Friday 15 September 2017

Short Story 2017, Shortlist Aksshita Gupta

The Shackles of Anxiety
Most people know anxiety as a higher form of stress. But that’s not it. Today let me show you the life within the jails of the mind shackled by anxiety. Ask a person who is a victim. Actually don’t. They’ll be even more caught up in it if they don’t find the appropriate words to explain it to you! Anxiety has clawed me in its chains and it makes sure I stay there. Every time I obsess over something trivial or just can’t sleep, it wins. It’s not that I don’t fight it, I do but there are days when I am helpless. I hope someone tells me its okay, but no one does. Because no one sees it.

No one sees or feels the pounding of my heart before I have to enter my classroom. No one feels the fumbles in my head before I speak or the stress of having said something wrong at the wrong time over and over again.

I need to pretend to smile and be cool but the fa├žade has worn down. Now I’m just a quiet, almost non-existent person in my class. Oblivious to everyone around me and just the person everyone calls at the last moment.

People have tried telling me be happy, smile, don’t be so negative, fight, live! How do I tell them that getting out of bed in the morning is the biggest fight right now? To smile and be happy without anxious thoughts in my head is like stretching a block of concrete? And that everyone has their own definitions of living?

Okay, now I am up. Its 7:50. I need to get up, get dressed and go to college. I tell myself its all okay. And it is till I get to my cupboard. I cannot find clothes to wear, I have way too many. How will I ever take this all home? Ugh! Why are my jeans so loose? Why did I ever lose that weight? How to gain it? Better start up on the supplements soon.
Looking in the mirror I notice I have dark circles. I should use some makeup. No that would be too much for college. I don’t want to look so self –absorbed like those other girls. I am low maintenance. 

After getting ready, I look like a drab but who cares?
As I make my way to the college canteen for breakfast, I see people staring. Do I look so bad? Must be my saggy jeans. Maybe I should have used that eyeliner. Okay come on, people stare nothing new. Oh wait, did I get my keys? My id card? My Mess card? Any assignments due? Anything at all. Inspite of knowing perfectly well, I packed everything in my bag the night before.

Living with anxiety is like living with a parasite on your head. You are in a party and you are having a great time chatting up with people. And suddenly your anxiety kicks in. Oh! That person is far more entertaining than I am. He/ She has all the attention now. Am I even likeable? Maybe they think I am a sad shy blob. Oh no! What if they think I am arrogant? I am not!  Oh I shouldn’t have mocked him/her they’ll never talk to me again! And the thoughts are endless.

Awkward silences kill me. Okay I need to say something. But should I? What if I hit the wrong nerve? It seems the person next to me in class wants to study and not talk. Good I should concentrate. But he seemed to talk a lot to that other person in the previous class. I knew it! It is me! I am the most boring person there is! Too serious or dumb for them. Can’t figure out which!
 I see an acquaintance walking towards me, should I wave my hand or will they not see me. I should stare until they come closer then I can be sure. Oh no, I missed the chance and they probably thought I am ignoring them. Oh no this sucks!
Again walking back to the hostel is a nightmare! I might see so many people I know maybe they saw me I didn’t. They will think I am ignoring them. No one seems to believe that I didn’t. I feel that person staring; no I am not that thin. Please don’t make me a topic of your gossip.

I settle down in my room after the curfew time and relax. Oh no my roommate has invited friends over for an assignment. I know all of them. I have to pretend to be sweet and make small talk! They ask me my marks the previous semester and the internals and brag about theirs. Oh no I really need to buck up, if I need a job! Everyone else seems to be working harder than I ever can. Maybe I am just not fitted for this course!

I talk to my old friends via WhatsApp and they all end up complaining how I never talk to them. I feel sorry but yet not sorry. Everyone it feels has it all figured out with internships in Spain and jobs in Chennai or winning Poetry Competitions or Meeting their favourite actors. Dreams which seem like a faraway possibility to me! And so I keep my phone down and try to sleep.
And trying to sleep is a nightmare.

Most people have their nightmares during their sleep but I endure it beforehand. I look at the day at a glance and feel the anxiety of each and every moment yet again. It wasn’t just enough to endure it once and so I decided to go over it yet again.
And like deep stalking someone’s profile on Instagram, I am suddenly going through incidents that happened six years ago. I would have liked to say nineteen years ago, but I am only twenty. So the backward time travel begins till sleep engulfs me slowly at about three am every night and I am awakened by the sound of my alarm at seven. And the cycle continues.

My anxiety has now become a part of me. It is not me but a part that never leaves. I hold on to it because it is the only thing that hasn’t left me and has always been constant. I have been told to get treated or to just not take stress. But what people don’t realise is that in the lonely hours it is my companion.
My relation has become like an abusive relationship that I want to run away from but can never get enough of it either. No matter how many times do I want to escape? I am clutched in its claws, waiting to be rescued from its shackles.

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