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Recently I came across one of the motivational speeches while scrolling down my facebook feed. The speaker started off with an interesting story.
In April 2000, NYCPD started to receive calls from residents of an apartment building in Harlem, NYC, about the strange smell and sounds from one of the apartments owned by a man named Antonio Yates, a local cab driver. So the police force sent down two of its officers to investigate. Upon knocking, the officers heard a sound which should not have come from any residential region. They decided to first drill a hole in the apartment door to have a clear view of what they were going to encounter. So they did. And what they saw was nothing to what they were used to seeing in one of these complain call cases of the neighborhood.
On the other side of the door was a fully grown 500-pound tiger. A wildcat sitting in the living room of an apartment in suburbs of NYC, in all its glory. Not only that, there was a five-pound Alligator as well. After tranquilizing the feline and the reptile, the officers with some backup police force were able to transport them to the zoo.
While Antonio was taken in for interrogation and ultimately sentenced to five months jail time. The problem was that Antonio had been living with that 500 pound, potentially lethal, wildcat for so long that he didn’t see what was wrong in it. He lovingly named it Ming and the Alligator Al. He lived with his predacious friends for long enough that he failed to see the danger of this coexistence.
Same is the dilemma with the mental illnesses. Depression and anxiety are the tigers and alligators of our lives who make home within us without even letting us know of the potential danger they can ensue. They creep in like a dormant trait, like a fluffy little pet who just happens to come into our lives as an aftermath of some phase of life, a series of bad days at work, as PMS, or a substantial change in a pattern of life.
And we lovingly name them as teenage rebellion, as a quarter-life crisis, adjustment issues. Until they grow into the hunters who hunt us our entire lives in one form or another. Until we succumb to them. Until our newspapers and newsfeeds are filled to the brink with stories of suicides followed by the outpour of sympathy, followed by more stories of suicides.
The onlookers expect them to make a home in us for a while and then just leave as quietly as they crept in. But what they don’t know is that once these predators make the home somewhere, they just don’t leave easily, not by themselves at-least, not without putting up a fight, not without clawing and chewing apart out of us.
What we need to do as a society is to identify these predators. The ones which we have become so comfortable with, while at the same time have stigmatized them enough to inhibit vocalizing their names, to hushing the voice of it. But we need to talk about these monsters living with us and living in us. We need to recognize the ones who have fallen prey to these predators and we need to save them. Or maybe just help them in saving themselves. Or in the least, not mock them while they tend to their wounds and heal themselves.
We need to stop bullying others and then calling it a joke. We need to stop labeling people as too sensitive, too fragile, not enough resilient or too whiny. Instead, we need to hear them out when someone needs to talk about what we perceive to be insignificant. When someone is in crisis, they are not going to take a red flag and wave it in your face. Most days, they will smile the brightest smiles and laugh the loudest laughs in hope to make their pain invisible. So we need to check on the strongest ones around us. We need to do all of this instead of flooding twitter and facebook with hashtags about suicide prevention. For what you put out will always, inevitably find a way back to you.
And to those of us who are home to it, need to know that you are not alone in this. That there are others who are fighting the same battles as you are and maybe all of us can use some friends to beat it down to dust. You need to know that in the grand scheme of things, this, whatever it is which is getting to your head, gnawing at your mind and your soul, might not be so big after all. And even if it is, it’s not bigger than who you are.
We know that for you, every day is a waging war. We know that for you, life is always on the edge. We know it’s not easy for you, it must not be. And we cannot be more in awe of the way you rise above it on most days, the way you beat it down, the way you walk through life with your heart in your palms, vulnerable yet, glorious.
We, from now on, for once and for all, will not give away ourselves as shelters to these monsters under our beds. We will not befriend them. We will not glamorize the agony they bring. We were created out of love, and with love, we shall rise above all that brings us down.