Health Care Mental Health Health The Vulvasation Wellness

Don’t forget to advocate for yourself when it comes to your Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder

Vulvasations is a Tempest Love and Health exclusive series dedicated to spreading awareness about the female reproductive system, debunking myths about periods and dissecting everything vajayjay related. Let’s talk about vaginas!

I only recently found out about Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) despite being a person who’s welcomed a certain monthly visitor into my uterus since I was 11-years-old.

PMDD is a more chronic and severe form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) that often results in psychological symptoms such as irritability, anger, fatigue, moodiness, insomnia, paranoia, difficulty concentrating, and more.

Other PMDD symptoms include respiratory, eye, skin, and fluid retention problems such as allergies; infections; vision changes; ankle, hand, and feet swelling; and acne as well as gastrointestinal, neurologic, and vascular symptoms like nausea and vomiting, dizziness, fainting, easy bruising, muscle spasms, and painful menstruation.

What’s frustrating about any and all of those symptoms is they can easily fall under a variety of different disorders like bipolar disorder, depression, thyroid condition, and anxiety, making PMDD hard to diagnose for some people with periods.

I’d also like to add that PMDD feels even harder to diagnose because people with periods have been told over and over again that our menstrual cycle will make us overly emotional. Modern Family is but one example of media turning this experience into a joke, and it feels like yet another way for patriarchal societies and men to dismiss women and people with periods.

My own periods usually arrive after an onslaught of cramps, breakouts, and mood swings—typically high highs and low lows with a spattering of extra irritability and sensitivity thrown in just to keep things spicy. When I was 18, I decided to go on birth control. After just one month of being on birth control, I noticed that the specific brand I was using amplified my mood swings and even made me depressed. This can be common for many people, and I quickly asked my doctor if we could try out a different brand.

A few weeks ago, I emailed my doctor because the pharmacy gave me the wrong brand of birth control. I knew it was a brand that exacerbated my period symptoms because of my past experiences. But I have to admit, I felt silly having to say to my doctor, “I need a different birth control brand because I know this one makes me moody.” And I was annoyed at myself for feeling silly about drawing attention to real concerns. Adding fuel to the fire, my doctor never followed up with me; she simply emailed the pharmacy and the problem was resolved.

But is the problem resolved? Should my doctor have looked into whether or not I’m one of the estimated 5.5% of women who develop PMDD symptoms in their twenties?

The MGH Center for Women’s Mental Health notes that PMDD can be distinguished from other mood disorders because of its cyclical nature. Typically, symptoms will occur during the last two weeks of the menstrual cycle and there will be a grace period in which people with PMDD don’t feel any symptoms at all. The Center suggests helping your doctor confirm the diagnosis by charting your symptoms daily.

When diagnosed with PMDD, there are a variety of treatments, including lifestyle changes, therapy, and medication. The International Association for Premenstrual Disorders (IAPMD) also offers resources for those with PMDD.

I’m disappointed that people with periods aren’t always taught about PMDD. Because many of the symptoms are psychological, I feel like there should be more awareness around this disorder; but because many of the symptoms are psychological, I can’t say I’m surprised many people don’t know more about PMDD. Emotional women have long been discredited and overlooked by society—unless they’re being used as the butt of a joke. And these biases have often been reinforced by those in the medical industry.

Thankfully, the IAPMD is helping to raise awareness of this disorder, encouraging people with periods like me to advocate for themselves in their doctor’s office.

If your period is painful, mentally and/or physically, there could very well be a medical reason for it, and you deserve to know that reason.

I encourage everyone to take care of themselves. In your doctor’s office, this could mean being bold and advocating for your needs.

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Mind Mental Health Health Coronavirus Wellness

How I learned to heal when I lost my friend during COVID-19

Trigger warning: Trauma, anxiety, and suicidal ideation

Last March, just before my city was forced to go on lockdown due to COVID-19, I had a major falling out with a close childhood friend.

We had known each other since we were in middle school. But the two of us had grown especially close in our college years because we were experiencing similar hardships that allowed us to form a bond on a more personal level.

As a result of our new, budding companionship, we had spent the past three years building a more mature friendship, talking almost daily, hanging out often, and leaning on each other for advice or guidance through the difficult transitions of young adulthood.

Then, suddenly, at the beginning of the pandemic, our friendship just about abruptly ended, leaving me confused and hurt.

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In hindsight, our falling out was over something rather petty and could have been avoided or solved with better communication. Even so, losing a friend during an unprecedented pandemic as well as simultaneously losing my sense of normalcy caused underlying and undiagnosed mental health issues to arise, which left me feeling alone in ways I had never felt before.

In the initial stages of our falling out, coupled with the stress from the pandemic as well as uprisings and racial reckonings across the United States, I found myself crying frequently, battling suicidal ideation, going to sleep, and waking up feeling anxious.

However, despite the emotional burdens I was feeling at the time, losing my friend also forced me to address unhealthy patterns of my own behavior.

With time, I began to slowly realize some important revelations about myself.

Patterns that had long prevented me from confronting the trauma I buried under the guise of happiness.

And the isolation of the pandemic forced me to reflect on why the end of this friendship was affecting me so intensely and what could be done to improve the state of my mental health, in a substantial way, going forward.

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In turn, my process towards letting go of a friendship, of normalcy, of control, and the illusion of good mental health, required months of self-reflection. With time, I began to slowly realize some important revelations about myself.

Things like how I never truly learned how to forgive people close to me when they caused me harm, which explained why I could be quick to anger or defensiveness over a minor conflict, as I anticipated receiving the worst treatment from people.

I also realized I never learned how to move on from things that hurt me, and I never made my mental health a priority. Perhaps, even, I have never been truly mentally or emotionally healthy; rather, I was just surrounded by people who distracted me from myself.

Perhaps my former friend and I distracted each other from our own problems.

After all, part of our bond was built on our commonality of having a history of toxic, draining, or one-sided friendships with other people.

Ultimately, my healing process through coping with this loss is requiring me to acknowledge my own shortcomings and aspects of my health I should have taken care of sooner; trauma I should have allotted time to heal from a long time ago. However, I also came to realize, it’s okay to find you’re not really okay because it’s never too late to prioritize whatever you need in order to heal.

Upon realizing there is work to be done towards getting better, it’s imperative to be patient with yourself and extend yourself some grace on days that seem difficult to get through. Personally, months into the pandemic, I started journaling, I wrote a ton, and I cried when I needed to (without shame or guilt).

Part of our bond was built on our commonality of having a history of toxic, draining, or one-sided friendships with other people.

And I confided in a loved one about the things I was and had been struggling with for a long time, relieving myself of the burden or illusion of having to be strong all by myself.

That also meant admitting to myself that surface-level forms of self-care, that I’ve always performed myself, weren’t enough to manage my mental health forever. I decided, at some point, I’d like to get some potential diagnoses regarding whatever mental illnesses I may have from my doctor. I also wanted to try finding a suitable therapist who can offer more effective coping mechanisms from a professional standpoint that I can utilize.

Additionally, it’s important to note: sometimes relationships end, and sometimes things happen in the world around you outside of your control. All of which you’re allowed to grieve within a healthy space. Fallouts with friends, especially close friends, don’t have to be catty or messy, but they are admittedly hard to endure.

It’s normal for uncomfortable life changes to make you feel bad, confused, or both.

We can and should end relationships with people that no longer serve a positive purpose in our lives (even if the person on the other end of someone else’s decision to do so is you). To cope with such losses, we must give ourselves the space to let that person go, check-in regularly with our mental health, and then eventually move on.

So, ultimately, what I’m learning about healing is I don’t have to be invincible to pain or the downsides of losing someone important to me. It’s normal for uncomfortable life changes to make you feel bad, confused, or both.

As morbid as it is, if you asked me whether the pandemic contributed anything positive in my life, it would be how the weird and strenuous circumstances of the last year helped me learn how to be consistently healthy enough to withstand the inevitable ebb and flow of life.


If you’re having trouble coping with your mental and emotional health, please reach out and make use of the resources below.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness is 1-888-950-6264 (NAMI) and provides information and referral services; is an association of mental health professionals from more than 25 countries who support efforts to reduce harm in therapy.
In case of escalation, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Other international suicide helplines can be found at befrienders.orgThe Trevor Project provides help and suicide-prevention resources for LGBTQIA+ youth, and can be reached at 1-866-488-7386.
You can also text TALK to 741741 for free, anonymous 24/7 crisis support in the US and UK from the Crisis Text Line. 7 Cups and IMAlive are free, anonymous online text chat services with trained listeners, online therapists, and counselors.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, you can call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) and find more resources here.
And finally, the National Eating Disorders Association helpline is 1-800-931-2237; for 24/7 crisis support, text “NEDA” to 741741.


Check out Mental Health Mondays, The Tempest original series featuring stories of those battling their mental health, in all of the ways. And follow @thetempesthealth on Instagram!

Health Care Mental Health Health

Here’s how you can use mood tracking to manage PMDD symptoms

Anyone who has had the lovely luck of menstruating knows that it brings many weird symptoms with it. Like really weird. From boob pain to headaches to constant nausea, the list goes on. And likewise, premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is equally awful to experience. But have you heard of premenstrual dysphoric disorder? I’d bet anything you probably haven’t, but you should. It’s very similar to PMS, but it tends to be more extreme. PMS on steroids might be a way to describe it. 

Like PMS, premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) occurs before your period. It can be anywhere from one to two weeks before, and the symptoms should usually die out around two days into the period. The disorder brings bouts of depression and anxiety, which are more extreme than those found in PMS, and it affects around six million people worldwide. But here’s the real kicker, it tends to show up more commonly in people who already have depression and anxiety, usually making their symptoms worse. It’s the gift that keeps giving.

I have PMDD myself, and I can attest to the fact that it makes life miserable. My symptoms tend to show up around a week and a half before my period, and it’s usually more depression-related than anxiety. I feel a sudden loss of interest in everything happening around me, extreme fatigue that leaves me unable even to attempt the chores or activities I plan, and a deep, dark state of sadness and hopelessness that looms over everything I do. 

I will say that I’ve gotten pretty good at hiding most of my symptoms, but for a long time, that was what kept me from discovering that I had PMDD. In fact, I had to research and figure it out on my own. My doctors knew about my symptoms, I talked to a counselor regularly about my troubles, but no one cared to help me look much deeper. Figuring it all out was an accident and then a google search.

It all started when my counselor asked me to start tracking my moods to help us figure out what might trigger my depressive episodes. At first, it seemed ridiculous. How would knowing my moods help me with depression? My moods were low during depressive episodes, and I knew that already. But her approach was different from what I imagined. She had me install an app that would allow me to log my moods multiple times a day and the activities completed during that time. She thought there might be a pattern related to my daily activities that could solve the depression.

She was right, and there was a pattern. It’s just not what she expected, and for a long time, she and I were confused because neither of us could see it. Then one day, while I was lying in bed, my sister asked if my period was coming up. She pointed out that I get tired and moody right before my period. And I decided to double-check that, opening the app I use to track my cycles and comparing it to the data on my mood tracking app. 

It clicked for me then, but my counselor still didn’t buy into it, and my doctor was in denial about it as well. So I was left to solve things on my own. The most common ways to deal with PMDD involve specific birth control pills or depression medication. But due to some other circumstances, neither of those were options I wished to pursue, and instead, I decided to use this mood tracking idea to help me manage my symptoms. 

One of the critical factors in my symptoms is the loss of appetite, which quickly leads down a slippery slope of losing energy for everything else in life. And tracking that, alongside my mood, usually helps me see if I’m coming up at that time of the month, allowing me to put plans in place to ensure I eat consistently and keep up my energy. Seeing my mood lowering and noticing that I’m finding less joy in activities also allows me to prepare ahead to get most of the crucial tasks out of the way and put systems in place to ensure I can have help on any other tasks as they come. 

It’s been a lifesaver to know that I can now sort of predict when my mental health will slip and be able to handle things. Of course, it’s not perfect. There are days where I get slammed with depression out of nowhere, and my schedule falls apart then. But when things clear up just a little bit, I still have plans and routines that can help me get on track again.

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Mind Mental Health Health Pets Wellness

Should adopting a pet be the next step of your mental health journey?

Mental Health Mondays are our way of breaking the stigma, spreading awareness and sharing stories of those who are battling with their mental health. Read more from this series here.

If you’re anything like me, you probably browse through mental health listicles every now and then. On bad days, I find that physically googling “what to do when you’re having a bad day” and then reading through the action items gives me something new to focus on.

One thing that typically appears on these types of lists is pets. Sometimes people recommend playing with animals at a shelter or cuddling with your pets at home. Other times people suggest going on a walk with a dog or watching funny cat videos on your phone.

During quarantine, pets helped a lot of us get through such a difficult time. Studies have shown that companionship pets can improve people’s mental health by spreading joy, lowering stress and anxiety, and managing loneliness and depression.

Depending on the type of animal you have—for example, dogs or leash-compliant cats or maybe even overzealous lizards—pets can also increase people’s opportunities to exercise, get outside, socialize, and meet new people. In turn, this can help decrease our blood pressure and maintain our cholesterol and triglyceride levels, boosting our mood and energy.

But this doesn’t mean everyone looking to improve their mental health should adopt a pet.

I love animals. Growing up, my family had dogs, cats, frogs, a guinea pig, lots of fish, and we probably unintentionally fed a few neighborhood raccoons as well. While I’m no Bindi Irwin, animals have always been a huge part of my life.

As an adult, I can’t imagine not having pets. In fact, one of my biggest life goals is to adopt a dog. While my backyard-less apartment and I are not quite dog ready yet, I still wanted to expand my fur family in 2021. This led me to spend way too much time scrolling through shelter and rescue websites.

Finally, I found Willie, a fluffy orange kitten looking for a home that would embrace his shyness. As a homebody and an introvert, I thought me and my cat Nona would make an excellent home for this little guy.

An orange kitten sits on a white table.
[Image description: An orange kitten sits on a white table. My new kitten, Willie!] Via Kayla Webb
I would describe myself as an experienced pet owner. However, I’ll be the first to admit that this made me a little too cocky. Anyone who has ever had a pet knows animals are a huge undertaking. Like most advice given to us after we’ve already made up our mind, I listened to those around me remind me of this responsibility with one ear—while my other ear listened for email alerts from Willie’s foster mom.

When I finally brought Willie home, I was excited and expecting a smooth transition from taking care of one cat to two. But the first couple of weeks with Willie were not as easy, breezy, or beautiful as I thought they were going to be.

I had so much anxiety, and I hardly slept. I underestimated how long the transition period would be for Willie’s adjustment. In addition, introducing new pets to your current pets always comes with extra challenges, which only increased my anxiety.

I felt like a new parent rather than an experienced pet owner. I mean, kittens are kind of like human babies; they have lots of needs and will probably keep you up at night when you really need to be sleeping.

All this to say, adopting a pet might not be what’s best for your mental health. Pets are a lot of work and require a lot of care. Sometimes adding another item to your to-do list is more stressful and exhausting than you think it will be. And low maintenance pets still require maintenance.

If that maintenance sounds like too much on top of everything else you have to do, then adopting a pet won’t improve your mental health. And that’s perfectly okay. While some people benefit from pets, some people do not.

I’m not trying to say don’t adopt a pet. I’m just saying make sure you’re well-informed, ready, and equipped for any animal you’re bringing into your life. Do your research, adopt (don’t shop!), and be ready to love the heck out of your pet because they deserve it.

If you’re wondering if now is a good time to start your fur family, maybe go visit with your friends’ pets first. You’ll get all the perks with none of the responsibility.

While I have no regrets about adopting Willie, I wish I had been more mentally prepared. Maybe that could have minimized the nights we both spent crying at 3 am.

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Mind K-pop Mental Health Health Wellness

15 K-Pop songs to help you feel seen

Content Warning: Somes of the songs in this article mention themes of mental illness, suicide, depression, loneliness, and anxiety.

Mental health has never been more important than it is now. Music is one healthy coping mechanism that helps a lot of us keep on keeping on. Over the last decade or so, I’d argue that more global artists, musicians, and idols have helped start conversations around mental health by being open about their own struggles with depression, anxiety, loneliness, and more.

K-pop performers like IU and SUGA from BTS have long been known as mental health advocates of sorts, unafraid of broaching harder topics in their music. While it seems obvious, it never hurts to remind ourselves that idols are people, too. They experience highs and lows and battle with issues acutely felt by those of us living in the 21st century.

Many of these idols have included their personal stories in their music, which can help us feel less alone as we face similar challenges in our day-to-day lives.

1. “eight” – IU (Prod. & Feat. SUGA of BTS)

IU’s song “eight” is about loss. Depending on your interpretation of the music video, this could also be a song about losing friends to suicide. Rather than focus on her despair, IU’s lyrics and melody remain hopeful, reminding us that we should remember the good times with our lost loved ones. She even hints at meeting them again someday in a place where there is no sadness or pain.

2. “BORDERLINE” – Sunmi

Sunmi revealed that she was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD), which she explores in this song. Many of her fans who have BPD have said this song helps them feel validated in their experience. In addition, “BORDERLINE” makes it clear that it is okay to voice our struggles. Even if people don’t always understand our pain, we should be proud of ourselves for persevering.

3. “Dark Clouds” – Heize

“Dark Clouds” delves into what it’s like to have depression. Heize sings about not having the capacity to fake a smile for her friends, so she ignores their calls. Even though depression often feels unfair, numbing, and isolating, Heize takes the time to simply experience these emotions in “Dark Clouds.” She encourages everyone to do the same because ignoring the problem is never the answer, and sometimes, the only way out is through.

4. “Dear Me” – Taeyeon

In “Dear Me,” Taeyeon sings about being able to endure life’s rough patches because she has herself. This is a song that reminds us that even if we think there’s no one at our side, we’re never alone because we have ourselves. The sooner we learn to trust and love ourselves, the more we’ll be able to weather future storms.

5. “Breathe” – LEE HI

Throughout our lives, many of us have experienced pressures from society, our parents, our friends, and even ourselves. Lee Hi revealed that she suffered from a panic disorder from all of these pressures that made her feel like she was suffocating. She wrote “Breathe” to remind those of us who are exhausted or bogged down by these pressures that we will be okay. We’re all doing the best we can, so keep going.

6. “Happy” – WJSN

Just like the “Happy” lyrics say, sometimes we start believing that happiness is foreign or irrelevant to us. Or sometimes, it’s hard to feel happy because we don’t think we deserve to be happy. But WJSN reminds us that we’re allowed to be happy. They also talk about how celebrating their friends, being body positive, and choosing to be confident are all ways they’ve become happier.

7. “Ugly” – 2NE1

“Ugly” is relatable to anyone who has ever struggled with low self-esteem or confidence issues over their physical appearance. It can be easy to compare ourselves to others. We also often get sucked up in what society says beautiful people are supposed to look like. 2NE1 gives voice to these inner thoughts, which can be cathartic. But it’s important to remember that we all have value, even if we don’t look or feel like everyone else.

8. “Eternal Sunshine” – EPIK HIGH (Prod. SUGA of BTS)

EPIK HIGH is another group that has been fearless in tackling mental health issues, and “Eternal Sunshine” is no exception. In this song, Tablo and Mithra Jin rap about loneliness, anxiety, and insomnia. Throughout the track, they remind listeners that we shouldn’t feel pressured to always keep up with the steps of life—because life is difficult and riddled with problems. But you’re not alone in feeling this way, and therein lies the message of “Eternal Sunshine.”

9. “Clap” – SEVENTEEN

Like EPIK HIGH pointed out, life is hard. And SEVENTEEN agrees. “Clap” includes lyrics about everyday struggles like staining your white shirt or not having enough money on your metro card. But these setbacks shouldn’t stop us from experiencing the world. Even if it’s raining, there is still a melody to be found in the raindrops, so why not clap along?

10. “Voices” – Stray Kids

In “Voices,” Stray Kids encourages all of us to ignore the voices in our heads telling us to give up because we’re not good enough. Just like the lyrics say, we have to step out and break free from the voices in our heads because they’re not always credible sources nor are they always telling the truth. We are good enough and we can achieve our dreams.

11. “Wake Me Up” – B.A.P.

Both the song and the music video for “Wake Me Up” speak to some of the darkest moments in life. But even if we’re still trudging through these dark times, we can’t forget who we are. B.A.P. encourages listeners to believe in themselves and stay alert to how society tries to lead us astray.

12. “Whalien 52” – BTS

While BTS has quite a few songs about mental health, “Whalien 52” is immaculate, *chef’s kiss*. Due to the pandemic, most of us experienced a year of isolation and alienation, and “Whalien 52” speaks to this acute feeling of loneliness. But BTS also includes a message of hope: No matter how lonely we feel, keep singing—or trying to connect with others—because eventually, someone will hear our song.


13. “Crown” – TXT

“Crown” is about finding solace in ourselves—by accepting who we are, imperfections and all—and in our community, because our friends and family help to combat loneliness. Even though we all go through hard times, our experiences help shape us into something better, and TXT has decided to be proud of their experiences and wear them like a crown.

14. “Runaway” – Bobby

“Runaway” is relatable to anyone who has ever wanted to press the pause button on life. Like Bobby says, sometimes our mistakes feel like failures, and sometimes our responsibilities feel so burdensome. I think “Runaway” is a reminder that it’s okay to take a break, to stop and collect ourselves before getting back on the horse, so to speak. Our mistakes don’t define us and shouldn’t prevent us from moving forward.

15. “The Last” – Agust D

Depression, OCD, social anxiety, and self-hatred are all topics Agust D raps about in “The Last.” Though he talks about how he wishes he could hide his weak self, Agust D’s choice to be honest about his struggles with mental illness shows his strength as an individual and artist. In this way, he sets an example for all of us, proving that it’s okay to open up and be vulnerable because our weaknesses are often our strengths.

It’s okay to feel sad, and it’s okay to take some time for yourself. Prioritizing our mental health should be at the top of our to-do list each and every day.

But, every now and then, don’t forget to play ITZY’s entire discography, too! While it’s perfectly okay to feel blue, it’s also important to feel on top of the world from time to time—and ITZY always delivers.

Just remember, you’re not alone.

We see you, we hear you, and you’re loved for being your fully authentic self.

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Health Science Now + Beyond

How scientific journalism caused, and healed, my hypochondria

TW: Discussion of mental health, cancer, illness.

Do I have cancer? Cancer symptoms? How do you know if you have cancer? As a sophomore in high school, I would Google questions like this day after day. I remember the anxiety rushing through my head, only worsened by the WebMD articles informing me that, yes, I did indeed have cancer. It took me a year to realize that I was wrong, but it was a long and stressful year.

At this point in my life, I wasn’t particularly educated on health or my body. I had taken health class in school, but we learned very little about our own bodies, and even when we did, it was vague and uninformative. In all five years of health class, we only learned about cancer once. My teacher told me that the primary signs were uneven lumps, unusual discharge, and wounds that won’t heal. At this point, I was convinced I had cancer.

Or so I thought I did. Totally ignorant about the functioning of my own body, I mistook my normal, healthy vaginal discharge for a clean sign of cancer. Once I took into account an odd (but benign) birthmark, a stubborn tonsil infection, and a few small cuts and bruises that wouldn’t go away, and I was certain that I had late-stage cancer. My stress over my apparent illness led to heart palpitations and migraines, which I took as signs that the cancer was spreading.

It probably sounds ridiculous. I agree that it does. It was only later, when I found out about hypochondriasis, that I understood what was happening to me.

To those who don’t know, hypochondriasis is a psychological disorder in which one develops chronic hypochondria. A person with hypochondriasis will assume that they are ill with a serious disease when they are not, and mistake any small ailment for a sign of a larger problem. Many people have experienced hypochondria, but for those of us with hypochondriasis, the anxiety is constant, chronic, and life-altering.

Anything can bring on a bout of hypochondria. For me, it was news articles about strange new diseases that could threaten one’s life or clickbait articles about sure signs of cancer. I’d find some way to match my own symptoms to the ones described, and subsequently spiral. It wasn’t an easy time.

However, I am proud to say that I eventually pulled through. Finally talking to my family about my symptoms helped me understand that my illnesses were normal and not life-threatening. When I eventually faced a serious illness earlier this year, my hypochondria all but disappeared. Once I understood what a serious illness felt like, nothing else could compare.

My hypochondria was a result of my health curriculum, “educational” health websites such as WebMD and “scientific” clickbait. However, science and medicine journalism also helped heal me. Whenever I’d have heartburn or a migraine, I’d calm myself down by reading about the actual mundane causes of these issues. I eventually came to realize that my “symptoms” were not at all symptoms of heart disease or cancer, but very common minor ailments.

Most of my health issues were stress-related, and once I realized this, I finally began to heal. I haven’t had a serious migraine or heart palpitations in a year now. I can thank my scientific research for this, but I can also thank my own strength. Understanding genuine medicine was a catalyst for me, but working on my mental health was just as important.

I still struggle with hypochondriasis, but I find myself improving every day. Mental illnesses don’t disappear overnight, but I’m learning to work through them and learn from them. In the midst of the pandemic, my lived experience is actually quite a blessing. Many of my friends and family members are now struggling with hypochondria themselves, and I’m able to help them work through their anxiety. It’s never easy, but I’ve found myself not only starting to heal, but also help heal others.

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Tips & Tricks Life

Journaling lets me remember my self-growth journey

I have been journaling for as long as I can remember. Occasionally, I like to skim through the top shelf of my cabinet and pull out one of my journals to read. Do I cringe when I read my younger self’s entries? Yes. But it’s all a huge part of self-growth. 

Journaling has proven to have many benefits, particularly for mental health. For me, the biggest benefit was the reduction in stress. As someone who is prone to have stress-induced panic attacks, journaling – whether it’s small doodles or a novella – has helped by giving me clarity and a place to express my emotions. A 2005 study found expressive writing to be therapeutic, noting that participants who expressed trauma, stress and other emotions through writing decreased their chances of getting sick significantly. In the long run, people who journal are less seriously affected by trauma as opposed to their non-journaling counterparts. Although I wouldn’t consider myself completely unscathed by my experiences at school, I do look back at my journals and applaud myself for the strength I mustered to get through it. 

So what does journaling do for the soul? Reduces stress and anxiety as well as boosts your immune function. Well, there are other benefits. One great one I have noticed in myself is the ability to put things into perspective. Journaling is a great regulator of emotions as when you write down how you feel, everything becomes comprehensible and once you have the chance to figure out your own emotions, you are presented with the amazing opportunity to be able to process other people’s too. It is a great way to promote self-growth and confidence as many people, myself included, read over their past personal struggles and either laugh at themselves or marvel in awe at the inner strength they didn’t know they had. 

And the best part of journaling? There are so many different styles you could go for. Days where I am feeling more creative, I’ll do some art journaling or bullet journaling. Some days, it’s easier for me to do an electronic journal (I highly recommend Notion because you type or record videos straight into the app). And you don’t have to do the typical ‘dear diary’ stuff. Make it yours. Of course, there are other tidbits people concern themselves with before they start writing, namely,  what do I write about

My easiest tip is to start writing about anything. There was a class exercise one of my lecturers used to do with us in my first year of university and that was writing for the first 15 minutes of class. “If you don’t know what to write, write ‘I am writing’ until the thought, any thought, comes into your head.” Although this is not a piece of advice I had when I first started journaling, it is something I would pass on to new journalers. Start where you are. The great thing about journals is that they are private to you so they can be two words or a whole novel if you want it to. Even if it’s just a single line, or what you had for lunch, write it. Don’t censor yourself. This is for you and it’s your personal journey. There is no right and wrong when it comes to journaling because it’s an experience so personal and tailored to the individual. 

So unlearn anything you had learned about ‘keeping a diary’ back in the earlier stages of education and go with what works for you because you don’t get graded on how you feel. I’m sure that you would appreciate the nostalgia and growth that comes with looking back at your journey in your journal as much as I do.

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Race Life

The “angry Black woman” stereotype makes me hesitate to defend myself

For stories of Black history and excellence, check out our Black History Month series. Celebrate with us by sharing your favorite articles on social media and uplifting the stories, life, and work of Black people.

Being a Black woman causes me to severely overthink, especially when contemplating if and when to stand up for myself while being viewed by others as inherently angry. The angry Black woman stereotype: every Black woman has felt the burden of this stereotype at one or many times throughout our lives. Personally, I’ve found myself in many situations or conversations that were both micro-aggressive and aggressive in a racist context. As a result, throughout my childhood, adolescence, and adulthood I’ve been made to feel uncomfortable while at school, at parties, and in work environments. 

Therefore, I’m constantly battling the angry Black girl stereotype, and my personal mission to always stand up for myself. Admittedly, too often, I allow my internalized insecurity to win. The societal stigmas against Black women cause me to be silent. I’ve been called angry, aggressive, or defensive in times I was simply not allowing someone to disrespect me or others. So given my history of being gaslighted, I’ve forgone standing up for myself or firmly setting or maintaining a boundary out of fear of being seen by others as the angry Black girl.

However, I’m slowly learning to overcome my internalized insecurities with the intention that I’ll never second guess putting myself first again.

The angry Black woman stereotype was created as an extension of the sapphire stereotype during the antebellum period, which categorized Black women as inherently masculine, aggressive, and dominant. The angry Black woman stereotype is a reimagined, racially charged trope that often goes undetected as it persists within modern society, pop culture, and politics; mostly because the stereotype is a manipulation technique used to silence Black women. The imagery of the original sapphire trope may look different or be less obvious, but the harmful effects it has on Black women remain.

Within recent years, prominent figures and celebrities such as Janet Hubert, who originally played Aunt Viv in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Serena Williams, Michelle Obama, and Monique have all had to navigate through being stereotyped and/or type-casted as difficult, angry, or masculine women. In particular, Janet and Monique have been blacklisted in Hollywood for years because of the harm being labeled as “difficult” have on Black women’s careers.

Besides, the angry Black woman stereotype is downright hurtful as much as it is harmful. According to a Forbes article written by Janice Gassam Asare, “Black women were found to experience many negative health outcomes including anxiety, at a greater rate than their white counterparts” because of how often we suppress our emotions. This gaslighting technique of accusing someone of greatly overreacting when they aren’t, that people continuously use against Black women, is an intentional tool of oppression.

Essentially, we are taught not to challenge the intersecting marginalizations that continue to severely oppress Black women. Instead, Black women are forced to shrink ourselves into quiet submission or simply be complicit with treatment we aren’t comfortable with so people won’t weaponize our emotions against us. Consequently, the angry Black woman stereotype lumps Black women into a monolith of combativeness and negativity while it strips us of our feelings and humanity.

Notably- if the world can impose this stereotype on the aforementioned women with as much status, money, or influence as they have, imagine what the average Black woman is forced to tolerate at work, in class, in shops or restaurants, and elsewhere.

Since late May of 2020, we should be seeing a supposed societal shift in oppressive race dynamics, as people promised to “listen and learn” about the harmful effects of racism. Luckily, I have some suggestions on how people can better show up for Black women, specifically when we are forced to combat the angry Black woman stereotype.

People need to first reflect on what about Black women causes the world to view us as inherently angry and why Black women are the ones most punished for having feelings perceived as negative. People must confront their internal biases and empathize with Black women’s frustration- and yes, anger- regarding how we are treated in a racist and patriarchal society. Lastly, people should begin the work towards dismantling the stereotype by always standing up for Black women whenever and wherever they can. 

As for Black women, it’s hard, but we must learn not to view ourselves as inherently angry either. Standing up for yourself or exerting your will does not make you angry. In fact, there is nothing wrong with anger as an emotion. It’s natural and sometimes warranted. After all, we have a lot to be angry about anyway. As Delta B. Mckenzie perfectly concludes in an article for Medium, “As a Black woman, I have a right to be angry. I have a right to be loud. I have a right to be anything I want to be. If society wants to put my emotions down to a demeaning stereotype then I say, let it.”

Black women- work towards consistently showing up for yourself despite what others have or continue to tell you. I’m additionally trying to remind myself that my feelings are valid, and I shouldn’t ever have to make myself smaller to coddle anyone. Ultimately, my humanity should matter more than other people’s biased, racist, and inaccurate perception of me anyway.

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[Image Description: An illustrated graphic featuring several Black women with the text saying Black History Month in capital letters] Via The Tempest
[Image Description: An illustrated graphic featuring several Black women with the text saying Black History Month in capital letters] Via The Tempest
Mental Health Health

Saying goodbye to a year filled with crippling anxiety

As 2020 descended upon us, I stood huddled in the midst of my friends, a sparkler waving in my left hand. Toasts were made. Hugs were shared. Laughter echoed through the winter air. Throwback songs and hips shaking, bodies shed of anxieties and tensions. Sparkling and fresh with the residue of hope.

There was glitter everywhere. The way you imagine a new year to begin. 

We all decided this will be our year. Joyous whispers of hope. As people usually do on new year’s eve. And the year commenced in all its greatness. Things were happening and dreams were written down, plans were made for holidays and life events, big changes to come. But nothing ever happened as we imagined, it usually never does. 

I only promised myself one thing for 2020 – that was to look after my mental health. And when the year began, I know I was trying. I was writing down all my little lists, tracking my wellness, exercising, creating. When the lockdown first hit, I was stuck. Completely dumbfounded by the reality around us. Everything felt other: walking on the street, watching Netflix, eating dinner.

My mental health was dwindling and I couldn’t do anything about it. I spent the first two months without meeting a single friend. I know I was lucky to have had my entire family safe and at home with me. But mental health works in peculiar ways and mine was crushing me. It was hard to do what once felt so normal, so easy, so mundane.

April and May were the lowest points when there wasn’t a single cent of hope lingering in the thick heat of Karachi. Days stretched deep into dreary nights and I continued to battle the demons of my mind. They wanted all of me, all the time and I couldn’t seem to find a way out. I didn’t write anything, draw anything, read anything. Most days, I used TV shows as a crutch to push my mind to oblivion. Because anything was better than feeling too much all the time.

June and July pushed me to do better. I starting creating again. And slowly, it became an obsession. I was drawing and writing and reading constantly, never looking up or looking back. It was my way of getting through things. I had to be getting better, right? I was trying at least. I know now that I was just going through the motions, albeit in a different way than before.

August, September and October came with growing anxiety. Things were better in the country but that also meant that everywhere I went, a shop or a restaurant or just outside, people were not wearing masks. There was a deep resistance against them and that made my head spin with counting the number of shopkeepers I interacted with that didn’t know how to wear a mask over their nose. But I was going and moving and doing some of the things I had so deeply missed. But along with that, came a deep yearning for the silence and the lull of the lockdown days. They seemed almost serene to me now. Ironic isn’t it, how we always dream of the days gone by?

With November, I stopped trying once again. I thought my depressive episode was simply that, an episode. But the more I tried to uncover what I was feeling, the more I realized I couldn’t get to the root of why. And having lived with it for so long, I should have known. Because once you fall, you continue to tumble into the darkness unless you’re actively working on yourself. I traveled, thinking being away would change how I felt. But it didn’t, it never does. No matter how much you try to run away from your mental health, the demons always find you. 

And now December comes to a crumbling end. Everywhere I look and breathe, there’s another case of the virus and my anxiety is constantly peaking. I fill my days with work, create a new project for when I’m free. Because if I’m not doing anything, I am encapsulated by a crippling and brutal form of anxiety. So I keep filling myself with tools I once thought made me whole and now I question whether any of it really means anything at all. My body feels heavy and I’m nauseous and exhausted and tired of always feeling this way. 

I don’t want to completely discount the year, because I know it had a lot of great things within it too. I found a new form of resilience and remembered what it felt like to have time to myself. I slowed down and maybe, I am now better for it.

The year of ashes and anxiety, of storybooks and archives, the year that will never be forgotten. It took so much and yet the one thing I know it gave me, was the reminder that I can do this. We can all do this.

So as the new year rings in, I can only hope to follow through with that lingering promise I made to myself back when the world was whole.

This year, there will be no glitter. No sparkles. No hugs. 

Just the silence of the clock passing over to another year of the unknown.

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Career Now + Beyond

Job hunting during COVID-19 has dealt a big blow to my mental health

I graduated from college last year and what I assumed would be an easy task of searching for a job and establishing a career has quickly become a source of constant anxiety. I found an internship at a newspaper here in Dubai last year. It didn’t amount to much, and I wasn’t offered a job afterwards. This wasn’t too heartbreaking, though. I assumed I’d continue my education, and decided to enjoy some time off before university. Cue COVID-19 destroying my plans for higher studies and forcing me to hunt for a job while I stayed at home. 

As a creative, I assumed that it would be relatively easy to find a job. After all, everyone needs content, right? With the world turning to the internet, it’s important to have good content. I know how to write well. That’s what I learned in college and that’s what I did at the newspaper. I wrongly thought that this would be a piece of cake.

Almost five months later, I’ve grown to loathe every job posting site available and question myself in ways I haven’t before. I tried my best to hunt for a job. It felt like screaming into the void. Hours would be spent scrolling LinkedIn, Indeed, Oliv and Ojo. Initially, I would apply to be a content writer because that’s something that I’ve done before, but as the weeks passed by I started to branch out.

I took a course on SEO in order to boost my skillset and started applying as a digital marketer. I would spend hours crafting cover letters for each posting and re-making CVs to highlight the kinds of skills they wanted. One particular low point was when I was interviewed for an unpaid internship as a content writer for a small brand back in June.

Since I didn’t particularly like content writing as a career (I do not like writing promotional content but it helps to pay the bills), I didn’t want to do something I didn’t enjoy for just anything. Three months later, and I still hadn’t found a job I liked or one that paid. I realized this in September, and I hated myself for it. I followed companies on LinkedIn and reached out to recruiters, I asked my friends for any openings where they work. I’ve asked my parents for help as well, to see if they knew anyone who would hire me. 

After a few rejections and countless ‘non-responses’, I wondered if there was something wrong with me. “It’s difficult to find a job during a pandemic”, my friends would say. “The market is terrible right now”, my mom would justify. A part of me understands that a lot of people have lost their jobs and there isn’t enough to go around. A smaller, insecure part of me screams at how I haven’t even been called for interviews in weeks. 

Coupled with the reduced number of job openings in the first place are the constant ghosting and lack of responses from recruiters and job posters. I have applied to hundreds of positions – both in my city and abroad. Because work from home has become the norm, I was able to apply for positions outside the country.

The lack of responses was, honestly, appalling.

Despite the hundreds of applications I sent, I didn’t manage to qualify for second rounds, assessments, and interviews. The ones I did qualify for, I was unfortunately ultimately not chosen as a suitable candidate. How do I know this? Because their potential ‘start dates’ have passed by without a single email confirming or denying my acceptance. Despite sending follow-up emails, I’ve gotten no response and it’s worn me down.

What annoyed me was that I would get a positive response during the interview but no follow-up thereafter. I would send follow-up emails but to no avail. After a point, I stopped asking; if I was selected, I would get a follow-up email and if not, I didn’t want to hound the recruiter. Ghosting hit me much harder because I would have positive expectations from the assessment or the interview and get absolutely nothing in return. It made me feel small. I felt like I wasn’t even deserving of an email.

It went from being insulting to being demeaning.

I remember for one particular job posting I was sent a questionnaire and invited for a video interview. Right before the interview ended, the recruiter said, “You should be proud. We received over 700 applications, but we sent the questionnaire to about 90 and invited 15 for a video interview. We’ll have an in-person interview next week to further streamline the process, but it’s impressive that you made it this far.” Honestly, I was proud. Next week came and went, with no email or request for the in-person interview. It was honestly rude and hurtful. I thought the interview went well and now I didn’t even deserve a “Sorry, we found a better candidate” email?

I had been steadily applying for jobs since February and I’m wiped out. As lockdown restrictions were lifted, interviews were taking place in offices again. Coming into the office was another source of anxiety. I’m at-risk (I have asthma), and I was genuinely afraid of going to the office. I made sure to take precautions but it was still stressful. Thankfully, there are still plenty of work-from-home options and video interviews. I was still asked to go for in-office interviews and that was another source of tension. 

Job searching is draining, to begin with. I have seen countless tweets and posts online that talk about job hunting being emotionally exhausting. It feels like a full-time position in and of itself. The satisfying part is finally finding a worthy fellowship at the end.

It’s an exhausting journey but reaching the end goal makes it that much sweeter.

Of course, I know I’m not the only one with difficult-to-answer questions about their career, especially during a pandemic. As the months passed, I did find ways to cope with the rejections, the lack of responses, and the fewer opportunities available:

– I opened up to my friends and my parents. It was difficult to start the conversation, but it helped lift a burden off my shoulders. It also made things easier at home. My parents became more accepting when I told them I was still looking. My mom has become more supportive and they’re excited that I’m still writing and publishing. They’re supportive of what I do and they’re glad I’m safe at home.
– I did my research. Interviews were pretty new to me (video or otherwise), so I made sure I read up on adequate etiquette, the types of questions to ask and answers to give, and how to present myself.
– I worked on other hobbies and paid attention to other things. I focused on my own blog, took up knitting, and started reading more. What’s cool is that I am now a very skilled beanie-knitter.

This year has definitely had its ups and downs. My career felt like it was going to tank before it even began but I’m grateful for my friends and for my family. I’m lucky that I have a home to stay in while I hunted for jobs. It is humbling to know I have the privilege of being able to do what interests me, instead of what pays the bills. I’m also lucky that I found something that I enjoy doing. I thought I’d never get over the highs of college, but I like what I do now. It’s an interesting feeling to have.

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Sexuality Love + Sex Love

I rushed my first time because I thought I was late to the game

Content Warning: Some parts of this article may depict assault or unclear consent, you can scroll past the section, marked at the start and end with double asterisks**

It’s simple, really: much like Drew Barrymore’s character in the excellent millennium celebrated film, I was (almost) 25 and had never been kissed. Except, unlike Barrymore’s character, I had really, really never been kissed. And until the moment I had been, I couldn’t even decide whether or not I wanted it. Unfortunately, this is not some magical love story: my first kiss—my whole first time, was a massive disaster. 

I’d had crushes, but I’d rarely seen them through: chickening out rather disastrously when I was 19, determined to preserve a friendship I could rely on, rather than a relationship I was doomed to destroy. I’d otherwise been dumped when I was 22 for having a “difficult family history” and mental health issues that left my partner convinced they’d always receive less from me than someone else (it helps for context, to add that right in the middle of this relationship I’d been diagnosed with severe depression and probably wasn’t in the right place for a serious relationship). Needless to say, three years on, I was not looking for love, but I was looking for something.

I had really, really never been kissed.

I’d felt late to the game with my 25th birthday looming in 2020 and seemingly nothing to show for it. I hadn’t spent much time thinking about it before, but suddenly in those last few months of being 24, my lack of experience felt like the last milestone of adolescence I finally wanted to cross.

The second eldest of mostly sisters, I was the last of us and the only one to remain single for so long. While they never made a big deal out of it, it certainly felt like one. I worried they considered me prudish, shuttering more explicit talk when I neared, not wanting to make me feel uncomfortable, I assumed, in my inexperience. They’d later clarify it was in fact because of my indifference.

“Well you can’t know if you’re asexual if you’ve never had sex.”

This too, is true: I’d never understood, in the way it felt like my youngest sister always did, what made this actor or that person hot.

What did that mean?

What did that feel like?

How did I know if I was interested in someone if all I felt when I saw a simple picture was nothing?

My college experiences were borne of deep friendships: I’d cultivated an intimacy that made me feel safe enough to be vulnerable. It wasn’t how they looked, it wasn’t because they were both male.

When I toyed with the idea of finding a label, a well-meaning friend said, “Well you can’t know if you’re asexual if you’ve never had sex.” A few months after that conversation, I could confidently say that having sex absolutely did not make understanding sexuality any easier. 

In fact, if anything, perhaps backed by this sense of feeling broken and behind pushed me to make a decision I probably wasn’t ready for. Now it bears mentioning that I am a planner—I keep shoes in my online cart for months debating whether or not they’re the right ones, or whether I need, need them before executing a purchase. So it’s rather telling that from the time I thought of it (mid-February), to the actual execution of what occurred on the first Monday night in March that I was breaking my own rules by rushing into what I hoped would make me feel better. Rather, I was rushing toward someone I hoped would make me feel less confused. Someone, who, unfortunately, had no idea what was going on.

I wanted to get over this feeling of being “too old” to be a virgin.

A classmate of mine who I considered more than an acquaintance, if not friends, was where I landed. True to my nature, and probably my antidepressants, there wasn’t an immediate frisson. We were both writers, and perhaps through sharing our writing, I thought, in the smallest of ways, knew each other better than random strangers.

So after thinking about it and deciding against it, after a particularly rough week I woke up on Monday, March 2nd and by that evening showed up at his place and asked him to turn me down. 

While he expressed genuine surprise in seeing me there and insisted that he couldn’t enter a relationship with me, he asked me if I wanted to go up. Bundle of anxiety that I was, I did. And I overshared—a lot. Probably too much. I wanted to get over this feeling of being “too old” to be a virgin. I wanted him to understand that I was nervous, but that I could be brave. The only thing I miscalculated was that he didn’t care. 

Sure, he listened patiently as he tried to sober up from the blunt he’d smoked before I arrived. He was quiet, introspective—listened to my anxieties about graduating, about my family life, about my failed relationships. Finally, he asked me why I was there. I didn’t know—to feel seen, I guess. For him to know that I’d been thinking about this—about him for a few weeks. I wanted to know if he could ever—would ever, be interested in me. He paused, then, before asking, did I want him to kiss me now? Only if he wanted to, I said. And he did, so we did. And while I was sure I’d be terrible at it, he said it didn’t matter. So I decided not to worry about it and follow his lead.


There’s a reason we talk so much about consent — because everyone, myself included, will go back to a moment and try to understand what happened. What changed? How did it go from a (somewhat) positive encounter to murky gray so fast? Was it when I joked that if he liked my breasts in my dress he’d like them in my bra even more? Or was it when he shucked the dress, mouth going straight to the cups that I was surprised, but still went with it?

By the time he said he needed to come, and even though I couldn’t because of my meds, it wasn’t fair to lead him this far, it was still only gray territory. Because, it was “of course, only if I wanted to.” I said no exactly twice that night, first when he said he didn’t have a condom (he didn’t prefer them because it was less fun with them).

And yet somehow, after a very enticing, and repeated “come on, let’s just stick it in” that no, turned into an okay. Fine. Sure. Thankfully, the second no stuck—despite his repeated requests that I put my mouth on him, I told him I wasn’t comfortable. I wasn’t ready, maybe next time.

He had no interest putting his mouth on me, first claiming reciprocity. But he did—just once to help me along. It wasn’t enough to get me ready, but he’d given up trying. Or didn’t notice. So what happened next was pretty painful. So. Extremely. Painful. I’d be bleeding for the next day.

There was an exact moment I swear I was watching my body from the corner of the room, in pain, trying to be into it. Watching him tell me about a girl he’d been sleeping with who also liked how he’d smelled so much she asked what it was so she could get it for her boyfriend. That definitely didn’t help things along. Finally, he gave up.

He didn’t come, I wasn’t into it, and now he needed to read for class. I should probably go. I asked him if he would hold me, but apparently, that was relationship-only privileges, which this was not. I felt like I was slowly returning to my body, but not in those cliched ways. It felt stranger now, that he had seen me naked. That he had put himself inside me, knowing it was my first time, with so little care. I dressed mechanically, saving my scarf for last, feeling his eyes on me as I recovered my hair. 

He wouldn’t ask how I was doing until two days later, the evening after I showed up to work looking “distressed”. He’d get drunk at a concert with a friend that night and tell her he thought he’d fucked up. That I had come on to him. That I’d been obsessed with him, insisting we have sex without a condom. He’d start gaslighting me, reminding me I’d initiated it whereas he’d been clear on the relationship point. So what else did I expect? This was how it was done, didn’t I know? He didn’t like condoms, couldn’t be bothered with them—I was being silly. 

I’d wonder for months during the long hours of quarantine if he was right. If I had pushed aggressively for this. If I had insisted he sleep with me. If, in accordance with his version, I was a villain. Leaving him no quarter, showing up at his place unannounced and insistent. I’d agonize over why he hadn’t been nicer, gentler, rejecting that he’d said that’s how it was supposed to be. 


In my journey for answers, for catching up with the crowd, I suddenly felt all alone (in the middle of a global pandemic), discarded, and unlovable. I didn’t want him to love me, but how could he renounce any responsibility?

Several months later, he wouldn’t have any better answers. He’d start sleeping with a friend in whom I’d confided about what happened. A friend who had at the time claimed to be stunned and so angry with him on my behalf. But suddenly she’d disappeared from my life, choosing him, and as he said it, “his side of the story.”

To be very clear, consent isn’t “tricky”. There’s yes and there’s no.

In the end, I could care less about my virginity—I had no answers and even more questions. My body no longer felt like my own. Every day, it felt like he’d told yet another person about what had happened—exposing me and my body before everyone. It felt like despite my scarf, my semblance of control over who could see my body was gone.

I felt like hiding from the world, anxiously messaging friends trying to feel out if they too were laughing at me, or if they meant it when they said they loved me.

To be very clear, consent isn’t “tricky”. There’s yes and there’s no. Yes is enthusiastic and genuine and if it’s not then it’s not consent. Especially if it’s given after repeated questioning, or is the easier option to get out of a situation.

Women don’t often come forth with encounters that they regret because there’s a misconception that we only cry assault because we regret it ever happening.

I do not regret my choice to want sex.

But wanting it, even approaching someone who knows you want it, does not replace agreeing to it. My only regret is approaching someone who cared so little for me and my comfort that I agreed to something I said no to after feeling pressure to change my answer. For my mental health, I’m not ready to label this assault, but if this has happened to you, you are entirely within your rights to call it such. Your body and choice are always deserving of respect. 

There doesn’t have to be a lesson here. But the only thing that goes without saying always, is that there is no deadline.

There’s no shame in not being interested in sex, in being interested, in pursuing someone, in waiting, in going for it. I was gaslighted and taken advantage of by someone who had no intention of taking care of me.

But I’m not terrified about what’s next. In fact, I’m hoping that he’s the worst I’ll ever have.

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Life Stories Life

I learned that closure is just a social construct

Lately, I’ve been reflecting on the concept of closure as it relates to my life, my experiences, and beyond. Perhaps I have too much time on my hands as we’re all in the midst of a global pandemic. However, whatever the reason, I think it’s worth exploring such an ambiguous concept because everyone has felt they needed closure at some point. I’ve been wondering- is the concept of closure even real? Or is closure an illusion humans have created to convince ourselves we have control of time and healing? 

Throughout my four years of young adulthood, I’ve broken off childhood friendships, graduated college amid a global pandemic, and had my formative adult years shaped by racial injustice and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement. Among all the never-ending civil unrest in addition to managing my ever-changing internal world, I’m trying to find what helps me cope with the intersections of loss and change. I’m also learning what are the best ways to effectively move on.

I think what brought me to examine, or re-examine, closure so closely was completing my degree in May with no commencement to celebrate the accomplishment of finishing school. I struggled throughout college with managing my mental health, especially during my freshman and sophomore years. So much so that I often flirted with the idea of dropping out to relieve myself of the stress and grief. However, semester after semester I stuck it out. Because the silver-lining amid all my strife was always going to be my graduation.

I always thought walking the stage was going to be my moment of closure. Graduation was supposed to close the four-year chapter of my life that represented immaturity, clumsiness, anxiety, doubt, insecurity, etc. and signal me to “move on.” 

Obviously, I didn’t get a graduation due to the pandemic. Consequently, I began to struggle with my mental health again at the beginning of March. Without a graduation, and the closure I thought it would bring, my poor mental health bled into the summer with what seemed to be no end in sight. What I’ve now realized is the idea of an event bringing closure, or closing off a chapter of my life, was a bit ridiculous. I created this illusion in my head to help me cope with undiagnosed depression and anxiety through college. All while never actually coping. Without the illusion of closure, my mental health was still below par because I never properly healed from anything the way I should’ve years ago.

Ultimately, the closest thing to closure is time and space. We often think we need closure to move on, but we just need time. Time to heal. Time to reflect. Time to ourselves in a safe space. What I’m slowly learning is we don’t have as much control over life as we’d like. But that’s not a bad thing.

Sometimes I can’t control my mental health. Sometimes I can’t control when people come and go out of my life. I definitely can’t control the continued injustice that happens in the world around me. I can’t even control time or how long it takes me to heal from trauma. However, I’m actively working on relinquishing the imagined control I thought I had on different aspects of life. Instead, I’m finding comfort in the healing process. Closure may not be real in the way I imagined it, but I’ve experienced so much growth upon simply realizing that fact. And that is enough for me.

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