This letter has been a long time coming.
It’s me, progeny one, your oldest daughter. The one you carried from the hospital weighing just about 3 kgs. The happy child who talked and danced before she could walk, who spoke of herself in the third person incessantly, who joined every after-school club she could, loved school and questioned everything.
It’s still me now, a bit different but still me. I think the child I was colours your image of the woman I am, blinds you to how far I am retreating within myself. I say the word – depression – and I can see it doesn’t mean much to you, that you push it aside, think it’s something I’ll just wake up from one day. Because why should I be? I have a family who loves and provides for me, I am relatively intelligent, moderately attractive with a nice financial safety net. I shouldn’t want for anything. And I don’t.
I also don’t feel much – often.
Why do I have to crash before you listen to me? I had to get suspended because I couldn’t wake up to go to class for months (I didn’t tell you why just that I had been) before you even took notice that something could be amiss.
I ask for time OUT, to be able to breathe a bit, you tell me “well not everyone can.” Quite frankly I couldn’t care less, I can! Maybe it’s because you don’t understand (and I don’t tell you) what a day in my life is like. And how can I sometimes, when I hear the mocking tone that colours your voice when you tell me your annoying coworker has “mental” problems, when somehow you who know me most don’t notice that I’m barely ever awake when I come home, how you let yourself believe that my drastic weight loss is simply because I’m “working so hard in school”, how you keep telling your friends “my daughter is this” and “my daughter is that” unwilling to confront the broken individual that stands before you. Do you think it’s normal that I burst into tears every time we have the “so what are your plans” talk? Does it never occur to you to ask me how I’m feeling? Why are you pretending like I’ve never mentioned this or do you think I’m just doing it for attention? I don’t blame you though, I’ve perfected my human suit over the years, so much so that I don’t even know if I feel or simply react to my surroundings.
Well this is me. Your golden child. I set 4 alarms, 2 hours before I need to wake – on the days I’ve managed to sleep. Once I open my eyes, I scream myself awake, will myself to be. If I have energy I shower, limp scrubs under running water. I don’t go out, not because I’m studying but because other people just drain me. I look forward to Fridays because it means I don’t have to leave my bed till Monday. If I do go out I numb myself so hard I forget I am me. I care for nothing. I am invulnerable.
I can’t love. If to love is to share, this I can’t. How to start opening myself to someone to show them this nonsense? I can’t even think clear. I shake someone’s hand limply, say something by mistake and for weeks I am haunted by it, repeating it over and over and over again till I’ve scrubbed my soul raw and convinced my self that I am worthless, stupid and good for nothing. I know this is not the truth but why do I feel like this? How do I explain the tug I feel on balconies, how terrified I am of some of my thoughts because I know I can be impulsive and reckless. I am confronted with who I am everyday, where I fit, if I belong, if I have anything to offer.
All I want to do is sleep and I’m scared that the only reason I’m still alive is because there are people who know me and who have significant emotional investments in me . It feels weird to live because of some mutated sense of duty. My life is no longer my own. I shouldn’t feel obliged to be alive.
You said we had to be financially independent after our first degree and I had no problem with that. Finding a job was challenging but not impossible. I’m bilingual with a good work history in this country (the blue passport doesn’t hurt) but I can’t keep a schedule. I wake up late for everything, I’m in a haze as I mechanically perform whatever task is asked of me, I beat myself up for not being a good employee, break down in tears in bathrooms during breaks, call in sick when I can.
Sometimes I wish I had something physical so you’d take me seriously, so I would fade faster and alarm you. My irreverence is deceiving, my smiles painted to make you feel comfortable. I don’t want to keep lying to you, to tell you I’m OK and never better. I don’t want to keep calling you to tell you all of this at odd hours of the night only to end up saying “I just wanted to hear your voice.” Why can’t I be honest with you? Why am I so convinced you won’t understand? Have you ever shown me to be heartless monsters that would not hold their daughter while she is in pain? Comfort her? Why can I not share this with you? Why am I so scared you’ll think this as some sort of failure on your part as parents when you are literally the only thing – for better or for worse – that keeps me tethered to this shithole.
The few thing I manage to be happy about you dismiss as hobbies, making me chop bits of myself till I fit the daughter mould you have in mind for me. Does it not occur to you that I want nothing of the life you prescribe for me? Not as an insult to you but because I might perhaps know what would make me happy, give me some semblance of peace. Do you know how tiring it is to feel guilty for the things you buy, how they affect the world, to be acutely conscious of the fact that your life is not your own, that your actions have consequences, even the seemingly inconsequential ones, to constantly feel that you are contributing to the same system that is fanning the fires of your self destruction, to overthink everything from where you eat to what you wear because of some irrational culpability that won’t give?
I don’t want to be like this, and I’m afraid, so afraid, that one day I’ll fall and I wont get up. I know you want the best for me, you keep pushing me to be great – go to school, get your bachelors (barely made it out of the first round alive and you just wanted me to jump right back in, all bloodied and bruised), study translation, get a masters, unhook the moon, we know you can, we’ve seen you do it all before. For once would you just listen to ME? I don’t want my last thought to be that I’m leaving my parents with another bill to pick up (just so you know cremation is the way to go).
I don’t want to be a burden, but I’m terrified of being the kind you keep 6 feet under. I am not weak, I try my best not to complain, I push myself beyond my limits but fuck this shit – I’m not a mule. I am chocking – I want to fucking breathe. I am barely surviving – I want to fucking thrive. Somehow I’m back under your payroll. You offered, wanting me to focus on school instead of work. I resisted, not wanting you to think me weak or incapable, reluctantly accepted under the guise that it would be better for school, truly knowing I’d rather do neither. I can barely take care of my primary charge, my own body. I am trapped in me, ashamed to ask for help because you’ve convinced me I’m capable of so much. I don’t think you understand how the cost of your power over me, my desire to please you, to be who you think I am, could be, should be is literally killing me. It’s easier to keep quiet when it seems as if no one is listening.
So please, the few times I speak to you in a voice that doesn’t mirror yours, hear ME and not what you think I’m saying. Listen while I can still speak.