Posted in Year end analysis

2019 Rewind

On 31st December 2018, I picked Tarot cards with one of my best friends. The cards told me I will:

  • Get out of my comfort zone and creative rut (did that when I quit my job of three-and-a-half years)
  • Take care of myself better (did that when I finally decided to take medication for my depression and anxiety), and
  • Find love (LMAO)

I am here a decade after I started this blog. I was 16 and blogs were cool then. People actually read stuff on the internet. Cute. Today, I am 26 and sitting in my bed, doing exactly what I thought I would be doing at this age — living in Bombay and getting paid to work on the internet, a little less depressed.

Of course, I have new problems now. I am out of love and I crave intimacy. I don’t feel physically healthy. I feel like I should be taking better care of my finances. I feel lost at my job that in a new industry that I didn’t dream of being in. It’s not ideal. But I keep thinking to myself about how I just don’t have the problems I was begging to be rid of at the beginning of this decade… or even at the beginning of 2019.

It makes me… grateful.

It’s been 10 years since I started noting down what I learned at the end of the year and it made me laugh when I read what I had taken away from 2010:

You are eventually stuck with yourself. The saddest worst and happiest best of yourself is revealed only to the self. No one can or should get that. In a world where social networking is bringing the walls down, these simple things are like the room you can go back to and call Home.

It’s funny not just because I believe this even harder at 26 than I did at 17. It’s also making me smile because I haven’t believed harder in community healing than I do now.

India is on edge right now. Home doesn’t feel like home anymore because I don’t feel secure here anymore. In times like these, I turn to my friends and my chosen family to help me understand and process what is happening. We only heal when we build each other up. We have been torn down so much by the systems that generations before us built and here we are, bringing it all down. We have shoulders to cry on and shoulders to lift us up when we need it. None of this is possible in isolation.

I needed my friends and chosen family to be there for me to do that for me. I needed to do that for them to understand why we need it so much.

I have been lucky to have friends to call home in the last 10 years. Some friendships carried me through only the time that they were needed in my life. Some friendships lasted me so long that they’re now family. Some friendships lasted longer than they should have. But they’ve all taught me that I cannot do this alone.

Sometimes, you need help. And it’s okay to ask for it.

At the end of 2010, I also did not think I would be the kind of person to wear my heart on my sleeve and tell people I liked exactly how I felt. As anxiety-inducing as the moment, I have done it over and over in the last 10 years only to be rejected or to be met with an awkward pause and an “Oh.”

I did that again literally two days before I wrote this. I sent the risky text and threw my phone aside, crying. I was rejected again, sure. But I spoke to him. And as I did, I joked about how I’ve had a 100% rejection rate when it comes to telling people I like them.

And he said, “Sure, till you don’t.”

It struck me then that we, as a race, refuse to take risks when the rate of failure is as high as it is with dating. It’s a 99% failure rate. Till one person says yes.
And yet, we keep trying.

Even for someone like me who hates taking risks, I do this every time. And the more I do it, the more I am convinced that it’s the right thing to do. To just tell people how you feel.

Because all kind of love, whether returned or not, is worth the risk.

Take the risk.

And regardless of whether the cards were right, knowing you are deserving of a world of affection will get you just that.

I love you.

Posted in Agony Aunt

#4: Female Friendships

Why do you think female friendships have become so important now? Is it because we’re all fucked or because of social media?

Answer:
Historically, women have found solace in community. Often with my female friendships too, I have realised that reaching out when we need help has been the norm. When it comes to celebrating each other’s successes or walking each other through our failures, we have sought each other out.

I realised only very recently that this is not a gendered reaction.That means it is not restricted to women alone.

It comes from the idea of seeking a community with people who are just as oppressed. And God knows, women are. Women across the board and spectrum know what it’s like to walk into a room full of men and feel relieved at seeing another woman, because it gives us a sense of community and safety.

Disclaimer: Of course, my oppression is much less pronounced than someone from a marginalised caste, class, religion, POC, or someone from the LGBT+ community, for example.

In the last three years, especially, women have found this community on the internet. Whether it comes to memes encouraging friendship, bonding over the hatred of a white male narrative, our periods, or even when it comes to learning outside of our own bubbles of privilege, or talking about consent — women have found a way to connect across borders effortlessly.

The internet has made it easier for us to speak up with very little fear of consequence. In fact, in most parts of the world, women have used the advantage of anonymity on the internet to speak up against regimes and structural violence. While mainstream media stuck to male-dominated narratives, the internet offered women a chance to tell their own stories, thus helping build a network of more women across the world who could relate.

The internet has fostered a sense of sisterhood that mainstream media crushed by pitting us against each other. As the internet made sharing ideas more convenient, a lot of unlearning internalised misogyny led to women finding corners within themselves and with other women to heal from generations of oppression.

Women across the world have now just realised that building this community is only going to help set themselves free. Why be a lone wolf when you can be a pack sitting across the table from each other holding hands and saying, “I know everything sucks. Let’s bring this shit down together”?

To answer your question, the concept of friendship is not new. What is new is the celebration of it. What is new is understanding the depth of each of these friendships as a way of finding comfort when fighting against systems that were built to break us; and instead building systems that were meant to lift us up. Together.


Posted in Agony Aunt

#3: Dealing With Bigotry In Your Own Homes

A few of you have asked me about dealing with the consequences of a fascist government being re-elected in our country. Especially in the home, where we learn how to socialise. Family is the first level of socialisation as a human being. It is where we learn how to deal with the outside world. We learn how to sit, stand, behave. We learn to respond immediately when called.

We learn to obey.

The problem is when families assume that obedience applies to even the way we think. As our socialisation expands beyond the circle of family, we learn to interact with the outside world. Neighbours, friends, teachers, acquaintances, people we meet on the streets, and even media. We learn to interact and apply our sense of justice to each of these areas. The same rules don’t apply in every sphere.

And our parents soon forget that the more we interact with the outside world, the closer we get to cutting the umbilical cord that ties us to them.

So when our parents say that we have grown far too big for them, they’re right.

You see, in most cases, our parents are becoming parents for the first time with us. It’s almost as if we raise our parents. We have to teach them how to treat us with the kid gloves that they forgot to touch us with, instead of the heavy adult hands they chastise us with. We have to teach them that we’re not a part of them, but rather a choice they made. While this seems like the most practical (and almost heartless) take on parenting, it’s the truth.

This is where the tough bit comes in.

For most of us, parents are also our first brush with affection. Assuming that most of our parents actually show us the love they feel for us, that love becomes the love we seek for the rest of our lives — unconditional and altruistic. It’s also how (and this is more so the case with desi parents) they like to make us feel guilt for not turning out the way they expected us to.

The frustration with their expectations not being met causes more conflict than anything else.

Once you understand that, you will understand how to deal with them.

So, to answer your questions: What DO you do when your parents refuse to see beyond bigotry, hate, and xenophobia (among others)?

1. Your parents were probably never told they were allowed to explore outside their own bubble.

2. Most of us are actually told that there is strength in sameness despite what the moral science books say. They’re seeking like-mindedness.

3. They cannot tell the difference between empathy and sympathy. So, even when they are aware of atrocity and injustice, their reaction is to “save” or “pity” the oppressed instead of trying to understand their struggles. The latter is what WE have to learn to do.

4. When we approach them with a concept that they may be in conflict with, understand why THEY feel the way they do about it. Usually their reasons will be related to emotion or tradition. Emotion can be fought with logic (most of the time), so BRING THEM FACTS. The latter — tradition — is what brings me to the next point.

5. Our parents are tied to tradition by guilt and shame. Sometimes, regret. But once they understand that they will not be hurt by ignoring tradition that harms them and other people around them, they will soften. They will not change their minds but they will consider it.

So, talk to them. Speak up. Pick your battles and speak when you should. This is easier said than done. There are people outside of my parents in the family who assume that I am an uptight bitch with a lot of opinions because I have never shut up about mine. Even if I have stated them with tact.

The difference is that our families conveniently forget we are adults. We are adults when it comes to responsibility and getting work done. We are children when it comes to opinions and obedience. It really boils down to that.

But, here’s what a friend told me yesterday that I haven’t been able to get out of my mind and I think it applies here too:

Courage is contagious

When you speak up in your homes and bring home the points that you have been making for years over and over again, not just will your parents register some of it, but maybe some who are younger than you will also.

A few months back, an uncle of mine made a homophobic comment at my cousin’s wedding which I fought back with as much politeness as I could muster. While I was told off by my mother and told to “keep the peace” at the time, I realised that someday it will pay off. Even if not then.

A couple months after that, this uncle’s daughter asked me for help in dealing with a friend’s mental health because she assumed I could help her be empathetic in a situation like that.

The point is that when people around us see us exhibit empathy, they will seek out solutions that require more empathy too.

All of the above aside, it is an absolute bitter truth that we cannot choose our families. There will be days when you will just have to shut out the noise and bear every attack on common sense. But, fight the battles in your home before you step out to fix the world.

After all, your world begins at your doorstep.

Posted in Agony Aunt

#2: How Do I Accept Myself After I’ve Changed?

I have been struggling with depression and anxiety for about three years now. Been in and out of therapy, medication, the works. All this while, I’ve been telling myself that the cure to my depression, is finding a way to become the person I used to be. But what I’ve gone through has changed me, for good. Almost so that I’m not the person I was anymore. But I have no idea to go about getting to know this new version of myself or loving this version of myself when a part of me is so convinced that I used to be better before.

Answer:

Here’s the thing: depression and anxiety changes all of us. No, really. Our brain literally changes when these go unchecked for long.

Depression+anxiety make you question yourself, your self-worth, your sense of identity, your whole existence all at once while also setting your brain on fire for questioning these things. Those of us who have the privilege of seeking therapy get to go to the root of what triggers us and what really pushes us over the edge to help us heal. Or rather, find a sense of normalcy when living with these furry friends in your head.

For now, though, let’s go back to the time you were the person you say you were. You say you were a better person.

But how?

How exactly do you measure better? Were you more successful? Were you thinner? Or do you think you were you fitting into society’s idea of better?

But also, were you less in pain? Less aware of your emotions? Less aware of what really pains you? Less aware of what really makes your bad days really bad?

What you were yesterday matters only to remind you that you survived the person that was. You survived the person that genuinely believed that they didn’t have a place in this world. That they were worthless and could achieve nothing. That their brain was shutting down and nothing was making sense.

Anxiety makes sure you are either constantly living in the present or the future. When depression is added to the mix, you just dig yourself a pit that allows you to wallow in either of those two phases.

The person you are today is awake. The person you are today is more present than you used to be.

You get to know this person bit by bit. You introduce yourself kindly. With a smile on your face. It’s okay to be nervous and awkward when you’re meeting someone for the first few times. This is just the beginning of the relationship after all.

Ask them questions as if you’re falling in love with someone for the first time. Ask them their favourite colours, their likes and dislikes.
Then go deep. Ask them what brought them here, what their childhood traumas are like, what really makes them mad and what truly makes them happy.

The only catch is that, unlike dating, answer these questions without trying to impress or judge yourself. The key is to be honest with yourself.

Regardless of our mental illnesses, we are constantly changing. Physically and mentally. When you promise to never lie to yourself, you are always in touch with the person you are and the person you are becoming.

So, be honest.

And never forget to write down the answers. This is not just so you remember where you came from. But also, so that you always have a record of the person you are in this moment.

And you never forget how good getting better feels.

Posted in Agony Aunt

#1: How Do I Trust Myself To Fall In Love Again?

I was in a relationship for over four years. Everything seemed perfect except it wasn’t. His parents did not approve and he chickened out. He broke up with no explanation except that he cannot stand up to his parents. I was extremely heavy back then and had very low self esteem. I thought this was the end of the world and that nobody will ever love me again. I tried to kill myself. But luckily, I have wonderful friends and family. It took me a while but I started working on myself. Two years later, 20 kgs lesser and I’m still not able to accept that anyone can love me for me. Mind, body et al. I met this wonderful guy in February. We’ve been going out on dates. But I think, somewhere, I’m not letting it go to the next level because I’m so scared of a broken heart. I’ve stopped putting myself out there.

Answer:

Two years ago, I thought to myself, “There is no way I will fall in love again.” I didn’t have a clue who I’d fall in love with again without thinking of the eyes I fell in love with as a teenager. I didn’t know what I could do if I wasn’t able to call the same man “The Love Of My Life” for the rest of my life.

I wept. I wrote in my journal. I sang sad songs at 3 a.m. I cried some more. I cried till I fell asleep.

But I’m here. Two years later. And I am asking myself the same questions that you are asking yourself, “Do I trust myself to fall in love again? Do I trust someone else to not hurt me the same way?”

For this, you need to understand that we do not love the same way twice. We do not even love the same person the same way twice. The older we get, the more experiences we gather, the more we find our ideas of self and love changing.

Imagine yourself as a house. We build ourselves brick by brick with our stories, our experiences, our pain, our joy, the people in our lives, the people we let go in our lives, and more. Sometimes, in the process of building from the ground up, we forget to add some things that are necessary. We forget windows of an open mind, or doors to let people in. Maybe it’s the kind of experiences we have. Maybe it’s the kind of people we’ve met in the past. But, that’s who we become.

That, however, doesn’t mean that we cannot add a door to let people in. We can make this happen. Sometimes, you can start with a window. You can even start with a hole to peep through. But how do we begin to make these changes?

Honestly, no one really has an answer that doesn’t involve ripping your guts out and giving it over to someone else with all the faith you can muster. Because that’s kinda what you have to do.

Take the leap of faith. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and tell this person you have been hurt before. A person who really deserves you for the love you have to offer them will listen and understand that your trauma has shaped you but is not who you are. That is what matters.

If this person doesn’t respect your fears and your vulnerability to admit to them, maybe they’re not ready for you either. And that’s okay.

Take. Your. Time.

Healing is not a straight line upwards to happiness. It’s going to be all over the place. You might find healing by falling in love with someone else. Or on your own. Whatever you do, remember to be honest with yourself about how you feel in the moment. Trust yourself to take care of yourself in moments of heartbreak even if this doesn’t work out. And, if not, ask for help. It always works.