At first, it isn’t recognizable. The symptoms ebb and flow like the tide, taking their time to gradually emerge and solidify into words etched in the stone of one’s soul. It is easy to stay in the comfort of a cozy room, or a place that promises security; oftentimes, I huddle in my bedroom with various activities that are pleasurable and less cumbersome than those of daily life, tip-tapping at the worn keyboard keys and leaning back in the creaking leather chair. It doesn’t feel any different than every other day, and the familiar comfort of routine eventually seeps into my very bones as I play on the computer for hours on end.
The sun hardly kisses my skin, and things once enjoyable become aggravating. The company of friends and family is handled begrudgingly, and the corner of a dimly lit room is far more welcoming than the bustle of laughter and shared smiles. It becomes harder to sit up and leave bed every morning, the dreary fogginess becoming denser each time I wake. Before I understand the dangers of temptation, the lazy curl of warmth in my mind and the blankets pulled to my chin coax me back to sleep until the early afternoon on weekends.
Working becomes difficult in body and spirit. What used to be an endless well of bright, bubbling joy, now forms bags beneath my eyes and stress creates sores on my lips. I blame the schoolwork sitting innocently on the dining room table, untouched and incomplete. School is an unwelcome chore, feeding excuse after excuse for why my homework hasn’t been turned in, and for why grades are slipping from As and Bs to Cs and Ds.
One day, I wake up and don’t go to school. The toilet is a temporary ally in the facade, lending support in the act of faking illness. Guilt and shame, tempered with genuine anxiety and fatigue, sends shivers down my spine and nausea curdling in my stomach. The damp, cloying fog thickens tantalizingly, and with it comes bone-deep weariness. All the while, concern from distant friends and the skeptical eyes of suspicious family follow each aching, dogged step.
It doesn’t take long to realize the fog won’t go away, and it is likely here to stay.