Mental Health The Pandemic Now + Beyond

Here’s how texting is giving us anxiety – and what to do about it

I have a confession: I’m tired of texting.

Not because I hate technology and certainly not because I think we need to go back to the old times. Rather, I just find it mentally exhausting.

After months of not seeing people regularly in person, texting is just slightly better than solitude at best and emotionally taxing at worst. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think we need to break up with texting altogether, but maybe it’s time that we don’t treat it like the only form of online communication.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think we need to break up with texting.

Before the pandemic, I preferred texting to other forms of social interaction. As someone with social anxiety, it was easier.

I’d have time to think about responses, I wouldn’t have to show my facial expressions and, if a conversation was awkward, I could just ignore it. I much preferred texting to the dreaded phone conversation, the most anxiety-inducing part of my life.

Texting saved me. It was my social crutch. I could second guess myself or start a thought over without appearing awkward. I could easily draft and edit my response to any interaction, and nobody would know.

For someone who struggled so much with socializing, texting was a godsend.

What I never realized was that, when texting is your only form of communication, it’s exhausting. Because of the pandemic, I couldn’t see people in person. And with only texting, it’s notoriously difficult to tell someone’s tone while they’re texting, which can make conversations feel awkward or inorganic. I also find it difficult to hold a casual conversation while texting.

When I talk to someone face to face — or phone to phone — we’re able to shift from subject to subject and talk about the most mundane things. With texting, I always feel like I need a purpose to start or continue a conversation. This makes it very difficult to keep up casual friendships. During my time in pandemic-induced isolation, those relationships started to slip away.

Texting turned from my refuge to one of my greatest anxieties.

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There are exhausting aspects to Zoom, Facetime, and Skype as well, but having face-to-face communication can feel so much more invigorating. Being able to see someone’s facial expressions and hand gestures, and hear their tone of voice makes such a difference. Being able to have an organic conversation, with plenty of twists and turns and digressions just feels more comfortable for me.

I never realized that, when texting is your only form of communication, it can be exhausting.

Don’t get me wrong, I still like texting, and I’m not in favor of stopping it altogether. Still, we should stop treating it like the primary form of online communication.

Some of us need to be able to see a human face while interacting with others.

Texting turned from my refuge to one of my greatest anxieties.

Some of us just prefer the spontaneity of a talking conversation.

Texting is great, and it can be a lifesaver in certain situations, but it can’t be the only way we communicate. Technology is bringing us closer to real human interactions in an online setting, so we should take that opportunity. It makes a big difference.

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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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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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Family Life Stories Life

This is my open letter of apology to my sister

Growing up, I had only a few friends. From the ages of twelve to sixteen, I had a grand total of three people I would talk to and even then, I only felt comfortable messaging one out of these three friends. But, the one consistent person in my life has always been my older sister, someone I owe a big apology to. 

When we were younger, my older sister and I were often called twins – we were so in-sync all the time whether it was sentences, responses, or even emotions. My sister is in fact just under two years older than I am and although she can be a bit up herself for being the older sibling at times, I can’t say I’ve never connected with her even though my sister was always a little more sympathetic to things than I was or even still am; if I shed a tear, she shed a waterfall. 

Exhibit A; I slipped headfirst into the side of the building and got a concussion at school one time in year three and she cried more than I did as she went off to get a teacher who basically told her to calm down because not a single coherent word was coming out of her mouth. Though I had to stay home battling a throbbing headache for the upcoming weeks, my sister would spend her time at school making get well soon cards for me and coming home to just sit with me. 

I remember when she was leaving primary school and on her last day, I was filled with dread because I realized that if I now had a spat with my friends, I couldn’t run off to my sister. She was now going to be somewhere that would require me to climb out of the school gates undetected, crossroads safely and not get kidnapped by the white van that appears to be everywhere. Far too much effort for the kid who barely got off the sofa once she sat down.

I got through that year anyhow and remember my sister giving me a pep talk before my first day of secondary school with the same sentence over and over: “I’m there if you need me.” It got really sour, really fast. 

Although undiagnosed at the time, social anxiety has always been a lifelong struggle of mine and I always took comfort in familiarity in my surroundings. I expressed to my sister how nervous I was about starting school on our walk there and she agreed for both of us to meet during break time in the school canteen. The first day had already been awful for me with the highlight of it realizing that I would be picked on by this one girl for the next five years. Her reason? She thought I was ugly. 

As I sat at a table waiting for my sister, a group of girls from my class walked past me making comments about how ‘ugly’ I was. I became the focal point of their laughter when my sister walked up to me and gave me a hug asking how my first few lessons were. I was suddenly torn between being in my safe space and fitting in – would I have been spared the embarrassment if I didn’t talk to my sister? I didn’t know it wouldn’t matter either way; the class bullies ran with it, teasing me relentlessly for the next five years. 

I got teased for a myriad of things during my time at secondary school, but it was all largely in comparison to me and my sister. She was tall, fairer-skinned (colorism at its finest), pretty, and above all, skinny. It didn’t help that she was also smart so whenever we had the same teachers, I would have to face comparisons by the teachers which would just become more ammunition for the class bullies. One girl in my class spread the rumor that I was adopted because there was no way one sister could be so beautiful and the other one so ugly. Another girl told me that my sister should be embarrassed to have such a fat sibling. The comments only got more demeaning from there.

I took it all out on my sister. I started arguing with her every morning so she would leave for school without me and purposefully get out of class really late so I wouldn’t have to walk home with her. Everything anyone has ever bought me down for, I would blame on her and I made sure she knew it. I bullied my own sister for my insecurities and that is a regret that will haunt me for the rest of my life. I regret my actions especially because my sister is a kind soul who has only ever encouraged me and waited patiently for me to work through any issues I was having.

It wasn’t until I got out of secondary school that I realized how awful I had been to someone who had never been mean to me – we came out of school with an overwrought relationship on my behalf. The road to healing has been long but my sister deserves to know that none of it was her fault and if I could undo it, I would.

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College 101 Best Friends Forever Life

I considered myself a loner until I started university

Something I didn’t realize about my friends in primary school was that they, with the exception of one girl, were all white. Of course, it didn’t matter then and doesn’t matter now, but I never realized how much my ethnicity had alienated me from most of the school.

I only realized my struggle to integrate with the other kids at school when I had gotten to secondary school where I was labeled a coconut; a brown girl with white girl-isms. My school was mostly white back then – it probably had something to do with the area I grew up in. For context, my neighbor used to be Tony Blair. My primary school had an estimate of 10-15 non-white kids so you can imagine the clashes I had with a lot of the kids when they would make fun of my culture and beliefs. I could refer to the boy who decided to rip my hijab off my head when I first started wearing it at eight years old, but I’ll put that down to him simply being Islamophobic. I thought I was the brownest kid you could possibly get in the area until I walked through the halls of secondary school, an experience that continues to haunt me even now. 

In primary school, I struggled to make lifelong friends because I was brown and different. Surely secondary school was set to be easier? After all, my parents had made the conscious decision for me to integrate more with the people of my culture. Yeah, that’s not how it went. 

I developed social anxiety at a very young age – the thought of meeting new people terrified me and I had the worst timing for becoming timid. Going into secondary school made me realize that perhaps people who I had previously considered my friends weren’t really – not to blame them though. We were all young and knew nothing about keeping in touch. Well not with me anyways, my previous friend group are still friends to this day. I was apparently more difficult to reach because my parents were ‘too strict’ for their liking. In reality, they were just Asian. Their parenting ideas were a little different from their parents and that made ‘my friends’  uncomfortable. 

Oddly though, I had the opposite problem when I got to secondary school. The brown kids would bully me saying my parents weren’t Bangladeshi enough and I failed as a Bangladeshi girl – something I hadn’t heard before. My accent was ‘too white’, my sentences too complex, I didn’t speak a word of slang and I read for fun. Somehow, that was really white to them. It didn’t help that my lovely sister was a beautiful and intelligent individual while I was quite the opposite; shy, fat and recused. It’s safe to say I didn’t make any friends in secondary school either. Does it get better for me in sixth form? No. Secondary school left too many scars for me to focus on making friends. I was beside myself trying to pull myself out of a really dark place

My parents forced me to go to university – I know what you’re thinking “your parents can’t make you do anything”. Wrong. My parents could but not in a malicious way that benefits them.  Rather in a way that always filled me with hope. 

My dad had told me that everyone was an adult by this stage, if they had time left to bully someone, consider them pathetic and walk past them. Always easier said than done but in September of 2015, I walked through the hallways of the university making my way to orientation, nervous as heck. Thankfully for me, this girl who had come into the lecture late wasn’t. I felt a light tap on my arm and a voice asking if this was the right place. Denying eye contact I nodded only to be smacked in the arm as she pushed up a seat next to me. “You and me? We’re friends now. You’re stuck with me” the girl said. I was stuck with her and we are friends, even now. But I didn’t luck out at just one friend. There’s my friend who calls herself the fish and chip kid (apparently that’s what people in Somalia call British-Somali kids), my friend who takes enjoyment in towering over me with all six feet of her and my friend who decided that the best way to become my friend was to hold my hand while staring at a video of BTS’ Jimin dancing blindfolded. Sure, my friend group is small but it’s all I’ve ever needed – a kind face or two. My background meant nothing to them unlike it did to the kids back in my early stages of education. I could finally, unapologetically, be myself. 

My friends mean so much to me; after all my years of struggling to connect with people, I learned that it’s not impossible and there are genuinely good people out there in the world. The thing I’ve yet to learn is to go pursue friends myself as all my friends had to approach me.  It’s ok though. Knowing that I have friends that have my back is all I need for a long while.

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Mind Mental Health Health

I cry at 3AM every night and record myself – here’s why

Trigger warning: Mentions mental health, eating disorders and suicide

“It’s a demon I tell you, a DEMON,” is probably the response I’d get if I told my mother that I cried everyday at 3AM. She would promptly tell me to open my bible and pray the mweyawetsvina, which is dark spirit in Shona, away. I’ve often wondered why avenues of science such as therapy, can’t co-exist with religion in matters of mental health.

My mental health began deteriorating when I was in high school. I stopped eating and assumed it was an eating disorder. In my eyes, that was manageable. There was a physical solution, all I had to do was eat. So, I did. Yet, each morsel of food I let into my body; I felt a violent rejection. So, eating became non-existent. Getting away with it was easy at first. I was a prefect, so I simply slipped in and out of the dining hall unsuspected.

At the peak of my disorder, I didn’t eat for three days.

Then, when I was on duty and calling out the register for lunch, and I dropped. Nearly 6 feet down onto the grey concrete slab below. My body had finally given out. I landed chin first, the flesh splitting in half, bone on full display. I got six stitches and a scar that I still sport to this day.

When I told my mom she simply said, “I told you, you should eat more.”

We never discussed it again.
It wasn’t the end of the problem, only the beginning. I wanted control. Not eating wasn’t because I thought I was ugly or hated myself. I wanted to feel control. So, when a teacher was assigned to watch me eat, I did so gleefully, because I knew when I got back to my dorm room, my two fingers would acquaint themselves with the back of my throat.

I was the happiest sad person you’d ever met.

I didn’t know who to talk to. When I talked to my siblings, they told me I was simply hypersensitive. So, that’s what I assumed. I was hypersensitive.

Happiness at times feels like a ghost unwilling to haunt me.

When I told my mom, I’d thought about suicide as a sweet escape, she said, “when thoughts like those come beat them with the bible Nesta.”

So, I decided to gather proof.

I thought if I could somehow prove how depressed I was she’d understand, she’d help me. Recently I have been waking up crying the emotional toll of online learning, Covid-19 and childhood traumas sinking their claws in at 3AM each night. My cries erupt through me like a stuttering earthquake, tears unrelenting and my lungs fighting for air. And when this happens, I turn on my phone and press record.

I press record because I want my mom to see my pain, to see that this sadness won’t leave me. That it isn’t an imaginary disease I’ve conjured up in my mind. It’s not a demon. But I also do it for myself. I tell myself, this may hurt now, but it won’t always hurt. I try to convince myself that one day I’ll look back on these videos and laugh.

I’ve stockpiled nearly thirty videos and I’m still waiting.

There’s a certain pretense upheld in the African culture. Everyone needs to see you happy, humble and successful. There’s no room for anything else. Emotions are a nuisance no-one wants to talk about or address in African culture. Mental health is like a dirty family secret, people think if they ignore it, then it does not exist.

Mental health is taboo in African culture. Although discussion surrounding depression and anxiety are on the rise it still can’t be said for many families. Conditions like schizophrenia or bipolar are still incredibly polarized. In Zimbabwe people who act outside of convention would immediately be called a mupengo, which translates to mad person. Families will probably distance themselves from these people for fear that they’ll be contaminated. Or a more popular option is locking them away from the public, so no-one thinks you’ve been visiting the witch doctor.

There aren’t enough studies about Africa and mental health. The few studies paint Africans as happy go lucky and devoid of mental illness. The study claimed that Africans couldn’t suffer from depression because their lives were ‘simple’. They didn’t have the multiplicity interlay of European lifestyles, that there was an absence of problems in African communities. The studies claimed in poverty happiness was found.

The study was held in 1963, when many European colonies were seeking independence. These studies were used to justify the continued oppression of African people. These broad sweeping generalizations made over five decades ago still affect African people today.

This is where this misconception was born. That all Africans are happy people. That all we do is dance in the sun, sing, and eat. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

When I hailed a taxi in England the driver an older white man with a thick Northern accent, immediately asked me where I was from. So, I told him I was from Zimbabwe and he promptly said, “Ah, lovely people, they are don’t complain one bit, they just keep going, always happy.”

These stereotypes are harmful. People think that we have no threshold for pain, but we feel everything deeply. Not only do Africans deal with historical trauma of colonialism, the racism, including issues of the diaspora who fail to integrate.

The field of psychology pertaining to African people needs to expand.

We need experts who’ll identify issues specific to mental health and African people. If we can find a solution and open a dialogue between our elders and equip ourselves with not only a bible but treatment. I believe we could address the issue head-on.

Living with severe depression is hard. Trying to convince those around you that you’re actually depressed, is harder. I’ve found that after years of self-soothing and untangling my own self-loathing at my ‘weakness’, I will survive. I will continue to chase that elusive ghost called happiness, no matter how long it takes.

Wedding Weddings

The awkward, weird and embarrassingly strained “marriage” talk

When you enter your twenties, you start anticipating a conversation with your parents about getting married.

A storm of feelings starts brewing in you as you await this conversation. And if you have brown parents, you’ll agree with me when I say that these feelings mostly edge on awkwardness, nervousness, tension, and discomfiture.

I recently entered my twenties — an age that is considered ripe for marriage — at least on this side of the world.

When you’re twenty, you become eligible for marriage. Proposals start pouring in. Your parents tell you that it’s time for you to settle down in life. And they also tell you that they will find the perfect partner for you to fulfill this deed.

We’re discussing marriage, so how can I forget those pesky Rishta aunties who can’t resist shooting proposals and miserable remarks your way — “the guy is rich, think about it”, “you don’t want to be too old when you get married”, “marry to take this burden off from your parents” — as if their life depends on your marriage. Aunties, it turns out, are obsessed with marriage.

After I crossed twenty, I knew my parents would confront me with this conversation. And I dreaded it.

I did not want to talk to my parents about marriage, proposals, and settling down. It was awkward.

The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to delay talking to them. But then we talked, and it was every bit as awkward as I thought it’d be.

My mom sat down with me. She made a nervous pose, gulped air and then said that somebody had approached her with a proposal for me. I was obviously startled. I didn’t know how to respond to this piece of information that was presented to me so unexpectedly.

My mom went on and on about how marriage was essential at this age. Words dried up in my throat as her speech ensued. She said that they were good people and she could invite them over if I’d like to meet them. I didn’t want to meet anyone, but I didn’t know how to say this to her.

I was so close to telling my mom to stop talking because I suddenly felt so anxious. My mind drew blanks instead of answers.

I was so close to telling my mom to stop talking because I suddenly felt so anxious. My mind drew blanks instead of answers.

“I’m not thinking marriage right now,” I said in a nervous ramble, and then went away — the cliched answer. But the one that saved me so much misery in the coming days. 

The subject was never brought up again. And that was a relief.

In Pakistan, discussing marriage prospects with our parents can feel extremely uncomfortable. We never tell them things. We grow up thinking that we can’t confide in them. They don’t share their lives with us, and in turn, we don’t share ours with them. There’s so much distance between us. And then suddenly, out of nowhere, we’re expected to have these intense, meaningful conversations with them discussing a huge decision about our lives.

If we reckon the true reality of our relationship with our parents, these conversations are only meant to be difficult, dispassionate,  awkward, and sometimes, even embarrassing.

A friend recently turned down three marriage proposals because she was already in a relationship. But she didn’t tell her parents that —  she feared their reaction.

 Sometimes it’s easy confessing your true feelings and intentions to them. But at other times, you regret telling them anything the same minute.

Communicating with them can even be confusing. We feel scared of what they might say or do if we tell them that we like someone. We don’t know what to expect.

What if they’re angry, upset, or disappointed?

What if they don’t trust us enough?

What if they feel betrayed for not being allowed to make this important decision for us?

I don’t blame my friend for not telling her parents about her relationship before — I probably would’ve acted the same way if I were her. In Pakistan, love marriages are frequently disapproved. Our instincts and fears are valid. 

Marriage is an important decision, but a discussion about it with our parents can be one of the most awkward situations that we have to sit through. It would’ve been so much easier if they were communicative from the beginning. If they talked to us more. If they made us a part of important conversations when we were younger.

But for now, the “marriage” talk is awkward as hell.  And sadly, most of us become a part of it, sooner or later.

Editor's Picks Health Care Mind Love Life Stories Wellness

Here’s how I realized I have body dysmorphic disorder (BDD)

In recent years, my city has begun throwing a food festival called “Islamabad EAT” where families and friends alike gallivant about, trying scrumptious treats served by local food vendors. And just like every other year, my siblings were hyped to delve into the festivities in this just-the-right-amount-of-chilly-weather of my beloved city. Only to hear me throw another resounding NO at them.

This year, in particular, I felt much worse about my incapacity to be spontaneous. The reason is that firstly, I have begun to flag the issues sprouting from my mental illness more vigilantly and secondly, I am making concerted efforts to gnaw my way out of this cobwebbed existence.

Even more so, despite my usual stride to just shrug and avoid public interactions at all costs, my heart broke when my younger sister paused to ‘look’ at me.

If you struggle with a mental illness (in whatever form it may be), you are no stranger to the fact that despite your best efforts, your illness tends to seep through the cracks. In my life, she gets to ‘absorb’ the pain radiating from my soul and attempt to appreciate the struggle behind my catatonic presence. Her face fell, but she didn’t complain like she could’ve, her silence was enough acquiescence to my brutal confliction.

That being said, to put a face to my ‘afflictions’ let me explain: I suffer from debilitating social anxiety which, when amalgamated with body dysmorphia, has reduced me to put myself on house arrest.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a mental health disorder whereby you fixate on ‘perceived’ flaws in your appearance to the point that you are fraught with feelings of unworthiness.

Sufferers of this intrinsically self-sabotaging disorder are unable to reclaim control over their social interactions. This is mainly due to the elevating levels of anxiety they experience when they do. Because they have sanctioned their physical appearance as utterly reprehensible in their sights; they wholeheartedly conceive the notion that others do so too.

For me personally, my setting of ‘perfectionist’ tones in every other realm of my life had silently crept in here.

As long as I can remember, “getting ready” gave me a surge of anxiety. When you are young and you don’t really understand what your responses to certain situations are telling you, you resort to labeling yourself. To avoid having to explain why I’m so awkward looking, I declared myself a ‘tomboy’ or ‘shy’ or an ‘introvert’ who couldn’t be bothered.

My heart broke when my younger sister paused to ‘look’ at me.

But I was bothered, but not to the extent I am today – no. Previously, I’d just haggardly throw something on, “attempt” to fix my hair and count the moments until I could nestle back in my safe space and call it a night.

Moreover, growing up with super girly friends didn’t help either. For their sole basis of excitement encircled the moments leading up to the social event per se. Where they would be bustling about, laughingly learning how to hone their skills; I would be standing and waiting for my turn to be done with.

Nobody understood, perhaps not even myself.

I would feel extremely low and find myself shrinking away from these antics. In fact, several times a dear friend would call me out on it and bully me into submission; prodding me as to why I have to ruin the ‘vibe’ every time. I don’t hold that against her though, because when you don’t undergo some emotional ordeal yourself, being irked is bound to follow.

As of now though, my body dysmorphia has exacerbated to the point that I no longer shop for clothes; it’s been a couple of years at the least. I barely go out in public, with my blaring anxiety compelling me to cancel plans with friends.

Fear of missing out is that phenomenon that none of you wish to endure.

And here I am, grappling with my accelerating body dysmorphia; unable to fathom a time when I’d enjoin you.

My state is mainly attributable to having dealt with severe health issues which resulted in a lack of luster in not just my physical appearance, but most painfully, in the mushiest corners of my soul. It feels like “I” no longer exist. Deterioration in my physical appeal didn’t just dramatically unhinge every sphere of my social life.  Rather it kept feeding the body dysmorphic decapitating thought process inside my head.

I barely go out in public, with my blaring anxiety compelling me to cancel plans with friends.

But now I feel I am coming into better terms with my sickness; flagging this issue truly was half the battle. Now that I have put myself on this dreary path to recovery, the haziness in my mind is slowly beginning to disperse.

Because living with depression almost entirely eliminates any prospects of recovery; it attempts to annihilate our inner strength by declaring it “meek”.

I refuse to flagellate myself any longer.

Self-soothing is truly underrated.


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Gender & Identity Life

I may be introverted, but that doesn’t mean I’m your doormat

As an introvert, I do not always make a great first impression.

I was never the person to raise their hand in class, opting to send emails to my professors or speak to them during office hours to express my grievances. I was the quiet one, the woman of little words, as a professor so affectionately dubbed me. My lack of expression always brought up questions and concerns.

I’ve had complete strangers ask me, “Tell me, who hurt you?” Even throughout my life, I was always asked the golden question in school, “Why don’t you talk?”

Maybe because I don’t know you?

Ever since I was young, those questions and even the way people reacted to me, made me wonder if there was something wrong with me. But as I got older I learned the difference between an extrovert and an introvert. The difference between them is like salt and sugar. I’ve always seen extroverts as the sugar. They’re usually seen as having the more desirable personality: loud, aggressive and overly expressive.

These were the people who have no trouble during job interviews and know how to throw a party.

Introverts, though, we’re the salt. Too much of it is never a good thing.

The media describes us as being low energy, shy, and awkward human beings. I’ve had people tell me that I was too quiet, and unresponsive. But it was simple. If I wasn’t with my immediate family and friends, it would take a while for me to warm up.

Introverts don’t just loathe social interactions.

It’s true I do hate small talk, but I have no trouble discussing the dangers of our current political climate or debating which pizzeria in Brooklyn is the best. It’s just after being around people, we need a break. We need some time to be by ourselves and recharge. Other people can go from one social interaction to another, without feeling as if their energy is drained.

After I hang out with a group of friends, I have no interest to communicate with anyone else. The first thing I want to do is binge watch Netflix for the next eight hours, wrapped up in my covers and stuffing my face with snacks. But society has deemed this behavior inappropriate and strange.

We live in a world where enjoying our time alone is not celebrated, but a cause for concern. Sometimes I need to be in my own solitary confinement. I don’t always need contact with the entire world. Being by myself has allowed me to clear my head, and gives me the strength to elaborate on my own ideas and thoughts.

I have my own thoughts and opinions, but I just choose not to share them out loud all the time. Unfortunately, there is a general consensus that those who don’t share their opinion don’t have one. It isn’t that I don’t have one, trust me I have a lot of things to share, but being quiet has led me to make fewer mistakes than some of my counterparts. I’ve always been an observer, watching how people reacted to their environment and learning how to blend into the background.

But blending into the background does not always head to great results.

When you’re surrounded by extroverts, it’s easy to lose yourself in the back and forth conversation that you’re not a part of. You are not the participant, but once again, the observer.

My status as an introvert usually leads to others ignoring or dismissing me. Some people even see it as a reason to take advantage of my own docile nature in order to further their own agenda. It would be easier for me to stay in the background and let them walk all over me, but I’ve learned to use my voice especially when someone is trying to take advantage of me. I’ve had to fight not only those who overpower me but myself. I have to push myself to speak loud and let myself be known in a room, even when I want nothing more than to blend in.

It’s easy to assume that because I am not involved, that I become forgotten, which can be the case, but usually people take note of my silence. Even during group projects in school, I tried my best to speak up. It was always difficult when dealing with people I wasn’t comfortable with.

Each word I said had to be carefully thought out and planned.

When it came to presenting in front of a class, or any audience, my social anxiety increased. My face would get hot, sweat would start running down my back and sometimes, if I made the mistake of having Chipotle for lunch I would be gassy.

But people always dismiss my anxiety as a little hurtle. It was always something that I had to jump through in order to make it in the world with my extrovert friends. It’s not like I can turn off my personality whenever convenient.

Being “quiet” or “reserved” is who I have been since I was born.

Over the years, I have opened up a bit and learned to get over my social anxiety.

I have learned and accepted that I was salt, but salt is a basic necessity to any dish. I am not perfect, and I’ll probably never be the most vocal person in the room. But I do not let my flaws hinder my own success. I have been able to flourish as an introvert. I have learned from not only my own mistakes but from others because even though I’m quiet, I still make mistakes.

I’ve learned to accept who I am, maybe it’s time the world does too.