Read the prologue here.
As I walked back to the grandstand after winning the first round of our traditional Saturday afternoon game of squash against Moe, I could sense its return and presence not so far away. At this point, I should make it clear that I have been diagnosed with OCD and anxiety, and due to my chronic mental health issues, it’s not unusual for me to experience moments of uncertainty and anxiousness — even when I have no reasons to associate myself with these elements of confusion and inner conflict.
After seating myself on the least dusty spot of the grandstand and attempting to arrange Moe’s and Aasir’s spare racquets and water bottles in a more systematic flair (no, my OCD has nothing to do with my obsession with neatness), I was certain that my anxiety had returned once again — plausibly for the umpteenth time during the course of the day — seeking my attention, devotedly and contemptuously. Alas, I was incapable of refusing entry to this unbidden lodger, whose magnitude and persistency had changed its status from that of a transitory guest to an ineradicable occupant.
“You okay?” asked Aasir as he made his way towards the grandstand, swinging his racquet, disappointed after his defeat against Moe.
“Yip,” I answered disingenuously, trying harder than earlier to guise my struggle against the ever-tightening knot which had made itself comfortable in the area between my throat and chest. I couldn’t understand why it had appeared so abruptly, but I knew that it was not the first time I had experienced it and I also knew that it would be quite some time before I would manage to part ways with this unanticipated visitant.
“You don’t look good, Daniyal. Are you feeling sick?” asked Moe as he, too, made his way towards the grandstand, sweat dripping from his forehead and drenched t-shirt — a victory against Aasir worthwhile.
Since Moe and I have been best friends since primary school (even though I don’t believe in the concept of “best friends”) and he sort of knows about my mental health issues, it seemed much easier to tell him: “Argh, my usual anxiety issues again. Ignore it.” Both Moe and Aasir asked no further questions as I made my way back towards the squash court, hoping to swing away my anxiousness under the pretext of warming up the ball and myself before the commencement of the next round.
“Don’t get too anxious down there, Daniyal,” shouted Aasir from the grandstand, mockingly and with his usual frisky smile spread widely across his round, dusky face.
“I will try not to,” I responded, smiling disconcertingly at his remark which, in my humble opinion, is an example that aptly demonstrates lack of human empathy and understanding of mental health issues.
“Yeah, take it easy down there!” Moe exclaimed, supplementing Aasir’s unsettling remark, also with the intention of mocking what appeared to them as ‘it’s all in your head’ problem, both failing to realise that their seemingly puerile and fatuous utterances had contributed towards worsening my anxiety.
That night as I laid in my bed, I could not help but overthink about what had occurred that afternoon at the squash courts. As much as I wanted to sincerely forgive Moe and Aasir for their agonising remarks, I could not get myself to easily do so due to the anger which I had bottled within me for quite some time. This is not necessarily against my squash buddies, but against all those who fail to realise that by them uttering such excruciating and insensitive remarks (even if in jest), they create an impact on mental health patients like myself which is so abysmal and prejudicious that we find it easier to tell them, “all’s good,” but in the meantime, our entire being is fighting a battle, where one side is determined that “something’s wrong” whilst the other is endeavouring to provide emancipation against the former.