December 14th 2022:

It was around 9 pm when all of the worries and anxieties I had been running from in the past few months suddenly overwhelmed me. I broke down. Seeking refuge, I walked towards the bathroom. I sat down, my head buried in my hands, tears streamed down my cheeks like a waterfall. I couldn’t breathe. I didn’t know how much time had passed before a kind girl’s voice reached me from behind the door.

“Would you like to come out so I can give you a hug?” she asked.

I didn’t want anyone to see me like this. I thanked her for her offer and said I would be okay and come out soon. But a few more minutes passed, and the girl’s voice returned.

“Has someone hurt you? Has someone insulted you?” she asked. “I am responsible for this café. If you tell me, I can help you.”

I replied, “No one has done anything. I’m sorry for occupying this place. If you give me a couple of minutes, I’ll be okay and come out.”

The girl persisted, “Would you like to go to a place where no one is around? I can take you to a room where nobody is there.”

I wiped away my tears with my hands and took a deep breath. I wanted to stop the flood that was pouring out of my eyes. “Yes,” I said, “but I don’t want anyone else to be there.”

My hands were frozen, and I trembled involuntarily, breathing heavily. Two strangers held onto my arms, leading me to the empty room. In the distance, I could hear my friends calling my name, but I couldn’t bear to face them. It was like my private world, which I had never let anyone into, had been violated by people I hardly knew.

My tears still wouldn’t stop when I arrived in the room. I sat on the couch, hiding my face with my hands and crying deeply. “No one has hurt me,” I said. “These are the things inside me that have come up now. I think I had a panic attack when I was in the bathroom. And I feel embarrassed. I didn’t want anyone to notice.”

As they wrapped me in a warm blanket and stroked me gently, they assured me that everything would be okay. Gradually, my breathing returned to normal, and my Irish friend, Kavin, entered the room.

He sat beside me and looked into my eyes. “We still don’t know each other very well, and I’m not comfortable with you seeing me like this,” I said. “I don’t know what others are thinking about me right now!”

Kavin reassured me, “Mohi, you are very strong. Sometimes, even a little too much. You told me about your family and Iran, and with everything you said, I think you are really strong. No one changes their opinion about you just because you’re not feeling well. Everyone here likes you.”

Despite Kavin’s kind words, I felt exhausted and sad. All my friends back home in Iran were upset and depressed, and I couldn’t shake off my worries. I was always sociable and had made many friends, but now, I am surrounded by many people, but I have no energy to escape my situation and socialize.

It was around 10 pm when I emerged from the room, facing people that I knew. They surrounded me with concern, and I had the urge to run away. But this time, instead of running away from my emotions, I faced them head-on.

December 15th 2022:

We walked through the forests near the dormitory. The ground was covered in a thick white layer of snow, and the chilly air had turned our hands and faces red. We walked along a path that cut smoothly through untouched snow. The sky had turned yellow and orange near the horizon. The sound of birds filled the air.

I told Chris about my anxious breakdown and then we talked about Iran. Chris remained silent, listening carefully to my words. I interrupted myself and said, “I’m sorry, I think I’m talking too much about Iran.” Chris replied, “No, actually, you don’t talk about it at all, which is more surprising. I haven’t asked you anything because I didn’t want to upset you, but it’s strange that you don’t talk about it at all.” I sank my feet into the fresh snow and thought about all the unspoken pain I had been carrying inside. My tongue was tied and I remained silent.

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