An Alien in My Own Skin

Words: Aisling Coleman

Two weeks ago, I experienced one of the happiest days of my life. I got to don a cap ‘n’ gown, and to walk across the Quad, without the fear of future exam failure hanging over my mortarboard and tasseled head.

I was handed the prettiest piece of parchment that I ever laid eyelashes on, and can now officially cast votes in Seanad elections. I also managed to somehow avoid falling head-first in front of a crowd of people whose every eyeball was nailed on me, if only for a minute. Plus, I managed to survive the day largely unscathed from the ever-present threat of spilling liquids all over my fancy frock; tumbling head-first down the stairs on the way to get our group pictures taken, post-ceremony; or, generally, making a complete show of myself.

It’s not a hyperbolic statement at all to say that I was ecstatic, elated, and overjoyed. I had finally gotten to experience a dawn as a graduand. Pressing plans included: getting mildly inebriated, buckets of zzzs, and, of course, world domination. I had achieved a pretty precious milestone to me, and I was so happy.

Cut to two weeks later, and I’m basking in an altogether different light. One that has very little of a happy glow to it.

The warning signs were there, in class, a few days shy of a fortnight later since that sunny day on campus. We were asked to put together a presentation on why the text that we’d read for class was for or against a certain literary movement. It was my first class of the day, and both my assigned presentation partner and I politely grumbled about being hit with the impromptu task first thing.

I kidded myself that this was the very problem. That it was the impromptuness and the earliness that had me clutching at straws for an argument. That had my head as blank and as empty as air. That had me gasping for ideas. Honestly, though, I didn’t even believe my own assurances.

Come the weekend, true to form, I’m forcing words out of my mouth, imitating what I think conversation is. I’m awkward doing even the most benign of tasks. I can no longer traverse the aisles of a shop naturally. Doing the washing up requires about double the normal time allotted. Brushing my teeth? How did I actually do that, before now? I don’t quite remember how to do anything. Thoughts no longer exist in my mind. Or, at least they don’t seem to. Concentration? Forget it. Happiness and motivation? Entirely foreign concepts.

There seems to be very little point to anything. And, as for world domination? It’d be a plus if I manage to walk across campus without turning into the quivering wreck that I feel like inside right now.

I’m an alien in my own skin, again.

I’m a graduate with depression.

If you have been affected by the content of this article or by a similar experience, please contact the Samaritans on 116123 or via SMS at 087 260 9090.