My name is Shaimaa el-Essawy and I have lost my family in a matter of seconds. It's been more than eight months since my tragic accident, and even now my mind cannot comprehend what happened.
Whenever I tell someone what happened, their stunned and pained expression reminds me of the magnitude of the disaster I went through, but my mind is still in a state of denial, which my therapist sees as my only way to stay grounded in the land of normalcy and not float away into the comforts of my mind. But suddenly, news begins flashing before my eyes of thousands of bodies being pulled out from under the rubble, news that "brought the world crashing over my head".
Please, no one destroy my palace of illusions!
Your constant preoccupation with drama and cinema always makes you think that there is a main character, a "hero", who is the focus of attention, and that there are secondary people whose presence in the story is complementary, rather than essential. And I, who has always thought of herself as a secondary character in the main stories – a hero in my own story, but secondary in that of the world – suddenly finds herself in the center of attention.
I – whose answer to the question of 'What do you want from life' was: "I do not want to leave a great influence on humanity, I am not Gandhi, it is enough for me just to leave a good impression behind within my closest surroundings" – suddenly find myself seen as a role model in the fight against depression, perseverance and strong faith?
I, along with the traumatic incident I went through, became a trend on social media for a while, and I kept getting messages from people I don't know hundreds of miles away from me, that I had given them hope again in life.
Even after I got out of that terrifying 'trend race', the eyes of those who are close to me continued to avidly follow me as they wondered what this little girl would do. How strong and put together is she? Truly, Mrs. A.raised an invincible girl, "a girl equivalent to a hundred men", but what happened isn't easy on even a thousand men; Will she commit suicide? Will she go crazy? Or will she be completely extinguished, and shun life until she wilts and dies? Will she really go back to her normal life and do her work as if nothing had happened?
At the time, I saw suicide as a very silly idea. Now I clearly see who's really ridiculous. My fear is ridiculous, my fear of admitting to myself that I really and truly went through a major humanitarian tragedy that no one can bear is what's ridiculous
I hear all this and see it in the eyes of those around me, and I always have the same question: What the hell are these people saying? I now remember my complete disapproval of my friends who tried to hide sharp objects in front of me so that I would not commit suicide.
At the time, I found suicide to be a very silly idea. Now I clearly see who's really ridiculous. My fear is ridiculous, my fear of admitting to myself that I really and truly went through a major humanitarian tragedy that no one can bear is what's ridiculous. This fear of confessing that my brain exercised a great deal of denial upon. Even when the horrific earthquake struck, many people called me at dawn to check on me, while I really didn't know what was going on around me. My brain deliberately chose – while I was sleeping – to not feel the earthquake that frightened everyone, out of mercy on me. With every message and call to check up on me, I repeat – inside me – in anger: "I am not like them. No one contact me anymore."
I'm definitely not like them
With great fear and a desire to not see, I chose to not follow or look at any news related to the earthquake incident, until a tweet appeared in front of me on Twitter, saying: "My sister is under the rubble from yesterday and I do not know what to do". The tweet was made by a Syrian young man whose home was destroyed by the quake, and despite the mountains of denial and ignorance that my brain had built around itself in response to that tragic incident, that tweet was enough to bring all of that crashing down over my head.
That one sentence took me back to the moment when my home, my memories, my whole life crumbled and fell before my eyes, and the worst thing is that I knew for sure that the ruins fell over the heads of my beloved family, who – I also knew for certain – had died at the very moment.
One tweet was able to book a bitter journey in time to that moment. I smelled the damn dirt that covered my entire body, I saw the same complete darkness that did not help me show the way to reach the ruins so that I might be able to save any of them, and I heard the same scream that always haunts me in my nightmares, which I know is my mother's scream the moment a big rock shattered her head. Do you know, dear reader, what happened next in my mind? Yes, it was denial once again.
I am in pain, even though I am very careful not to follow or see anything online, and there's only one question on my mind: "Until when will any little thing trigger me and take me back to the moment I lost everything?"
After a painful journey of memories that lasted only about five minutes, my brain decided to turn to denial once again, and it certainly would not be the last. It convinced me very calmly that my incident definitely cannot compare to that disaster. My brain made me believe that the suffering of people in Syria, Turkey and all the areas that were affected by the quake is certainly much greater than my suffering. Funnily enough, my brain used this sentence with me: "These are people who may have lost their entire family and their whole life in this disaster!" And I found myself responding firmly: "Then what are you?".
Being under the spotlight against your will
What I realized from the last question and my brain's answer to it was that I was in the spotlight, I was the center of attention, all eyes were on me, no matter how much I denied it, no matter how much my brain tried to tell me otherwise. Even writing about this topic carried many conflicting emotions for me. Just making the decision to write carried with it a great resistance, that same resistance that Freud talked about at length in his works, where the subconscious resists the feeling of revealing something, so it manifests in dreams or slips of the tongue.
As for my dreams recently, they have not spared me either. Sometimes I see my father begging me and I do not offer him a helping hand. I just look at him while he's in pain, and at other times I find myself gathered with my family after the incident and we're filled with a sense of warmth and a desire to believe that they are really here, and suddenly all of this collapses and so does the place we are in, and I lose them all over again.
I wake up swallowing the bitterness and the feeling of helplessness that has not left me for a single moment for the past eight months. The humanitarian catastrophe that happened passes; Those who survive, survive, and those who die, die; The world moves to save some, and to let others suffer, and I am in pain, even though I am very careful not to follow or see anything online, and there's only one question on my mind: "Until when will any little thing trigger me and take me back to the moment I lost everything?"
*The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect Raseef22
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