mental health

Self Affirmation

In the style of Chani Nicholas horoscopes, I am writing a self-affirmation today. I know there are a great number of things I need to let go of before I leave home. It feels like it’s taking forever to move and start at my new job. I think my greatest weakness is not actually transitions, but waiting. Waiting is awful. It fills me with restlessness, knowing that something different is about to begin, but having to go a month or so with nothing to do, waiting for the damn thing to start.

Someone who I trust once told me that in order to move forward, sometimes we must let go of things that weigh us down. Frequently, I find the things I have to leave behind are actually things I hold quite dear. Without further ado, though, I give myself permission to let go of them.

I give myself permission to not ask permission. I give myself permission to do whatever I damn well please and to not feel guilty for doing so. I take the wheel in the car of my life. I direct myself to where I need to go and what I need to do because I know myself better than anyone else. If this means I spend money and indulge myself, I permit it. If this means I give myself pleasure and feel good in my own body, I permit it. If this means I eat all the sweetest, the saltiest, and the most savory things I can find, I permit it. If this means I do nothing but watch shows on Netflix, listen to music, or read novels for hours on end, I permit it. I will not feel bad giving myself the things I want and need. I will not feel bad treating myself like a whole, complete, feeling, thinking human being, and this includes giving my body a rest, giving my mind a rest, and feeling worthy of the gifts I give myself.

I give myself permission to not meet other people’s expectations. How I measure up in other people’s eyes means nothing if I do not meet the expectations I set for myself. The only expectation I give myself is to live life fully, to enjoy every minute. I promise myself that I will pursue the things that give me peace. Money is meaningless, time is meaningless, admiration from others is meaningless if I do not fulfill myself. Thus, I promise myself that I will walk in green places, that I will admire every tree and flower I come across because this reminds me that I am alive. I will wear clothes that I am comfortable in to remind myself that I have never been more beautiful, more attractive, or sexier than I am at this very second. I will cultivate relationships with people that are meaningful to me, regardless of what others may think of the people I maintain those relationships with. I will give myself fully to their brilliance, have faith in their judgment, and give them my utmost loyalty because they have done the same for me, and because society does not always deem worthy the people who deserve the most. I will go to places that feed my sense of adventure, places that intrigue me and fill me with a sense of wonder. I will go to the places that feed my soul. I will go where I can see the stars at night, where I can find the histories that are not told, where I can find artists like me, where I can hear the rain and feel the sun, and not just in 30-minute, pre-determined break periods.

I give myself permission to let some relationships lapse so that newer, healthier ones can grow. I give myself permission to let some relationships change. I will let go of the people who do not listen to me, who are not aware of my intelligence, and who are not capable of understanding how their actions impact me. I will let go of the judgment people throw at me for being so willing to let go of harmful relationships. Other people do not know me the way I do; they do not know what is good for me the way I do. It is not my responsibility to change people who are toxic. It is also not my responsibility to maintain relationships where there are obvious inequalities in feelings or investment in the relationship. Furthermore, I will learn to navigate the changes that come in relationships. I will learn to accept the things people I love do to survive, even though I think they deserve better. Just as they have no right to tell me what to do, I have no right to tell them how to live their lives. I will learn to accept that people I love might keep secrets from me. When they want to, they will tell me in due course. I will learn to accept that people I love may feel joy in different things than I do. It is not my place to judge them for what brings them joy. I will learn to accept that people I love may receive things that I myself want. It is not my place to covet them because I have so much to celebrate myself, and my time will come in due course.

I give myself permission to change my narrative. I give myself permission to ask for what I want from people. I give myself permission to change my environment to suit my needs. I give myself permission to feel the things I feel fully and without conditions because no one should feel shame for having feelings. I ground myself in the things that make me feel sure of myself, so that I may reach for things I never dreamed could be mine.

 

The End-of-July Emotional Follow-Up

On the 12th of July, I created this post on my internal state at the time. I think the word that could best sum up the sentiments then is “despair.” I told myself that I would come back to my emotional state in a week, and as it is now the end of July, I am well past my own deadline for that evaluation.

At this point, I think I have transitioned into a state of hope. While that may seem like a better place to be, I am always slightly wary when I feel hopeful. It could mean that I have, yet again, set my sights on something impossible.

In fact, I’m not sure if hope is what you can reasonably call this feeling. Perhaps this is just what it feels like to be motivated. I read an email yesterday that really pissed me off and has changed my opinion of the sender. The two of us both happen to be looking for jobs at the moment. I have vowed from this point on to unequivocally do better than them. I will be better than they are at all the interviews we go to together. I will get a job before they do. In the height of my anger last night, I swore I would get a job by the end of August. I suppose you will see a post in another month about that.

On a different note, I am simultaneously scared and somewhat happier that I am gradually making peace with living in my parents’ home. The fear comes from how easy it is for me to become complacent. While adjustment to any new situation usually takes me a long time (especially since I haven’t lived at home in 6 years!), once I’m done adjusting, I can be quite reluctant to move again.

Then I wondered, what is here in Tampa that was never there in Northampton? Bhangra! Garba! Durga Puja! Diwali! All my favorite dance teams! All my favorite holidays, celebrated in full splendor! If I am here, I will not watch from afar in October while other people dance, while other people light the lamps, while other people set off fireworks!

If I am here.

The other possibility is that I will spend October adjusting to a city I do not yet know. I will try to make new friends. I hope I will live alone. It might be a quiet month, if there is not a large Indian community in the city I go to. Who knows what I will and will not have access to?

I’ll leave on this thought. There is something wrong with a system in which I can so thoroughly relate to this sentiment:

comic

Adam Ellis Comics

I generally feel worthless in school for not measuring up, and worthless right now for not “contributing to society” (quotes used here to question what kinds of labor are considered “contributions”, and in what ways they are measured). Ah well. Critical consciousness is such consolation.

 

The mid-July Emotional Checkpoint

You all can probably tell, but I haven’t been acknowledging my feelings much lately. There’s a lot there, and I’m scared to even start on it because I haven’t had a healthy outlet for feelings in probably over 6 weeks. I guess this post is going to serve as the litmus test for how much crazy I have been holding in, and can be the check point for whether or not things will get worse as I progress though this summer. This post will also be interspersed with lots of Manul cats to illustrate my face when I think about these things. This species arguably has more emotional range than a lot of humans I know.

For these past 6 weeks (and actually, the last 6 months, but I was in graduate school until May), I’ve been looking for a job. I don’t know if you’ve looked for a job recently, but let me tell you, the job search. Sucks. So Much. Basically, to keep from feeling like I wasted 6 years of my life, I try not to think about it, even though my excel spreadsheet of over 80 job applications and results continues to grow every day. It doesn’t help that I’m living in my parents’ house while I’m searching for jobs. While I’m thankful that they’re willing to let me eat their food and live in their air conditioning, this is the last place I want to be. Also, as a textbook empath, I tend to pick up on literally everything that either of my parents is feeling. So from my mom, that’s a whole lot of anxiety, and from my dad, apathy. Neither of these emotions are things I like to feel for any length of time, let alone almost two months. At this point, I would gladly spend the last of my savings for even just a different place to live, but that would be stupid without a job to keep me going.

On the topic of being an empath–it’s something that I only recently realized about myself and probably should be explored further. But you know, that’s an emotional process, one that could leave me potentially vulnerable, and being vulnerable is literally the last thing I want to be while I’m interviewing for jobs and living with my parents.

2-Manul-Cat

Let’s not.

Source: Oscar Carlos Cortelezzi’s Flickr

Then there’s the stuff in the news–Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the 5 cops in Dallas. These are upsetting times to live through, even if you have a job and you’re not living with your parents. I can’t bear to watch the news on television, though my parents insist on putting it on promptly at 6:30 every evening. The obvious partiality towards Establishment in television news is deplorable to me. As a result, I stay up until around 4:00 a.m., when everyone else in the house is asleep, taking in other, healthier things, such as the far more accurate reporting in posts that I get from my Facebook feed. No regrets.

As for the actual feelings about these incidents, I think my body is not allowing me to feel those at all, not even when I want to. I think it knows it would be too much to handle without emotional support.

15-Manul-Cat

No feelings. Just no. 

Source: Tambacko the Jaguar’s Flickr

As a result of all this, I’ve withdrawn into books and art. I’m sure you’ve noticed. Four books in two weeks? For me, that’s probably a new record. When I was getting an undergraduate degree and a graduate degree, I discovered I didn’t need to withdraw as much because there were humans with whom I had deeply meaningful relationships, and whom I trusted enough to go out with and have fun. Right now, I don’t feel like I have any of that. Thus, I have regressed to my introverted high school self, the one that read books and made art. INFP. It annoys me that it takes so little for my entire personality to change, but then again, reconnecting to this part of my personality has its rewards. This blog hasn’t fared this well since 2014!

Effectively, I’ve blocked my usual needs for emotional connection and adventure by regressing and denying. That leaves one need that I have not figured out how to deal with yet…and the problem is, when I say “one” need, it’s probably more accurate for me to say “several”. I guess the best approximation of the whole problem in one word is “sexuality”, though for me it means a lot more these days. I mean, sure, there is a certain desire to be with another human being in a sexual sense, but I’m beginning to discover that I’ve never desired a relationship for sex. In the relationships that I enjoyed, I think I frequently took part in sex because the other party wanted it and it pleased me to give them pleasure. Which is not to say that I don’t enjoy or desire sex. I do. I just never seem to want it as much as my heterosexual, masculine partners.

It was the emotional connection that I liked most about these relationships, the fact that these people were willing to reveal some depth about their personalities with me, as well as allow me to get physically close to them. However, it took me many years to realize that one can obtain emotional connection and physical proximity without any sexual interaction.

There are a number of confusing things about myself that arise from all these thoughts. The first would be that I’m asexual in some sense, which also means I’m queer in some sense. Strictly speaking, I’m not actually “out”, and I don’t intend to be. I toyed with the idea of being an “out” queer person, and then I had my horrifically bad experiences in New England and decided that was not something I want to do. At worst, it’s not even in a “It’s just not for me” type of way, it’s a “Wow, I vehemently disagree with the way the queer movement has been appropriated by the United States, and I really don’t fucking want to be a part of that.” That’s a post for another day.

On the other hand, though, I still experience strong attractions. Strong, stupid, idealistic, over-the-top, romantic, INFP/ENFP attractions. I feel them for people I haven’t seen in years. I feel them for people I meet in interviews. I feel them for people I’d rather not feel them for. I feel them for people who do not reciprocate the feelings. And I can’t help feeling like I am in deep, deep shit because in the entirety of my life, I have never sat down and talked to any of my past sexual/romantic partners about any of these things–not one. I picture some distant future in which I’m sitting down on my first date with some (probably masculine?) human and having to say things like, “So what do you want from a relationship?” or even “Do you want a relationship?” For some reason, this causes me the deepest, most unimaginable anxiety, probably because the first thing my brain does is go, “WHICH HUMAN IS GOING TO RESPECT YOU ENOUGH TO GO THROUGH ALL THAT? WHICH HUMAN IS NOT GOING TO BE OVERTLY ABUSIVE AND COERCIVE? WHICH ONE? DO THEY EVEN EXIST?”

9-Manul-Cat

This cat gets me on a deep level. 

Source: Wendy Salisbury’s Flickr

This probably explains a lot about why my past “relationships”, if you can even call them that, were so unsatisfying (with the exception of perhaps one). It also explains why I suddenly feel a paralysis in the realm of starting relationships. I mean sure, I’m on all the online dating websites and I feel attracted to people, I might even flirt once in a while. At heart, though, I’m scared out of my mind. How have I never noticed how safe it is to be alone before now?!

All in all, let’s be real, I need some hella help. I’m scared to seek it out at the moment because I keep thinking I won’t be where I am for long. Let’s say I’ll come back to this post in a week to see if I’m doing any better. I’ll plan what I do about it at that point.

 

On Mental Health

CW: Suicide

Okay, there’s something I’ve been quiet about for a while. I thought maybe I was quiet out of respect for people’s mourning, but I think now I realize that the person these people are mourning for is more important than the mourning.

In October, there was a boy in our community who committed suicide. I won’t use his name for the sake of privacy. He was 18 years old. He had just started his first semester at a university. His family was part of the Indian community that I was familiar with growing up. We used to see him and his parents around at friends’ houses sometimes when there were parties and other gatherings.

He committed suicide. I can’t imagine how painful that must be for his parents and his brother. I can’t imagine what it is like to lose someone into whom you have poured so much love and hope for 18 years.

I think the reaction I have seen from a lot of community members is a marker of how little our community is allowed to celebrate the humanity of people. So much of what I’ve seen are comments about mental health, as in, “mental health is so important! Reach out to me if you ever need help! Oh, and RIP friend!” and the like.

I cannot express the kind of fury this ignites in me. I cannot express how sad it is to me that this boy, who was so talented and so full of life when he was alive, is being reduced to his mental illness after death. I cannot believe people are allowing him to be remembered in this way, as some kind of victim of mental illness. In my opinion, that is an insult to his memory, and an insult to every person who is still alive and fighting for their lives. As a person who is living with depression, I refuse to allow this to be the narrative you tell. He is no longer alive to tell his story, but this is not the story you will tell about him.

Why didn’t it matter enough to you to check in on him while he was still living? Why didn’t it matter to you to tell him you love him while he was alive? Why didn’t you tell him how smart he is, how amazing he is, that you like his company, that he means something to you, while he was alive? Do not dare say another word about how sad it is when someone commits suicide if you are not brave enough to tell people you love them while they are alive.

I have seen people go to all kinds of lengths to avoid responsibility for what has happened. Saying things like, oh, it was the residence hall that was the problem. Oh, he picked such a hard major. Oh, he should have stayed closer to home. Oh, it was this, that, and the other thing, continuously blaming him. As time goes on, the list of accusations gets longer. This tells me that people know exactly what could have been done and just didn’t do it. It is our responsibility at the end of the day. Yes, ours. We are responsible for his death. We, his community, the people who were close to him and did nothing to stop this from happening. It is our fault.

And I have seen people have the nerve to call him selfish for leaving in that way. For writing a note to his parents that he is finally making a decision on his own. This tells me how little people actually know about mental illness. Of course it is selfish. To consider suicide, a person has to feel as though there is no other escape. Taking their lives comes to be a logical option. Unless you have felt that kind of entrapment, you cannot possibly know the pain he was living with in the last few days of his life.

Be a better community for him. You keep complaining about the stigma in this community around mental health. Are you doing anything to help stop the stigma? Are you educating yourself on mental illness? Do you let people know you are present for them when they need help?

Furthermore, are you honest about your own mental health status? This community is known for pushing young people to their limits, making us compete ruthlessly with the people we should be able to go to for support. It is common for young people to feel anxiety and depression without knowing it because they think this is a “normal” way to live life. I certainly did. Take stock of how well you are taking care of yourself. Go further than just the physical necessities of eating and sleeping regularly. Do you surround yourself with upbeat people who care for your well-being? Do you have people in your life who listen to you deeply, who know how to validate your feelings and recognize your pain? Do you have people in your life who take accountability for their actions and admit when they are at fault?

Notice how a lot of these questions have to do with people.

Do better for him. Do not make his story some melodramatic tragedy about depression. Remember his accomplishments, and appreciate how much he achieved in spite of his mental illness. Who knows how long he was affected by it? But he was still brave enough to get out of bed and go to class every day. He was still brave enough to move away from home. Remember his courage. And remember that about all the people who come out to you with their mental illness. Remember that while you suspect they are just lazy, while you accuse them of not trying hard enough, while you say ignorant things like “mind over matter”. I didn’t choose to live this way. No one wants to live with a mental illness. I live in spite of my mental illness.