Content warning: mentions of suicide, domestic abuse, sexual abuse.
The steaming mug of tea is hot in my hands, near scalding. I cradle it close to my chest, inhaling the sweet steam with every breath. My eyes are focused entirely on the drink, watching as the pale milk twists and curls around the dark tea, forming curious whirling patterns at the surface. Strange, that I’ve never noticed this before, not once thought to look closer at the visual nuances of tea.
Across the table, Lissa’s mother sniffs lightly. Not in disgust, simply trying to clear what remains of her earlier tears. The silence between us is taut with her sorrow, my guilt, and neither of us knowing what the other is thinking right now. To her, my face is as familiar as her own, but my expressions are as alien as a stranger’s.
To me, she is nothing, except a human who didn’t harm me when she had every right to. Instead, she invited me down to her kitchen for tea with the words, “You can’t stay long, I don’t know what Gray would do if he saw you.”
I assume Gray is Lissa’s father, and the tone in her mother’s voice makes me wonder exactly what she fears he’d do to me. I decide it’s better not to ask that question, simply to nod silently and follow her down the stairs through Lissa’s old home. Compared to the starkness of my own home, this house is messy, cosy. Addison would throw a fit at the haphazard, random order of the books on their shelves.
My alarm shocks me awake with fire in my chest, the echoes of a dream filled with anger lingering upon my eyelashes. I swipe a finger against my phone, sweeping the alarm away, and stare up at my ceiling with sleep-blurry vision.
Pressing the palms of my hands against my eyes, I remember the words Paiden spoke to me in my dream, stolen from my real life: “The humans aren’t going to accept you anymore.” At the time, I let the jab roll off of me. In my dream I was furious, lit ablaze by my anger at her and the presumption that everything I do is to become more human.
(But it is, isn’t it?)
Whether my anger is real, or just the remnants of my dream doesn’t matter. My phone’s already in my hands and I’m halfway through typing out a naive, pissed-off rebuttal message to Paiden when it vibrates, Unknown Caller flashing up in front of my words.
Unknown? It can only be Sam. For one, two heartbeats, I consider tossing my phone across my room and leaving Sam to my voicemail. I could switch numbers, change my bus route, spend the rest of my life avoiding her so I don’t have to think about any of this ever again.
Lissa. The original name of my body. A name I was never meant to know. They don’t tell us our body’s origins the majority of the time—there’s a fear we’ll try to interfere with lives that don’t belong to us, that we’ll want too get too human. Once the bodies are donated, they cease to exist as what they once were.
Talking to the angry girl is already more than I should be doing; both of us know we’re making a mistake in engaging. But it’s too late now, isn’t it? She knows who I am, and I know her connection to my body. The chasm has already been crossed.
Humans are easy to read, and Lauren is an open book. She stares at me when I argue that “Something is wrong”, with that summer-storm smile, silent, warm, and threateningly unaware of the way my cheeks burn in response. I want to scream, to pick up the crystalline jug dripping with condensation and hurl it at her face—dripping with condescension. The hot burst of rage is new and alien to me, like discovering a different type of pain—a shattered wrist when no bone has been broken before. I instantly hate her. When that fails, I hate myself instead.
So I stand and smile and she waves me out of her office with a solid, “You’re doing so well!” that doesn’t invite argument, and it’s all I can do to hold my brittle self together until the bathroom door lock clicks beneath my trembling hands. I sink to the floor, hot tears spilling over onto fists pressed against my thighs. Today I am forced to face the reality I have been working so hard to ignore, what would be good news for any transfer other than this, any new body except my own:
In the real world, mental illnesses affect millions of people, and yet there’s often a silence surrounding the issues, brought on by social stigmas and a lack of education on mental health. Depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and anxiety and panic disorders are prevalent within The Hunger Games, experienced by Katniss Everdeen and those around her. The trilogy highlights just how much trauma can affect people, especially the young adults and children manipulated by those much older.
While the novels are far more adept at portraying the characters’ understanding of and struggles with their respective illnesses, the films do make an effort. The opening scene of Catching Fire, where Katniss hallucinates another tribute from the Games while hunting with Gale, visually captures the nightmares of the arena that plague Katniss, setting up the audience’s understanding of her mental state following the 74th Hunger Games. The majority of Katniss’ interior struggles, however, are found within the pages of the books.
This week has been one of mental health awareness, and in typical Saf fashion I left this post to be written at the last day. In NZ it’s been Mental Health Awareness Week, while elsewhere it’s been Mental Illness Awareness Week. Exactly a year ago I wrote a post about why awareness is important, and a year later it’s still just as vital.
It was maybe a month or two ago that a friend on Twitter opened up about their own struggles with mental illness, which prompted an open discussion among our little community. A lot more of my friends were struggling with mental health than I realized, and I’m sure others felt the same about me.
Despite my personal vows to be open and honest with regards to mental health, I suddenly realized that I am essentially a freezer of feelings—I carefully tuck the bad ones away in a back shelf and leave them to freeze for a few months, until the power breaks down and they begin to thaw. I fully contribute to the lack of awareness, in part because I don’t like to show weakness, and that is a failure of mine.
Apparently I’ve basically missed Mental Health Awareness Week, which is something I wish I’d heard about earlier because it’s something I feel very positive about. It’s been a while since I’ve written much, so now feels as good as any a time to talk a little bit about mental illness and how it’s affected me.
You’re probably asking, how many more personal posts do I have in me? And I’d reply with a winky face, because I could talk about myself for yonks.