Posts Tagged ‘mental health’

For the loves that sustain me; Feminist Ma who anchors my heart to herself to keep me safe, Hammie who allows me to be my incredibly problematic self, Hanifia who shines her sun obnoxiously on me till I begrudgingly admit that I like the warmth of her rays, and Monkey whose beautiful smile lights up my day; you are all my heroes because you saved my life.

Also this is done alphabetically so don’t make a big deal out of it okay.

In 2014, Robin Williams hung himself by his own belt after suffering from misdiagnosed dementia, which caused among other problems, paranoia and depression. Chris Cornell took his own life in an apparent suicide. Months later, Chester Bennington hung himself by the door in his own home. Chris took medication for anxiety. Chester suffered from depression and had also been sexually abused as a child. Robin Williams was a beautiful soul who made us all laugh so hard, we never knew whether he laughed with us or not.

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Martha Wainwright, Bloody Motherfucking Asshole

Out of who knows how many people in this world, three people that a lot of people know about due to their fame took their own lives because of mental illness. This is not an article which will quote statistics or facts at you. This is a blog about lived experiences with mental illness. It’s full of the feelz and not even those closest to me can put up with my constant feelings most of the time. But I do not talk about mental illness a lot, because log kia kahenge. But I have survived through so much pain in my life, that what people say means nothing to me anymore.

When Chris Cornell committed suicide, I was going through a depressive phase. I never realised until this particular phase, that what I described as simply, “going through a rough time” were bouts of depression. I thought I knew my demons; severe anxiety, PTSD, rage control issues. But my personal life had been difficult for months, and I had been strong and stable as I managed all my hurdles on my own; always on my own. Because no matter how much love you have in your life and I have a lot of it, you are always alone when it comes to your mental health. You are always alone when it comes to fighting the monsters in your head. 20170723_215356

Here’s the funny thing though. You can’t tell that I was depressed during that time. Work was going great, I met friends occasionally, my home life is peaceful and happy. Even I didn’t realise I was depressed. I knew that I was having trouble sleeping. I knew that I felt sad a lot. I knew I spent hours at night lying in bed, staring up at the ceiling blankly.

I know that when I cleaned up the kitchen every night, as I put away the kitchen knives in their knife-holder, I would press them against my finger, my palm. My wrist. To see which was sharpest. To see which would do the most damage. To see if I would press hard enough to draw blood. I know that I could not bring myself to even think about how this was not right, and that I could not acknowledge to myself that this was a bad sign.

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Florence & The Machines, What The Water Gave Me

I was well aware that I was surrounded by people who loved me, at home, work, with friends. And yet, I felt so alone and so tired of being alone. At night, when everyone was asleep at home and I was left to my own devices, I would collapse into tears at random times and not know why. I would be watching a comedy show and burst into tears. I would be washing my own dishes and start wailing. I tried to paint my nails but I couldn’t stop crying. I didn’t understand what was happening, or what to do about it, and I am very rarely this lost anymore. I’m someone who is very self-aware, aggravatingly in touch with their own feelings. I’m so introspective that I keep up a running dialogue in my head with myself sometimes, talking myself through various upsetting, anxiety-inducing experiences. I am so strong, and so whole all the time. And yet, all of this was still happening; the crying, the thoughts of waking up in the morning and feeling sad that I hadn’t died in my sleep, of beating my fists against the headboard of my bed because inside my head, there were such chaos that I absolutely had to cause myself physical pain to dull the noise inside me.

I wasn’t doing any of this to get attention because to the world, I was perfectly functional. How can this have been attention-seeking behaviour when no one knew this was happening to me? Nor did I have some well-thought, long-term plan to do all of this so I could write about it; I have better things to write about. I didn’t go through all of this because I’m ungrateful for all the privileges I have, or because no one loves me. I didn’t cry relentlessly because home or work was in bad shape; I have a beautiful family, and colleagues who genuinely love me. I have so much good in my life and I am grateful for it, but at that point in time, I felt nothing but sadness, despair, and loneliness. I did not lie to myself so that I could get attention by talking about manufactured feelings. I don’t know why this happened to me, why it has happened in the past and why it will happen in the future; whether it is genetics, circumstance, chemical imbalances in my brain. But it is not what the stereotypes tell you mental illness is. It’s real, it’s sickness, it’s an imperfection, one I’ll willingly embrace and claim as a part of me because fighting it, is what makes me invincible; and of course I am invincible. I’m still alive, aren’t I?

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Sometimes, I write crappy things and call it poetry. This is one such thing.

It was a close shave though, I’ll give you that. By the time I was eventually able to ask for help, at least I knew where to look for it. My friends, my online support group, my colleagues. Help and love poured in, hands reached out to hoist me up on their shoulders for the little while that I couldn’t bear my own weight, even though I didn’t believe I would make it. I believed I was done fighting, and began to fear that this would end in me finally taking my own life just to stop everything I have just described; the tears, the sadness, the excruciating sense of being completely alone, and never being enough for anyone but myself, the overwhelming sense of being a burden upon myself because no one else would have me.

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Avenged Sevenfold, Lost

I once read about the Mona Lisa, about the stupid debate over her smile, and I Googled an image of her. At first glance, she was giving the prettiest smile, but after looking at her for a minute or so, I realised she just looked so sad. She was smiling, but it looked as if she was on the verge of tears. I wondered then, if I was seeing a reflection in her image, if anyone else ever saw what I did; I wondered if anyone even cared how she had felt at that moment, or throughout her life, as long as she kept smiling and looking happy and pretty. I wonder if she ever went through days of feeling like she couldn’t breathe, feeling exhausted beyond measure.

I fought for myself because it is all I know to do in life. I fought because I have learned to do so over the years. I fought because I thought it is what I should do, even though I believed this was the final battle I wouldn’t win. But Chris Cornell is still gone. Chester Bennington ended his own life. Robin Williams no longer makes us laugh in new films because he’s six feet underneath the  cold ground. They fought their last battle, and were possibly overcome by their own demons; or maybe, in delivering the final blow, they actually won the battle by taking their demons with them. Which is not to glamourise suicide at all, but to offer a perspective from this side of the line; to offer perspective coming from one person’s experiences.

Shortly before Chester Bennington took his life, I had an online argument with someone who had Linkin Park in their social media profile ID. The argument began because this person implied that depression was something which happened because people just didn’t try hard enough to fight it; that depression happened because people were too weak or too unwilling to fix it. I wonder how that person reacted to Chester Bennington’s suicide, and I do not believe that person would have changed their mind despite being such a Linkin Park fan. Because people like that exist in this world, people who spread false or misinformed bigotry against mental illness, I know that for those of us who understand mental illness, it is imperative to talk about it.

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Damien Rice, Trusty & True

Sometimes, a person can look perfectly healthy and happy, and yet be fighting mental illness. A lot of times, my friends say, “Why didn’t you tell me? I’m so sorry, I would have been there for you if I knew.” But a lot of times, people are unable to reach out for help because they feel so miserable and alone, they don’t believe anyone is listening, or that their plea for help will amount to anything. Sometimes, people can’t even think about the fact that they need help because they can’t see anything but the darkness. Sometimes the darkness consumes them, and sometimes it doesn’t but it is still always there, and always real. People like Chris Cornell, Robin Williams, and Chester Bennington had fame, family, friends, wealth, and yet they were still driven to take their own lives. It’s not because they wanted attention or were ungrateful for their blessings; they were sick. Same way that people with cancer or heart conditions are sick, same way that cancer and heart conditions take lives.

I have a book cupboard in my bedroom and sometimes, I scribble bits of poems or songs and stick them on my cupboard’s door, so I can look at those words when I need them. They’re very encouraging; feminist poetry, Lorde song lyrics, all meant to lift my spirits. But sometimes, I scribble sadder words. These are the pictures I’ve shared here; a lot of times, these words are how I feel. A lot of times, it feels as if the hardest thing to do in this world is to live in it. I hope against hope that I will continue to live on, that the light in my life will continue to sustain me through the blows my demons deliver against me. But if I do not, it is not out of weakness; it is because mental illness is a terrible, devastating thing, it destroys lives and rips apart your entire world.

To anyone who has felt this way too, know that you are not alone. Know that there is hope, that you are stronger than you know, that you are not worthless or unloved or useless. Hold on to hope as long as you can, and know that you are a warrior for your ability to do so. That is more than enough.

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Glen Hansard, Falling Slowly.

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I have attempted, several times, to try to take this blog in a different direction. It started out as the explorations of a journalism student, and somehow, became primarily, a feminist blog. While I do believe that feminism is my identity, I don’t want to write exclusively about feminism. Unfortunately, I’m not the sort of writer to force blogs out, which is why I post here so infrequently now.

But let’s not talk about women for once. Let’s not talk about feminism. Let’s discuss paranoia.

Please note: the following consists entirely of my personal experiences and opinions, and the sources quoted or linked are amateur research. I am not in any way, trained in psychiatry or psychology, nor am I at all qualified to give valid opinions on the subject. (Although to be fair, not even trained psychologists can diagnose themselves for reasons of objectivity) This blog is purely subjective, and should not be treated as a valid source of information on paranoia (of course, the quotes or excerpts aren’t subjective, and are based on facts, but you know that already)

I wasn’t always paranoid. I was the exact opposite. I was sweet and trusting and innocent. I believed everything everyone said. Seldom questioned their intentions. Had difficulty believing that anyone would say or do anything with malicious intent. I’m lucky that I wasn’t taken advantage of, at least, not completely. Lucky me, that I was older and capable of dealing with the manipulation when it did come along. And then too, I was old enough to recognize what was happening, even if it took me some time to accept that my trust was being exploited.

At first, I thought I had difficulty trusting people because of various negative experiences. Soured relationships with people, family issues, all these easily explained why I didn’t really blindly trust people anymore. And obviously, I thought it was a good thing. I was more critical of people, I didn’t believe everything I was told, I tried to think rationally about my relationships instead of blind trust and love.

Then, things started changing. It wasn’t just that I questioned intentions, I questioned them frequently. It wasn’t just that I didn’t believe people’s goodness so easily anymore; it was that I didn’t believe it at all. It wasn’t just that I tried to think beyond blind trust; it was that I couldn’t trust anyone, ever.

Then one day, I realized that I was in class, rocking back and forth with my hands over my ears, unhappily muttering, “Everyone’s after me, I know they are. They want me to do something wrong so they can all say mean things about me. They’re always trying to spy on me. They think I’m doing things behind their back. They’re all after me. I know they are,” while my friends tried to calm me down.

I calmed down eventually. Then.

I found myself apologizing more and more for over-reacting, accusing someone of lying to me, of going behind my back. I would collapse into hysterical fits sometimes. Episodes, I later learned they were called. I was constantly fearful, seeing traitors all around me. Traitors. Yeah. I actually use that word.

It was at this point, that I was lucky enough to realize I had a problem.

While trying to figure out ways to quit being paranoid, I stumbled across DSM-IV, and was vaguely alarmed by what it had to say about Paranoid Personality Disorder. When I studied psychology in intermediate, my teacher was amused that the class would often be panicked and say, “all of these symptoms match us exactly!” It’s easy to think you have every single mental illness or disorder you read about, something even my med school friends agree with. According to the DSM,

The essential feature of Paranoid Personality Disorder is a pattern of pervasive distrust and suspiciousness of others such that their motives are interpreted as malevolent. This pattern begins by early adulthood and is present in a variety of contexts. Individuals with this disorder assume that other people will exploit, harm, or deceive them…suspect on the basis of little or no evidence that others are plotting against them and may attack them …often feel that they have been deeply and irreversibly injured by another person or persons even when there is no objective evidence…preoccupied with unjustified doubts about the loyalty or trustworthiness of their friends… so amazed when a friend or associate shows loyalty that they cannot trust or believe it.

Individuals with this disorder persistently bear grudges…Minor slights arouse major hostility, and the hostile feelings persist for a long time. … quick to counterattack and react with anger to perceived insults…generally difficult to get along with and often have problems with close relationships, their excessive suspiciousness and hostility may be expressed in overt argumentativeness, in recurrent complaining, or by quiet, apparently hostile aloofness.

There are more details in the DSM, these are just the ones applicable to me.  Again, this does not mean I have PPD. I have absolutely no idea if I have any kind of disorder or not, nor am I qualified to diagnose myself. I’ve quoted the DSM to explain to anyone reading this precisely how it is that I feel or operate. I do have friends I trust, yes. People I have the utmost faith in. If I had to count them, I’d say there are about… two people. That’s it. Just two people. I talk a lot, so I tell people things easily, even things I’m supposed to keep secret because I don’t want to hide who I am. But do I trust those people afterward, no. I fully expect them to stab me in the back. And they do, they have, and they will continue to do so, because that’s just what happens to me.

The roughest part of all that is that people exploit my paranoid feelings for their own amusement. It’s quite easy to, if you’re close enough to me to have seen what the paranoia is like. When I started writing this blog, many moons ago, it was in reaction to a trusted friend thinking it was a funny joke to provoke my paranoia and thus, a panic attack by telling me a lie. It’s not a very nice thing to do, especially if the person knows firsthand how much I struggle to cope with the paranoia.

There are days when it’s less, almost non-existent, and there are days when it’s an all-time high. The key is to remove all negative influences from my life. I’ve known some truly poisonous people on the internet for example, people who truly have mental problems, and do not seek help, and I’ve cut them all out of my life because no one deserves to be subjected to another person’s issues. I’ve cut reality friends out of my life as well, people who just can’t cope with me being different- half the friends I have are from school, where we all knew each other since we were five years old- or people who just became strangers to me. But despite surrounding myself with friends and family, it’s still extremely easy to become paranoid. To think someone’s put a keylogger on your computer, or is eavesdropping on your phone conversations. It’s… maddening, to say the least. And because I do not have any specific disorder or major mental health issues, I’ve managed to get better, and not be as suspicious of everyone and everything.

I’ve known some people in my life who suffer from PTSD or mental disabilities, but they don’t seek help, and instead, lash out at everyone around them. I’ve seen people actually use mental illness as a weapon against people, or use it to manipulate people, or even, fake episodes to emotionally blackmail people. And I truly hope such people get help, fast. But I also know people who have genuine problems, real disabilities, and they seek help, and I constantly see them struggling to live life as a mentally disabled person. I’m just a little bit paranoid, but these people, they have real mental illnesses. They’re going to live with it for the rest of their lives. So the next time you make a cruel joke about bipolar people, or the next time you mock someone suffering from depression, or criticize teenagers for being “emo”, remember this blog. Remember, that my little problem is magnified by a million for teenagers suffering from clinical depression, for adults with mental illnesses or disorders, and show a little kindness. Be a little patient. And show those people that there’s a place for them in this world.

Special thanks to my good friend Sadaf Mujeeb for her encouragement and help in writing this blog.