“Are you okay?”

The voice is muffled. Every inch of my body resists it. My brain is too busy, I think. I can’t be bothered with this right now. Ideas buzz here and there, and I can feel the searing marks they burn onto the inside of my skull. I am so, so exhausted, but I can’t make it stop long enough to answer.

I don’t want to reply. I don’t want to explain how much energy is drained out of me with each syllable I speak out loud. I don’t want to explain how badly exhausted I am, how much I want, more than anything, for my mind to just stop.

The concerned face slowly focuses into view, and I realize what I’ve been doing: I can’t let them see what I have done to myself. Maybe someday, but not today. It takes every ounce of will power to take the first step and decide; I will not crumble today.

Slowly I shed the layers of skin that were pushing me further and further down. Even as I peel them off, I know they will come back. But that, I decide, is a problem for later. I take a deep breath, and force myself to believe that I am okay.

I smile. They smile back, reassured.

One crisis averted.