A Messenger

Last year at our Decipher event, we were honoured and enlightened by a talk that’s definitely an idea worth spreading. Aya Nasser’s talk, titled A Messenger, takes you on a brief journey to explore the taboo world of mental illnesses.

Aya starts her talk with a comic video, recapping how mental illness is still perceived in most movie productions and people’s minds. Aya then recounts ‘the’ story, the story of her friends, X and Y.

Aya starts off by describing how X used to suffer from a case of severe depression that changed her personality and deeply affected her life. X refused to succumb to the illness, though; she kept fighting and ended up beating depression big time. Getting over depression was an arduous, tough journey for X, yet it’s because of it that she emerged a better person.

Aya shares Y’s story, which shares most features with X’s story. Y used also to be a patient of social anxiety disorder. Luckily, Y, too, was able to overcome her illness and become a better person than she ever planned to be.

This seems like a happy ending, but is it?

This is not the story Aya was there to share with us.

Aya wished to share how devastating it had been for her to call her friends not by their true names, but by shadowless letters, X and Y. Even though she’s really proud of how her friends triumphed over their mental illnesses, society tells her that she still has to refer to them as X and Y. Neither Aya nor her two friends can openly be proud of how far they have reached in their struggle against illnesses still deemed unworthy by society.

What’s worse than mental illness is how it is dealt with in our society. How they have to cope with comments such as: “can’t you just shake it off?” “It’s just a bit of sadness, cheer up!” “We all get stressed out; stop being a brat!” Naturally, patients seriously think they ought to hide their inner struggle and keep up a pretense of feeling alright.

Aya was there to discuss how hard mental illness is to live with, inside and out. It is hard enough to have your own brain destroying you, plaguing you with demonic, dispiriting, soul-crushing thoughts. She says it is one thing to put up a fight against your very own brain, but it’s another to simultaneously be the recipient of defeatist, ignorant comments. The cumbersome burden mental illness victims carry is not only battling themselves but also onlookers to survive.

Aya was there to share the sad fact that we, as a society, do not acknowledge the existence of mental illness, nor their danger or fatality. As a result, so many patients hide because they think mental illness is ‘wrong’, or because others must think it is a joke, or worse still, that it can be easily shaken off like a minor headache.

The truth is, though, that mental illnesses are a lot more painful and serious than most of us realize.  

We are obliged to crush the taboo around mental illnesses, so that depression and anxiety patients come out of their hide. Moreover, our role is to be tolerant and open towards mental illness patients, if not to help them seek help, then at least to empathize with their very real struggles.

There are so many mental illnesses, but the most common are depression and anxiety. You can go on https://themighty.com/category/mental-illness/ and read more about depression and anxiety, or mental illness in general.

You can watch the referred-to TEDxCairoUniversity talk, A Messenger, by Aya Nasser, here:


Please share this with your friends and family. Let us know how you’ll help spread Aya’s message.

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