This essay is taken from Brainstorm’s second e-book, (In)Sanity: What “Crazy” Looks Like, which is on mental health in Kenya and is available for free. DOWNLOAD IT HERE to read more such essays.
by Anne Moraa
This is true – if creatively so, if only emotively so, if only my truth. I can only write it now, years later. Yes, there will be numbers and data, and you need to know them, but this isn’t about the statistic. This isn’t about the fact. One of the hardest parts about depression is the inability to explain it to those who do not know.
This is for those who do not know.
Midnight. I am watching some DVD and holding it in.
3:00 am. Time moved fast. I just kept hitting play and the next one and the next one. I love when time passes me by like this – it means another day has passed and I have not killed myself. Congratulations.
I fall asleep – I don’t know when.
I don’t dream when I am in deep sleep. I dream enough awake.
I wake up.
It is 11:40 a.m. My phone blinks too bright. I fall asleep.
It is 12:37 p.m. I contemplate opening the curtains. There are slivers of sharp sun. I know people out there are working. I have work. I can’t do it. There is too much time in the day. I will myself to sleep.
It is 12:48 p.m. There are 13 missed calls and 5 messages. I won’t open any of them. I made the mistake two days ago of picking a call from an unknown number. In my sleepy haze, I was tricked. The boss found me. I made up some excuse that neither of us believed, and it was the jolt I needed to get the job done. But that kind of lightning energy is shockingly brief, and it burns, I am telling you, it burns. I was singed from those days ago and too weak to carry on. I remember I used to work hard and was inspired and talented and striking.
Remember? What happened? Six months ago you were…rising. Now? There are 13 missed calls and 5 messages and the numbers collapse in on me like boulders and I cower from the phone under the covers thinking that if I hide it will go away.
It is 1:03 pm. My stress has subsided. I am wholly indifferent. I think that may be worse.
It is 1:29 pm. I am starving. I should eat. There is food ready in the fridge. I have a fridge. I have food. Half the country lives on less than a dollar a day. There are people starving every day and I am certain, no more than an hour’s drive away someone is starving to death. I am ashamed of myself. I remember that I am privileged. I remember that I went to good schools and have a loving, supportive family.
I have no reason to be sad.
I remember crying on graduation day, but only to myself because I was meant to be happy. I remember how I felt then, and now. I feel a kinship with the students who kill themselves post KCPE/KCSE, gazing into the endless future and knowing that every road leads to failure. I was never that brave. I had a good upbringing. I should be happy.
But I am still hungry. And my legs cannot move. I push the duvet off of me. I look at my crusty toe-nails and cannot remember when I last showered. I should shower. I should eat. All I have to do is stand up. Simple, stand up. Kill Bill plays in my head. She, the lead, willed her toes to move after years in a coma. Muscles atrophied and all, she willed them to move. I can move. I will move. I feel her pain. I went to the doctor a few weeks ago because I had odd burning pains in my legs, as if I had been running marathons all day. He said inactivity leads to such pains. He asked me if I exercise. I consider this daily movement, the sweat-pouring exertion of effort I must make in order to stand, intensive exercise. But I lied. I said I exercise moderately. I smiled. He prescribes B vitamins. My toes still haven’t moved. My stomach rumbles. The effort to move my toes feels more than the effort it would take to starve to death. I close my eyes and lie to myself that I am asleep. My sleepless dreams are many. I am sitting in a cage and I have the key, and I have the lock, and I lock it myself. I lock it, and no one can pull me out, it’s safer in the cage. There are 100 birds around me, flying high and wide and furious into the sky, and I can’t quite keep up with them. They are flying so fast and high and I don’t know how they do it, I don’t know how.
The exam is about to end, and everyone else is done and it’s the last two minutes and I am furiously scribbling but my pen ran out of ink ten days ago. I am weeping by myself and it feels amazing. A baby grabs onto my leg with the grip of a hyena’s jaw and doesn’t let go. It’s screaming “Nataka maziwa mama, nipee, nipee!” and I try to nurse it but my breasts are bone dry. I am powerful beyond measure but the power cripples me so I crawl. My sleepless dreams are ratty thoughts running in mazes, bumping into each other and, starving, ripping into each other and gorging themselves on my malnourished blood.
It is 5:00 p.m. I have tried on four outfits. I took a quick shower and hastily painted the scabby toe-nail. They can’t tell in the dark. I need to look professional but casual, effortless but purposeful. I need to be put-together. My friends can tell I am off. They know it. I know they know it. They give me the courtesy of pretending not to notice, but carefully peel themselves away. They are having coffee without me sometimes, and I understand why; my conversation is stilted because my ratty dreams don’t segue well into conversations on horrible bosses and beauty and men and living life actively. I think they are meeting even today – one was delightfully vague about the time. She said happy hour but I heard the others warm laugh in the background – not mean or exclusionary, simply warm, because I am not there to cool it down. I will meet them after and they will pretend it was a spontaneous meeting and I will pretend I was too busy to come over. We understand each other.
It is 6:21 p.m. This stretch of road curves down to a steep incline. Brambly bushes barely cover the dry, hard ground. The car leans towards the incline – it would be so easy after all, another tragic accident, no one to blame – but I steer it back. Not really because I am afraid to die (I have toyed with the idea, I have).
It is 7:38 p.m. Everyone is talking about work now, and school. There is a boss who is slightly too sexually aggressive and another who gave a weeks’ worth of work and expected it to be complete in like 1 day? Can you imagine! Of course it was finished, of course I did it but eih. It moves smooth back and forth between them. I used to be in the middle of that but now…
“My boss is insane. As in that stress! Ngai! Kwani who does he think he is – at least Anne you are just hustling by yourself.”
“Yeah its work though trying to get things off the ground. Sent a proposal out today.” [LIAR]
“Yeah, well not sent, but you know, worked on. It takes so long, so much time. But [LIAR] I have been working a lot on my writing and poems and stuff [BIG FAT LIAR], editing them out and memorizing them and stuff. As in that inspiration is flowing [LIAR NO ONE EVEN BELIEVES YOU KNOW] and…yeah, between that and the errm…proposals… so much stuff [LIAR LIAR STUFF FOUR TIMES IN ONE RANT LIAR LIAR THEY CAN TELL LIAR LIAR]!”
I am not altogether certain if I said those words out loud. Conversation blurs after this. I cling to the words “Proposal’ and “Stuff” like a canoe and paddle in a seamless sea.
It is 10:37 p.m. I wish I could find an excuse to leave. But then they’d know I am faking it. It’s not that it isn’t fun, it is. It’s not that I don’t like them, I do; I love them. They are my friends and sisters and soul mates and they are amazing and wonderful. That’s the problem; they are amazing and wonderful. They are living their moment. I am hovering above myself, judging harshly.
Midnight. I am dancing and tipsy. I am pretending to smile. I am not sure how much longer I can keep my lips stretched this way.
Anne Moraa (@tweetmoraa) is a creative writer, editor, performer and all round word-obsessive. Exploring various forms, her poetry has been commissioned and performed at venues from Kenya to Scotland and she is presently studying for her Creative Writing (MA) in Fiction, as well as being a founding member and Director at Jalada.
To read more such essays, download our book (In)Sanity: What “Crazy” Looks Like.