Misery Loop

Graphic by Shubhank Kulshrestha

It wasn’t day or night. It wasn’t a weekday or a weekend. It was too hard to keep track. Before the mirror, stood a person with a crushed spirit. The eyebags became successively prominent. At this avenue, appearance didn’t matter. The time didn’t matter. You know you’ve hit rock bottom when there is practically nothing you care about. That’s it. A dead end. Nothing matters anymore.

The go-to ensemble was the classic black, oversized jacket. It’s what he wore everyday, but where was he headed in his ‘signature outfit’? He was headed to the kitchen, to fetch a glass of water. It was after nearly two weeks that he finally mustered the strength to step out of his room. The world outside it was beyond his threshold of tolerance.

He woke up to a ping from his mother. Contrary to his expectations, she seemed to care. She expressed concern over his mental health. After years of emotional unavailability, at last, she cared. His wounded inner child saw a glint of hope in many moons. At last, there was a bright light at the end of the dark tunnel.

He could rest his head against her breast and cry. He could have the comfort he chased all these years. He could tell her that all his friends drifted away from him. He could tell her that his girlfriend was a cheat. Will they finally sit and talk? Will his mom give him a hug? Haha! You’d wish!

He was too diffident to respond. He scoffed and casually shrugged his shoulders, dismissing his mother’s ‘ridiculous’ notion.

-“Are you okay?”

-“Yes, why though?”

Having grown up with unattended emotional needs, being starved for love was the norm for this eighteen year-old gentleman. It was as much a part of him as every pleasant experience in his life. Too invested in their own pursuits, his parents were too out of touch. The only instance he managed to catch their attention was through achievement. Be it academic, or co-curricular.

The clock was ticking. The young fellow would burn the midnight oil to grab what he wanted to. After all, it’s the only thing that reminded his parents that he even existed. Adolescence, in itself, is marked with loneliness, social isolation, uncertainty, changing perceptions and changing identity. In the most critical formative years of his life, our protagonist went unsupervised, ignored, under-appreciated.

He loved swimming but felt too exhausted to swim. He knew it wasn’t worth it. It wouldn’t help him relax anyway. Every pleasure felt like a guilty pleasure. He was convinced that only his tangible achievements warranted fun and enjoyment in life. In the event of inevitable failure, our little hustler will implode. What we see here is a depressed adult in the making.

He knew he needed help and help had to come urgently. Help had to come. Now. The following morning, his eyes were more swollen than usual. As if he had a corporate job already. Too much work, too much devotion, too much effort, all for what?

All he was left to do was run after material gains. All he was left to do was feel inadequate. For his mum and dad, it was never enough. It will never be enough. We all have our ways to cope, and so did he. Mostly maladaptive ones. He would feel attacked at the most harmless forms of criticism and his emotions were out of place. All on account of this socially-conditioned spiritual unrest.

Credit where credit is due, let us give a token of appreciation to his parents for the same!

So, in the end, what was all this about?

Was it the high percentile?

Was it the pristine image of an ideal student?

Or was it a natural human need? Love?

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