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.

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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.

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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)

The Five Stages of Grief

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(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.

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.