In the mind of a refugee

Post Date: Sep 22nd, 2011 | Categories: Advocacy | COMMENT

The minds of refugees never stop running, day or night. Even if you come to HK as a normal, bright and optimistic person eventually over time you become a little crazy. If you look at those asylum seekers who have been here for a long time, say five to seven years, sometimes as little as two, their personality has already changed. They are not the person they were when they arrived. Why does this happen? What drives us to this insanity? Well, we spend a lot of time with each other and we can see how our friends’ mind deteriorates and loses its grip on reality. One good friend flipped recently, he suddenly lost hope and didn’t care what would happen to him even crossing the road. Refugees worry too much. This is the biggest poison for our brain.  Some people become hot tempered, others impatient, most lose hope and everyone becomes very *forgetful*. I see it even with myself. When I first came to HK I used to remember everything that happened, both many years ago and last week. However now I have become so forgetful. My mind is always running here and there, like I cannot control it, as if it’s doing its own thing without consulting me! When I sleep, maybe my outer body is sleeping but my mind is RUNNING and always TALKING. At times I wake up with a jolt and murmur to myself, “Oh my God I don’t want to become mad in this place!”

I lay in bed every night and sleep doesn’t come for ages. Sometimes it takes more than five hours to fall asleep – it’s totally insane! At times I’m still lying there at dawn and don’t fall asleep until morning. I worry too much. What’s going to happen to my life? How am going to pay rent? What about my electricity bill? Where are all these years going? How will my UNHCR case be resolved?  Will Immigration call about my torture case? What will happen if they refuse me … will I be deported? Will I be arrested? If they send me back to my country, I know I will be detained and tortured. This is crazy! Who can live in this state of extreme anxiety and NOT go crazy? At night I feel that my legs and body are sleeping, but my brain isn’t switching off. What I would give for a good night sleep! I don’t even remember what it felt like to wake up fresh. My mind carries on churning, thinking without me wanting to. These are not my thoughts. These are worries I can do nothing about and they are dragging me down into an abyss I cannot extract myself from. I want to rest but my mind doesn’t listen to me; it worries, it fears, it’s overwhelmed by depression and anxiety, relentlessly. It’s not easy to describe: imagine your heart at rest, hardly feel its heartbeat, and compare it to your heart after running a race, when it pounding out of your chest. So I feel that my brain is ‘beating too fast’, churning thoughts I cannot stop or control. It’s exhausting! This constant worrying night after night, month after month, is the most debilitating torture. It zaps your energy as it strips you of your sanity!

When I look at my life, I feel that everything is moving too slow. Nothing good is happening. My last UN interview was at the end of 2010 and still no news. I don’t even want to go and change my appointment slip because I know that nothing has happened, nothing has changed and they are just going to give me another slip of paper. Why am I staying here? Perhaps it’s just better to return to my country and die there. I’m tired. I cannot take this waiting and hoping, hoping and waiting when there is nobody encouraging me. My family is far away. My children haven’t seen me for four years. They hardly remember my face. They ask their uncle, “What did my father look like?” I suffer this massive guilt of having left loved ones behind, having failed to care for them, to provide for their education and future. I might have saved myself, but I have disappointed my family. I thought I could find safety and asylum in HK, then bring my children out of my country, but years have gone by, my passport has expired and I have no way of resolving my personal problems by myself, without somebody’s help … and yet I’m helpless – Johnnie (36) East Africa

My mind is always screaming, day and night
My mind is always screaming, day and night