A few days passed, and I still wasn’t very well-liked. I was the weird kid. I had always been the weird kid, but this was the first time it was so big a problem. I was only seven, and fitting in mattered more to me than anything else in the world, so I did the only thing I could think of: I lied.
I lied about my interests. I lied about my thoughts. I lied about crushes. Everything they talked about, I took part in, no matter how much it made me cringe. I told more lies than a seven year old should ever have to, and slowly, it worked. They became my friends–or rather, they became friends with the girl whose skin I was just renting.
This worked for a while, but it was starting to take a toll on me. Every passing day, I felt worse than before. It wasn’t even entirely working. I still said and did things that made people look at me like I had grown a second head. I didn’t realize that a lot of my character traits were out of the ordinary until someone pointed it out. They still called me weird, but not weird enough for me to become a pariah again.
Not a month later, the panic attacks returned with a vengeance. I woke up in the middle of the night on a random day of the week with my heart pounding in my chest. The extreme fear I hadn’t felt in a long time came crashing down on me. I started crying, and once again, I had no idea why. Tears just ran a race down my face, and I was shaking. I jumped out of bed and knocked on my parents’ door.
Now, we were only allowed to speak Arabic at home, but I was born and raised in America, and some sentences came out worded incorrectly. My language skills were even worse when I was upset.
I poked my dad and said what is translated to, “I have tears.”
My mother didn’t wake up, but my dad told me to go back to bed. He didn’t yell; he just didn’t take me seriously. I suppose he thought it was just a nightmare, and I could go right back to sleep if I turned my nightlight on.
I left and closed the door, and then I crept into my brother’s room. I knelt by his bed and shook him, but waking my brother up was harder than getting an agoraphobic old woman to go outside. He didn’t even stir.
Even though he couldn’t hear me, I started whispering through my tears. I sat there for some length of time, trying to be as quiet as possible, but it didn’t work. My father was an extremely light sleeper, and I had poked the bear. He came into my brother’s room and yelled at me. He told me I was making too much noise, and made me go right back to bed.
Now, pause. I know how that sounds. It sounds like he was a horrible father, but he really wasn’t. I just don’t think depression has ever been a real possibility in my family’s eyes. I was just a kid who was acting out, and I needed to go to sleep.
So, I went into my bed and laid there until morning, hoping it would go away.
Of course, it did not. He remembered it all the next day, but he wasn’t angry. It turned into a joke. He told my mother, and she thought it was hysterical.
They reference that night on occasion to this very day. It is still a running joke, but it’s still not funny.