Writer: Maram Mohamed
Editor: Khaled Mohamed
Trigger warning: Mention of suicide, death, and panic attacks.
I never thoroughly thought about how much it actually meant to be alive. How complex the process actually was: the breathing in, the breathing out, the heart continuously pumping blood and everything just flowing together so easily. The human is so ironically mortal; we’re perhaps the only creatures that act so mighty and powerful, as if we think we’re all immortal. So, you could imagine how hard it was to be hit with this very obvious – yet not – realization.
It was when I had experienced my very first car crash that I realized: I am closer to death than I ever thought I was. In fact, I could have been dead right now, or perhaps even blind, if I didn’t turn my head away from the window 2 seconds before the collision. I didn’t scream when the crash happened, I didn’t even blink once when I heard my best friend screaming her lungs out from the passenger seat, or my brother frantically looking around to meet my eyes from the driver’s seat. I didn’t breathe when my head landed on my best friend’s shoulder from the impact. I didn’t move until my best friend had to pull me out of the car when he realized that I didn’t move. I was silent when people gathered around, trying to see what happened. I just sat there on the side of the road, with one question in mind. The people who meant the world to me could have been dead right now. I could have been dead right now. Yet for some miraculous reason, there wasn’t a single scratch on any of our bodies. And then I finally breathed.
That was the first night I thoroughly thought about death and what it meant. I remember how exciting the day was prior to the car crash. I remember how full my belly was from the McDonald’s we had earlier, I remember the endless jokes and continuous laughter my 3 best friends, brother and I shared. I remembered how I was supposed to be squished between my two best friends in the back seat of our car, but in the last minute I insisted to sit near the window instead. I remember staring at the window for 10 minutes straight and then suddenly turning my head to look at my best friend beside me. I remember the screeching of tires, the sound of glass shattering and how it felt like on my skin. The other vehicle had crashed into my side of the car. I remember that day in vivid detail. I could swear that I relive it sometimes too. Afterall, it was the start of a never-ending cycle of agony.
Things are about to get deep and personal, but please bear with me.
Well, fast forward a month and a half later, and I hear about a guy who committed suicide in my home country. And then I am again reminded of death and how mortal humans are. I see the video and I am mortified. His image never left my head up until now. Whether it is his soft face in pictures that were later shared of him on my Facebook timeline or the footage of him jumping off that tower surrounded by so many people. I couldn’t help but wonder how no one noticed that something is up, or how that guy was 2 seconds away from going to the other side. I couldn’t help but wonder how no one tried to stop him. I go to school that day, and I am confronted with all of these kids talking shit about him. I am livid and I try to argue these horrid thoughts out of their head. I try to talk to every single student in my school to let them know that I am here to listen, and that suicide is never the answer. And for a second there, it felt like I was trying to make up for the fact that I couldn’t save that guy in the tower. Even though I never knew he existed until I saw that video, but for some reason, it felt like I had known him for a lifetime.
I couldn’t stop thinking about death.
I fell terribly ill afterwards, and with my SAT test 3 days away, I ask the doctor to do all he can to make me feel better. I take the meds, wake up in the middle of the night and I can’t feel the right side of my body. I give my parents a mini heart attack as they rush me to the hospital. The medicine was too strong for her, the emergency doc says, and I am released 10 minutes later. Says I will get better by drinking tons of fluids and going back to bed. Thanks doc.
I am still thinking about death.
The next night is when it happens. It is 3am again and everyone is asleep except for my beloved father. I am on call with my best friend and I tell him to hang up because well, I am going to go do something. I lied. I hung up because my feet suddenly went cold and I started to shiver. I have read somewhere before that when someone is dying, their feet leave their body first. I don’t even know why I remembered that fun fact, but my brain was really pushing me to the edge. I was so consumed with the idea of death where I was convinced that this was it. I was dying. I go to my dad and I say “Dad, please hold me and read Quran.”. My dad holds me and keeps asking me what’s happening. I say “Dad, I am dying”.
I wasn’t dying but it sure felt like it, or at least how I imagined it would feel like. It was a panic attack that lasted for 6 hours, I later realized. My dad held me for 6 hours while my body shuddered, and my limbs froze. My dad held me for 6 hours while I kept repeating that I am not ready to die yet. My dad didn’t sleep that day and neither did I. I later found out that I had food poisoning which I mistook for a symptom of death. It is crazy what your mind can convince you of and put you through.
My SAT is the next day and I am still sick. But oh well, 1440 isn’t that bad, is it? I’m still lowkey salty about that.
These 2 months of events took their toll on me. I don’t think that I have stopped thinking about death ever since, and I didn’t get a good night sleep either. Insomnia was clearly introduced to the conversation. But you know, this got me thinking about why am I so scared of death? Why am I always so worried about people when they die? And I think that I found my answer to this question. It is because I am so worried about what will happen afterwards – religiously speaking. I am always thinking about what they will experience. It just terrifies me.
And now that we are done with this painful story time, here is where the list of realizations comes in.
I realized that I should stop acting like I am immortal. I am very mortal, I am not going to be here forever, and what I will leave behind is all that matters.
I also realized that I am not invincible. I learned that not because I only hear about bad things happening to people that it would never happen to me. I NEVER thought I would get in a car crash, but guess what? Yeah.
I realized that I should tell people that I love that I LOVE THEM. I should express what I feel instead of constantly looking like an emotionless toy box. (I say toy box because I don’t look as mean as a steel box okay? I like my colors)
I realized that life is short and that there is nothing I could do about it.
I realized that I need to realize that I am hurting. I need to understand that I am not okay most of the time. I need to listen to my body when it tells me to pause.
I realized that I have been running on low batteries for a very long time, and that I badly needed to recharge.
But most importantly, I realized that I need to conquer my fears sooner or later, so here’s me attempting to do so.
Ps: All the events are 100% real and this was me storytelling what happened to me. So if you’re reading this, thank you for reaching this far <3