Staying Alive

Staying Alive

When it starts, this racing of my heart as if I am losing myself again. This palpitating of my heart as if it has begun, again, being afraid to exist within me. When it starts, this feeling as if I am losing grip of my emotions, of my being, of my life, I struggle to understand what has happened, is happening, or is going to happen.

I am tempted, at first, to assume that it is nothing much; that maybe it is just hiccups, and I almost beg the Universe to not let it be the crippling anxiety that is making its way back to me. I cross my fingers, too hard, until I feel my nails carving flesh out my body.

And when it does not go away….first day, second day…I resign to my fate.

In the past, whenever these beats started racing, I always knew a fight was looming. That a dark cloud was descending upon me. That in a few hours, or days, I would have to sit, afraid, and fight about things that made me uncomfortable. In the past, this anxiety has always been cause by my relationship.

Either he would find something in my phone; Me telling my friends ‘I love you’. Me sending love emojis to my friends. Me telling my friends we could meet over lunch. Me telling one of my closest friends that I was not sure I deserved to be treated the way he was treating me.

Or I would find something in his phone; Him telling his friend I was too serious with life, and not loose enough. Him telling his colleague she has a fine tight ass, and he wouldn’t mind having her in any way she wanted. Him telling his best friend that he was too afraid of losing me, and was afraid it, the loss, was imminent.

Then we would argue. And throw words, carelessly. I would go mute. He would turn livid. His rage would get out of control, and he would leave. Then, I would bury my face in my pillow and weep.

And in the morning, as if its job was done, the anxiety would have slowly crept out of my body, my heartbeat back to normal. 

So it, the anxiety catches me by surprise, this time round, because I am not romantically committed to anyone. I am at peace with most pieces of myself. I am not at war with myself. Ryan talked to me the other day, and I told him I was calm, and was this close, this close to happiness. So, why then, would my heart race?

So when it is the third day with this anxiety,  and I am texting with the Friend of My Heart, I tell them that my heart is racing. They ask, politely, when it started. Three days ago, I say, and I read the urgency, the care in their tone when they write, “What happened/what did you do?”

And when I say nothing, that I don’t know why this is happening, I read the despair and resignation in their one-word reply; wueh.

I want, so bad, to be held still. To curl my body next to someone in whose arms I feel safe. I want to be next to someone who is my human home. To tell them that I am tired of these things. That I need, I deserve complete rest. To tell them that I do not want to live, always worrying about when the next bout of anxiety will hit me. That I want to just laugh, and laugh, and not worry that I am laughing too much, which means I will cry just as much.

But things have been weird lately. Things have been falling in place, but not in the way I envisioned in my head. So I am teaching my body how to feel safe in its own arms. Still, I am failing, and falling every time I try.

So when the anxiety triples, it begins showing in the way I force-laugh, in the way I fight tears at the slightest inconvenience, breeding insomnia in its wake, I pull myself out of the house in search of sleep in the form of wine.

I hate alcohol. I dislike its taste in my mouth. I struggle to not throw up. But I like the instant false felling of happiness, of lightness that it gives me. It does not make me forget my troubles, not even for a second. But it gives a dance to my steps, so that even when I know my life is crumbling around me, that life is suffocating me, that I am losing too much blood in this fight. Even though I know I am tempted to harm myself, to inflict wounds on myself, the alcohol removes the urgency in all these things.

Even in those very rare moments when I am tired of battling anxiety, and I begin to think that my time is up. That I am too tired to fight. That I might as well just leave, forever; I think about the dance in my feet when the alcohol kicks in and I know I do not want to let go of this.

When alcohol takes control of me, music makes so much sense to me. I listen to Ed Sheeran; I sing along to all his music, old and new, and feel the racing of my heart begin to slow down. I listen to James Blunt, and the memories of Ryan and I flood my mind. Him introducing me to Blunt, us listening to The Afterlove on repeat when we were drowning in the heaviness of this world, and we didn’t know how else to keep breathing. I know in my heart that I miss him dearly every time I listen to Blunt; I want to text, or call, but I am too afraid that maybe, life has happened, and we have become strangers after years and years of being soul providers to each other.

And of course,  alcohol and music remind me of the times I thought I could sing. I weep for those days. I cry like a child for all evenings I spent singing along to Train’s You can Finally Meet My Mom. When I was drowning in despair, those many years ago, Daughty and Chalo (May the Universe bless that man, for holding my hand when I was wallowing in an unknown darkness) marvelling at my vocals.

Of course, I remember my then boyfriend, to whom I sent endless voice notes of my singing (he was a singer himself), and he couldn’t fathom how I had never sang before. He would sit across me and say, “James Blunt, Heart to Heart, go!” And we would lose ourselves in it.

Then it ended, the relationship, birthing my issues with anxiety, but leaving me with confidence that I could sing.

Until I loved someone else, and the first time I sent him a voice note of me singing, he laughed, and laughed, and laughed, ripping my heart off my chest, dragging it on the floor, saying, “Do not ever sing again. What was that? Gosh, your voice is so ugly. What were you trying?”

My anxiety intensified, and I never, ever sang again. Until, of course, alcohol came along.

But, it, the alcohol, makes me vomit. I throw up until there is nothing left but air inside me. Until my insides, especially my chest, begin to burn, and ache, and split into pieces. But the pain is bearable compared to what I would have felt if I decided to slice my wrists, or thighs, or popped the couple of pills on my nightstand.

The pain is bearable compared to battling insomnia, staying awake, begging my heart to stop racing, and doubling down in pain when it doesn’t. 

So when the vomit finally leaves my body and the alcohol has slowed down the racing of my heart, I realise, for the first time, how life is unpredictable. Spontaneous. Light. Dark. One moment you are driving past lonely roads, your car stereo blasting your favourite music, your head still and calm, your hair blowing in the wind. You are more alive than you have ever been before, and you are happy, happier, then happiest than you have ever been. Your words are tumbling out of your mouth, laced with laughter and excitement.

Then the next minute, you are fighting to stay awake, to stay abreast. To stay alive. Your heart is pounding, wanting to leave your chest. Anxiety has ripped you of all your happiness, stillness, and calm. Sadness has replaced your laughter, so that instead of words tumbling out of your mouth, they turn into voices in your head that almost drive you insane. You desperately look for newness, so you cut your hair, trim your nails, douse your skin in scrub. You look yourself in the mirror and realise just how damaged, deformed, broken you are, that you even repulse yourself. 

In that moment, for the hundredth time, you ask yourself, “What if I just died? Won’t all this go away?”

I slump my body in bed, and allow sleep to slowly, gradually, carry me to a land where anxiety does not exist. 

Tomorrow, I know, I will wake up, and the Friend of My Heart will ask, “Kwani how much wine did you drink yesterday?” And I will remember, I will tell myself for the umpteenth time, that there is no shame in anything I do to keep myself alive.

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Meet Eunniah Mbabazi
Eunniah Mbabazi is an Electrical and Electronic Engineer with a deep passion for books and literature. She has authored Breaking Down (a collection of short stories), If My Bones Could Speak (a poetry collection), The Unbirthed Souls (a collection of short stories), and My Heart Sings, Sometimes (a poetry collection). She has also co-authored Kas Kazi (a novel) and When a Stranger Called (an anthology of short stories).

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