Chronicles of the Lonely: Chapter Four–The Move pt. 2

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.

Chronicles of the Lonely: Chapter Two–1997 pt. 2

For a while after that first panic attack, things were quiet. I had trouble falling asleep, but I didn’t break out into overwhelming terror. I just lay in bed for hours, staring at my ceiling, until my mind finally let me find its off switch. I pretended to be alright during the day and bristled whenever they wanted to send me off to bed, but nothing substantial happened.

This brings us to the second pivotal event of 1997: my brother’s carrot accident.

My brother was just two years older than me. He had always been far smarter, but his poor decisions–though farther and fewer in between–have always been worse than mine. He decided he was hungry and went to the fridge and pulled out a bag of carrots. To be clear–these were not baby carrots. They were long horse-feed carrots, which were simply inedible to him. He needed his carrots chopped onto smaller pieces, or he would not eat them. So he went in a drawer and grabbed the biggest knife my mother kept in there.

Now, this may not have had disastrous results if he had just cut it like a normal person–carrot on its side and chopped into little circles. Instead, he held the carrot straight up and attempted to slice it in half. I stood behind him silently, just watching. My mom was in the bathroom.

And so, down went the knife, through the carrot, and into his finger. He had pushed it extremely hard, and blood was pouring out of the cut. It fell all over his clothes and the floor. He screamed and dropped the knife, but I didn’t do anything. I just watched him cry. I didn’t say one word.

My mom came bolting into the kitchen, and he was eventually fine, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it that night. I couldn’t let it go. I blamed myself entirely for not helping him or stopping him. I should have done something, somehow. I fell asleep, but I woke up in the middle of the night yet again. It was the weekend, and my dad was there with us, but I didn’t go wake them. They wouldn’t do anything. I didn’t help my brother, so why should they help me?

This attack was longer than the first. The tears ran out, but I was still struggling to breathe or calm down. The sun came up, and I still hadn’t managed to shake it.

I heard noise coming from outside the plastic sliding door. My parents were awake. I immediately closed my eyes and pretended to be asleep just seconds before my dad opened the door. I laid there perfectly still, and after a few minutes I opened my eyes to see if he was gone, but he wasn’t. He was standing in the doorway quietly, and when he saw me open my eyes, he laughed.

He said he knew I was faking sleep. He told me to get up for breakfast, and then walked away.

This was the day I learned how to pretend I was okay. At six years old. Of course, it was impossible to do this successfully every time, but that first time worked out just fine, and I saved my tears for the next time they were all poking around in their own dreams.

I didn’t have another panic attack that year, but my problems with falling asleep would continue on almost every night without fail, forever.

This was the most significant year of my entire life. It was the year I became who I am today. It was the year I developed a mental illness that I didn’t understand. It was the year the word “bedtime” had begun to make me more anxious than anything else. It was the year depression lured me into a trap, swallowed me whole, and never let me go.

Circa 1997–It had me at goodnight.

The Perfect Perception of Pride

Pride is an interesting social construct. It is an idea based on perception, not fact. Entire personalities can be fundamentally hated because of misconstrued words and idiosyncrasies. We write people off as proud or egotistical only by interpreting what we see.

A little known truth is that, people’s actions do not always point to their true selves. Humans often display a smoke screen that creates an illusion that we are what we are not. Sometimes, it is easier to put on a facade of complete detachment and apathy simply because allowing reality to shine through can only expose our vulnerability.

“This is me.”
“You don’t like it, I don’t care.”
“I am who I am.”
“I will change for no one.”
“Get over it.”

These statements are thought to be nothing more than a verbal manifestation of a person’s high sense of their own grandiosity. However, they are not expressions of extreme hubris. More often than not, they are the words we hide behind to distract people from our floor-level self-esteem. When people are kept safely at arm’s length, the pain that intensifies when we’re alone in the dark is invisible.

Pride isn’t palpable. It isn’t easily discerned. It is often a cover for depression, anxiety, and low self-worth.

It is better to be awful than weak. It is better to be pompous than broken.

Be careful what you say, because your words are worse than sticks and stones. Broken bones heal. Broken hearts don’t. A simple sentence said can run races in someone’s mind until they fall apart completely.

And there’s no coming back from that.

Points of pride be damned.

Nastily Exhausting Nightmares and Dastardly Other-Worldly Dreams

I keep having these horrible recurring nightmares that make me wake up in a complete panic. A different person is featured in each of the dreams–some people I know and some I don’t–but the same thing happens every single time. Faces change, but the events do not. I am even wearing the exact same dress every single time–a pure white ball gown with trumpet sleeves. Then, I wake up in tears.

The dream always takes place on my wedding night, and I’ll have just walked into my hotel room with my supposed husband. He walks toward me, smiling like mad, obviously ready to consummate the marriage. That’s when, in the dream, I start hyperventilating. Seconds later, I wake up already crying and breathing hard.

The last time I had it was the worst of all. There was screaming involved.

I am so screwed.

Literally.

Sometimes something seemingly sweet slightly sucks

Despite their constant existence in human life, how few people understand the common nightmare, and even fewer still have nary a notion as to what it means to become one. Of those people who don’t fear them, they don’t believe that they’re real. Simply put, they are fantasies; figments of our at times wild imaginations personifying fears that we harbor and shy away from, which disappear when the eyes are no longer closed—and this is true. It is indeed true that nightmares dissolve into nothing the moment we wake, but this is only one piece of the enigmatic phenomena that we have accepted as part of our daily lives. It is not until one finds himself less peaceful in his waking hours than in his sleep that he begins to lose ability to discern reality from hallucination.

As for myself, I am two people who live the same reality; My current self, working in a United Nations newsroom, and the self I hope to be one day: a writer.

Unwise attempts at wisdom aside, I work at the UN building in NYC for an Arabic News Channel, now. It’s cool, but it’s just not at all for me. I don’t want to be in TV production. It’s not what I got into Journalism for.

It’s kind of awesome, being behind the scenes for a bit, just seeing how all the “magic” happens, but it’s so…banal?

It’s also very proper. I hate that. One of the reasons I’ve always liked being in JRN newsrooms is how loose people are. Everyone is worried about getting the paper out, not the obnoxiously pretentious matters of talking with complete eloquence and perfect composure at all times.

A little tiny word of advice: Stop taking life so seriously. You can be professional without being uptight.

And to be honest, I’m so incredibly tired of working for Arabs. I appreciate the opportunity like hell, and the people are really nice, but I don’t really fit in. I’m not allowed to talk to any of the other news stations on our floor. Fox and NPR are right next door, but it’s against the channel rules for trainees to “network.”

There’s also a crap ton of typing that we do. All of the UN council meetings, we transcribe, and I’m not fast enough to keep up.

That also brings me to the question of why we type that shit. We already record it, and we don’t even use those recordings ever again. They keep telling me to get my typing speed up, and I’m really trying, but I just wish I could ask why they trouble themselves.

We transcribed a five-hour UN meeting. Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?

I don’t get it at all, but no way in hell am I complaining. I am so thankful for the opportunity, but my lifelong dream is print. Writing. I’d do almost anything for a newspaper job, right now. I could be writing tiny little sentences and I’d still be happy.

I really just want to walk up to my boss and tell him–very, very nicely–that maybe he should take a break from all the proper and just take a chill pill.

But that’s not how Arabs roll.

And speaking Arabic doesn’t make you an Arab, I guess.

I’m clearly missing something.

So in summation, I just have but three things to say:

Be Professional. Be Passionate.

But for the love of god, do NOT be Pretentious.