Rise Up

It has officially been 18 months since my life turned sour and 6 months since it officially bellied upside down. As do others I’m sure, I often wonder how I ended up here. What did I do wrong? What could I have done? I recently moved back to a country I also associate as home, but while everyone and everything is where I left it, somehow nothing is the same. I left a different person, in different circumstances under a different situation, coming back to none of that is not only disconcerting but has a tendency to make you think you have nothing. I know I have achieved a lot, that I should be grateful for what I do have, but I can’t help slip into a pit of self-wallowing. I keep thinking of the things I don’t have any more and analysing every possible thing I could do to overcome that, the anxiety that comes throttling towards with these feelings is drowning. I can’t sleep, I can’t stop thinking and most importantly I don’t know how to love myself. I’m scared of being alone or by myself, because even a minute of idleness means my mind kicks into overdrive and not only culminates into doubting everything about myself, whether I’m smart, whether I’m pretty, whether anyone likes me, but it is physically taking a toll on my body.

WhatsApp-Image-20160722

A photo posted by Beth Evans (@bethdrawsthings) on Jul 22, 2016 at 9:48am PDT

(Image taken from https://www.instagram.com/p/BIK8edJDRh8/?taken-by=bethdrawsthings)

I don’t think anyone in this world ever wants to suffer from anxiety or depression but it’s our body’s defence mechanism to fight against all the injustices we’ve seen. Add unrequited love and unemployment to the list of things breaking your soul down and you’re left with nothing but a shell of a person. I do want to fight this. I do want to escape. I do want people to remember me as someone strong. But it’s a long journey, one that I’m not sure I can muster the energy to jump on. Someone recently recommended a few therapy tips that I’m going to share.

  • First and foremost, make a routine. I’m currently unemployed, which is another element throwing fuel to my worrying fire, making me doubt my credentials and experience. But making a routine, waking up on time, doing something even if it isn’t that productive will make you happier. Make time for some physical exercise, I don’t sleep well at all, a more apt way to say this is that I literally don’t sleep, I’m up till 7am and then I struggle to sleep even till 11am at times. But by exerting myself a little, I not only feel a little healthy (thank you endorphins) but I do feel a little tired which helps.
  • Secondly, eat healthy. I also feel fat and ugly, it’s not something I ever thought about myself before even when I weighed more than I do now, but it’s just another shallow thought that I need to power through. Eating the right food will help and boost your energy levels.
  • Stand in front of the mirror every morning and tell yourself that you are worth it, that you’re amazing, and that you are lovable. I’m not going to lie, I haven’t started this yet, I find it silly to look at myself and say these things that I don’t believe in, but apparently if I say it enough I will start to believe it too.

While this may be a rant, I just want to emphasise, I do have some good hours or even some brilliant days entirely. There are deafening thoughts which make me feel worthless but I’m trying to find new ways, meet new people, indulge in new activities that help me have some good times too. I’m sure you already know the ways to help yourself, but internalising them is where we get stuck, I’m trying, and I just want you to as well.

Advertisements

The Great Move

I haven’t written in a while and a lot of it is because I’ve been struggling. A little over a month ago, I moved from London to Lahore, Pakistan. On the one hand I was happy to be closer to my family, those who do love and cherish me; on the other hand, I was also a step closer to everything that broke the hinges in my life. I look around and see how happy people are, how those who were my friends moved on, have complete new lives that do not include me. It’s a strange feeling knowing that after 2 years you’re the only one who’s been set back, who needs to start from scratch, people have gotten divorced and remarried, people have suffered close deaths and survived, people have been penny broke and come out with their heads high. I don’t believe in miracles, I don’t believe that everyone gets what they deserve, I most certainly don’t believe that if you do good, your life will make sense again. I read somewhere recently that the worst mistake one could make is to assume that everyone has a heart like yours; nothing could be truer.

The wonderful (read: not) thing about Pakistan is the societal support you get, the immense feeling of pride that blossoms within you when people all around you constantly make you feel smaller than you are, make you feel uglier, unsuccessful and second class because of your marital status. I don’t think I ever realised how old 27 was until I got back, with everyone around suddenly pushing marriage proposals, or worse, the idea that there were no ‘suitable boys’ left because I was no longer of acceptable age. The concept of the leftover women in China is no different than it is in this part of the world. To be constantly defined by someone by your side is demeaning and heart shattering; the unsaid words are the worst, that’s when you start believing that yourself too. I do too, I am no longer the girl I used to be, rather I’m a shell of a person with no self-esteem and no concept of what my worth to another person might be. Throw in a little anxiety and bam, you have depression in a way you’ve never experienced before. I’ve lost so many people, one or two who meant the stars and the moon to me, but more than that I’ve lost myself.

man-finding-path-e1332620912990

As with everyone, there are good days and bad, but sometimes you have a relatively good moment followed by an intense slump. You might have thought of something, most likely something irrational and unreasonable, but that notion takes birth in your mind and grows into a ginormous octopus with its legs spreading all over your tiny brain. I’m a smart girl I think, a part of me stares at my academic accolades to remind me of that, but the heart is an illogical mess that is inexplicable. You might want something that you know triggers every miserable feeling throughout your body yet you yearn for it or fly towards it as a moth does near light knowing you will not come out unscathed. Did you know heart ache is a real phenomenon? Did you know that sometimes you genuinely dig the palm of your hand over your chest to dull that soul sucking pain that is emanating from your heart? Trust me, neither did I. I’ve been through hell before, I’ve had days where I was on medication to stabilise my heart beat and ease mt anxiety, but this feeling, of feeling paralysed because your mind never shuts down is new to me too.

Mild anxiety and depression keep you from sleeping, they keep you from relaxing, they keep you from functioning. Tiny things help, writing, listening to music, talking to a close friend, small silly things do help, it’s all about finding what will work for you. The worst thing someone can do to you is force you to see someone professional, please don’t do that. In Pakistan you have such a dichotomy of people, there will be a brand of people who will constantly tell you it’s all in your head, and then there will be an entire clique of individuals who will project their personal experiences on you and constantly tell you they’ll make an appointment with a therapist for you, etc. I repeat, please don’t do that. As long as your loved one isn’t suicidal, I assure you they know how deep they’re falling, stop pushing them based on what you think is right for them because the only thing that will happen is that they’ll stop talking to you and that will only isolate them from themselves even further. Be there for them, listen to them, don’t tell them what they’re thinking or expecting is wrong, in all likelihood, they already know they’re wrong and they need to move on somehow, they only tell you because they need to vent, not go down a hard love route.

Be gentle, be there, be supportive and most importantly be their confidence.

TGI(N)F

ifmq3djsFor most people, the weekend is this amazing mini vacation where they get to go out, network, party or simply wind down. Unfortunately this isn’t the case for everyone, for these people the weekend isn’t all fun and games; instead of having all this free time to relax, we have all this free time to think. Think about what we did, think about what we could have done, think about what we should do or just think about why things are the way they are. Captivated by your own mind, without anything to do, you feel stuck and paralysed. The weekend gives you this expectation that things will be different, that you’ll suddenly escape from your monotonous life and have the best time of your life over these two days. This might seem grand and ridiculous, but it’s true, you look forward to the end of the week thinking of all the amazing things you could do or places you could see, but slowly as the days creep by and you get closer to Friday you suddenly realise that nothing changed. Anxiety levels rise and you feel uber lame as it hits you that it’s going to be you and your bed, doing the same boring thing as always – nothing. If you think the water wasn’t deep enough, the clock strikes twelve and it’s officially Saturday. That’s when the depression begins to suck you in like deep sand. You want with all your heart to go out, meet people, do something exciting, but you don’t want to do anything alone, so you become vile and bitter – you hate yourself and you wish you weren’t this scarred person. The days goes by, by now you’ve already second guessed yourself a million times, shred every thought in your mind more times than you can count and possibly even cried your eyes out. Fortunately slumber takes over Sunday night, and you and your sleep deprived self are back to work Monday morning where you tell yourself it’s okay to not do anything because it’s a work week or a school week, so you try to not feel bad about having no life, after all thank God it’s not Friday. But as depressed as you may be, you’re still human and to hope is inherent, so you restart the cycle of having these high flying expectations from the weekend to come and how life will suddenly pivot for you, until of course, it’s Friday and we’re back to square one.

(Image taken from https://twitter.com/lorynbrantz)

Writer-in-Residence

Aside from the several gazillion studies that describe how writing improves psychological health, I can personally vouch for the fact that writing is one of the best therapeutic tools you actually have control over. Expressing how you feel or how you perceived a traumatic and emotional experience won’t rid the incident from your system but somehow being able to voice your deepest thoughts helps you move forward; even if it’s just a millimetre and that too at snail speed, you will move forward.

I can’t say I write every single day; the unhappier the days are the more I remember to need to pull myself together, which just happens to be through writing. You don’t need to be missing a strong support system to turn to yourself through writing; you could have the closest friends and people to turn to but there are still times when I don’t even know how I feel until I actually jot it down. Contrary to popular belief, I am not a closed book; I’m just scared of what the other person might think of what I feel or the things that are ‘real’ to me. As sad as that seems I just don’t open up to everyone but if at some level I manage to connect with you, then trust me you’re in for a ride because I will attach myself to you like a leech and refuse to let go. That also just happens to be why people like me end up feeling more isolated than normal, because if that one person you want to talk to is no longer available, then you no longer know what to do with yourself. This is where writing for you takes on a critical role.

It doesn’t have to be a diary or some structured blog; you could scribble on a sticky note and very well just tear it up immediately after. It’s not supposed to be a piece of literary art, it’s supposed to be for your eyes only, no one is going to check your grammar or the use of flowery language and no one is going to judge you for what you write. That’s the entire purpose of this tiny action, you discover the underlying emotional expression you’re feeling, you can scream and shout without the associated guilt of what the subject of your anger or hurt or even envy might think of you for saying those things. This form of self-reflection unburdens you, if only by a little from the stress of holding on to your feelings.

If you’ve lost someone, write to them, whether that’s someone who unfortunately passed away or a relationship that ended. Say anything and everything you want, whether that’s a confessional of sorts, an apology or a justification for what you may have done, an emotional outburst of the hurt you’re feeling or just a list of questions surrounding your very real existential crisis, and then just tuck it away somewhere safe for yourself. Trust me when I say you’ll be able to let go of some of the things you’re feeling easier than you have ever been able to before. By giving a sanctuary to the writer within you, you help yourself achieve whatever level of catharsis you can, whether that’s a mountain or a mole hill, it’ll still be therapeutic and there’s no undermining that.

dr-seuss-quote

Beth Evans Art

I absolutely adore these drawings that artist Beth Evans draws and shares on her Instagram account. Without disregarding the real issue at hand, she depicts the inner workings of an anxious mind with these cute and uber relatable images.

New Picture (1)

labels can be hard but you’re still a person who has feelings and thoughts and goals!

A photo posted by Beth Evans (@bethdrawsthings) on Feb 23, 2016 at 7:40am PST

//platform.instagram.com/en_US/embeds.js

 

 

New Picture

night time feelings

A photo posted by Beth Evans (@bethdrawsthings) on Feb 17, 2016 at 8:21pm PST

//platform.instagram.com/en_US/embeds.js

 

 

The Five Stages of Grief

a3a6741735ea5f1d5945514547790943

(Image taken from https://www.pinterest.com/pin/273593746082521827/)

There are 5 wonderfully awful stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance; inevitable phases of your life as you mourn the loss of a loved one; deaths, breakups or just the slow drifting away of friends that were once your dearest. The only molecule of hope is that one day you will get through each of the stages, one day you’ll see a movie or a picture and won’t break down into a ball of misery; you’ll feel nothing, perhaps a fleeting smile but not the urge to reach out or hold them once more, and that’s the one day you’ll realise that you have officially and finally gotten through this.

  1. Denial – The first pathetic stage comes in the form of numbness. You basically don’t even realise what just happened, it’s not that you necessarily reject the actuality of the event; a part of you knows it happened, you know that person is gone or will be gone, but subconsciously you like to believe this is a temporary situation, everything will be okay, you give yourself time, you give the other person space. But on some level you know this isn’t going to change so you shut down emotionally in entirety. For someone with anxiety, this level of indifference is something I suggest you cherish while you have it. You go moment by moment without feeling, there’s no pain, there’s no joy, there is literally nothing your heart and mind can hold on to, but physically you escape the feeling that your soul is shrivelling.
  1. Anger – Before you know it, your denial turns into hot fiery anger. Some of you may shout and scream, throw your phone against a wall exasperated (yes I’ve known people to do that) or even resort to texting horrendous things to a significant other if a breakup is what you’re going through. Someone like me, I’m sorry it’s not quite as simple, I don’t think I’ve ever shouted at anyone, the fear of someone not liking me if I said something mean to them overpowers all other feelings I may have, so this anger, it unfortunately becomes self-directed. You could go from clenching fists questioning why it was that one thing this other person did to shake everything to the core, to an intense level of self-loathing, hating why you couldn’t be a certain way to have been more liked, more lovable. This need to keep everything to yourself holds back the other stages of grief from unravelling and keeps you from moving on.
  1. Bargaining – In between bouts of anger, you often wonder if there was some way you could make things right again. You make promises to yourself, to others, to the higher authority you believe in, that you’d do anything and everything if for even one moment life could return to how it used to be. You realise how you took certain aspects in life for granted, the person you lost, you mourn their traits, you bereave their very existence, and you end up begging for some sort of reprieve. You are suddenly willing to accept flaws that you know you don’t deserve, you resort to the unknown such as palmistry or astrology just for some momentary sense of certainty that your future will change. If the individual you lost is still alive, you might even go knocking on their door, pleading for them to come back. Please don’t forget, this doesn’t have to be a significant other, it could be a friend (never underestimate the power of any social relation). Bargaining should be seen as an addiction, it’s one of those things you know is bad for you but sometimes you crave happiness so much that you forego any sense of what you truly want and to avoid uncertainty or the forthcoming depression you just wish you could go back. My suggestion? Enlist a sponsor! Trust one friend, it can even be a pen-pal, someone completely anonymous you found online (be safe, of course); but have that one person you can talk to. This is even more important if you’re going through a relationship breakup, in a relatively conservative society you can’t be wallowing around complaining to your parents that you lost the love of your life, rather than being honest you would most probably say you were fine or disgusise it as something you believe they would find more acceptable, such as problems at work or my favourite ‘I’m just not feeling well’. Whenever you have the urge to say something or question what went down, message that person, and treat them like a soundboard, sometimes all you really want is for someone to not just hear you out, but actually listen. If you don’t want to do that, then write a journal. As lame as it may sound, writing is honestly the most therapeutic mechanism you could come across and should never be discarded lightly.
  1. Depression – You were probably anxious and depressed throughout so it wouldn’t be too crazy to assume that you thought you’d never actually enter a separate phase of ‘depression’. Unfortunately, you’re wrong. Whether this is an hour, a day, a month or a year later, it’ll happen and that is a time you’ll realise how much easier the first three stages were. Slowly you realise that the person is truly not coming back, you finally realise that empty gap they left in your life, you inadvertently realise this was a loss that has transformed who you are and left you as nothing you were before. Someone with a history of anxiety will break out into panic attacks, your heart will race, and your palpitations will take over to such an extent that you’ll often be left grasping on to anything near you to stop yourself from collapsing. If you thought I was exaggerating, trust me I wish I was, while you gasp for air, you cry your heart out and hope with everything in your soul that the term ‘tears have dried up’ was actually real. Whether you lost a partner, a parent, a friend or even an animal, you will feel that loss more than others, it’s not because you feel sadness more irrationally, you also love more deeply, you get attached too quickly and you expect more because you are one of those people who gives everything you are and more to make another person happy, for their happiness is how you define yourself. Believe you me, this is not how I think a person should be, but this is what the bittersweet truth of the anxious is, we believe that other people are always better than us so we live to please them. You will swing from insomnia to sleeping forever, you’ll forget to eat and then binge eat the very next day, you’ll be so physically exhausted but so emotionally wired that your life will literally pass you by in a blur because you truly believe this is it for you, that there will be no pot of gold waiting at the end of the rainbow.
  1. Acceptance – You may truly never be the person you were before or be ‘okay’ with having lost a soul from your life, but with time you learn to accept the situation. In spite of what happened, you find new ways to live life, you may lean on new people or find new hobbies to keep yourself occupied or simply readjust, but at the end of the day you reorganise your life and evolve into a new individual who can enjoy the hustle and bustle around you. It is the hope of this feeling that you need to hold on to, even in the darkest of times you need to remember that nothing in this world is permanent, and just like that you’ll slowly learn to laugh again.

Not everyone goes through these stages in the same way, for most people it’s a game of ping pong, you move back and forth between stages, especially my favourite stage of all time, depression (rolls eyes). For some people you’ll strip yourself so brutally that it’ll take you longer to recuperate not just emotionally but physically as well. Other people may move on within a few days. The important point to note here is that not everyone is the same, you will essentially go through the same feelings, but the intensity of each emotion depends on how you’ve been built and there is absolutely no judgement on that. My personal recommendations on dealing is to a) confide in others, whether that’s a diary or a friend and b) please remember social media is a farce, not everything you see depicts the whole story, if it’s a trigger (which it almost is in all circumstances) then try to stay away from it (Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, you name it). If you’ve lost someone you find the mere joy expressed by others stifling, at other times you come across the very person you’re mourning with new friends or new partners completely oblivious to your pain; so while this very staying away sounds difficult just try small things like switching off your notifications. You have no idea how soothing it could be to be unshackled from this artificially hyped up world of expectations, even if just for a little while. But most importantly, never forget that everyone feels differently, your sad may not be my sad, but at the end of the day we’re all going to be okay.

Helping Yourself

While I don’t condone drugs, under the circumstances with the right conditions, you sometimes need what I’d like to refer to as happy pills. No these are not what you think, rather they’re prescribed anti-depressants or anti-anxiety tablets; my only objection against this is that they place a temporary lid on the pot of issues, they don’t manage them and they certainly don’t teach you how to deal.

I recently met someone who shared the following quote by a Nobel laureate. It really got to me because while we may not believe it, as we trudge along our baggage of insecurities, the only one holding ourselves back is truly ourselves.

510651

I’m a great proponent of therapy, I don’t think they’re fluffy, they teach you basic coping mechanisms which help you in your daily life, for someone like me who at times can’t function as the anxious bundle that I become, you need these life lessons to be able to live. For some whose level of anxiety and panic is limited to exams or teenage relationship issues (no judgement whatsoever), you may not understand the darkness that envelopes you and the level of self loathing that comes with it. For those who do understand or are struggling to find a way, just read through some of the ways you can deal, trust me these are tried and tested, I am in no way claiming that I’ve healed, but without them I assure you life is much more miserable.

 

Hear See – Things to Do?

Without a doubt, living with any form of mild depression means that you wallow in self pity when you’re stuck at home, but the entire idea of going outside involves a whole different set of anxiety; who will I hang out with, where will I go, what will I wear, will it be expensive, what if I’m imposing? Yes, trust me, I know. So what I’m going to try and do here is try to find a few things for you to do in Lahore, Pakistan and London, United Kingdom. Even if I can’t go, I want to be able to help those who can.

Stuck in the Middle

Even though I preach this a lot, often failing to for lack of better words ‘self implement’, it’s important to understand that depression comes in different shapes and sizes. A one size fits all mechanism can’t be applied here, no single cure and definitely no unanimous cause. Everyone is different and that’s exactly the note I want to lead with. Some people get thrust into this black hole of emotion by no predicament of their own, I like to blame genetics for this; others get sucked into a whirlpool of their circumstances, lets just blame the environment for this. Before you think I’m someone who just talks, lets just go out and settle this, I’ve had anxiety in different forms for years now but it was in 2009 when I realised this for the first time, after that it’s been pretty much a rollercoaster ride. Once you’ve hit absolute rock bottom, it’s so easy to sink right back in and it takes everything within your soul to pull yourself out of that, so you see the good and hope around you. You could very well be an intensely strong warrior with absolutely no deep grieving memories that altered your universe, you could be the ying to your own yang, that’s the absolute beauty of this curse, anyone can melt down when struck with this lightning of feelings, it doesn’t have to be apparent, hell it doesn’t even have to take over your entire life, but you’ll know how much it affects you, you’ll know how it’s changed you and you’ll know what it’s taken from you and sometimes that’s all that matters. This haunting feeling of being stuck in the middle, apparently “normal” but fighting demons that peril you behind this facade. This is exactly what this blog is, it’s not going to be a cry-me-a-river saga but a virtual support group, even if I’m only the one with the rant, so you realise that even though the society around you shuns you or thinks this isn’t real, unless of course you’re really lucky and let’s say progressive, that you’re not alone and believe you me, I know its real and absolutely crippling even if just emotionally.