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Prism Part 4 - Chithra's Sister

I must have been around 10 or 11 years old when I got my first anxiety attack. I, of course, didn't know what it was back then but I distinctly remember the first time I suffered. How I struggled to breathe and tried counting from one to hundred to steady the same, how I felt like I was going to have to jump off the roof of my school building, how I desperately needed to be with my older sister, and how I ran up to her classroom during the lunch break and inconvenienced her by crying and fussing to be with her. She tried to get rid of me with all her strength and might but my crying grew louder and my tug at her uniform skirt grew stronger with every rebuke. She finally had to do the thing that other sisters do - she sat me down and let me cry it out. She then, escorted me to my own classroom.

When the last bell rang indicating that we were done for the day, I skipped down the stairs, relieved at the prospect of being able to finally go home. I was surprised to find my sister waiting at the foot of the stairs. She looked annoyed and moody as she almost always did around me, and didn't return my cheerful smile when she saw me. She harshly pulled me aside, making my back rub against the pillar behind me and told me in a matter-of-fact voice, "Mother is waiting outside in the car. I'm about to tell her everything. About the fuss you made and the lunch I missed because of you. She's going to be very angry. But I thought I'll do you a favour by asking you which all parts I should omit. You can tell me now and I won't mention those parts to her when I tell her what you did this afternoon.". My anxiety began to claw it's way up from the insides of my stomach. I felt like I was going to puke. Unstoppable tears started falling down my cheeks and the other kids began to notice. This annoyed her even more and she harshly wiped away my tears with her handkerchief.

"Nothing. Please don't tell her anything. Please I promise this will never happen again. Please, please, please...", I sobbed and begged at the same time, while following her to the car and to my doom. Once I got in, I felt a small flutter of hope that my sister wouldn't rat me out to Mother. Relief washed over me when I saw her climb into the front passenger seat with a straight face, without so much as a glance in my direction. But something seemed strange. Mother was not starting the car. What were we waiting for? I looked around nervously. I felt guilty because I believed that my actions during lunch were wrong, that it was wrong of me to suffer from anxiety, and Mother was the last person I ever wanted to annoy. Mother had the worst temper and she would mercilessly scream at me. Sometimes, she'd even slap me. "No, not here. Please, not here. Not while my classmates are passing by our car, waving goodbye...", I begged God.

Just as I was beginning to feel suffocated by my own thoughts and guilt, Mother slowly turned to my sister and asked, "And then what happened? She came crying to your classroom and created a scene in front of your friends. Did you at least get to finish your lunch?". My heart sank. I was naive back then. I couldn't understand even for a second how Mother had heard. Had one of the teachers called her? But the teachers never knew about this. How did Mother hear of the incident? The urge to puke kept increasing with every passing second. When my sister finally turned to me and said, "I did give you a chance. Now I'm going to tell her everything.", I thought I was going to faint. That only made my vomiting sensation grow stronger. Mother didn't scream at me that day. She, for some reason, walked around with a satisfied smile plastered on her perfect round face. But I never made my sister miss her lunch again. I never showed my anxiety again. I never shared again. They had successfully taught me my lesson.

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