The Not-So-Positive Phone Call

A few months ago, one of the worst mental breakdowns I’ve ever had hit me like a huge wave. My hands were trembling. I didn’t know what was happening to me. Everything had been triggering me all day, and I kept it all in. I knew one more tigger would lead to a complete breakdown, one I wouldn’t be able to stop in its tracks.

As it reached its peak, I couldn’t think anything. I knew I needed help.

At that moment, I remembered how one of my friends had said to me, “Why don’t you tell me things? You hide so many of your feelings from me. You know, I’ll be there for you. You can call me anytime, I’ll always help you if you need it.”

I thought I’d call the friend and talk. That maybe I would feel lighter.

I picked up my phone and dialled with trembling fingers. I was breathless. As it started to ring, my heart raced faster.

“Hello?” came the answer.

“Hey. I’m having a really hard time right now. I can’t keep up with anything. I don’t know what to do. I feel like dying. I want to give up,” I wept. I knew my voice sounded far too choked up. But this was no time to be embarrassed.

“What happened?” the friend replied, sounding worried.

I narrated all my feelings to her in great detail. How my mental health was in the doldrums. How I feel so alone. How everything has been too much for me to cope with.

“Oh god. This is bad,” the friend replied, with the same concerned tone.

“Yeah. It’s horrible. I can’t eat, I can’t sleep, I can’t study. At all. I’m in such a bad place right now. I cry all night. My appetite is low.”

“Oh man. But why are you taking things so seriously? Just stop overthinking. You can’t let everything get to you,” the friend said with a dismayed rebuke.

“You think that hadn’t occurred to me? You think I don’t know that I overthink? You think I like overthinking?” I replied defensively.

“Well, you’re not trying hard enough. Why are you being so weak and crying over this? You can’t change this, so stop crying and be strong,” the friend responded appallingly.

I wanted to ask her, “Who says people who cry are weak and that they’re not strong?” But I felt too drained and just said, “Yeah.”

“You know, there will be more hardships in your life. This is nothing. You’ll face many more painful circumstances. What will you do then? Cry?” she asked.

“Yeah, you’re right,” I said, feeling utterly dejected.

“Your priorities should be to study and be well. Take care. Why are you doing this to yourself? This is not as bad as you think. You know how many people have it worse than you?” the friend replied.

“Uh huh. Yeah right,” I mumbled, sobbing silently.

“Let’s face it man. Life is unfair. You can’t do anything about it, so just put on a happy face and try to think positive things,” the friend advised me.

“Yeah, I’ll try… Hey, I have to go. It was helpful talking to you. Bye,” I hung up the phone in a hurry.

I felt empty. I felt worse and more lonely than ever. I wanted to give up.

The breakdown that followed was one I never thought I would be able to endure.

Amna Mannan is a writer and a poet.

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