We draw lines all the time. Outlining shapes in the sand that are constantly prone to shifting; we draw boundaries around ourselves with sticks that break and leave splinters in the beds of our finger tips. This is how we become somebody. Or rather, the cracks within the lines we drew, those are our becoming.
I remember one of the very first lines I drew. It was jagged, and driven by an unprecedented fear that began to shape the confines of my own selfhood. My line, was an all-consuming distrust for prescription medication, and I’ve wavered behind its boundary ever since. I was ten years old when I was crying and my mother tried to make me laugh. She began shaking, with a twisted look on her face, and after passing a momentary smile back at her I watched as her body tore itself from the couch and into the coffee table only to continue its violent convulsions on the floor. It took less than a split second to realize that what I had almost thought was humour stood in stark opposition. My mother was having a seizure, and all I could manage to do was scream for my father.
I can picture the laundry basket falling from his hands, his body moving in brief, swift motions as he ran down the stairs. I remember what the dining room looked like as I paced around its table, witnessing my father cradling my moms shaking body with the telephone pressed to his ear and 911 on the line.
My mom stayed in the hospital that night, with only vague recollections of the several seizures she underwent. Later I would be informed that the anti-depressants my mother had been taking carried with them the risk of seizures, and now, finding her a cure came with its own set of anxieties.
She came home, a bruised face from the blunt force of slamming into the coffee table, and the sides of her tongue shaved off from biting too hard. The visible wounds would decrease with time, but I hung on, mentally and emotionally to the vision of my mother shaking relentlessly beyond her own control.
We moved a mattress into my room, where my dad would lie until I was asleep, and suddenly coming home from school to see my mother presented itself as a dangerous situation time and time again. I’m not sure when the switch occurred, when suddenly the fear of my mother having another seizure morphed into a fear that I myself might have one. But soon enough, I began treading around paranoia, wondering what drugs might cause me to undergo exactly what she went through.
For years, she was the first thing I thought of when I sat down on the couch in the living room – when I smelt burnt toast in the distance – or when I had to take any form of medication. I saw myself through multiple counsellors as a child, then a preteen, and then a teenager. Despite the obvious anxiety I was dealing with, I refused the thought of medication, as all I could see was the potential side effects.
I’m almost twenty-one and despite the concerns parents are bound to have over the children, they don’t have to worry about their daughter getting involved in heavy drugs. I still check the labelled side effects on prescription pills, and I still pause when I sit down on the living room couch… But I still carry on. I drew a line between medication and myself and somehow I left a couple cracks. Cracks that allowed me to accept the prescription pill when I needed it, and that allowed me to continue living my life when all the sudden the room smelt like burnt toast.
We create our own boundaries, constantly and subconsciously. And they shape us, but not quite as much as stepping out of them does – not quite as much as learning to grow out of the box you had once placed yourself in, does. I’ve had anxiety for as long back as I can remember, and over the years I have met countless amounts of other people who deal with it as well. And with or without, things happen to us, and we try to put up padded walls around our lives to shield us from the things that are most terrifying. Then one day, we open the door, we step across the line, we grow a little more. It happens, all the time.