By Shreeya Tuladhar
I told the people closest to me,
That I am not what they see.
Confused, they asked, "What do you mean?"
I told them, “I’ve been different since I was thirteen.”
Thirteen, I usually felt like I was last,
And when I didn’t, I was having a blast.
My mind felt torn - like it had a mind of its own,
But I stayed quiet; too afraid to get to know the unknown.
Fourteen, I felt a permanent mask on my face,
My boyfriend at the time asked, “What is your case?”
His words hit me like a hurricane -- “You’re f**cking bipolar,”
He ended us with, “Call me when you start acting sober.”
Fifteen, I was a constant symphony,
The aura of my mask was consuming me,
I was now afraid to love - or rather hurt another,
Started feeling like a bad influence to my ten year old brother.
Sixteen, my mother begged me to stop rebelling,
But not even what she said was compelling.
When the mask was on, no one else mattered,
And this lifestyle of mine left my family shattered.
Seventeen, high school graduation was around the corner,
Surrounded by friends and family, I still felt like a loner.
During a visit, my doctor read me out my file,
Say hello to my new friend - Denial.
Eighteen, the college workload got the best of me,
Unable to handle it - I said goodbye to my degree.
I moved back into my house and got involved with bad company,
Literally tumbling downhill, I came home drunk at three.
Nineteen, I decided to seek out for help,
Realized I had a passion for cooking while scrolling through Yelp,
This gave me hope in life beyond the mask,
Left my friend Denial behind at last.
Twenty, I was inside my therapist’s office,
She encouraged me to stop counting my losses.
I started using prescribed drugs to ease my mood,
But the mask to my face is forever glued.
Twenty-one, it’s been a year of therapy,
I was now a chef and I fell in love with another freely,
Opened up to him about my disorder,
He called me crazy and said, “This is more than I can harbor."
Twenty-two, I never realized the stigma was so strong,
It translated into my existence being wrong.
Almost made the choice to give up,
But refused to give into a society so corrupt.
Twenty-three, I finally speak up after a decade,
I surround myself with supporters - I’m no longer afraid.
Though I fight the stigma and mask everyday,
As long as I’m honest with myself, I’ll be okay.