Reaching for the sun
Plagued by dark thoughts of life and death
By Meysa Maleki
October 11, 2001
It was close to Noruz when it happened. A terrible incident changed my
life. Let's just say I faced my own mortality.
Approaching the hospital, I remember saying farewell to my mom and dad,
who were far away in Iran. I closed my eyes and pictured my brother's embrace
one last time and wished for more. At that moment I had no boundaries left.
As I approached the hospital emergency waiting area, about to say farewell
to this world, I cried out to touch the essence of life one more time.
As the threat to my physical being subsided, I found myself psychologically
imprisoned by thoughts of death. I was experiencing post-traumatic distress
We were approaching Noruz, the new year that symbolizes new beginnings.
I was convinced nothing would ever be the same. I was plagued by existentialist
questions. What was the purpose of life? I could not eat or sleep. My fears
manifested in a series of psychosomatic pains, as real as physical pains,
only worse because what was really hurting was my soul. I knew I needed
Although my final exams were approaching, I took some time off from school
to be close to my friends and family. I think it was Billie Holiday's song,
"Lover man where can you be", that really moved me. As I sat in
my cousin's apartment, clinging to the tune and sipping slowly on my glass
of wine, the subtle beauties of life streamed in front of my eyes.
I glanced over my cousin's library and came across Dale Carnige's "How
to Fight Worry, Fear and Anxiety". Feeling hopeless, I took the book
and caught the next train back to my city. I was determined to tackle those
final exams. All through the train ride, I kept reading and reading.
I stepped into the house I share with four roommates and hurried up the
stairs towards the answering machine. "You have 19 new messages."
I was amazed at how many people had been concerned about me. I listened
to each one, thinking how much I loved every single person who had called
I called my closest friend at school, raving about my second chance at
life. I told her I was fine and that I would be alright because I love life
too much to give it up. All through the night I hummed Frank Sinatra's "My
Way" -- the song that's been with me at my highest and lowest points.
I made it through the exams despite my mental state. I felt like soldiers
at war who keep pushing forward despite their wounds. When the exams were
over, I socialized as if nothing had happened. I simply wanted to forget
the nightmare. When my best friend drove up to see me, I was my old self
again, embracing life's finest moments.
But the pain resurfaced. I thought if I ignore it, it would go away.
But it didn't. I had my first nervous breakdown at 23. My vision of mental
health changed dramatically. I realized that every one of us, given the
right amount of stress, can feel as if we are in a shrinking room and experience
pains with no physical basis. I was there!
The worst part was being plagued by dark thoughts of life and death.
My existential depression left my soul weeping in agony. I kept crying and
crying. I cried for beautiful trees I had passed by everyday but never noticed.
For days I had grabbed the paper and headed to my favorite coffee place.
For listening to jazz while cooking my favorite meal. For films that had
I wept for all the people I had come across and my experiences with each
one of them. For times I could have been a better person. For staying up
all night and talking to my best friend about our dreams. For my hopes of
influencing the world and leaving a trace behind. For music. Oh yes, I wept
for music more than anything else. How I love music more than anything in
The depression left me transparent to myself. That's when you come face
to face with your dark side. Your only goal becomes getting through the
day. You do not need to fear your biggest fear anymore. You are already
dead! But time healed... I don't know the exact point of my return to life.
It was certainly not overnight. That I know for sure.
I realized that the journey of life is a miracle. That I must live for
the sake of living. That influencing the world is not about fame or power
but rather something we are all responsible for every minute of our life:
through every action we influence and shape the world. That passion is the
key to life. That I should welcome my shadow. That awareness of it would
only lead to a deeper understanding of myself.
All this made me realize that my nightmare was a blessing in disguise.
That the weeping watered the seeds of my existence. I am still occasionally
overtaken by darkness. But now I reach for the sun each morning. I celebrate
the privilege of being here. Today I can say: "I am alive."