It doesn’t have a name in my local language. If it does, I’ve never heard it. It’s nameless. It has no smell. Like air, it’s invisible. What is it? Did our ancestors suffer from it? Did they know it existed? Could they identify it? Maybe they saw the signs but shoved it aside like it didn’t matter. Maybe it was too complex for them to comprehend. Maybe they just didn’t pay attention to it.
The thing lays low like a crocodile, keeping its mouth open as it basks in the morning sun as flies lick out remains from its gums. It closes its mouth with all the flies in there. When it’s in water, it stays below the surface, seemingly harmless. It’s an invisible predator. It’ll swim under water and stay on the look-out for prey. When it sees one, it won’t attack immediately.
It’ll sit back and time for the perfect opportunity. It’ll control how it breathes and how it moves. It’ll sharpen its senses, its eyes and ears. The waves will be hitting hard. Other fish in the water will be swimming, staring at this crocodile planning an attack. They’ll whisper to each other in the language fish speak. They’ll feel sorry for the prey. But before they can complete their conversation, they’ll find themselves caught in someone’s net and pulled out of the water.
The crocodile will plunge at its victim with full force, holding it by the neck. It’ll refuse to let go. That’s how mental illness sometimes hits us at home. We never see it coming.
Pressure from parents, demands from relatives, expectations from friends and those we’ve put on ourselves. Events that we can’t control like death all play a part in messing us up. We think we’re fine but then can’t find a way out of ourselves. We drag our feet, lose appetite, become insomniacs and our concentration drops. We become anxious. We worry and become afraid. Our mind shuts down.
Those around us might not understand what we are going through. The crocodile will be tearing deep in our skins. Sometimes we fight it. We hit its nose and poke its eyes with our fingers. We use our free elbow to smack its head. Sometimes we win so quickly and the reptile drops us. Other times we fight much longer. It’ll seem like a fight that might never end, a fall into a bottomless pit. Sometimes we give up because we don’t know how to deal with it. Our ancestors didn’t tell us what this thing is called. A monster they didn’t mention to us. But we fight on to keep our mental health in check.