An Open Letter To My Friends Who Think I Can Just ‘Get Better’

Felipe Elioenay

For me, life is like swimming in the open sea.

I like swimming. I love being in the water. I even like bobbing up and down in the waves during a storm.

But, after a while, even what you love becomes exhausting.

Even the calm, beautiful days are marked with struggle, as I fight to keep my head above the gently bobbing sea. The sun comes out, reflecting on the water in such a way as to glare in my eyes and reflecting on my skin in such a way to cause it to burn and peel. The salt leaves my skin, mouth, and eyes aching for a fresher version of moisture, and my muscles ache as I tread water.

Of course, not all days are so easy. Many days are marked by storms – painful and terrifying tempests that leave me under the water more often than above it, my limbs thrashing wildly just to poke my head up every few minutes and suck in the air that will surely be followed by salt water, leaving me choking and spurting and not having anything to grab, anything to lean on, unable to even vomit in such a tumultuous physical state.

So here I am – alone in the middle of the ocean, fighting through the storms and enduring the lulls, each bringing their own special breed of nightmare. I have no goal that I can recognize, no land or objects in sight to steer myself toward. Instead, I press on, swimming for the sake of swimming, hoping each day with all that I have left in me that this will be the day I will find a boat, or wash up on an island, or even find a shark to eat me and stop this eternal torment.

I am sure I will die. I have been sure of it for some time. I will die out here, slowly and painfully, of thirst, exposure, and hunger. By all logic, I should have died already, but I’ve been surviving by grabbing driftwood, drinking rain, and eating seaweed. Those things have never been enough to sustain me, but they have kept me alive. If you can call this living.

Every once in a while, I give up on swimming. Sometimes it’s a calm, beautiful day when the water is sparkling and the waves are easy. Others it’s during a storm when I’m so sick of fighting I lose my grip on what I’m fighting for. It doesn’t matter. Either way, I decide I can’t keep going, can’t keep living in these circumstances, can’t swim one more meter, and I let myself sink into the water. Somehow, I always wake up, shaking and coughing, lying on my back in the water or slumped over a piece of driftwood. I gasp for air, cursing myself for taking it in and cursing fate for leaving me in such a position as to survive, survive only to swim some more.

Regardless of how it happens, I know I will drown. And though I’ve been fighting for a long time, I am weak, and I am tired, and I cannot promise to keep swimming forever. In fact, after so long on the open sea, I can’t even promise that I would be able to get on a boat if one came to rescue me. At this point, I’m so far gone I might not even recognize one, rather considering it a figment of my distorted imagination. I don’t know that I’d be able to use the resources a boat could provide, after so much time without stepping onto a solid surface. Getting on the boat might be so difficult for my exhausted limbs that I might die right there on the ladder.

But what I want you to know is that I am trying. I have been trying so hard, and for so long, and even getting to where I am has been more of an accomplishment than I could have ever expected. And if you send me a float, I will grab it, even if my hands are too weak to hang on to it for very long. I don’t want you to feel bad if I drown, or if I don’t get on the boat you think I should see but I don’t. I don’t want anyone to suffer because of my suffering. Just remember, I’ve been surviving, fighting forces greater than anyone knows, longer than I ever expected. Even if I drown, no one can deny my accomplishment, my victory over this forlorn sea. Drowning will allow me to rest, but I’m still holding out hope for a float. So send me one. But don’t feel bad if I can’t grab it. This whole thing is bigger than you could ever know. TC mark

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