Warning: this piece includes the theme of depression.
For me, it was as if the Angel of Death himself was taking me into his arms and I was his willing prisoner. I desperately wished to be free but at the same time wished for nothing more than to curl up in his arms and live out the rest of my days in his cold embrace. Coming face to face with the Angel was like looking into the eyes of my maker and my savior. He was my devil incarnate in the disguise of a saint; parading around in a mask, just as I was. We were deceivers of the world. Only it was me against the world and him pulling me into the depth of my own hell. Each day he’d relentlessly remind me of my flaws and insecurities. His devious words repeating like a mantra: not good enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough. A waste of space and air, he’d say. “Why are you even here?” he’d ask me each day. Nonetheless, no matter the pull, every day was a fight against my demons. It was a cat and mouse game, where over time I no longer recognised which one I was. Was I the cat chasing my demons away? Or the mouse being chased into the darkest corner of the world, left to slowly rot into oblivion? The line between who I was and wasn’t blurred. As did the line of whether putting myself out of suffering would lift the burden off from those around me or only bring more pain. In my mind, I couldn’t make sense of which would be worse. It was the endless struggle and questioning of whether it was worth fighting or if I should simply give up.
As the days went on, my heart and soul continued to drown in agony. Yet, the fear of leaving the Angel’s side became far greater than staying in the darkness. I felt it significantly easier to fake a smile than to have to talk about what was going on inside me. It was easier to be walking amongst a crowd of people while feeling the looming cloud of darkness hovering over me than to admit that I was, in fact, mentally tortured by misery. The truth remained hidden in the nuances of my laugh, my smile, my being; but he never allowed me to forget the truth. He taunted me as if to say that my body may be free to roam the world, but my mind would forever be shackled to his. His manipulations filled my head like a broken symphony on repeat; the chorus of broken dreams and promises crackling in the background like a theme song to my life. I’d sit and cry on the comfort of my bed and he would let me sink in his wings as if it was a bed of roses. I’d toss and turn only to feel the thorns stabbing me, making a point to remind me of the relentless agony I was fighting against. The comfort would be short-lived before I drifted into a restless sleep.
It wasn’t out of the ordinary for me to sleep too much. There were days I’d wake up unsure of how much time had passed. Most days I didn’t care. The more time that had passed, the less time I had to spend dealing with reality. Most days, I’d simply wake up in tears while taking in the anguish of what it meant to be awake again. Sleeping took away pain because reality no longer existed. In my dreams, I was alive and human; the real world appeared to me as an illusion I couldn’t escape. Every emotion both barely scraped by me and crashed into me, over and over and over again until I was left to feel absolutely nothing at all, or to feel everything far too much.
On days he was generous, I was allowed to leave the bed. He’d softly tug at me, coaxing me to stay a little longer but I’d manage to quietly slip away. I’d stare into the mirror at the girl I didn’t recognize and rehearse my empty smile. Each move, a deception to mask the truth and for the Angel to hide in plain sight. It was the build-up of a precarious house of cards; I would never know when the whole charade would come crashing down. Yet, as dangerous and unstable it was, there were times I enjoyed the game. It was like solving a puzzle. Which move would let me hide a little longer? Which smile, which word, which look would make me appear the most normal? How much could I possibly hide under this exterior before it burst at the seams? All the while wondering, “who could love someone so broken in reality?” A mask can only hide a face for so long. Each day, it became harder and harder to fake a smile. The wears and tears chipped away at the mask and my true face – a sad, lonely face – seeped through the cracks. But the world only wished to smile alongside me. “No one wants to be around someone who is sad.” I was the elephant on its hind legs; the lion jumping through flaming hoops; the trapeze-swinging acrobat. The world wanted nothing more than to smile and drink in the rose-colored circus act. Laughter fuelled my daily bravado until I reached the sanctity and comfort of my bed, where the beautiful sounds of laughter were replaced with heart-wrenching, soul-breaking, body-numbing tears.
A smile can only hide you ‘til your soul breaks.
But I refuse to be broken today.
Words by Aki Maedomari
Illustration by Callan Sawyer