Content warning: mentions of suicide and suicidal thinking
Picture this: a 10-year-old Haaniyah in the playground with a few of her friends, they’re talking about the future and what they want to be. The typical answers come about; fireman, doctor, lawyer, teacher and so on. I eagerly interrupt and inform them that my choice is the best one of all. I want to be an academic (or whatever version of I thought getting a PhD was in 2008). I also inform them that I’m almost 13, so I’ll be close to taking exams soon because as my parents will always remind me, as a child I lived my life three years into the future and never in the moment.
That small version of me feels light years away as I write this sat at my desk in my newly painted childhood room. The drawings from my angsty teen years covered up in layers of white paint so pale, they can almost reflect my appearance. I still want to be an academic at 22, but living in the future is no longer something I can depend on.
When I actually did turn 13, I wasn’t a happy child. Perhaps it was the growing teenage hormones or the budding aspect of my BPD rearing its ugly head, but I was consistently walking on a tightrope, always seconds away from falling to my demise. I tried so much to focus on being present in the moment and realising how much it would hurt those around me if I did choose to end my life. It feels selfish to admit this but that didn’t work. What did work, however, was reminding myself that if I did this one act, I would never accomplish what 10 year old me wanted. I would never be the version of myself I dreamt of becoming one day.
“My main goal was one thing: to graduate from university. It was literally the only thing keeping me alive at a certain point in my life.”
So, my main goal from that age to 19 years old was one thing: to graduate from university. It was literally the only thing keeping me alive at a certain point in my life. Whenever I felt the growing push and pull of my mental health woes, I would remind myself that in three to five years’ time, when I’m an adult living alone and going to university classes, I would not feel how I feel right now. I would be a stronger, more determined, version of myself and nothing would fuck with me.
Some of that did come true. I didn’t feel how I felt then, not always. Sometimes I would be happy and for a moment forget the feeling of the cool chill that wrapped tightly around my body. But for the most part, I hated it. I hated how much this thing I lived for didn’t make me happier.
I resented the fact I held on for so long and soon days were filled with job searches and questioning how I would break it to my parents that I wanted to drop out. It almost became a routine at some point, every three months I’d cry about my decisions in life, apply for jobs, figure out how to tell my mum I was a failure, and then I’d rationalise myself. It was a sustainable form of insanity for me, and it helped me cope in some weird way, until it reached a breaking point in December 2019.
“Yes, that stupid piece of paper is the only reason I’m still here writing this.”
I don’t often like talking about suicide but I feel the need to be honest here, I was planning on killing myself. I had the method, the place, the date all figured out on a bus ride home from Oxford. Do you know what stopped me? The fucking degree.
Yes, that stupid piece of paper is the only reason I’m still here writing this. And I feel horrible that it wasn’t something more meaningful. I also find it ironic that it prevented me from avoiding one of the worst years of my life, but who’s to say that wasn’t the plan my subconscious held for me?
The pandemic honestly feels like a fever dream at this point. I spent the majority of the first year indoors due to my mother being immunocompromised. I wasn’t happy about it, I wanted to be as responsible as I could be, but slowly it ended up hitting me in a way I hadn’t experienced before. Nights were spent crying myself to sleep about the choices I had made. Regret at my life loomed my every waking moment as what seemed like the end of the world surrounded me.
“Perhaps that hollow feeling is something I will always have to live with. Much like the scars that lay still on my body, it too simply is part of my being that makes me who I am.”
But like before, I cried it out and then moved on. (Job searches were kind of pointless during a recession). One year was left. That was it. Once I could reach that milestone I’d be somewhat content.
And that milestone has now been reached, though with some minor complications regarding missing credits but that’s neither here nor there. However, the content-ness has not been found. I still feel hollow, and not like a bad hollow where I’m on the edge. Since that fateful December day, I’ve been published twice, fallen in love once, experienced a lot of heartbreak, moved out of my parent’s house, and got accepted to my dream grad school (ironic I know). But the hollow feeling hasn’t faded.
Perhaps that hollow feeling is something I will always have to live with. Much like the scars that lay still on my body, it too simply is part of my being that makes me who I am. Or maybe I’m being corny and poetic to mask my annoyance that I can’t simply be happy. Who’s to say?
Haaniyah Angus is an Internet and Media Critic who focuses on Television, Film and Stan Culture. She has been published in PAPER MAG, NYLON and VICE. @_haaniyah_
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