Diary: Staying Alive

No matter what, there is a long life ahead of me, and I need to fight every day in order to live.

Photo: Getty Images

I cannot remember exactly which year it was: 2011 or 2012. Suddenly, I felt like I was losing affinity with everything around me. Earlier, I would at least be able to talk a little, and have long phone conversations. I used to send thousands of text messages. Gradually, it all started to go down. I almost stopped feeling (anything). 

When the phone rang, it felt like someone was hitting my head with a brick. Even if I was forced to pick up, I would simply listen. I felt the will to live slipping away. One day, suddenly, I deleted all my social media accounts. However, there was no apparent cause behind this. I had no idea what was happening, but simply felt like disappearing. 

Three years passed like this, slowly. In 2015, I shifted to Delhi, and things got worse there. I got very busy with work, and had no time to think. But all this began to bottle up inside me like poison. Still, I had no idea what was happening, or how I could talk about it with someone. I would suddenly break into tears while talking, and then would resort to the excuse of a headache, or feeling ill. By 2016, it had got to the point that each day seemed like it would be my last. I started losing my voice. I was afraid of people. I would get short of breath as soon as I was in a crowd. At times, when I had to work among a lot of people, I would be compelled to go out and take breaks after every hour. My body would experience strange ‘shocks’ while working.

Eventually, I started to talk to people about this. I went to doctors, met a psychiatrist, and even underwent counselling. But it did not make the slightest difference. The psychiatrist diagnosed me with a strange-sounding ailment, which I had never heard of. Every day, I could sleep only between 3-6 am. If someone asked, I would lie, saying I had too much work, and therefore kept using my phone or laptop at night. I made a decision: no matter what, there is a long life ahead of me, and I need to fight every day in order to live. 

A psychiatrist prescribed me some medicines, but things deteriorated even further once I started taking them. I would get terrifying nightmares all night — Scary dreams of jumbled-up, strange worlds. It got so bad that when my friends got to know, they threw away the pills. I started talking to friends and travelling with them. Gave up my phone. This resulted in gradual improvement. But as soon as the breaks were over, life went back to the same point. 

I wanted to cry, but it would be months before I could. An overarching numbness seemed to take over. I did not like being alone, but started being scared of people, even of places. I was afraid of even work. It seemed certain that I would be unable to achieve anything in this world. Faces of those who had gone away from my life, or distant acquaintances and strangers, would float in front of me constantly. I was unable to read or write. It felt like I had forgotten all my skills.

The world inside me was in dire straits, but the outside world was even worse. I had stopped talking. I could not hold a conversation even if I wanted to. Conversations with even my closest friend would happen only once in two-three months at the most. Communication with family became non-existent. I simply could not gather sufficient courage to talk. This was when my friends started judging me for not talking to them. They would reproach and taunt me. The friendships started withering away. People would offer unsolicited, hurtful advice: earning a lot of money is very important to live in this world; and to earn, you need to speak, you need to exaggerate your skills and achievements. I was never able to do all this, even when I wanted to. I would wander from one place to another, suffocating, hoping there would be someone who understood me. I kept looking for others like me, but every time, met with just questions and derision, laughter. 

All night, I would wish for a switch which could turn off my mind, to be able to stop thinking, but it would only get worse with this line of thought. I started trying to disappear. But nobody can disappear while they are alive. Eventually, I was able to locate my trigger points, but those incidents had taken place so long back in the past that nothing could be done about them now. I would keep laughing, putting up beautiful pictures. I still do that. Even if I have not stepped outside my room for months 

There were some people who, despite not agreeing about my situation, gave me enough courage to not give up. Some friends have helped me laugh, once in a while, in spite of disagreements. The faces of some children always make me pause. I never thought I would need to write all this, but I am writing so that people understand. 

If someone does not talk, is unable to talk, there are concrete reasons. If someone is unable to express themselves despite wanting to do so, there is always a cause. It is not always a luxury to choose silence, or disappear. If one chooses to be with one person repeatedly, or to only hang out with selected people always, it is because they get you. They offer you the courage to survive, despite not seeing eye-to-eye with you. At times, I have tried to reconnect with the friends I have lost, hoping they would understand why it happened. But the distances had grown into an ocean since the time we stopped talking. I was unable to see across it, there was no land in sight. 

It is easy to declare anything, if it is not oneself who is caught up in that particular situation. The struggle to keep oneself alive every day, to open doors and look out of the window is very, very exhausting. I do not know what a defeat means here, but I will keep fighting. I will fight with myself every second. I will not let the demon overpower me. I will fight until I can. No matter if someone understands or not. 

(Sumer Singh Rathore is a content writer and photographer.)