Voices in my head

First, let me apologize for not posting anything in the last two days. My PMS has been pretty bad this time around and it was messing with my head. There is a voice in my head that won’t quit. It won’t stop telling me all of the awful things about me. Then there is me that puts up a fight, tries to rationalize, induce some logic to the poison being spewed. Good days are when the I triumph and bad days are when I am too tired to fight back.

There is a voice in my head that knows all the wrong things to say, there is another voice in my head that knows all the right things to say and then there is me. Who do I listen to? – Me

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Cabrillo National Monument

Mental illness manifests in many forms. It isn’t a right or wrong situation, it is a large spectrum of severeness. To each their own demons.

For the longest time in my life, there never was a voice in my head. Perhaps because the world around me was so busy and bustling with activity or because I was too young to have realized the existence of one. Maybe it was just dormant and bidding its time. One day, the day I moved into my apartment at grad school, it woke up. Sitting there alone (my roommate hadn’t arrived yet), everything was so quiet. No traffic, no noise, no people shouting, no TV, nothing. I heard this voice retelling my life story in my head, reliving some of the awful things I had done. Initially, it was a voice I listened to. I had vowed to be a better person, to grow and be more understanding. I listened to the voice. I used it to become a better human being.

It was a lot of hard work, constantly criticizing and improving myself, looking at myself under a microscope and analyzing everything I said and did. It obviously did not come naturally. Who knew that not judging people, walking in their shoes and trying to remember everyone has a story would be such a difficult task. It took me years, over four, before I was at a place where the voice in my head started to find fewer things. Of course, it is a continuous process, you never really stop bettering yourself, but I had reached a point in my life where I was happy with myself. I could look at myself in the mirror and not cringe; I started to love myself. There were flaws but I owned them, I loved them, I knew I would continue to get better.

There was a downside, however. The voice in my head started to exaggerate things, it would find ways to hit my self-esteem and to make me feel bad about unimportant things. It wasn’t too hard fighting the voice down for a while. I had achieved a lot after all, I had worked hard at becoming the person I wanted to be. I had a lot of good days before I even saw a bad day. Let me tell you, the voice was good at what it did. Because it was me, who else knows me better than I do? Who best to hit me on my weaknesses? But it wasn’t as strong, maybe it was still learning.

Something happened that I had not anticipated. I fell in love with a man. Honestly, a very toxic man. It was the most poisonous relationship I have ever been in. I did not realize how much impact it had on my life until I was out of it. He would make me feel bad about myself – about the things I ate, the clothes I wore and, worst of all, of my past. My past, is obviously, in the past. I am no longer that person, whatever I may have done or not done, I repented, fixed and moved on. No one has the right to make someone feel bad about themselves. It was a very long eleven months and the aftermath left me, to the say the least, devastated. My self-confidence had been chipped away at, parts of me were missing and hardest to deal with, was the guilt that I had allowed a man to this to me. It was one of my lowest points, a slump I did not know how to deal with. That’s when the evil voice reared it’s head in full force.

It was a time where I isolated myself from a lot of people and plunged into depression. I went days with really bad eating habits, developed insomnia or sometimes slept for hours during the day. I never thought I could get out of my head, everything seemed futile. Even my favorite hobbies held no interest for me. I put up a face at work and it drained me. One day I got lucky. I woke up and I realized I am a fighter. If I could leave my whole life behind and move to a brand new country, I could pull myself together again. I was fortunate enough to be able to afford some therapy, dig deep within myself to find the strength to get up and be my own anchor. Not all of us have the luxury of seeing the bright sun hidden behind the shadows. But if I can survive, so can you. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It shows strength and a desire to improve your health. That is all we really have, our health. We are our constant company and the journey is so much better when we are healthy – physically and mentally.

To this day, that voice has not left me. It has been three years, I have sought help, worked harder than before and am definitely a lot better, but there are days when even the slightest things can tip me off. I have been blessed with wonderful friendships and relationship and the strength to fight. It helps to know, I am not alone in the struggle and there are people always ready to help. Every bad day I tell myself – it is okay to have a bad day, I will survive and historically, my track record is 100% perseverance.

Are you starting Grad school?

When you decide to move from India to the US for grad school, you naturally try to gather as much information as you can. Here’s the kicker – no one tells you what it is actually going to be like. Either they themselves are in denial, they don’t want you to know how hard it is, the struggle is worth it or maybe (the rare case) it truly is as chill as it all seems.

So in my uncertainty, I went to graduate school and there it all happened. – Ted Nelson

studying

Assignments (Used the app Prisma to edit the photo)

The picture depicts how I spent my two years at school and how I felt. All my emotions were just a big medley of hormones. I felt blurred most of the time. Maintaining a long distance relationship while trying to figure out who you are, socializing and finishing up assignments will drain you out. A brand new country, with no one to be your anchor, no one to fall back on, no one to confide in and everyone competing with each other. For me, trusting and letting someone else get close is very hard. When you realize you are an island, it can be empowering but it is also an all consuming loneliness. The loneliness doesn’t ever really go away. It becomes a layer all around you lurking just below your skin, threatening to take over at the slightest provocation.

I will let you in on a secret. It wasn’t my idea to attend grad school. It was my mom’s idea. I wasn’t very stoked on it until my then boyfriend convinced me that it was the right thing to do for our relationship. Living in different countries was supposed to be good for us, there’s a red flag if there ever was. I am not complaining, things turned out great for me… eventually.

The two years spent at grad school should have been the hardest of my life. Everyone talks about how school work is going to consume you. Honestly, looking back now, grad school was not nearly as hard as the rest of my journey here has been. There are two ways to approach grad school – you can learn all the practical skills you need to be good at a job or learn all the theoretical information and never worry about if this will actually help you with a job. Unfortunately, I chose the latter. I wasn’t aware that’s what I was doing. I had so many other things to deal with. It was my first time living alone, I had to manage my finances, cook for myself, clean up after myself, all while being an adult and finishing up the coursework; not to mention meeting new people, handling relationships and the heartbreak and pain that brings. If you want to attend grad school, remember, the two years are not the most stressful. What comes after is what will turn your hair grey – job hunt, interview preparation, excelling at your job and finally keeping that job.

Sometimes, I feel I might have squandered my time at grad school. If only I had known, if I had had some job experience or if I had an idea of what it meant to uproot my life. Although I never felt I belonged in India, living in a new country did also feel isolating. I was surrounded by Indians most of the time during grad school and it didn’t really feel like something different. The isolation and feeling foreign came once I graduated and moved to a different city.

On my first day of school, I was unpacking and found my notebook from college that I used to write part of a book. Just like many college students, I thought I should write a book about my life. As I sat there reading it, it hit me how juvenile it all was. All I wrote about was pain caused by petty things. I had written that only about a year ago and it felt trivial. I also started to reflect on my personality in high school and in college. I was very stubborn and egoistic in high school and college, I was dependent and spoilt. I decided I was going to use my time at grad school to also grow as a person.

In spite of the stress of coursework, pain of betrayal and heartbreak, confusion of an early 20-something new adult and the loneliness of a new country, I grew as a person. I became independent and learnt to be more understanding of people. I learnt to not judge (how could I after some of the things I had done), to put myself in other people’s shoes and let go of my ego. I am glad I had the opportunity and I am blessed to have come out of there with two wonderful friendships that are still pretty strong to this day.

 

Let us start at the beginning

It has been over five years since the day the picture was taken. Yet, it feels only like yesterday. I can remember almost everything from my time at Grad school; not in an everything-is-crystal-clear sort of way but more in a flashes-of-moments-in-a-surrealistic-tone kind of way.

And when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it — Paulo Coelho

IMG_9930Graduation

My departure from India was extremely stressful to say the least. My mom had yelled at me, it was my first time alone at an airport, I was terrified I was going to lose my documents and yet somewhere in the corner of my soul I had this tiny exhilarating feeling. As I type this, almost seven years later, I can transport myself to that day, sitting on an airport bench with my purse in hand and my carryon beside me. I had no idea what lay ahead of me, I had no expectations for the life I wanted to build. My heart, brain and soul were saturated with emotions with what was happening at that moment to even comprehend what was to come.

As I sat on the bench waiting for my flight, I realized how everything in my life had been leading up to that point. I always thought it was a cliched expression used by literary authors for affect but sitting there, I could see how every decision I had made since I was a tween had led to that moment. It was one of the most important days of my life, a turning point I had not anticipated. Years later, today, I can tell with confidence that was the moment I grew up. It was the moment I realized, I was finally free to be who I wanted be, to be who I already was.

Living in India had never been easy for me. I hated competing for the best grades, was never interested in academics unless it was English literature, preferred Harry Potter over going to temples and visiting unknown relatives, never bothered with weird Brahmin cultures my grandparents wanted me to follow. I think the hardest was demanding to be treated as an equal to my brother. I wasn’t allowed to walk home alone even from a few blocks way, I wasn’t allowed on a road trip until all my friends’ parents had met my parents. These were just a few small things that made my life so much harder. And there I was, alone in a big airport, just me and my bags on my way to a new country. No one to tell me what to do and how to live.

This sort of freedom is a double edged sword. I have sustained a few nicks (an understatement) since that day at the airport. In spite of all the pain and struggle, I wouldn’t change a single thing.