Square One - by Aqsa Areej


'The chocolate factory is a right fit for you as an employee.’ 'You know, at this point, you should start giving lectures on 'Fifty Tastes of Dark Chocolate.’ ‘You should have been named as Mithai by your parents’. ‘Dude, Hershey’s should give you a golden customer badge now.’

These are the comments that Alizeh hears on a daily basis from her friends endlessly. Her friends think that batman and his dark aesthetics influence her love of dark chocolate. That’s why to make it more fun, they have made grocery run/ chocolate hunt a point of outing after every two weeks. However, no one asks her why she has this obsession with sweets and particularly dark chocolate. They just assume stuff about it since they don’t ask, and also, neither does she want to answer. Her mother, Sarah Shan, assumes that Alizeh's creative process requires sweet intake. It is because when she asks Alizeh about it, she just shifts the subject immediately. She just says that it helps in concentration and improves mental capacity.

In reality, Alizeh uses dark chocolate as a defense mechanism to combat or somewhat reduce the impact of sudden uneasy events. These sudden events are the abrupt attacks of shivering, extreme mood changes, anxiety foot tapping, which leads to excessive use of chocolate. It has always proven helpful in the short term. But, in the long run, it has proven to be harmful and has increased anxiety and mood swings.


“Are you sure you are not hiding anything?” Sarah, being a caring figure in Alizeh’s life, asks her after seeing countless chocolate packets in her bedside drawers. Although Alizeh and Sarah have always shared a friendly relationship, the sheer embarrassment of opening her heart in front of Sarah stops Alizeh from saying anything. For her, the idea of a friend is not like someone who can take your dementors and fill your heart with light. For her, friends are just to have fun and have a good time with. So, her feelings of fear, uncertainty, sadness, grief, or in other words, her moments of vulnerability are her deepest, darkest skulls to be hidden in her closet and not to be shared with anyone.


“I am just working on something, so I have no time to put them in the dustbin! I'll just tidy up this place; there is nothing special happening that I'll hide from you, I promise, Ami!' Although said with conviction, the sad and almost disastrous tour of her wardrobe is telling another story.


“If you want to share anything, Janu, I am always here to listen to you! Don't hide in your shell, beta! It's alright to tell me!". Sarah can tell that her daughter is in trouble. But for Alizeh, it is not whether her mother is ready to listen or not. It is more about the self-image that she has of herself that restricts her from opening up in front of anybody. Opening up that she is anxious means that she has let the world peek into her vulnerabilities, and she is not a private person anymore. It means she has not grown enough to take care of her burdens by herself. It is more about that she is humiliating herself in front of the world. So, as a result, she just eats more and more sweets, sometimes dances aggressively, but mostly tells herself to stop being a baby and "man-up.


But the biggest problem is that the burden is unidentifiable. Why her heart feels heavy? Why does she feel that she might lose her breath at any instant? Why does she feel that darkness is her comfort zone? Why does she feel so uneasy all the time? The rare events of introspection leave her with these questions, and she has no answers. The anonymity of the pain makes her more anxious, so she avoids introspection. The result is the constant loop of anxiety eating, self-hatred of not being strong enough, fear of opening up, taking solace in the darkness, and remaining enclosed in a small little Harry Potter Den of thoughts.


Sometimes she thinks that even her favorite character ‘Batman’ comes out of darkness to stop chaos in the world. Then why she cannot come out of it to save her world from an infinite catastrophe. The thirst for answers and to name her uneasiness or to put a stop to her anxiety eating or, in other words, to love herself, she thought of taking help from a professional. She thought she would go to a psychologist or psychiatrist and just ask why people feel the way they feel. She will just say that she is asking for a friend, so that's how the professional will remain anonymous about Alizeh's feelings, and Alizeh will get her answers. ‘I won’t lose myself, ha’ and then she laughs because she thinks that that’s how she will live happily ever after. This ingenious idea is what she has been waiting for, and now is the time to save herself. But she forgets how powerful her self-image is for her. And also that she is not her friend.


After some Google research about the appropriate professional and the timings, she secretly goes to the psychologist's office. When she comes face to face with the doctor, she suddenly feels her whole body is tense. There is a clear retaliation in her muscles, and she starts shivering. The lights in the office felt like they are dark, and instantly she zooms out into her Den again. She feels that she is again in the familiar darkness of her mind. The next thing she knows is that she is in her bed and crying. She hates herself, now more than ever, for even going there and presenting her dark side in front of the doctor. She forgets that she was there for a friend. But apparently, she is not her friend, and she is reminded again. She feels so many emotions that it is hard to realize at that moment that she is back to square one, and thus the grocery run continues.


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