Remembering How to Breathe

A narrative by Aniqah Rawat for TWSS issue 15. 

Days blur into one another. I can no longer tell the difference between night and day. Sleep is a forgotten dream and I cry silent tears until I’m shaking and the room is spinning. My head hits the ground. It is a familiar pillow which provides no comfort. I lay curled up in a daze, half-naked on the floor, a damp towel around me keeping me loosely tethered to reality. My stomach moans, and yet the thought of food makes me weak and nauseous. My fingers fumble with the fibres, the softness slightly reassuring but I still can’t focus. My cheeks are wet and numb; I have no feeling in my face and my toes are slowly turning blue, despite the warmth of my bedroom. My dead, empty eyes, coloured by dark shadows, stare into a void. There are no thoughts running through my mind. I am empty. I’m a shell of a person being pulled by the strings of the everyday routine and the people around me until I am alone. But I am always alone. The only voices I can hear are the echoes of my self-hatred, self-loathing and self-love arguing with each other, creating a static buzz to which I trudge on. I am not alive. I am merely existing.

There are half empty packets of pills hidden away in my bedside drawer. The glass surface is covered with smudged fingerprints and used tissues, from the moments I forgot how to breathe in the middle of the night. But night blurs into day and my hands instinctively reach for my throat as I gasp for air, and all I can feel are the streams of salty tears that roll down my cheeks, my lips and on to the floor. My nose drips and my ears ring. My face begins to tingle and I slowly slide off my bed, onto the floor where I curl up for a short while. This is where I belong. The rough, harsh fibres of the carpet tickle the soles of my feet, and I brush my hands up and down my thighs until they start to turn red. It’s the only colour I know alongside the blues that swirl around me. My arms stretch out and with my hand, I take a used tissue to my face and wipe. There is no particular method of removing the wetness from my face. As long as it’s all gone. I put my hands on the rough carpet and push myself back onto my bed. I shake my head, take a deep breath and pop a pill in my mouth. It doesn’t take much to swallow it down.

aniqa

Behind closed doors, I am a mess. My hair is thinning and full of tangles and hasn’t been washed in days. My bones poke out and are full of aches that stab and wane throughout the day. My skin is dull, the only colour coming from the redness of my blemishes. I can barely hold my own weight. But when I am in the sunshine: I smile, I laugh, I sing. I am the image of perfection that I think the world wants to see. And the world believes it. I keep trudging on, despite the thoughts that occasionally trickle through my mind.

Days turn to months, summer has passed and I still wear a forced smile. My face aches with the lies it tells. Home is now two places. I am no longer suffocating from the stifling expectations of a familiar place. A new start. New people. A new face. My own face. I don’t feel so alone anymore. There may be moments where the cold creeps in, and the tension in my body pulls me to the ground, but I have become more attuned to my body. I am familiar with the sensations that lead to a high, and those that inevitably end with a crash. But I no longer care about how my bones stick out, or the hair that grows above my lip and on my legs. A breath of fresh air. In through my nose, and out through my mouth. I listen to the sounds around me: the traffic that rushes by, the ringing of a bell, birdsong in trees and the rustle of leaves as the wind blows. I listen. I hear the voices of my friends, the voices of the people who care enough to help me wipe off my painted face, and for the first time in a while, I genuinely smile. I only saw myself through my harsh eyes, but through theirs, I realise I am so much more. I am not broken, I am not irrelevant, nor useless. I am strong and caring, and I am slowly learning one of the most important lessons of life: self-acceptance.

Illustration by Francesca Newton.  

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