Moving Mountains.

A sharp, stinging sensation disseminates as I run a blade across my forearm. Drops of blood infuse with tears and burn within the wounds. To me, ten months ago, this was all routine. It began with a trigger: a comment, a bad grade on a test I spent a week studying for, or perhaps just too much time left alone with my thoughts, and this was my therapy. Although sometimes I wish chocolates and rom-coms did the job, I was appreciative of this. In times of deceit and rejection from people I gave my heart away to, cutting was my friend. Because at this point in time, I am dust, and because cutting, unlike many others, doesn’t have a problem with my personality. This action is not instinctive, it is developed, weighed, and conscious because my efforts, however deep, are always futile. Friends, parents, and family member mock me with accusations such as “attention seeker”, “loner”, and worst of all, “failure”. This is not something a stranger on a leather couch with the letters “MD” stamped after his name can assuage. This is an inner self-appraisal of my worth, and the reports came back empty.

Some people trip, fall, and are able to get back up and resume walking, then there are those who fall off of mountains and feel each and every centimeter of the rock face on their way down. The lucky ones are those who simply don’t falter and get to enjoy the view from the top of the mountain that is life. Yet, however, there is a certain super minority that falls, but miraculously survives--the very minority that will heal it's broken limbs at the base, stand up, and crawl it’s way right back up the mountain-top with utmost conviction. This minority consists of the strongest people on the planet.This minority comprises of people like me.

“Mrs. Amna..a word?” I ask hopefully, an apologetic look on my face. “Saood…again?” she questions, lifting up yet another failed exam. “Saood, if this continues, your grade is going to drop to a D!” I detect traces of threat in her voice, alongside the weight of a boulder being placed on my shoulders. “Next time I’ll make it up, and do even better” I think to myself as I saunter out the door frame. It is only seconds later when I am greeted by Mrs. Shaza, the MIST (Muslim Interscholastic Tournament) coach. “Good afternoon, Miss” I mumble politely before she stops me in my frustrated march to the cafeteria. “I’m sorry, but due to your grades, you’re ineligible to participate in MIST or play for the basketball team.”

I choke back tears before calmly explaining how I’ve just turned in some previously missing work and that I should be eligible as soon as its graded, only to be met with a measly “Why didn’t you do your work? It’s your own fault, hun, sorry.” A familiar force possess me, and I am at a loss for words. “I’m…just not good enough,” I whisper before making my way to a bathroom stall. There, I release all my pent up emotions in tears and sobs. It is only after fifteen minutes of catharsis that I force myself to face the mirror, and a plethora of negative energy spews. It is then that I decide that I cannot take much more, and recover my car keys from my locker.

I roll the window down in an attempt to breathe a bit of fresh air, as the sun shines brighter and Coldplay plays on the stereo. I slow to a stop at a stop sign and check both directions, parallel parked cars blocking my view. I creep forward to get a better view when, *Screeeeeeeeech-BANG*, I feel an abrupt jolt on my left side and am dazed for a moment. Moments later, I examine my surroundings, my ears still ringing from the sound of the impact. It is only then that I realize that I had been hit by another vehicle. A wave of panic overcomes me as I comprehend that today, I had driven my father’s car. My vision blurs as a police siren sounds. Once officials arrive, they account for and report details as I await my parents, pacing on the sidewalk in frustration. I kick an empty glass bottle nearby to meet my reflection, and am reduced to tears once more. I struggle to recognize the monster staring back at me as my vision begins to blur.  “Why me?!” I ask between sniffles. The monster does not respond.

Later at home, as I sit in my dimly lit room, I press a blade to my arm with increasing pressure and repeat the following like a sick and cold mantra; “You’re a failure. You deserve this pain and nothing more.” I had been falling down the mountain, and it was only a matter of time until I hit the very bottom, where the sharpest boulders lay. The landing came sooner than expected.

As I stand at the base of the mountain, I look up at it’s intimidating beauty, searching for the strength to make my way back up when my train of thought is interrupted. “That’s a stupid thing to let ruin your life” reverberates within my head in a familiar voice. I look at myself in the mirror and ask myself why I’m not broken from the fall, and in the same voice I hear “You’re unstoppable.” This is the sound of recovery. I pair the noise with the visual of a face, glaring back at me with conviction, disappointment, sorrow, and a hint of exasperation. The very face that set fire to the charcoal that was my potential. The face of life, love, freedom, self-expression. The sound of a proud yet hideous laugh, a throaty yet confident voice, an apprehensive yet determined tone. This is the beauty and symphony, of accomplishment and acceptance.

This voice taught me a valuable lesson. The fact that even the most simple, unintentionally meaningful words have the power to change lives. The very words I heard were planted into my brain and sprouted like the most colorful of gardens. I’d soon realize that it was now my turn to pick the flowers and plant them in other barren grounds I would come across, just after I snatch the blood-stained knife out of a close friend’s hand and cover the wounds. It’s my turn to prevent the wounds, heal the scars, and plant the psychological seeds that will sprout and spread further and further. 

Today, I find myself somewhere up the mountain, not sure as to how high or low I am, and that’s okay. Throughout my fall and beginning of a new climb, I’ve realized the power of the human mind. A thought or two leak, and they can severely impact other sectors of one’s own life, such as academic performance. However, the single most humbling, and frankly quite frightening fact of the matter is, that an individual can destroy oneself based on how they think. Couple that with the fact that some people lose control of their minds, and you’ve created a recipe for disaster. However, through the pleasures and torturous tests life can toss, there’s a story behind every smile or frown, fake or real. After all, if at any given time there is one seed sprouting on the planet, the wind will do the rest. 


In alignment with our mission to encourage others to #SpeakUp about mental health, we’ve created this blog – a passion project highlighting those who wish to share their stories with the world.

Open to anyone, the series features personal anecdotes from members of the South Asian community who have struggled with mental illness – and the stigma that comes along with it.

To submit your story, click here.

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