness and this darkness -the darkness doesn’t necessarily have a reason, but it barges in anyway.

This the first of a two-part series. This part is detailing the author’s experiences with mental afflictions, anxiety, and depression. The second part of this series highlights an organization in a movement to create awareness on mental health-related issues in Liberia. People from all walks of life are affected by mental health related issues and behavioral disorders, Liberians included, and these issues ought to be talked about and addressed. The author, as well as the founders of the organization highlighted in the subsequent post, are dedicated to creating this change.

Authored by Anonymous

Featured picture by The Conversation 

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