Constant fear of showing any weakness but…


“I felt extraordinarily sad and overwhelmed and holding back tears became a struggle.”
“I have a headache.”
“Feel like hiding.”
“Every time I stand I feel like sitting.”
“Breathing kinda heavy.”
“Never felt this socially anxious since form 5.”
“Feel trapped.”
“Shivering inside.”
“Heart beating fast.”
“Felt like short breath attack-hasn’t happened since I was 8.”
“As spooked and shot as I felt when alarm went off this morning.”
“Something’s wrong with me.”
“Paintings everywhere.”
“Don’t want to give up and go home.”
“Realised that I paint and write more when uncomfortable and stressed.”
“Books, lots.”

These were all comments I wrote down last night. I don’t usually post notes shortly after a very emotional experience. I tend to delay, and often times during that delay I start to feel even more ashamed of how I felt/reacted and therefore I never post what was written or share what was felt.

Since being in the air a few weeks ago, flying to England, I’ve gotten into this habit of jotting down how I feel…especially when I’m feeling very emotional. I’ve never posted any of these ‘jottings’. They usually tend to sound rather pathetic when I get back to my “Strong Kalifa” form …and I conveniently ignore the fact that I ever felt a certain way.
The quotes above were all chronologically written. I wrote as I experienced, often with a shaky hand. However, there is one line I left out:
“Keep playing in my head- “My mother will never have a house like this.””
My mother will never have a house like this.
My mother will never have a house like this.
My mother will never have a house like this.
My mother will never have a house like this.
My mother will never have a house like this.
My mother will never have a house like this.
My mother will never have a house like this.
I tried to. But. I couldn’t stop it. From the time I entered my supervisor’s house that thought took over, and try as I might, I couldn’t get rid of it. I became nervous, excessively so, and almost instantaneously the party I was looking forward to for days turned into a nightmare. 
My mother will never have a house like this.
The house was gorgeous. There were lovely paintings, lots of books, and many fancy looking things. It looked like a screenshot of something from HGTV after an expensive makeover…and all I could think of was “Mummy would love this”, “Mummy wants a gorgeous house” and “No-one’s home that I’ve ever visited back in Trinidad is this beautiful”. I never expected that a nice house could trigger me in that way, especially when surrounded by such great company and a gracious host, but it did…and I became sad, frustrated- slightly depressed. It just went downhill from there… “Your life isn’t nice”, “What can I do to make a home this beautiful for mummy?”, “I’m not home!”, “I’m not accustomed to fancy things”, “I look awkward”, “I’m stupid, I shouldn’t be feeling this way…especially when everyone is so nice, kind, friendly” , “You’re overreacting”.

I walked to the table where everyone was, but I felt like I was going to throw up. I went to the bathroom, closed the door and just started crying….and I kept thinking “Kalifa, you’re overreacting”. “Why are you so emotional?” “You’re so weak, stupid, oversensitive and unappreciative to come to a party and then disappear into a bathroom to cry.” “You’re pitiful!”. “Pick yourself up and get back out there!”

But the more I chastised myself, the worse I felt until I eventually thought… “You’re not supposed to be here at Cambridge. It’s too nice for you. You’re not strong enough to handle this.”

By this point my heart was beating faster and breathing became quite difficult…this lasted for a while -a long while- and people began to notice that something was wrong. I went outside, frantically trying to regain my composure. It helped, but only slightly. By the time I came back inside my heart was racing and I couldn’t breathe properly enough to speak a decent sentence…and every time someone found me in my sad state, and tried to comfort or help me I felt extremely embarrassed and often said that I was just sick, nervous or overwhelmed. “What would people think if they knew the full truth?”, “What are they thinking now?”

I eventually calmed down enough to go back to the group, but I couldn’t look anyone in the eye, because I felt intensely pitiful and ashamed. I could barely speak because I still found it hard to breathe.

But then the girl in the picture suggested that we move to a more secluded couch. I was reluctant, but I went…and I spoke to her: s…l…o…w…l…y. She hugged me, held me, tried to empathise with me (succeeded at it to the best of my knowledge) and listened to me until I eventually just broke down crying and said it…what was jotted, written and unwritten. My heart began to beat slower, and slower until I could breathe again. I felt like a weight was lifted and I was extremely grateful. I didn’t know how to properly say thanks…and my attempted response didn’t justify the magnitude of the gift.
The rest of the night was wonderful!

I couldn’t help but think though: As emotional as I feel, as out of place as I feel, as incapable as I feel, as insignificant as I feel (sometimes)….. 
As much as I may have embarrassed myself, as much as I may have acted like an emotionally immature ‘idiot’ (maybe)… 
I wasn’t alone. I’m not different beyond humanity. I was surrounded by some of the nicest people resident in the UK; people who noticed that I wasn’t feeling too well, people who tried to help me feel better, people who go out to lunch in groups and invite me, people who support each other, a person who values me enough to invite me into his home, cook for me and entertain me despite being leagues above me in personal accomplishment.
I was surrounded by people; and tonight, more than ever before, I realised in my heart of hearts that even though we have different things, different experiences, different prospects, different looks, different tastes, different accomplishments…we still have the same emotions. We still have each other. We still feel empathy. We still have love…and we’re all immensely capable of sharing it.

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