Dandelions

I gazed vacantly at the exam paper laid out in front of me. The words blended into a swirling pool of black and white that cascaded from the small wooden desk onto the dusty, tiled floor below. The only thing that was permeating my viscous mind was the incessant noise. I imagine it would have seemed silent to anyone else, but I could hear everything – papers rustling, chairs creaking, invigilators pacing, sniffing, coughing, breathing, sighing, tapping, scratching.

I was all too much. I jumped to my feet, causing an almighty screeching noise as the chair pushed backwards. My breathing quickening as I felt the eyes of three hundred students glare up at me. I swiftly turned and marched away from the desk towards the exit, discarding my untouched exam paper. I could hear ‘eyes forward!’ echoed behind me as I grabbed my bag and pushed past a nervous invigilator, who quickly jumped out of my way.

As I opened the doors to the outside world, the cool air hit me like a hurricane against battered cliffs. I gasped and looked up at the grey sky with tear-filled eyes. The words ‘you are useless, you are worthless, you are pathetic’ echoed in my mind like a record stuck on repeat. Three years of my university education, slipping away with each exam I failed to complete.

I proceeded to walk home, disconsolate and alone. The litter and discarded leaflets swept around my feet, emulating my scattered and fragile thoughts. The tears fell heavier as I took a detour through the playing fields, picking dandelion heads on the edge of the path. I squeezed the seedlings in my hand, extinguishing any form of life they once carried.

I came to rest on the bridge overlooking the river. I peered over at the beautiful torrid below and combed through the established catalogue of questions that resided in my mind – will I ever be happy? Would anyone notice if I disappeared? Should I just jump?

I took a deep breath and dropped the crushed dandelion into the river. I watched it disappear amid the silver torrent, wishing my worries would do the same.

Invincible

I often will outrightly refute any suggestion from friends, family or doctors that I may be experiencing a manic episode. I immediately believe that they are trying to turn my rare piece of happiness into a symptom of my illness. I am unable to see how damaging my elated mood can be.

“You haven’t done any work for this presentation and it’s tomorrow, we need to meet in the library in one hour. If you don’t turn up, I’m doing it without you. Bye.”

I rolled my eyes and threw my phone on the bed. A had been hassling me about this project for weeks and it was boring me. I understood the mark would contribute to my finals but couldn’t A just enjoy our last year of University? I downed a glass of vodka and lemonade left on my desk from the night before and raced to the library.

“I’m here!” I proclaimed loudly to A, who was sat in silence, surrounded by piles of well thumbed books.

“Yes, that’s great but can you actually do some work?” A coldly whispered while keeping her eyes fixed on the notes in front of her.

I sarcastically saluted her as I backed away from the table, almost knocking over an elderly librarian lady who loudly tutted.

Within an hour I had tracked down every book on the Cuban revolution, drawn up a plan and produced a basic powerpoint. A looked pleasantly surprised and seemed to forget my distinct lack of effort from the previous weeks. We continued to work for hours and by the evening, it was complete. I legged it home and got ready to go out for the night.

I stumbled in at 7am the following morning, giving me an hour of sleep before I had to leave to give the presentation with A. I fell out of bed and wiped the mascara from my cheeks. I didn’t have time to shower, so I quickly brushed my teeth, tied my hair back and chucked on some clean clothes.

Before I left the house, I thew back a couple of diazepam and did a line of coke, both washed down with the remnants of a warm glass of white wine left in the kitchen.

I turned up at the lecture hall with minutes to spare. 30 students and two of my lecturers stared up at me as I delivered the near-perfect presentation. As I left the hall, I felt like I could do anything I wanted. I was unbeatable!

I got home, put my music on and danced around my bedroom, closing my eyes, soaking up my brilliance. I spun around until I fell to the floor. I lay on my back, laughing at the weird shapes in my bedroom. I jumped up and opened the draw in my bedside table, pulling out a razor blade. I rolled up my sleeve and repeatedly dragged the blade across my arm.

“I am invincible!”

I continued to laugh as I cut through my skin.

It was a sudden sharp pain that brought me back down to earth. I had cut too deep and the wound was gaping open. I gasped and fell to the floor, clutching my arm as the blood poured through my fingers.

My flatmate took me to the hospital, where I continued to deny anything was wrong. When we arrived home, I heard her talking to her boyfriend on the phone. I sat on the stairs outside her room and listened to her describe what had happened. It was hearing her experience of what I had done, that shocked me into accepting that I needed help.

I certainly was not invincible.