The Face in the Mirror

You never used to be like this. You were a nice person. People liked you. You were kind to your parents, you respected everyone, you did not walk through this world hating everything. What happened? 

The days and nights have blended into one. Faces pass you by but nothing registers. Ugh, why are there so many people here. You catch yourself off guard for a moment but that feeling soon passes. You never used to be like that, walking down the street bitter at the world. Your parents and friends start to take note, they mention it in passing but like everything else, you just ignore it. They don’t know what they’re talking about. As the days go by it becomes harder to identify when the transformation started and before you know it, you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror. Who’s that person staring back? They look so familiar and yet resemble a stranger. The once soft and welcoming face has hardened from a mixture of stress, anxiety, and fear; the eyes have aged in a way that no longer emanates warmth towards others but instead are dark and hollow, vacant to the core. Take a step back. What happened to turn you into this? Who are you? 

You’re growing up, this is who you are now. If people can’t accept it, tough for them.

There was a time when you wouldn’t stop smiling. No matter how much the universe tried to pull you down, you would look at it straight in the eye and tell it to leave you alone, and it worked. This method worked for a long time. Years in fact. Every obstacle placed in your way, you would soar through it. Outsiders saw you as an inspiration, a light in their bonfire hearts. The high you got from being around others, making them happy, brightening their days was something that was incomparable. Dawn was your calling, dusk was you nirvana and everything in-between was Wonderland. So what happened? My life was far from perfect but I was dealing, I was handling it. I faked happiness until it became real. Where did I go wrong? 

Maybe it was when your sibling was going through a hard time and your parents recruited you for suicide watch. Maybe it was when you got another bad grade after studying for days and weeks on-end for that test. Maybe it all went wrong between keeping your friends afloat and you parents sane while trying to get that 4.0 GPA and ward off the debt collectors. Maybe you were so busy looking out for others that you lost yourself in the process. One day you woke up and stopped. The bonfire went out and all that was left behind were ashes. One morning you turned off your wake up alarm, stared out the window, groaned, and promptly turned over and stayed in the bed. With no explanation, you become one with your bed covers. It started off with a few extra minutes with your new acquaintance, then an hour, a day. Before you know it, a month and a half had gone by and someone is banging on your door. You look around your once, tidy, perfect, well-organized room and see nothing but chaos. Clothes scattered all over the place. Course-work in all directions and plates pilled to the ceiling.

How did this happen? I swear I only shut my eyes for a minute. A minute is all it takes.

That person you were seeing? They’ve lost interest. You’re not what they expected, you’re closed off, unwelcoming, always on edge. The animation and the bubbly personality that filled your bones has gone flat. The traits that once attracted others are long to be found. Can’t seem too enthusiastic, he doesn’t seem to be like that. Don’t text, can’t seem to clingy. Oh wait, it’s been 3 days of silence. Am I that easy to forget? Flashbacks flood your mind. Forgotten, again. Who are you speaking of? I don’t remember her. She isn’t someone worth remembering. One of your deepest fears is coming back to light. You’re always the best-friend, the listener, the one that they can count on, but you’re never the one worth remembering. The last guy you spoke with cut off all communication because you wouldn’t sleep with him. 7 years of friendship, gone in a blink of an eye. The one before that? Good communication and then one day, radio silence. No explanation, no reasoning. Just forgotten. Before that? Forgotten again and this time whenever you ran into each other, they didn’t even acknowledge your existence. For 8 months. The pain became so unbearable that you changed your bus route, your job, your life. Your heart gets heavy even thinking about it. Well, I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised that he lost interest. It’s what happens. This is what I’m used to. I am the one that gets forgotten.

It’s getting harder to get out of that bed.

It’s the end of the semester and final marks have been released. You’re back home with your parents, already feeling the walls closing in around you. You want to be excited that your back but the truth is, you hate it there. You feel trapped, none of your friends are left, you have no mode of transport, and the only company you have are your pets (and let’s face it, they only love you for your food). You go and check the university website. You did fairly well but that one class that you were killing yourself over, failed to deliver. You just missed your goal GPA and the medical schools will notice. You frantically try to search for answers but deep down you know it’s because you weren’t smart enough. Clever enough. Who am I kidding? I’ll never make it into med school. 

Maybe a little nap will make this all go away. 

The face in the mirror may have become a stranger but that doesn’t mean that it has to stay that way. You can go back. You can change everything because at the end of the day, the person you saw before and the one in front of you now all came from the same place. You may not be as animated and fire-starting as you used to be but that doesn’t mean that that part isn’t still there. It’s just buried a little deeper. You can go back and get it. You may need help along the way but that’s alright. Still struggling to accept that help from other does not signify weakness, but in fact strength in recognizing that you needed it.

This is your life. Crawl out of bed. Go and get it back. It will be hard, possibly one of the hardest things you’ve ever had to do but that’s fine. Go. Be great. Be animated. Be a face in the mirror that you recognize and like.

And whatever you do, don’t stop, don’t turn around, don’t look back.

Just Go. 

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Struggles of the Animated

Why did I say that? I’m such an idiot. Why can’t you just be normal like everyone else? No one wants to hear what you have to say. Fool. Stupid. Loner. 

You stare down at your phone. It’s too late, the text has already been sent. No matter how much you want to jump into your phone, follow the text message coding, and stop it from getting delivered to the recipient, you can’t. In retrospect, it’s nothing too bad but in this very moment, it’s detrimental.

They probably think that I’m such an idiot. That I’m nuts. I was just trying to be funny. Why on earth would I analyze pineapple fruit? WHO DOES THAT?!

You’re already walking on eggshells whenever the two of you interact. You don’t know where you stand and in a few weeks you’ll be off on another adventure. You want to keep the lines of communication strong but are terrified that’s not what they want. You are so worried about what they may think, that every action you do is calculated. Precise. No room for error. You’ve scared so many others away by just being your normal, weird, wacky self that you’ve decided it’s time to stop. Change. It’ll be for the best. You bite your tongue when you think of one of your endless bad puns, you down play the animation when you get excited. You pinch your skin when you want to change your voice to mimic that of a tv show or movie character. It’s hard to recognize yourself anymore but you think this is what’s good. What society wants. What they want. But no-one knows that for sure. No one can. That doesn’t matter. This is the right thing. 

Then you slip.

You forgot to hold back and make that terrible pun. You analyze the lies within the word “pineapple”. It’s only after you send the message, you realize your mistake. It was a good run. You lasted two months. You await a response. Nothing. You aren’t even surprised at this point. You should’ve known. For the next few hours you replay what you’ve done over and over again. Pin-pointing the exact moment you let your defences down. Can’t let that happen again.

…..

…..

Buzz. Buzz. 


For anyone interested, there is this wonderful song by Colbie Caillat which was released this past summer (2014). It discussed breaking the stereotypes and learning how to accept yourself for who you are. It’s a good listen and who knows? You may find it helpful, either consciously or subconsciously. 

Compartmentalization

Hold on. Hold onto me because I’m a little unsteady.

Exam season has fast approached as tired and defeated eyes eagerly await the opening of the library doors. No time to waste, only two weeks to prove yourself. Your stress levels are at an all time high and your patience decreasing ever so slightly as the days pass. You know you’re not yourself anymore, the exam demon has emerged and taken control; it is welcomed with open arms.

Everything is wrong. You feel like you’ve gained 15lbs when in reality it’s probably only 1 or maybe you’ve lost a few but you’re too emotional to tell. You’re friends are complaining about their significant others and you’re trying so hard to care but all you feel is bitter that you’re all alone. You want him to miss you but you’re the one who ran. It’s all your fault but you refuse to see it. You’re face is fooling others but you’re treading water on your current mental status. Just two weeks. Just two weeks and then you’ll have the summer and you’ll be back to normal. Don’t do anything drastic until this passes. 

Buzz Buzz. The bright screen flashes a text. You’ve only read the first line but that’s enough. The walls that you built so high start to crumble down. You don’t know where to turn as your lungs start to tighten. Everything blurs. All you know is that you have to get out. Run. Sprint. As fast as you can away from here. No one can see you cry. Crying is for the weak. You are strong. You’ve put together the pieces so many times before, this is no different. 

Some people would call it a tragedy, but you call it life. You compartmentalize your emotions, refusing to feel anything too deeply. No need to hurt myself. Chemotherapy. Now that’s a scary word, isn’t it? It’s hard to say it to your friends without getting strange and pitying looks; the stares become a part of you and soon you avoid going to the places where people know. You just want to forget what’s happening back home because it’s killing you that you are away. That while your father is struggling through each failing treatment, you’re worrying about exams. You’re friends love life. Whether or not you have enough money for food. These things all seem so minimal at the moment but again, you must compartmentalize. Get through it by shutting it out, that’s what they say.

You’re one of those tired and defeat eyes waiting for the library doors to open on this crisp, spring morning. No one here knows your battle, your story. And why should they? You’re here to revise. To pass your classes. You’ve buried your problems so deep within that soon you forget reality. Reality is unnecessary. Unwelcome. 

The doors open. Welcome to Wonderland.

The Cunning Trickster Under High Pressure

Life is a funny thing. Your mind plays a psychological game and makes life a funny thing.

There’s no way to explain it. It just happens. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s not. It’s hard to tell which way the bat is swinging but once it hits, oh boy does it hit. Take, for example, a massive report worth 3/4 of your grade due on your professors desk first thing the next morning. Normally, you would have started this piece of writing weeks ago, probably edited it about 3x before the due date but for some strange, unknown reason, you put it off. It’s now 11pm the night before and you’re still on the discussion, unsure of what to say next. Seems like a perfect time to re-evaluate and stress about your entire life.

Ever since you were little, you had that one dream. That one thing that would motivate you in the darkest of times. Maybe you trained hours on-end for years to become a ballerina, a gymnast, or maybe you studied like no other to become that top student, win all the awards, become a lawyer, a doctor, a politician, an artist. Those dreams guided you to be the person you are today, or at least that’s what we’re told. But then why is it that at the most critical of times, do you often find yourself at a loss? Yes, this training session will likely bring you one step closure to that podium finish or the paper is a gateway to post-graduate school but then why is it so hard to actually do it? The mental state under pressure works in mysterious ways and more often then not, it panics; it is so scared of failure that it shuts down. You are now immobile as you watch your dreams crumble around you. Got to love the brain, huh?

Empty Eyes and Tired Minds

BEEP BEEP.

You groan as you slowly turn in your bed and squint at your phone. It’s 5 am and your day has started. Your limbs ache as you force yourself out of bed, still so tired because you were up until 1:30am studying for that test, working on that paper, prepping for the future. Legs are dragged across the bedroom floor as your arms search for the bathroom door. Groggy from the sleep that rests in your eyes, you wash your face. Your skin is rudely cleansed with ice water and your mouth fills with peppermint.

5:10am. The cold, crisp spring air hits your face as your start on your daily workout routine. The route you take is familiar, it’s the same one you did the day before, and the day before that; you’ve been running the same route for months now. Straight for 1km, right for 3km, up that hill, left for 2km, down another hill, straight for 1km, left 2km, home. You can picture it without being there. Your muscles scream at you, they haven’t had a break in 2 months. They are mad that you won’t quit, that no matter how little sustanance you consume, the few hours you sleep, you never miss a run. The hill winds you and half way up you want to stop. Walk maybe. The voice whispers to you, you’re almost there. You’ve done this so many times, just keep on going.

6am. Laying on the cold floor you start your strengthening routine. 60 crunches, 60 Russian twists, 5 minute plank, 80 mountain climbers, 40 squats, 60 lunges, 40 pushups. Every inch of you hurts. Memories of your childhood flood your brain. Fat. Ugly. Stretch-marks and pizza face. Unloveable. Gross. Worthless. Loner. “You say that you don’t care about your looks? Well maybe you should.” You push yourself further. Warm shower water graces your abused body, deceives it into believing that what you’re doing to yourself is a form of compassion. Lying to yourself has become second nature.

8:30am. You’re on campus revising coursework. You see your friend grabbing coffee at Starbucks and wave hello. Big smile, nothing is wrong. She’s a dancer and super skinny as well as one of the most beautiful faces you’ve ever seen. She walks with grace and as light as a feather. God you wish you looked like her. She laughs as she sips her coffee, collarbones sticking out and thighs that are miles apart. You say bye as she heads to class. Back to the laptop you go. Got to get that A remember?

5pm. You’re still in the library. You’ve been here since class ended at 11. Your phone goes off and the guy that you’ve just realized you actually do like has texted you. “How’s your day going?” You ignore the text. You cannot comprehend why he’s messaging you still after 2 months. You start to get scared because you don’t want to get too close. You don’t want him to know the real you, so you start to pull away. Keep your distance. You’ve been screwed over too many times and you know that your body can’t handle that torment again. It’s for the best. I’m making his life easier if I delete myself from it now.

9:15pm. Your stomach is growling. Water, tea and coffee splash around in your belly. The only solid food you’ve had today was a banana in the morning and some carrot sticks with hummus for lunch. Subtly you look down and tell it to quiet down. You take a big gulp of water and sip some more tea. That should trick it for now. You get back to work.

12:30am. The last bus is pulling away from campus as you sprint to catch it from the library. Your brain is exhausted from all that work.

1am. The bed invites you in. You take a quick glance at yourself in the mirror. Your hair is twisted into a strange contraption of a bun, your skin flushed from your natural pigment. Acne is prevalent, your arms and stomach jiggle but your ribs whisper a congratulations. There’s no point in looking at your legs, you’re already disgusted. You do 10 more minutes of squats and lunges and crunches, replaying those haunting childhood memories.

1:30am. Finally it’s time for bed. You have a voice recording of lecture notes playing in the background. The fear of failure is your drive to success. One more A. Lose one more pound. One more comment to crush. One day I’ll be beautiful, smart and worthy of someone. Not today, but one day I will be able to prove them all wrong. 

BEEP. BEEP. 

Unwanted Self-comfort

Keep your head down, keep your thoughts to yourself. Whatever you do, don’t draw attention. Just keep going. 

Thoughts tend to consume your mind when you least expect it. You could wake up one morning, completely cheery and then out of nowhere it hits you. It takes over and everything goes numb. You need to get out but where can you go to escape your mind?

Take a deep breath 1…2…3… Exhale. Repeat.

Your friends text you about their day. One just got into medical school, the other dental. More are accepting Master’s programs or getting geared up for graduation but here you sit. You aren’t them. When everyone is packing up and moving on from the four years spent together at university, you’re dreading the fact that you’re back for one more semester. You failed. You didn’t pass Go to collect your degree, you landed on Boardwalk instead.

Who do you think you are? A person who matters? A person someone cares about? Once they’re gone, they’re never coming back. They are going to forget you. You never really mattered to them, you were a convenience. Someone to talk to at Uni but that’s it. Worthless. Annoying. Fat. Failure. 

Take a deep breath 1…2…3… Exhale. Repeat.

In a few weeks you will be going off on another adventure. You somehow found a loop hole and managed to do a MRes. in medicine while completing your undergrad. You got offered a phD placement in the same lab and yet you can’t be excited. Your best friend tells you how proud they are, your family is in shock because no one believed that you could do it. You have all these opportunities and yet here you sit, terrified. I don’t deserve this. I’m not good enough. I’m a fraud. You know that your grades aren’t where they should be. You have a hard time accepting things given to you because since a young age you’ve been prone to disappointment. You learn that there is no point to get excited over things because more often then not, it won’t work out. You’re so tired of letting yourself down and the worthless feeling that overwhelms you but time after time again, it happens. There’s no way to explain your thought process to your friends without coming off as spoiled. Rude. A show-off. You don’t know how to express the overwhelming paralyzing fear that rushes through your body that some days it’s a chore to leave your bed. That with every passing day and every “can’t wait for our graduation!” you creep more into your shell. It’s not even your own body anymore but a hollow cave of who you once were. You take a look in the mirror and don’t even recognize the person staring back. Who is this girl? She looks so defeated. The bags under your eyes have darkened, silver hairs sprout at every angle, your face has sunken and your thighs have grown. You hate every inch of if with every being of what’s left of that hollow cave.

Buzz. Buzz. You look across the room. A text from your friend asking for help on coursework. You’ve been studying for 13+ hours straight but you don’t want to let them down. You text them back and help them. Just because you’re a failure doesn’t mean they should be as well.

Buzz. Buzz. Another text. This time by a guy that you don’t even know if you are seeing. It’s been two months and you’ve talked everyday and hung out multiple times. But he hasn’t made a move yet. You understand it’s probably because you’re repulsive and yet he still messages you. You don’t know how to react and you second guess every exchange. You don’t understand why they are in your life, why they said they enjoy your company when you can’t stand yourself. You ignore the text for now. Better wait until the thoughts pass, don’t want him to know the real you.

Take a deep breath 1…2…3… Exhale. Repeat.

You respond, making a funny joke or happy comment. You’re keeping face and lying to yourself in the process. It’s killing you but you’ve surpassed the point of caring.

Take a deep breath 1…2…3… Exhale. Repeat.