Lebanon's economic crisis, which has been described as the worst in decades, hurts. It burns like an open wound sprinkled with salt, lemon, and a splash of alcohol. It feels like a sharp-knife twisting and turning inside my gut. 

Lebanon's economy has cost me a lot. I'm not talking about the dollars I have lying in my bank account begging me to pick them up. I'm not talking about the all-nighters I have pulled questioning whether I should leave the place I now call home back to the place I used to call home. I'm talking about loss, insecurities, high cost of living, low salaries, over the moon unemployment rates, and we're still in the vicinity of privilege here. Don't get me started on the fact that a third of the Lebanese live in poverty and the reality that it could reach half the population if the economic situation worsens, as per The World Bank, and, yet, no one is doing anything about that. 

I was born and raised in the United States, moved to Lebanon over a decade ago, went through a putrid cultural shock, struggled with language anxiety and barriers, and overcame it all over the years. Even though my friendship with Lebanon took years to build, it insists on breaking it down. It wants me to despise it and is doing everything in its power to become my nemesis. 

Lebanon's economy has cost me my friends and family members. No one wants to stay behind in a country that feeds off of people's struggles. No one wants to stay behind in a country where the minimum wage sits well below the rental prices in the capital city of Beirut, where most average-paying jobs exist. Because if you're not renting a place near your work, you would need to invest in a car (because public transportation in the country isn't reliable) and who has money to invest in a car, insurance, and all that other good stuff? And who has the time and patience to sit in hours of traffic to reach the office for an average-paying job? 

So can you really blame people for leaving? 

The numbers, regrettably, speak for themselves. Last December, a national study conducted by Information International, an independent Lebanon-based research body, showed a spike in the number of emigrants from Lebanon. From mid-January till mid-November 2019, the number of Lebanese citizens who traveled and haven't returned reached 61,924, compared to 41,776 in the same period during 2018 — an increase of 42 percent. A staggering 19,263 people left Lebanon during the last three months of 2019, compared to 14,129 in 2018 — an increase of 36 percent.

Most Lebanese are finding home elsewhere. The number of Lebanese abroad (estimated to be 15.4 million) exceeds that of the internal population (around 6 million). You have 7 million in South America, particularly Brazil, 504,000 in the U.S., 400,000 in Mexico, and 340,000 in Venezuela. You have a quarter of a million living in Canada and France each and 203,139 in Australia.

I come from a family of six: a deceased father, a rock-solid mother, and three charming brothers. After my father died, my mom decided to pack our bags (and lives) and move to Lebanon. Little did she know our little family would fall like dominoes in the same way Lebanon's economy shattered to pieces.

My siblings' departure from Lebanon, after building their lives here, was out of their hands. After sitting unemployed post-graduation from the American University of Beirut (one of the top-ranked universities in the region), they decided to look for their futures elsewhere. 

Over the past six years, they have all moved back to the U.S. with the exception of my mother. I'm willing to bet my kidneys that she would leave Lebanon if I picked up the phone to tell her I've decided to move as well. 

My mother's sister, sister-in-law, and brothers-in-law have also left Lebanon; all of them, with the exception of my khalto, were part of a generation that was forced to emigrate following the civil strife and/or Israeli war and occupation. Nowadays, people are emigrating because the country has failed to provide internal security, let alone safety from external forces.

All this and I haven't even talked about how almost all my friends left the country right after university. Their parents, too, come from a generation who fled Lebanon to the U.S., UK, or the Gulf to find their future. Thus, their kids were bound to come in for three years, get that degree from AUB, and walk out. 

And my future? It's been reshaped many times because of Lebanon. 

Lebanon's economy has made me rethink the ways I imagined I would build a future. Let's talk about something as simple as investing in a home with your partner. If you're putting hundreds of dollars into renting a place ... wouldn't it make more sense to put that money into a housing loan? 

But in a country like Lebanon, housing loans don't even exist. The lack of this support is a major drawback for many young people in the country who don't have a hefty inheritance to lean on.

The demand for residential apartments in the country witnessed a steep decline in 2019 for many reasons including an economic slowdown and absence of subsidized housing loans, real estate developers told Xinhua.

The subsidized loans had previously been funded by the Central Bank of Lebanon and offered to commercial banks to facilitate the financial process and burden for borrowers. When the central bank, aka Banque Du Liban (BDL), couldn't attract dollars (from sectors such as tourism for example) to finance these schemes, their offering was no longer viable. So local banks couldn't grant subsidized housing loans to individuals anymore. 

Local banks began competing with the real estate sector by offering unrealistically high-interest rates on deposits. So people were no longer willing, let alone able, to invest in a house. So they opted to put their money away and rent out a place using the interest they were earning on their deposits. 

Resorting to rentals seems like the best option anyway, but we all know how expensive a three-bedroom apartment is in Beirut. According to the 2020 numbers provided by crowd-sourced platform Numbeo, renting a three-bedroom apartment in the city center costs about $1,770 whereas the average monthly net salary is $928. With the lowered interest rates following the October uprising, expensive rental prices, and no housing loans ... what can we really afford now with such an irony?

Such an irony costs us our mental health. Lebanon's economy has drained my mental state, but my problems are nothing compared to those with suicidal thoughts and who are clinically depressed. Non-profit mental health organization Embrace saw an increase in the number of calls to its suicide lifeline following the suicides that took place months into the revolution. 

"Usually, the lifeline will receive around 150 calls per month and around 260 whenever we were featured on the news, local news and social media," The organization's Executive Director Lea Zeinoun told Al Araby. "But, definitely, as of December 4, we've had a huge surge in calls where we've reached over 200 calls a day and it's still ongoing."

Lebanon has washed away my optimism and soaked my brain with insecure thoughts. I barely go out anymore because it feels weird to have fun in a country where people's struggles have led to their deaths or suicide. I barely go out anymore because I also don't have many friends left in the country to go out with. And the ones who are still here are thinking of leaving. 

The stories my friends have told me about their parents' suffering during the economic crisis have been hard to swallow. The sad reality that many of my own family members have been suffering to keep their businesses afloat consumes me whole. 

The dark hole I've dug myself into is too deep for me to climb out of; the fact that I'm 151 cm doesn't really help. I don't have plans on leaving the country because for now, I still have hope. But if that bubble of hope bursts, I don't know if Lebanon, as I know it, would still be around.