I am walking down the steps of the university center when it begins.
“Your best friend hates you,” a voice inside my head says.
“No, no she does not,” I say back.
I take off my scarf, re-wrap it around my neck, and continue walking.
“I know she does. I heard her say it. You should text her right now and ask her if she hates you.”
“No, I am not doing that.”
As I walk toward the building where my office is, I vow that I will not entertain this voice any longer. When I get to the hallway where my office is, I see an acquaintance. He smiles at me and asks how my day has been.
“You know, he hates you too. Just before you got here he was talking about how you don’t deserve to be writing a master’s thesis.”
“I know undoubtedly that your thesis supervisor thinks you’re a fraud.”
“Your boyfriend doesn’t love you.”
“Every person you have ever known and will ever meet hates you.”
“Even I hate you.”
I get up abruptly to leave the shared office, and my fellow schoolmates ask me if something is wrong. I don’t have time to answer them. I need to get to a safe space.
Hidden in a bathroom stall, I whisper, “Stop it. Please just stop. I was doing so well. Yesterday, I was happy. I know they don’t hate me, you’re making this up.”
“Oh, but they do. Where’s your phone? If you’re so sure they don’t hate you, why don’t you ask?”
And the damage begins. I start sending a slew of text messages to anyone and everyone with whom I have ever been close in my life. Do you hate me? Do you hate me? Do you hate me?
While I wait for their responses, the voice gets louder.
“You shouldn’t even be alive. You are a waste of space, and you’re a waste of opportunity in this master’s program. They will kick you out.”
My best friends begin to reply. Each one of them assures me that they love me, and that hatred of me has never even crossed their minds. I do not calm down. The voice disappears, but it has done its part.
“You are a fraud, and no one wants to love you,” I say to myself while still hiding away in the bathroom.
I gather myself, splash some water on my face, and walk back into the office trying to appear normal. The same acquaintance from before asks me what happened, and I make a joke about how my bladder hates me.
There it is again. Hate. Even my own bladder hates me. Seemingly I have forgotten that I went to the bathroom to hide and not to pee, but still, I cannot help but convince myself that my bladder hates me.
I take out the book chapter I need to read before class and try to focus. As I scan each sentence, I find myself wondering if the author of the book would hate me if he had the chance to meet me.
“Of course he would. Look at who you are,” I say to myself.
How could I have possibly lived my whole life not realizing that everyone in the world hates me? How could I have gone so long around the same friends without knowing that they were all plotting to humiliate me publicly because they hate me? I must have missed something; I must not have been paying attention.
In that moment I cannot remember that this situation has happened before at least a few dozen times. For me, right now, this is the first time I am aware that everyone in the world hates me.
I decide to skip class, go home, and sleep for 13 hours because there is no point being in school when everyone hates me.
When I wake up the next day, the voice is not immediately there. It is a new day. And so I begin again.
Perhaps that’s all we can hope to do when we struggle with mental illness — no matter how big or small. We can try not to let our ideations ruin us, or ruin our academic careers. We can let the people we love know that we’re struggling, we can take breaks from school when necessary, and we can find the will to begin again, even if the day will end the same as the one before.
A new beginning can come at any time: in the early morning or at 8:30PM. It doesn’t matter when it happens or what prompts it.
What matters most is that when you feel your brain trying to sabotage your academic pursuits, you remember that there will always be another opportunity to begin again.