After the buzz online generated by World Mental Health Day, Nik Jovčić-Sas reveals through his personal experiences the other 364 days a year for those suffering from mental health issues. He confides in us to powerfully bring to light the reality confronting us around PTSD, anxiety and rape.
It’s 3am and I’m awake.
I just had another night terror. It’s a symptom of my PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder.)
I wake up, panicked, drenched in a sweat and I am unable to tell if what I just experienced was a dream. I am convinced there is someone outside my room, outside my university halls, who’s trying to rape me, so I push my whole body hard against the locked door and bite down into my arm to mask the sound as I cry.
In my mind I am reliving one of the most terrifying moments of my life: the feeling as he grabs a fist full of my hair, the hot pain of my head hitting against a cold stone wall, a groping hand and the voice in my ear saying “I can do whatever I want to you right now.
It takes me sometime to calm down enough to realise it was a dream. I start to pick up the things that were once on my bedside table. They are now scattered across the floor. I finally manage to get to sleep about 7am, and by the time I wake up at 4pm I have missed every one of my lectures and plans I made for the day.
I text a close friend and tell him that I’ve had another bad night. He listens and gives me sympathy, and suggests we go to a friend’s house to take my mind off of things.
When we take the tube together, I place my head on his shoulder out of a mixture of exhaustion and appreciation for his care. I try and take a moment to rest and feel comforted in the fact that I have someone who cares about me - but I see a man staring intently at us with a disapproving expression. I bolt back up in my seat, remembering the way the person who attacked me told me they knew I wanted it, because I was gay.
We finally arrive at my friend’s house, and it turns out there are more people there than I had anticipated. I put on a brave face and just try to socialise and have a good time.
A straight guy I know from uni comes over to talk to me. He is pretty wasted, and starts making a few lewd jokes about my sexuality and then decides to grope me for “banter.” I would normally make some sort of stereotypically sassy remark back at him, but I’m too emotionally exhausted to deal with this everyday harassment.
I go home, I lay on my bed, and I cry because I know I might have another night terror.
We live at a turning point in the way we see mental health. Over the past couple of days, I’ve seen friends of mine from all sorts of backgrounds share and retweet articles about celebrities overcoming their anxiety, or touching little videos on what it means to be depressed - and yet despite #WorldMentalHealthDay, talking about being triggered or the importance of “safe spaces” is more controversial than ever before.
There are no safe spaces for me. Even when I’m all alone at night, in my own room, in my own bed, I cannot escape the traumas of my past. All I want is to be able to go out and find places where people are understanding of my condition, where I can go without fear of discrimination or sexual harassment – unfortunately, this is still too much to ask.