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By Elena Montanye

They tell you life is going to be hard sometimes. They say that you’ll fall and get back up, that the rain will pour and the sun will come out. They tell you that you can’t appreciate the good moments without the bad. They say that this too shall pass. This, too, shall pass.

But they don’t say anything about actually being in the middle of it. They don’t tell you about the hours you’ll spend crying or the splitting headaches that inevitably follow the tears. No one explains to you the venomous spiral of anxiety or the bone-cracking ache of loneliness. You haven’t been prepared for the sleepless nights you’ll lay awake terrified that you might not be worth anything. They don’t tell you about it, so you think you’re the only one. You’re the only one in the middle. You might be the only one, ever.

No one truly reveals what a mental illness does to you. They tell you’re strong, and you belong. But they can’t really be speaking to you. Maybe some people can overcome their doubts, but you’re not one of them. You can’t possibly explain yourself to anyone because they might not understand. They might think you’re jealous, petty, and negative. They might be right. You might be all those things. You can’t find a way to give life to the voice in your head telling you that your thoughts and feelings matter because other voices, the ones telling you you’re not good enough and not worth anyone’s time, are louder. They’re always louder.

The middle isn’t where you draw strength from inspirational quotes and articles by faceless names. The middle is where you drown in them. It’s where positivity beats you to a pulp, where faith in the future only shreds your self-esteem. You don’t have any of those things. There is no one to confide in, no god paving your way to paradise, no guardian angel preparing to take you under its wing. You don’t have anything. You have a body and a broken mind. You don’t have anything.

The middle is where you meet your demons. They reside underneath your skin, and you can’t run away. They whisper wickedly in your ear, casting away all those promises of standing back up and watching the sun come out. They go around and around; they are entirely uncreative, cycling the same fears through your veins over and over until they’ve put you in a trance.

It is the middle that holds you captive in the belief that everyone you love will leave you. They, too, are tortured by your endless worries and would rather be without you. They despise spending time with you and loathe your presence; to ease their burden, you should probably be alone. You should vacuum seal your thoughts to spare the people you love. They are busy, they are tired, they are better than you will ever be. They don’t need you, they hate you, they want you to set them free.

The middle is where I find myself, lying heavy under the weight of all my pain, realizing that I never deserved this. I did nothing wrong. I am not, and never was, an inferior human. I feel weak, but I’m not. Sometimes I’m funny, and sometimes I’m smart. Sometimes I’m happy, and sometimes I’m sad. But I am never weak. I have a body, and a beautiful mind. I have everything I need.

They didn’t tell me this, but I’ve figured it out: the middle is not the end.

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