#WorldMentalHealthDay

A few years ago during the depths of my depression and anxiety, a friend asked me how depression felt. She could not fathom how someone could be sad and not happy. Sadly, depression is not just sadness. It is not just a fleeting emotion, it becomes embedded in you and manifests physically. It drags you down like an anchor. Imagine being out in the calm sea with weights on your ankle, you will be pulled under, now imagine trying to swim with these weights during a storm. These weights are a part of you, you can’t just get rid of them, just like you can’t snap out of depression. My depression, although not as prominent, has left me with the side effect of anxiety. Over time I found the strength to talk about my feelings openly and ground myself during moments of raging emotions. I learnt to distinguish between my brain and mind. Mental health becomes an internal war physicality of the chemical imbalance, memories and pathways in one’s brain and how the mind would like to precieve things. I remember my mind not wanting to be depressed, I was constantly fighting thoughts, memories and emotions. So on this day to anyone at war internally, I say “Keep fighting the good fight.” the beautiful content and calm is worth it.

Below you will find my attempt at explaining the inner workings of my brain during the depths of my depression all those years ago:

Part I

Breathless.
Stolen air.
Hands quiver.
Written material distorts,
Only deciphered by a shaken voice.
Pain.
Chest tightens.
Visionary foresaw the bitter fall.

Captivated;
By lost moments.
Thoughts;
Clouded by hearsay.
Doubts;
Asphyxiate common sense.
Self hate;
Reflective of the current soul.
Secondary voices;
Conduct character assassination.
Nails embed skin.
To be skinned alive,
Never felt more naked.
Exposed;
Everything becomes a weapon.
Tear oneself to pieces.
In hope of dismantling the sadness.
Death;
Welcomed with open arms,
If it ensures escape from this prison.

They remind you of the punishment.
The grave will not be easy.
But unknown seems better than present infliction.

I call out.
I ask.
I beg.
I don’t want these thoughts.
I don’t want to be like this.
No willingness.
My soul made murky by the chemical imbalance.

Part II

A sound human.
Helping others to heal.
But unable to heal her own trauma.

I beg.
I ask.
I call.
I am more powerful than this.
Always have been.
An addiction to helplessness.
A fool eclipsed my first aid.
There is no hero.
No one will come to save you.
But the faint whispers – call you back.
Listen.
Focus.
With all your might, block the sounds of others.
And it will amplify.
It will banish the darkness of one’s soul.
And reignite it with renewed light.
You will live pondering;
“How stupid must I be, to attempt to take away my greatest gift – life?”
Until next time.
Recall this rebellion.

Seven unsure years

Seven years. Seven unsure years and tonight I can’t seem to fall asleep. It’s the jitter of excitement, the rattling of nerves and the fading voices of encouragement. Then the room fades to black. I am alone, where the shadows replay the last seven years and pundits provide commentary.

Somewhere along the night rhythm I switched off and found myself suddenly tumbling out of bed with the sunlight. The nerves were still knocking around in the pits of my stomach. My mind was still playing reruns of the last few years and my heart reminded me about the aches of old wounds. There is only one cure to this – a run.

Lap after lap, every time I choked I felt an energy surge to run a bit faster, to run with purpose – perhaps running was my way to ensure I don’t have to face this pain, which may dampen my day. When I got too tired to run, I started kickboxing. Maybe it was the sun, maybe it was my defences weakening but it crept in – the memories of the growth, escape from the shackles and the climb from my own grave. I had mistaken this remembrance for sadness, rather it was an appreciation to sweeten this momentary success. As I flipped my face to the sun and stretched I let it happen for the first time – I let happiness wash over, I let it sink deep into my roots and nourish me to into a golden state. This level of happiness was unreal and I was blessed with a mind which was determined to never forget the bottom that we came from.

For the first time everyone was ready on time to leave, no hiccups and general elation had spread amongst the family. Individuals of the household all with their own agenda and purpose for this memory being created.

Parents tend to know, in extensive detail, about the places where we spend most of our time. Unlike school there is no parents evening for them to appreciate the journey. For years they must have imagined what it looked like, with the tales of my university days to assist them. My parents never had the opportunity to obtain an education. So I felt honoured to invite them to the place that quenched my thirst for knowledge and made me cry and smile simultaneously.

Both of them were excited to meet the lecturers, for them University was a dream. They say we tend to push the accomplishment of our failed dreams and desires through to our children. I know I completed one of my life goals, but my parents waited a whole generation to see their dreams become accomplished. I remember Dad being excited to meet the lecturers but became star struck when he met them, unable to say anything for fear of sounding uneducated. In this society they felt alien, not quite right for the surrounding people. But they were far from it. I was only able to cross that stage with their support; from my father teaching me long division to my mother teaching me the alphabet. They gave me the building blocks, drive and sustenance to finish this degree. It was the endless duas, pep talks and manner lessons, which elevated me to become an independent woman ready to take on anything. I was honoured to have two people whose first language was not English present at my graduation; so they could experience how proud I was of them, for bringing me into the world and creating the circumstances for me to experience this spectrum of emotions and moments. Despite everything they took this rebel child and tamed her to see beyond the clouds and have hope always.

As I walked across the stage I felt it showering on me, the memories, the moments, the faces, the tears and hand holding but here I walked alone. Alone? People are only supports, they are merely the tide but you are the one who swims across the sea. Only you can muster the energy to make it to the other side. So there I was crossing the stage and I smiled and told myself for the first time, ‘I am proud to be you’. For years I crawled in my own skin wishing I didn’t exist, hating everything I was physically, mentally and intellectually. I guess I achieved another goal, I found and learnt to start loving myself. It is funny these are things most people do instinctively but I had spent the last 2 years training myself.

Both my brothers made my heart full with the joy they expressed, it made me feel important. My achievements had become their inspiration to achieve their aspirations against the beating winds. They were the ones who came into my darkness with a hand and courage to push me to continue when I wanted to quit.

Only Allah knows the divine plan behind why certain people are placed strategically into our lives. As I exited the Rose theatre, where the ceremony took place, I saw her standing outside with her confused broad smile and a colourful bunch of flowers. The emotions ran up to my face as I embraced her. In that moment, the bustle of the people slowed down as I recalled when this girl held my hand in the prayer room, looked me in the eyes and told me ‘You are stronger than this, don’t give in. You will graduate, I believe that you will.’ She was there on countless days wiping my tears, answering my 12am texts when I had given up life and the one who pulled me back to reality. She was instrumental in my recovery and was one of the three people who saved me from the unthinkable. I introduced her to my mum who cried as she hugged her and thanked her for helping me out of my personal hell in this dunya. We both looked at each other, the look alone was enough to cover what words could not and then she departed.

The sun was setting creating the golden hour, my highlight was shimmering but there was another light emanating from within me and had become infectious. My family took our last photos as the day came to an end, concluding with my father taking his once in alifetime selfie with me. I stared at this photo and didn’t see a damaged relationship between father and daughter, but just pure blinding love. Life is more than just chasing happiness, it’s finding purpose in all the little moments, it’s pooling all the events like ingredients to create a lasting memory full of gratitude and appreciation.

Drifting melancholy clouds,

Shahe

Decision: To Bride or not to Be

I guess this is the most difficult post I’ve written to date.
I have been left to make a decision.
All the pieces are in play and position.
I believe I have the move to achieve checkmate, but I hesitate.
The fear of the unknown and infinite possibilities cast uncertainty on the manoeuvre.

Familiarity and reliance on the memories of similar situations help guide the decision: to execute or hold back. Therefore, I remember. I remember the time before the journey to recovery; recollecting my feelings as a young girl. My situation, the obstacles and horror stories of my childhood, led a younger self to concoct a story to cope with the pain. I believed wholeheartedly, the only escape from this life was to be rescued by an man – To find my life partner, so he can whisk me away from this life to happiness. Looking back it sounds ludicrous to believe a fictional tale and it’s characters will fulfil my constant need for happiness. As I grew older and wiser, I broke the tunnel and developed full peripheral vision. No longer one with rainbow coloured sunglasses or obscured vision. When I hit the lowest depths of depression I realised no one rescues you. People may provide a boost, but they are unable to take you to the other side – To freedom. This is a journey you take alone, one where you and your mind form a beautiful relationship of acceptance. Thus over the last 3 years my yearning for a life-partner has diminished, as I fell in love with myself and fell out of love with others. I have created a safe bubble which I am afraid to disturb by becoming emotionally available.

In play was my self worth or shall I say lack of self worth. I was afraid of my story – so frightened that it would deter people. Scared of the rejection, I would put up and accept anyone because I didn’t think I was anything special, not a jewel more a stone. I only hardened because of the ghouls of my past, they tormented me til 2016. For 15 years the ghouls and demons kept coming; leaving resonance of their shadows, clouding the serotonin and dopamine. So I slept a lot longer, wept a lot longer, fret with angst until I lost myself and all that remained were remnants of a better time. The story is etched in me. My mannerism, unpredictable emotions, tone of voice, phobia of mistakes – manifested as procrastination, the need to be accepted and the fear of loving and being loved. The partial recovery has yet to completely restore the self worth, as I still find myself asking who would want me with all these page turning chapters. It’s easier to love the character when you are reading but not so much when you are a part of the story. With so much expectation on acceptance how do I leave the comfort of my bubble for a risk, an uncalculated risk with unpredictable outcomes. This is a definitive decision, it will form the blurb of the sequel. Unlike literature there is no spoiler, no skipping the pages or fast forwarding. No way of knowing the ending, will it be a happily ever after? Will he be enough, will I be enough… Will we be enough? How do I make a decision without answers? It’s all a leap of faith but I am unsettled, unsure if I can make the jump.

So here I am about to make a decision to say yes or no. One leads to vulnerability whilst the other leads to independence.

I wrote this post a while back, a few months ago to be exact. The reason why, simple.. I googled blog posts on how I was feeling about reluctance and fear of marriage and found nothing. For an South Asian girl accomplishing the milestone of university, means you have passed onto the next stage of the game, where it’s all fanfares and celebration until you see your next challenge – the matchmakers, the glaring-judging aunts and the constant theme song “How long will you keep her single?”, “She is getting old” and fan favourite “When will you get married?”.

Being single becomes a disease with the only cure being a man of stature… he must be educated, in a ‘good’ job, be pious and from the right village. But no one asks: are you ready, what do you want? Because what else could you possibly want other than a man; when you’ve spent the last few years learning to be self-sufficient. This is all occurs after the ripe age of 23 (give or take a few years), because everyone knows by 26 a woman’s ovaries dry up and she is of no use.

This post is for any girl who is wondering is it NORMAL to not want to get married YET. Is it normal to be unsure and unsettled…. to wonder “I have so much more to accomplish and I do not know if I am ready for another person to enter my sphere, a space which I have carefully cultivated, after removing the weeds of my youth whom sought self-validation in others.” It is normal and you are not alone in your thoughts. I am lucky my parents will never pressure me, but they do feel the pressure as parents to complete their responsibility to ensure I find a life partner. This post is not about arranged marriage but the pressure of marriage and the anxiety that accompanies it.

Bouquets and white doves,

Shahe

University Reflections: First Day

A young impressionable teenager entered university looking for success, with only a backpack filled with experiences from a small corner of London, Newham. I remember the day, the first day. My father and myself planned our route to another part of the UK using TfL journey planner, (which I later found was not the best resource for quickest routes). A mind can be very narrow if you’ve never left the M25. Having spent the last 18 years wrapped in cotton wool, my parents weren’t ready to let me walk alone to unknown territory. I still remember the milestone of walking to sixth form alone.

We took the train to Waterloo; father and daughter. His hands fumbled over one another with angst, whilst her feet tapped with excitement. At that time I didn’t know what waited ahead and had I known, the excitement would’ve faded, the worry would have set and it is possible, I would’ve turned back to the comfort of my home.

At Waterloo, we booked my ticket to Kingston on the southwest train. The butterflies started to flutter once I held the paper ticket. Somehow (I believe through emotional blackmail) I persuaded my parents to let me do the journey to Kingston by myself, but to compromise my father agreed only if he drops me half way. Hence there we were at Waterloo. He pressed my shoulder as his voice quivered, “My child, may you arrive there in good health. Call us once you get there, your mum will worry.” Now my father, you should know two things:

  1. He does not show public displays of affection – he believes fathers are an authoritative figure and to show affection would be improper. This is most likely due to example set by my grandfather, a navy command general.
  2. If he wants to express any direct love, he redirects it through my mother. So let’s read that again: My dad pressed my shoulder as his voice quivered, “My child, may you arrive there in good health. Call us once you get there, your mum will worry.” There is a handful of times a parent will be close to tears, each of these moments are one tin which the child etches closer to adulthood and further away from dependency on parents. This moment in time, we shared amongst the bustle of one of the busiest train stations in London, would not be recreated until the day I get married. A father who repressed his emotions and negates any form of affection, broke his shield and gave me a glimpse. Little did I know this was the beginning of many more to come.

I remember checking the platform several times on the overhead screens. So many places, who knew England had so many destinations. I looked for Strawberry Hill. Read the list, saw Kingston and walked timidly to the platform. Father as protective as ever wanted to follow through the gates and in true Bollywood style wave goodbye at the platform. Alas he was not allowed and for the first time of many, I boarded alone to a foreign destination.

The train ride was long, I was use to the pace of tube lines, to the underground life and city metropolis. But here I was going southwest leaving the city and into greenery more than what I had seen in a lifetime. I was a tourist in my own country. Amazed by this new side of England. Although, I had been soothed by the general rocking of the train, the palpitations returned as the train announced the next stop was Kingston. The butterflies were jumping, fluttering frantically as if they had been prisoners for too long.

The bus stops outside Kingston Station were badly sign posted. It was difficult to work out what stop to wait at when there was over 8 stops located in one pathway. I asked a guy in a high vis, his response, “Go look at the board love.” But I had looked, yet I remained… . I convinced myself to jump on the next bus no matter what it was. Luckily it was the 281, I walked quickly to the stop. Loads of people were getting on to the bus, so it must have been the right one. I confirmed with the bus driver and he told me how many stops to count. At each stop the passengers getting off would say ‘Thank You’ and when getting on to the bus would greet the driver and wish him well. This was a foreign concept for an East Londoner but it became a quickly adopted habit.

I arrived at the University and had trouble locating the entrance. It seem to blend in with the mix of modern historic buildings, but the bold blue sign gave it a way. I followed the buzz of people and bumped into a girl I recognised from a programme I did in college, she had applied for the same course. We nervously laughed and giggled and both pretended we knew what we were doing. In reality I was trying to consume this step I had taken, and by clinging onto this other person I thought no one would realise I was very much lost and confused.

Induction involved a ugly head shot, which resulted in my head looking like cross between a pumpkin and a potato. I am not exaggerating, when I first presented my ID for student discount the guy verbally agreed and launched into laughter. This photo haunted me throughout my whole seven years at university. We received our timetable and the heart murmur began, as if it was dancing off beat to a new song. I was about to begin a journey of a chapter I thought was written, but evidently it just started on the day I entered university with the remaining innocence of childhood and the optimistic start of adulthood. The prose of my university time was unique to all other life chapters. It called upon past and future events to influence my persona. It rewrote the soul, relinquished demons and redefined my values and core goals. No longer one to chase happiness, wealth and love. Now I ride a wave with long term sustainability: balance, health and kindness.

 

First day tips:

  1. Make sure you got your face looking good for your ID photo, the photo is taken so quickly so know your angles. When in doubt give your best grin. Don’t wear a coloured or pattern scarf unless it’s a neutral colour like beige.
  2. Use Citymapper app to navigate to your new destinations, don’t trust TfL.
  3. Don’t worry about making friends, no one knows anyone. It’s a blank page and a huge establishment you will find your niche of people.
  4. Be prepared to fake the confidence and approach people.

Recovery

After CBT, I thought I was better. I thought I had my shit together. Like pills I popped a few CBT sessions and now I am cured. The bitter truth is: everyday is recovery. There is no definitive end point. This is a horrible truth to hear, I know. It’s sad people don’t truly understand, they don’t get the blip in your heart; the shadow in the corners of your brain. It waits and festers.

Everyday, however the quality of life improves. During the initial attack, I didn’t know what to do. I spent the last couple of years evading it with numerous techniques. But now I am trying to own it. I am trying to own every emotion. Find the relevance in how I feel.

Every blessing and adversity all formed the growth. The growth that allowed me to cultivate a light for my darkness. I am not quite there but I am not too far gone either.

Earth’s light

It was the green-ness of the earth that saved me. Blessed to witness it’s rebirth after a harsh winter. Admiration for their growth against the struggles of the world. And the light… The beautiful light – It made the dark sparkle.

There was a time when I asked tomorrow not to come. Now I cherish my first breath of tomorrow, as I rise from my slumber; humbled by the earth and awoken by the light.

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Pre-Exams

Based on a old post to inspire anyone going through a struggle or like myself are worried about exams. Trusting someone whom is not physically there, or can’t not be seen has been mankind’s greatest difficulty. We are not the first,  nor will we be the last. But my whole life I was told to believe in a Lord and I did as I was told. I believed. I no longer just believed, I knew. The world, my experiences and life itself connected together to show me His existence. For those who are familiar with Surah Rahman, a single ayat repeated several times “Of which of these favours of your Lord will you deny?” (paraphrased).  In that particular Surah I feel addresses mankind’s need for confirmation.

My blessings came in many forms. And I look over the last couple of years, I was always being tested for my ability to trust in Allah. Some say trust the universe and in essence it is a similar concept, but would my trust not be better placed in the Creator of the universe. I am still alive and this is a miracle. Having faced near death at least 4 times in the last 3 years; I feel privileged to be alive and live everyday like tomorrow may not exist. Some days this is easier then others and some days, I need this reminder more than anything.  I’ve seen my prayers manifest in such a way my heart has been opened to see the answers and responses to my prayers and be forever grateful. Alhamdulilah. I didn’t need this to confirm the existence of Allah because I made that connection a while back, via salaah and ‘ilm (knowledge). Don’t blindly follow –  seek knowledge from the appropriate sources, only that way will you learn to know Allah and begin to build that trust. The very trust which will give you freedom from the heartbreaks of this Dunya. Have a blessed night and may Allah always shower you with love and success in all your endeavours.

“…And whoever relies upon Allah – then He is sufficient for him. Indeed, Allah will accomplish His purpose. Allah has already set for everything a (decreed) extent.” – Holy Quran (65:3)

New Year, New climb

“As you get older the years go faster” – Mum

I am taking some monumental steps in life affirming and changing decisions, as mid twenties brings a fresh array of choices and options. But for now, I’ll stay on this step and enjoy the view. Take it all in. Pay gratitude to the lessons of yester-year and appreciation to the good, the bad and the ugly – all experiences are shapers of the soul and heart.

Depression didn’t just take away happiness and cause emotional imbalance. It took my identity, it took my source to write, to articulate my thoughts with confidence… This is the side no one talks about. It’s not just about having a healthy mind but it’s also rebuilding and rediscovering cornerstones of yourself. This quest is an element of self-love. It’s finding who you want to be and strengthening the qualities. It’s remembering who you were and the personal traits you want to acquire. For example, I forgot how lead with kindness and I have spent the last 8 months learning to lead differently. Have role models in place, so you have aspiration and guidance – I found mines at work. They showed me a different way.

Last year I was trying to find myself again. This year I am trying to find my voice again.

Crisp new beginnings,

Shahe

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Present 

I choose to be present. 
In every moment and lingering feeling.
I choose to feel the ground below me.
Let the vibrations shudder through me.
The tightness in the chest, as the heart beats a little faster.
It has found resolve in being aligned with time.
Not a beat ahead or a second behind.
With every breath, with every rise and fall of the chest,
I stand a little taller.
I choose to be present.
Make use of warmth
Bought by the touch of skin.
Hands revealing maps of lesser travelled routes.
Determined to follow what we know.
I choose to be free.
From the constraints of history lessons and future plans.
I choose to soar.
To be amongst  the stars.
Let the sun soak into the depths of my skin.
Let the moon make me glisten.
I choose to live.
Right here.
Right now.