The most frustrating but intriguing fact about darkness is the same. You never figure out the starting point.
One moment you feel light and happy and it's all slowly fading away, in the next. It didn't happen over-night, it took years. And I never saw it coming.
But this is not a piece on mental illness. This is a piece about how to rise above the darkness and maybe smash a brick in its face. This is about acceptance, learning, and improving.
I spent 16 years of my life revolved around people, family, friends, peers, strangers. They commanded all my attention and interest. I was the perfect people-pleaser, all submissive and timid. I remembered birthdays. Ignored any negatives. Denied all the wrongs. Let it go. I did what I was told. Stayed polite. Studied hard. Did not engage. Tried so hard to fit in and be liked, it was practically pathetic. Remembered little things about everyone, like my eighth- grade class teacher's sulfur allergy. Didn't call people out or stand up for myself, I doubt I knew how to.
Hoping that one day I'd be deemed worthy.
If I'd known you, I'd have cut up a piece of my soul, wrapped it up in the prettiest bow I could find and dropped it at your feet then spent an eternity waiting for you to notice. You could very well crush it, and it still wouldn't bother me. I was too blinded by my need for validation.
I'd practically forgotten about myself. I had no idea who I was, what I liked or didn't. My entire personality was based on outsider's perceptions. I had no potential or hopes or dreams except being worthy of someone's time.
I was a shattered, empty shell of a person, a big ball of anxiety ( Not that big I'm only 5ft 2) and sadness with more tears flowing out than blood flowing in. I was in no way, shape, or form - human. Spent two years drowning in despair and fear, cried to sleep, contemplated drastic alternatives to life, didn't bathe, comb, brush, eat, sleep, study, smile, breathe, try.
Came across a box of my old certificates and prizes one day. I took them all out, wore all the medals, held the rest in my hand, walked to the mirror. I must've stood there crying at my reflection for hours.
That day when I decided to try, trying, even though I didn't know how to. As a woman of science, I formed a hypothesis that pointed to dangerously low self-esteem. So I started an experiment.
Every day, I'd wake up with a vision of myself surrounded by all my accomplishments. Disguised it all, with fake smiles and an Academy Award-worthy performance, dragged my depressed ass to school. Fake it till you make it, after all.
Over the next three years, I fixed all my attention on myself. My time was spent unlearning problematic notions, understanding myself, and focussing on my thoughts, opinions, hobbies, talents, and ambitions.
Like a track on repeat through the day, and I mean 24 x7 x 365. I would tell myself I'm worthy, I'm loved and deserve to be, I'm smart and fun, I'm talented with immense potential. I deserve better, It's not always my fault. I'd obsess over anything that gave me any joy. And most importantly, I decided other people weren't worth it until they just were.
I would praise myself in my head until I ran out of adjectives and until all the self-flattery overpowered the darkness. The world refused to give me the love I deserved, or the validation, so I decided to create my own and be done with it.
Two years in and I had learned to be happy alone, or otherwise. I'd go out for lunch or a movie by myself. Sometimes I'd get a burger and fries to go and roam Delhi streets listening to music, writing, or just looking around. I found new hobbies, made a lot of new friends, tried new things, socialized, meditated, read books, studied, had fun. I learned independence and self-sufficiency.
And here I am, today a glorious narcissist, ( which is not exactly a good thing but well better than depression) who refuses to believe there's something she can't do if she puts her mind to it. ( except sports, I have bad reflexes. ) Studying at one of the best colleges in the country. I'm slowly learning how to take care of myself and growing into the person I've always been. I've accepted this experience as a part of me and to my mother's dismay, my sense of humor.
The darkness still lurks behind me, waiting in the shadows. Waiting for the next moment of weakness. On some days, it manages to devour me whole.
But as long as I accept myself flaws and all and remember who I am, I can gather my shit together, switch on a zero power bulb or pull out a lightsaber ( whichever I can find first. ) and slash through the void. Only to step back out into the day and sip my hot chocolate as I watch the darkness slither away into nothingness.
The last part's really fun.
Adritanaya Tiwari is a dental student from India who has been published in Nightingale and Sparrow Magazine and Live Wire. She spends her time making strange analogies and calming her artsy alter-ego to focus on never-ending syllabus. She can be found on Instagram and Twitter - @adrillusioned.