Love + Sex Love Life Stories

Have you ever felt unrequited love?

Usually when I think of unrequited love, I think of something great. Some sort of grand story full of catharsis. Unrequited is generally special.

A type of love that demands to be talked about for an eternity. Something electric, with compulsive wavelengths. Something like the movies that comes with its own playlist attached to it.

Something with late and long nights spent together in a damp minivan twinkling and spitting out dreams on a whim. Something with vicious fights fueled by our own desire. Something that makes my soul open up just as swiftly as it gets torn apart. And, somehow I wind up bursting at the seams yet feel completely unsatisfied. I always want more. 

Why do we long for the type of love that hurts so much it imprints our hearts? It is difficult to locate the line that separates struggle and triumph, as nearly every love story in popular media blurs the two. But unrequited love is so unbelievably magnificent and sad at the same time that it becomes all encompassing.

Unrequited love is an entire body, overwhelming, feeling. I have broken hearts before and I have had my heart broken, so I can tell you that the feeling never fades, one way or the other. It feels as if you are running fast, and for a long time, yet making no distance at all.

One time I waited two months for a guy to message me back before I realized that he just wasn’t going to. Ever. Again. And that entire time I couldn’t help but wonder why I cared so much. What we had wasn’t at all special, but I still was left longing for a distraction from the heartbreak. I was showered by his passivity instead of his kisses and I wanted him to know how much his absence hurt me, but he was so equally careless and carefree that none of it mattered.

Not even for a second. 

I felt unrequited love again while in a long-distance relationship. This kind of unrequited was different. It wasn’t one-sided. Instead, we felt tremendously for each other. It’s just that our bodies weren’t able to be physically together for some time. We were only long distance for the few months that I would be studying abroad, but it felt like an eternity. I remember being there and using all of my senses to try to gauge what his touch felt like.

Somedays I would wake up and watch the sun from my window, silently knowing that that same sun wouldn’t bounce to him for another six hours, and I would recall how that same sun looked dancing across his back at dawn. I’d lay in bed at night and want to tell him about my day, but I knew that I couldn’t. I was constantly reminded that he no longer took up the space in between my arms when we slept. But I was, and still am, fascinated by the immediate consumption of these moments. I am so grateful to have given him my heart. He still has it. 

The extent of passion is practically boundless. We should feel like we can fly on a whim, or scream and dance, when we are in love. Unrequited love just forces you to confront that intensity, those struggles and triumphs, head on. Some of it is beautiful; some not so much. I like to remind myself that love doesn’t need a reason, love just is. 

Unrequited love is messy, but worth it. It is a collection of fleeting moments. It teaches us that all love should be leaking, dripping, through every difficulty yet also a thread that is continuously weaving through and connecting our bodies and our souls. The whole point of longing is to continue, because there will always be potential to love someone rather than to have loved someone. They can’t be the one that got away if they weren’t the one in the first place.

Health Care Mental Health Love Wellness

I need a coping mechanism for my coping mechanism

Ever since I was young, I have been very nervous. I get anxious about trivial tasks, I am a perfectionist, and I have a problem saying no when someone asks for a favor regardless how busy I might beI always say yes. A lot of this has translated into intense migraines, lip chewing, nail biting, and hair pulling. That last part is what I hate most about my anxiety. It is called trichotillomania.

For people with trichotillomania, hair pulling is a way of dealing with negative or uncomfortable feelings like stress, frustration, or loneliness. It involves recurrent, often irresistible, urges to pull hair from areas of the body despite attempts to stop.

Psychology Today says, “it is an impulse-control disorder and one of several body-focused repetitive behaviors currently classified in the DSM-5 as Obsessive Compulsive and Related disorders.” 

Most people do not even know what trichotillomania looks like.

I have experienced this since the fourth grade, and I want to stop desperately. It distresses me, it’s incessant, and often makes me self-conscious about my appearance which only exacerbates the hair pulling. Some days I don’t even recognize the girl looking back at me in the mirror; she is not who I want to be.

Mine mostly focuses on the eyebrows and eyelashes, and usually occurs without me even really realizing that I am doing it. I could be reading, sitting in class, or watching TV and I am completely unaware….until I realize and curse at myself for it. The worst is when I realize that I have been standing in the bathroom, the door shut, hyper focused on pulling for an hour.

For people with trichotillomania, hair pulling is a way of dealing with negative or uncomfortable feelings like stress, frustration, or loneliness.

My mental health disorder is unpleasant, silent and lonely. Most people do not even know what trichotillomania looks like, or frankly what it is, which makes it difficult for me to talk about candidly or even to explain. 

You see, the thing is that I am the only person I know who lives with this, and I have a hard time putting my anxiety into clear words because of it. It doesn’t even make sense to me! I only found out that I was trich after a series of long and exhausting nights spent with my parents, who sat across from me for hours wondering why I would do this to myself.

It is more than just a habit. It is a disorder and I was alone.

Why can’t I just stop? They would just keep saying that I was beautiful and smart hoping that this would persuade me to stop. I’d sit there red faced, my body hollow from crying so much, wanting it all to just stop, too. They’d beg me to tell them what was the matter. And the truth is, I really did have no idea what or why. I still don’t.

One day I decided that I didn’t want to upset my family anymore because of this. I wanted answers. So, I typed what I did to myself into google I immediately knew this was something serious. It is more than just a habit. It is a disorder and I was alone.

I can’t help it and I can’t “just stop.”

This realization just made me feel more helpless. Sure, there are a lot of people who love me and wanted to help me, but no one understood exactly what this was. They don’t understand what it feels like to be completely out of control. I can’t help it and I can’t “just stop.” It doesn’t work like that, regardless of how much I wish that it did.

What doesn’t help either is that trichotillomania is not a part of popular conversation surrounding mental health. You only know about it if you are directly affected by it, but at that point, shame has surely already kicked in. I used to pray that no one at school would notice, even though I knew that it was hard not too.

If you just take one look at me it becomes obvious that something is wrong. I felt weird, trapped, and very angry. I quickly learned how to color in my eyebrows to make them look full, or to appear to be “normal.” This, of course, was only sustainable for some time. 

Eventually my parents brought me to a therapist, and I hated it at first. I didn’t want to talk about it anymore. I think I was either really nervous or in complete denial. But the therapy helped and we talked about things that I could do to ease my triggers. We tried so many things.

Getting it all out of me, and put somewhere else feels better, and I like that it gives my hands something to do.

One suggestion was that I put vaseline on my eyebrows to stop my ability to pull. Another was that I wear a hair tie around my wrist and pull that when I’m nervous. My parents even bought me a prayer bracelet and a worry stone, which is known to reduce anxiety and create some sense of calm.

This helped me the most, but now that I am older I rely on my writing a lot more. I fill journals with streams of my consciousness, all of my thoughts,  my nerves, and my perfectionist tendencies until I feel like I rid myself of it. Getting it all out of me, and put somewhere else feels better, and I like that it gives my hands something to do. It keeps me busy so that I don’t dwell on it.

No, I am not cured and I never will be. I know that this is something I will live with and have to treat for the rest of my life, but I am okay with that. I am glad to be a work in progress.

Of course, it won’t be easy and will require a lot of discipline, attention and self-love to handle, but I am so grateful to finally be confident enough to open up about my trichotillomania. I don’t want to be quiet anymore. 

Tech Now + Beyond

How instant photos helped me remember that I had good days and could overcome my depression

On my 17th birthday, my dad bought me an instant film camera, the Fujifilm neo classic. Never having owned one before I was so excited to use it. Back then, I was completely unaware of the significance it will have on my life.

In retrospect, the instant film was making a comeback, so I gladly hopped on the trend. In the beginning, I tried to take cool pictures but failed miserably. Either the lighting was too dark or too bright, the photos were out of focus or the entire frame was completely black. It’s safe to say, it took me a while to get a hang of things. Eventually though, after heartbreakingly wasting so much film, I learned what worked and what didn’t. 

In 1948, Edwin Land (co-founder of Polaroid) invented the first instant camera. Interestingly, what lead him to the invention was his daughter’s question…

“Why can’t I see the photo?”

Land took that challenge upon himself and developed the Polaroid Land Camera. The camera was sold out in minutes at $89.95.  It practically exploded in popularity and by the ’70s, Polaroid reached peak sales with the release of SX-70.

Back then, most people had to wait for weeks to get a hold of the pictures they took. Land’s invention provided convenience and speed of distribution of pictures.

Today, instant cameras preserve a sense of nostalgia and solidify moments. But, gradually with the digitalization of cameras, the company steered away from instant photography.

While traveling abroad I’d always make sure to pack my camera along. I took pictures of whatever I wanted to solidify. Monuments, flowers, the sky and even mundane structures like streetlights became things to marvel at. It’s like looking at the world with a whole new perspective; I was excited. Then, the time came to move out and head to university, and so naturally, I brought my camera along.

The next three years of my life were probably the most challenging. Moving to an entirely new country, juggling assignments, work, and depression, all started to take a toll on my happiness. I was desperately trying to feel alright through unhealthy coping mechanisms. Eventually, I stopped doing most things I loved and I started to stay inside more and more.

Of course, none of this helped. It made me miserable and to cope I indulged further, creating a vicious cycle. The thing about depression is, it erases the good memories you lived through. As if your whole life has been this way, bleak and colorless. But that’s not true, even if I don’t remember. I have proof, for myself.

I remember sort of re-discovering my little photo album in the back of my drawer. It got pushed back because of all my notebooks. Looking at the polaroids I took from the age of 17 made me realize I’ve had good days. Those little 54 x 86 mm pieces of film served as reminders that I’ll have more of these moments. With not many people around to remind me of this fact, my photos really helped.

The pictures I take on my phone don’t have the same effect. There’s something different about holding memory in your hand opposed to it being some abstract thing in the cloud. With all the loneliness that comes with moving to a new place. I longed for something that could attach me to real objects. I spent so much time online writing, chatting and watching, I wanted to look away from the screen. Moreover, since I found my photos I also started using my camera again and often. This meant actually leaving the house and taking pictures of places and things. I was taken back to when I first got it as a present, the very same excitement. 

Decades of history is tied to the instant camera. It encapsulates the junction between technology and human perspective. For me, it’s a way of recording, collecting and holding on to my fondest memories. 

I might not have every pleasant memory recorded with my camera. That’s alright, a small reminder is sufficient especially on the days that seem to hard to get by.

A polaroid of a cloudy blue sky with the words a word alone scribbled at the bottom.
[Image description: A Polaroid of a cloudy blue sky with the words a word alone scribbled at the bottom.] Via Anushka’s camera
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I’m afraid to tell the police what happened – because he follows me everywhere

If I were a different person, maybe he would be in jail right now, instead of in my grocery store when I’m trying to buy cheese.

I was raped a decade ago. When I was in college I would flee the common area once I spotted him. At my first job, he walked in, asked me about nail polish and said we should be friends again. At a Denny’s on Halloween, I excused myself, went to the bathroom, and vomited after seeing him enter with his friends.

There are a million reasons why people don’t report sexual assault. Mine is: he’s everywhere.

By the time I was nineteen, I was already very familiar with the concept of fear. Most are. But with an untreated anxiety disorder and a history of sexual abuse by a former partner, fear and I were far better acquainted than I would have liked. I’d never dealt with it particularly well, especially not considering the many ways it had been used against me during that relationship. But I’d learned to ignore the knot in my throat – to swallow the nausea and remember to breathe. I counted slowly with deep inhales, and though it wasn’t a cure, it helped.

But how do you overcome that sort of fear when you’re faced with reliving your experiences? When the source of terror walks casually through a door and grins at you, almost as if nothing had ever happened? That’s the thing though. That calm collection that fills whichever room you’re in can also get into your head.

Looking back now, older and more educated, I have the resources I need to cope with what happened to me and pivot the need for accountability away from myself. But a younger and newly independent me couldn’t understand why he thought it was okay to look in my direction and show no remorse. He thought it was more than okay. He thought we could be friends. It was so much different in my head than his.

Fighting against his perception only fueled the endless pump of doubt that I had to somehow keep in check. How was I supposed to feel about my trauma when there was this nagging fear that maybe I was just overreacting? That feeling bled through all of my decisions, and like many people, I ended up sinking into it, trying not to be seen.

On those occasions when I would run into him, he would corner me and make small talk while I chewed on the inside of my cheeks and tried not to say anything. He said we should be friends. I gave nothing in return save for a polite smile – the kind that can barely be regarded as one.

“Don’t you think?” he pushed, as was his M.O.

I received a text from him three days later and blocked the number. I wanted it to be as easy as that. But every time I stepped out my door, I ran the risk of bumping into him. He went to my school. He lived four minutes from my house.

He showed up at my work, my social events, and even once came to my home unannounced, only leaving because my brother refused to let him in.

Even to this day, I’ll happen upon social media posts from himself and his family. They’re usually along the lines of shaming women and the victims of assault.

It’s no new story, only the ignorantly accepted norm of a white family from the south. I feel lucky because he hasn’t contacted me in years. Our last encounter was one I can’t even remember, as a friend informed me that he tried to get my attention on a drunken night out after we passed him on the street. It was my birthday. I’m sure he knew that. I’m sure he felt comfortable in approaching me with the cushion of that fact behind him.

But there is no comfort in knowing what I know. I’ve gained a sense of peace through my openness. When it came time to decide whether I would participate in the #MeToo movement, it wasn’t a question of whether I would admit I had been abused. It was about whether I felt safe enough to admit who the abuser was. And I didn’t. I don’t. I’m not sure I ever will.

Not with him lurking around the corner.

Maybe I’ll find my words once I’m far enough away to know he won’t come knocking at my door. Maybe I won’t. But he does know. And I’ll never forget.

Tech Now + Beyond

There’s something about simple tech that helps me get through panic attacks

I have to admit it: I’m a sucker for minimalist tech.

Take Apple products. There’s something about their design that makes me feel at peace. The simple palette of neutral colors exudes an effortlessly elegant cool, the kind of cool you find while resting under the shade of a big tree. It sounds ridiculous, that a product made in a factory can make me feel so calm, but being surrounded by minimalist tech is the primary way I deal with my depression and anxiety.

It sounds ridiculous, maybe even too good to be true, so let me explain.

We are surrounded by technology. Every day we interact with our phones, computers, tablets and smart watches to the point where it becomes as natural as breathing. From the moment we wake up we are bombarded with notifications. Social media, work emails and even little things like weather updates can make us feel overloaded with information.

We spend hours scrolling through Facebook and Twitter, and not only for recreation. Many of our jobs, especially people who need to market themselves in order to find work, require us to be interactive on social media almost 24/7.

But when it has to be done on a brightly colored, chunky and flashing screen, it can feel even more like you’re being boxed into a tight room with little air to breathe.

So when I wake up in the morning and roll over to pick up a sleek black phone ready to deliver my to-do list for the day in an easy-to-read fashion I feel a little less stressed.

When I sit down at my desk to write and see an even keyboard of white letters on black keys, a distinct black border around a plain white wallpaper, and finally a neatly organized dock of just the things I need, I feel serene.

And I haven’t felt calm in a long time. Since I was diagnosed with Polycystic-Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), my depression has increased drastically. The imbalanced hormones coupled with the hustle of everyday life makes it impossible to get out of bed in the morning. So much of my life is spent fighting an internal battle between giving up and forcing myself to go on, and there are days when I feel empty and unable to do either.

Since my depression got worse, so did my anxiety. So many people, from doctors to people I spent time with, told me that my depression was ‘simply’ hormonal. I was being told to deal with it quietly, and that made me feel panicked about whether my feelings are even valid.

And beyond this, I and other millennials are feeling completely burnt out by work or lack of it.

So when it comes to implementing small things that can make big differences for my mental health, buying the minimalist tech I need has reached the top of my list.

And I get it, I understand that being able to buy something like an iPhone when capitalism is demanding more and giving less is a upper-class privilege. The same way that I accept this privilege, I accept that I need to do this in order to survive and be able to achieve in life.

It’s either save up for an iPhone or face another day of panic attacks over missed deadlines and uncontrollable crying in the shower.

Of course, work expectations are the key issue here.

More and more millennials are expected to smile through their unpaid internships while bills loom dangerously overhead. Even our parents put pressure on us to be as good as them at getting jobs, a house, a husband and children while not understanding how difficult these things have become.

We are expected to lose weight, get promotions, win awards, update Instagram and maintain our relationships all while having to beg our parents for one more month of allowance. These stresses compounded on top of one another make giving up the more tantalizing option.

So even though in my heart I know that should not give into consumerism I also know the care I give myself in unwrapping that certified pre-owned iPhone 6.

Even though I know the issue here isn’t really flashy, colorful technology, I also know that I can’t fix the labor market all on my own.

Instead, I am trying to find my way in this dizzying world, one day at a time.