The Kingdom of Dreams

When I was younger,
I dreamed of being Cinderella,
The beautiful, distressed, princess
Who would be saved by her Prince Charming
From the big, ugly, ogre.
If only I had understood then 
That beauty is in the eye of the beholder
And the ogres and demons existed inside my head.

When I was a little older,
I dreamed of being Jackie Chan
(From the cartoon, duh!)
And tour the world with Uncle and Jade
And Toru and El Toro and all the others. 
If only I had known then
That no number of magic stones
Could help me to fight the battles of the real world.

When I was older still,
I dreamed of being Hermione Granger,
(Because a brilliant witch is way cooler than a brave wizard, IMO)
Wise, loyal, but fierce if need be,
I wanted to fight evil with Harry and Ron by my side.
If only I had known then
That true evil exists in the heart and head
And it takes more than a cloak, a wand and a stone to vanquish it.

Fast forward a decade,
I’m too old for my own good.
And all I want to do now,
Is to go back to the Kingdom of Dreams,
A time when 9.00 AM was Popeye and 9.00 PM was shuteye.
A time when bingeing on Cheetos was the norm.
A time when having imaginary friends was considered cool.
A time when anything was possible…

Journeys of Hope: Part 3: Depression – Battling College Days

Trigger warning: Mentions of self-harm, depression and suicide

It was the first day of college, and I was freaking – a full-blown panic-attack. Was what I was wearing okay? Would I be asked to talk in front of everyone? Would everyone make fun of my figure? Would I even make any friends? A million different questions were zapping through my head at the speed of light, even as I stood there in front of the mirror, trying desperately to put on kajal without poking my eyes out. After a few (painful) attempts, I gave up on the act as tears started streaming down my eyes. Despair engulfed me as depression, my old friend, reared its ugly head.

College is a place to reinvent yourself, they say. You can find yourself, or create a whole new identity, they say. Well, I lost a little bit of myself every day for those three years. Each night that I went to sleep, I did not thank God, but prayed that I would not wake up the next morning. Each morning that I woke up was filled not with expectation or excitement, but with dread of what the following hours would bring.

To give you a little background, I studied at a wonderful place with extremely supportive staff and students, some of whom still check in with me from time to time, but it was not always joy and smiles. In fact, I can now reveal without any shame that most of my time at college was spent inside a bathroom stall while I desperately tried to control my tears.

So what, then, was my problem?

I didn’t understand it back when I was an extremely confused 18 year-old, and I’m not sure I understand it now. All I knew was that I was feeling sad and tired and so, so hopeless all the time, but I didn’t know what to call it. I didn’t know whom to open up to, and even when I did, neither my friend nor my family took me seriously. That was, until they found me one day with a plastic cover tied over my head.

Of course, like the whole world thinks, my parents were of the opinion that therapy would ‘fix’ me, that it was a one-stop solution to all my problems. Of course, I love my family, and I could never, ever blame them for what happened to me, but they didn’t understand that sometimes, there’s nothing to fix.

My therapists throughout the years have had quite colorful adjectives to describe my ‘issues’. ‘Depressed’, ‘Hallucinates’, ‘Self-harms’, ‘Suicidal’, ‘Mercurial’, and ‘Unpredictable’ were some of the labels used on me. They poked and they prodded and they dug and they dug until there was nothing left of me. Did I experience any abuse? No. Did I lose someone close to me? No. Did I hate everyone? Absolutely not, I actually bent over backwards to please them all and be like them. So why was I like this? No one knew, so they sent me to the doctors, who put me on pills that made me sleepy 20 hours of the day and made me fail several tests.

College was a nightmare, because I could neither keep up with my peers nor hold a decent conversation without breaking down/having an anxiety attack. I looked at all the other girls, and was filled with self-loathing because I didn’t know how to be one of them. No amount of lipstick, perfume, or kajal could make me feel beautiful. I hated life, and I constantly searched for ways to escape my situation, most of which were unhealthy. While everyone I knew was out flirting and partying and having fun with their significant other, I was shut up in my room mooning over my unrequited love. While they were all engaging in extracurricular activities like singing and dancing and debates, I was writing depressive and frankly scary stuff and then tearing up the pages to destroy the evidence, all because I couldn’t bear to face it, to face myself.

But this is not a rant about how awful my life was, whatever impression I might have given you so far. This is an account to assure those who are suffering like I did, that it will all change. You will make it to the other side. The day will come when breathing won’t be so difficult, when your smiles will feel that much less forced. The day will come when you will no longer have to worry about the future and shed tears about it. And the key to effecting that change? Falling in love.

Falling in love with people, with all their imperfections and faults. Falling in love with life, with all its difficulties and trials. Falling in love with the world, with all its ugliness and wars.

And most importantly, falling in love with yourself, with all your bitterness and scars.

I’m not saying that everything will be fine and dandy one day as you wake up, and you will no longer feel bad. On the contrary, living with depression is like an obstacle race that never ends. You have to face insurmountable odds, and the ground will be smooth for a little while, but the difficulties will rise again, and the cycle will continue. What I’m asking you to do, is to look forward to landing on level ground, to living those relatively peaceful days. Live for today and hope for a better tomorrow, because what do we have left, if not hope?

Lessons from Taare Zameen Par

Gyan Toh Gyan Hota Hai, Chahe Woh Zabaani Ho Ya Likhit…

I would be the first to admit that my Hindi vocabulary is extremely limited, so if you had randomly approached me for a translation of the above quote, I would have had to blink and stammer.

However, it so happens that this particular sentence has appeared in a movie, one I have watched over, and fallen in love with over, again. So let me tell you what it means.

‘Knowledge is knowledge, whether it is spoken or written.’

Let me ask you a question. When you hear or read the word knowledge, what or who is the first image appearing in your mind’s eye? For me, it’s Mrs. Vimala, my 9th grade English teacher. Having been one of the most influential people in my life, I will forever remember her playful smirk and chastising tone.

Now that I think about it, it’s actually rather interesting how we remember only particular teachers/professors and conveniently forget the rest. The ones you do remember, it’s because they’ve either made a huge positive impact on your life, or they’ve given you memories so bitter that you can’t forget!

I mean, don’t you remember that playschool teacher who looked so like a popular actress that it was funny?

Don’t you remember that high school teacher who gave you the chills when she so much as called your name?

Don’t you remember that college professor who helped you see the world clearly even through the lens of your depression?

Whatever they’ve meant to you and at whichever points of time you’ve met them, the fact remains that every teacher you’ve had in your life has shaped and changed you irrevocably.

On that note, let me get back to the movie that I have watched numerous times: Taare Zameen Par.

When I first watched the movie 8 years ago, I was impressed. When I watched the movie yesterday to prepare myself for this review, I was emotional. I mean, hats off to the entire team, man!

From Darsheel Safari’s perfect portrayal of an innocent 9-year old, to Shankar Mahadevan’s soulful voice singing ‘Meri Maa’.  Just beautiful.

And don’t even get me started on Aamir Khan or I will gush. For now, I’ll just say one word.

Inspirational.

But then again, I guess all teachers have that effect on people. Teachers inspire you to introspect, innovate, and improve yourselves; they make you want to be a better person. And this part has been played amazingly well by Aamir.

Would it have been more realistic if the character had been a little older? I would say ‘Yes’, because Nikumbh’s wisdom seems a little uncharacteristic of a youngster. But one part of what makes the movie so unique is its turning of prejudices and stereotypes on their head. The other part is its relatability. Like I mentioned earlier, all of us have had teachers like Tiwari Sir and George Sir, and all of us have been misunderstood kids at one point of our lives, and it is this nostalgia that the movie captures accurately.

With the growing need to pay attention to the delicate psychological and emotional health of a child, the responsibility has fallen on our very own lighthouses of knowledge – our teachers, to guide us through the rocky seas of life.

If there is one thing that TZP brought out very well, it is the importance of a strong support system for children and adults suffering from various disabilities. Emotional and moral support can come from your family, friends, and even your pets but teachers, being those we are most in contact with during our initial years, are the first to note and care for you, and form the best support system one can have.

Think about Ishaan’s attitude when he is in a situation where his teachers misunderstand him and compare the difference we see in him at the end of the movie. Drastic development, don’t you think? But that’s the truth; a misinformed teacher has the ability to break a child’s spirit, where a compassionate teacher can kindle happiness and motivation in the same child, as wonderfully shown in the movie.  

Yes, to some children, school is a nightmare and teachers are downright scary, but to some others, going to school and interacting with friends and teachers is a form of therapeutic release. I have experienced this, myself; those 8 hours I spent at school everyday served to save me from being alone with my thoughts. Apart from the purpose of education, going to school also establishes a very dependable long-term routine, which helps to ground yourself and feel secure. 

Your daily lessons also serve as a distraction when you need one, and the sports and extracurricular activities at school act as excellent stressbusters. And who is at the centre of all this? Our teachers.

But let’s face it, teachers don’t have it easy. Theirs is one of the most unwanted positions in terms of employment, because it takes herculean effort and endless patience to handle the job. And that’s what makes the difference between people who view teaching as a profession, and those who view it as a calling. And imagine this: in a world where you might be distracted from caring for your own family, teachers volunteer to come forward and take care of 30+ troublesome little people!

Jokes apart, I strongly believe that every child or young adult deserves an inspiration in the early years of their lives, be it someone like Ram Shankar Nikumbh who has gone through similar struggles, or someone like Mrs. Vimala who can simply be there through your bad days. And the most important thing that linked both Nikumbh and Mrs. Vimala? They both believed in their children.

Team LonePack salutes all the love, care and effort that teachers provide!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lending an Ear

Sometimes, all you need is someone to be patient.

To not judge.
To support.

To listen.

To be there.

Fifty years ago, mental wellness was a topic that was just starting to be researched, but was considered  taboo.

Twenty five years ago, dialogue surrounding mental health started to gain traction.

Today, people are slowly yet surely realising the importance of mental health and emotional well-being. Today, we are doing our best to fight the stigma that is associated with it. And now, more than ever, we need informed allies to help fight this long battle. Resources are being created to support those with mental health issues, yet there is still a long way to go.

We, at LonePack, understand the importance of listening and the strength that lies in supportive allies. LonePack was created with the mighty hope that efforts put into starting dialogue about mental health and normalising it would help people share their experiences, their stories and also reach out for help when they need it the most. And those efforts have now come to fruition in the form of our LonePack Buddy.

LonePack Buddy, simply put, is a peer-to-peer support system which provides a free, inclusive, and  non-judgemental safe space for you to talk about your concerns and worries.

This support system was created to establish a community of informed and trained allies who are more than willing to help you when you reach out.

Support in times of need Image Credits: Tim Mossholder

Just understanding that mental health matters is not enough. Action towards change has to start somewhere and we are taking that first step. The concept of LonePack Buddy might provoke a lot of questions in your mind – What are you doing with LonePack Buddy? How can any of us help those individuals who are affected by various mental health conditions? First of all, are you equipped to do anything? After all, not all of us can be medical professionals. But what we also realised is that not all of us have to be medical professionals to help.

A friend in need is a friend indeed Image Credits:Fabian Gieske

For multiple reasons, primarily due to the stigma and the associated costs, many people are unwilling to seek professional mental health care even if they realize that they need help. And this is where our Buddy comes in. Our goal is to act as a bridge between people seeking support and mental health care professionals (a sort of mental health first aid).

There are no profession, culture, ethnicity, or gender requirements that you need to start helping out. In fact, as we found out a few weeks after launching LP Buddy, people are less hesitant to share their worries when it comes to a friend or acquaintance, which is what Buddy aims to do: be a good friend to those who seek us out. Today, we have a number of ‘Listeners’ as we call them, from all parts of the world, helping us out with the Buddy program.

If you’re wondering how a Buddy can help, here are a few answer to that question, in the words of the Listeners, themselves:

‘A Buddy can help users in a personalised manner. Many users just want to be heard, and a Buddy can listen patiently without judgement. Others may require someone to guide them towards a new point of view which  they might be overlooking due to factors like stress, anxiety, or anything else weighing down their mind.’ -Padfoot

LonePack Buddy is a unique service for the Indian youth: it’s run by real volunteers typically within the same age group, who aim to provide a non-judgemental and patient space for everyone. One can talk to us about anything and everything under the sun, and we promise to listen and be supportive. Over the last few weeks, with most of us feeling cut off from our regular routines and support systems, we’ve really seen the need for a service like LonePack Buddy.’

-Snorkack95

When asked to describe the LP Buddy program, some of the words our Listeners used were, ‘Empathetic’, ‘Safe’, ‘Support’, ‘Real’, and ‘Trust’, which are all very true, because if Buddies have one thing in common, it’s hope. Hope that we are making a difference with our words. Hope for a better tomorrow.

Because as Listener ‘Sunshine’ put it:

‘Buddy is a literal representation of what Woody says; “You’ve got a friend in me!” And this friend won’t shy away when you talk about your struggles and at the same time will provide a space where you feel heard and safe.’

Because sometimes, all you need is for someone to lend an ear.

Join the cause and become a Buddy! Register yourselves on this link

If you want to know more, email us at contact@lonepack.org

One,Two and Three – A 3 step process to reboot your mind

If you want to change your actions, you have to change your thoughts. If you want to change your thoughts, then you have to change the way you perceive yourself. If you want to change your perception about yourself, you must change the experience.

Yes, an experience with your true self.

 

Often, we approach fixing problems like developing an algorithm. An algorithm has a few major components – the inputs, the processing logic/storage and the output. Quite frankly, that is analogous to how our mind works. It observes the actions, words and emotions of others in our environment, stores it in the database called the subconscious and we somehow adapt to these actions, thoughts, emotions without even realizing we are doing it.

But, often what we consider self-awareness is more of what we are NOT than what we really are. We tell ourselves things based on comparison with other people. After every task you complete, your mind automatically compares the same kind of task done by someone else in a different manner, hence implying you didn’t do your best.

This never ending fight with your self-image, leaves no room for growth.

The reality is the polar opposite of what we tell ourselves. No matter how disgusting our delusions are, how negative we think of ourselves, how we judge ourselves, we are human. We have infinite potential, to pause, refresh, and resume. The three step process.

It’s a 3 step process!

Every single time a notification pings in your mind that reads ‘ YOU CAN’T DO THIS ‘ , PAUSE.

Instead of berating yourself that you cannot do it, switch to ” I DEFINITELY CAN DO THIS GREAT” condition yourself to the opposite of what your irrational thoughts are telling you. Thus, you are refreshing your negative self-talk.

Finally, resume doing whatever you were doing with a bit more self-compassion, and a lot of love.

 

Constantly feeling the need to do something, to be occupied with work is the fear driven trap, sometimes based on experiences of previous trauma.  Our mind uses it as an escape mechanism to avoid dealing with inconvenient emotions.

 

Let’s do this affirmation, pause for a moment. And think of this beautiful word that the internet came up with, called “Sonder”. It’s not an actual word in the English dictionary, though “The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows”, the website that created it, defines it as the realization that each random passer-by is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.

We share our world with 7.7 billion others like that. People lose their loved ones, their dream, their homes,  sometimes themselves and yet wake up the next morning and hustle. Some grieve about it for days and heal in isolation, Some grieve by destroying things, while some heal by creating new.

Each of us are finding ways to be happier, to seize the moment as it is, to love, to be loved.

We’re all so strong, even on the days when we feel like choking on sadness,

On the days we feel heavy, on the days we feel the void inside us, on the days we don’t feel like moving.

Why? Because we find a way – we keep going. No matter how many times we’ve told ourselves to give up. In reality we don’t really lose, we don’t really fail, we don’t actually give up.

We’re always told we will be where we want to be with whom we’re meant to be. But we are there right now, where we belong.

It warms my heart to know, to be around each and every one of you. You are so strong and you don’t even know that yet. Also, did I tell you that you did your best this week?

 

And it’s okay even if you do 0.001% more the upcoming week.

 

 

– Haniya Ahmed

 

 

 

 

 

Build the wall – Why emotional boundaries matter

I read this quote the other day by Paul Ferrini. It goes

“Those who have the greatest need to tell others what to do have the least faith in themselves”

Emotional distance is important even if it may seem difficult

 

Okay, story time. My grandmother is a 74 year old woman. A very fascinating story about a human who does not hold any triumphs or trophies to her name but managed to achieve a lot. Her father died the same year she was born in a fire accident. Losing her husband to this tragedy had made her mother reckless, helpless and left with no purpose to live but for her daughter, and for the child inside of her. She then gave birth to another beautiful child, my grandmother’s younger sister.

She had gone through the loss of her husband and was widowed with two daughters. One night she left the child unattended in the cradle. The next morning she woke up to see her infant dead. Drowned in self blame and guilt she decided to end her life as an act of balancing the death of her child. Left alone was my one year old grandmother.

She was married to my grandfather when she was 14. Sixty years, 5 children and 8 grandchildren later she still longs for the love of her mother. She says it crushes her heart to not be able to remember how her father looked like, how soulful her mother sounded like. She grew up listening to stories about them from her grandparents.But one thing that astonishes me the most is her devotion towards family. Yes, I said devotion.

Solitude in childhood can shape our thoughts later in life. Picture Courtesy: “Then they rise” – Spirit Fire Art

Growing up with nothing, the idea of having someone to call family means the world to her. Her mind is wired in such a way that she thinks she owes the people who do the smallest gesture such as helping her cross the road. She remembers the most microscopic details of her encounters with every person she ever met. Somehow, she has lived 74 years of her life constantly thinking about whom to fix it for next. The ‘fixer’ in her forced her to believe that the sole purpose of her life was to make the lives of her loved ones, strangers who impacted in the slightest way too, easier. And somehow she forgot to live for herself. Overcoming a loss or post trauma, your subconscious builds a pattern that convinces you to interfere and repair it for others.

When you try to fix someone, even with the noblest of intentions it is very significant for you to realise that you serve as a block in their growth and learning process. Hurdles in life are nothing but lessons in disguise.

Stop projecting your fears onto the people you try ‘helping’. This calls for a reality check on your behavioural patterns. Your inability to face your fears,acknowledging your coping mechanisms, channelising them into productivity forces you to find an alternative way of dealing with things, by doing it for others.

The aftermath of mental illness, creates an undeniable pressure to try and save anyone else who is going through the same.

IT IS NOT YOUR JOB. 

Initially, the guilt takes a toll on you but isn’t that the beginning of self love? Being able to say NO. Being able to establish emotional boundaries is the first step of healing.

Protect your mental well being.

Respect their individuality,because we are all grown ups who can make choices that benefit us the most. As strange as it may seem, it is necessary for us to accept their decision.

The outcome of healing is not “ I don’t feel negative anymore” is not the end result of healing. It is “This negativity does not determine my self worth”

 

Haniya Ahmed

The Degrees Of Depression

Cigarette buds. Substance abuse. Sleeved shirts to shut out speculations about the cause of the scars on your wrists.

Some posts have to be written from the heart. Some posts need not be perfect in  terms of grammar or structure. Some posts need not suffuse the eerie charm that it ought to have held. Some posts are essential nevertheless.

Into the void Source: Fine Art America

I spoke to a friend yesterday. Given the peculiar drop in the level of my conversations over the past six months, I must say that we had a fairly long conversation. We spoke about the bad cripples caused by depression and about the worse cripples caused by a lack of understanding about mental health.

Source: Pinterest

For those who lack awareness, depression is a feigned escape from personal responsibilities. It is a self induced state of mind where a creature is seen to be desperately craving for attention and support for problems that are apparently illusory.

 

Those who are sensible enough to understand that depression, like asthma or cancer is yet another disease plaguing human survival again seem to place themselves at the ends of multiples bifurcations within the common head titled ‘The aware lot’. Majority of the people fall under the sub-head where they visualize depression to be a mental state of mind which holds an ambience equivalent to hell. The insides are layered lavishly in a combination of darkness, sadness, helplessness, tiredness, substance abuse and suicide attempts.

 

The sufferer has been portrayed in a constant state of abuse and is seen to be self harming himself or herself endlessly. There is an abject lack of interest in waking up, doing your daily chores and survival in general.

Is depression hell on earth? Source: grahampeter.co.za/

 

This notion about depression reminds me of a post I read yesterday. The post spoke about feminism and equality. It said that most men when asked to imagine female liberation often visualized a reversal of roles where the woman holds the baton of a chauvinist in place of the male. The post went on to make an interesting observation that a man seems to have either a constraint in terms of imagination or he must be too apprehensive about the repercussions that he would be facing upon the reversal of roles.

 

An ample majority of people have the same limitation when it comes to understanding depression.Unlike the above example where it is completely erroneous to imagine equality along the lines of an inverted power structure, it isn’t completely preposterous to imagine depression as an equivalent to what we could call as the pinnacle of agony. Neither is it completely logical to compare the illness to such an extremity always. To put it simply, like fever, depression too can be measured in degrees. A severed wrist isn’t a mandate when it comes to diagnosing depression. There are less life-threatening yet painful symptoms that could be possible signs of depression.

 

The friend seated next to you with bleary eyes which you assume to be a result of a late night football match. Did you stop for a moment to ask him if he actually enjoys watching soccer? What if he went to bed at 9 pm in the night and fell asleep only at 4? What if it is a routine in his survival?

Source: Chronicles of a lumpy person

The colleague seated opposite your cubicle is unable to control his urge to masturbate. While your gang teases him for being a lecherous asshole, did any of you pause for a moment to contemplate the possibility of it being a serotonin imbalance?

 

Your girlfriend wakes up at 12 am in the night to binge on a packet of chips. She goes on to visit the restroom with two bottles full of water. A few moments later she falls back on bed content that the taste of the chips would linger just in her mouth and not as an additional layer of fat between her thighs. Master plan ain’t it? Or is it one? Have you ever read up on Bulimia ? Have you let those consequences scare you?

 

Source: Girls Gone Strong

Your next door neighbor sleeps ten hours a day. Yet at the mid-morning get together on a warm Sunday, you see him tired. This week. The week before. Two weeks back. Endless loop.  Is he just a sleepy head? A manifestation of Kumbhakarna as his father casually jokes around? Have you ever lost sleep about him? At least towards the fag end of the night when the burden of your suffering has exhausted its share of rants completely? What if maybe, it is hypersomnia? What if he actually wants to be active but isn’t able to?

 

Your own sister sleeping over your shoulder. Perfect job. Dream car. Childhood sweetheart. About to be married. You glance at her every night. A long jealous glance at her thick stock of hair. Her back facing you as she has curled up to sleep on the other side. What if despite this all, there is still a void. A void wrenching the depths of her existence. Dysthymia in medical terms. High functioning depression in layman terms. Wait. You are shocked ain’t you. You can’t believe that depression and high-functioning can be used together except with a punctuation mark separating them.

Source: DeviantArt

Have you ever tried to roll her over to your side? Maybe the tears are flowing down her eyes. Have you even contemplated giving it a single try?

 

I am not trying to say that every person we see might be suffering from mental illnesses irrespective of the magnitude. I am only trying to open your eyes to the possibility that  there is more to a mental illness than the portrait of a bearded man scoring weed endlessly with several deep cuts across his wrists. In terms of awareness, you are far ahead in the ladder when compared to truckloads of your counterparts who don’t even possess an iota of awareness about the distress. Yet, I believe that it isn’t enough and there is still a long way to go in order to shatter the stigma effectively.

 

Thank you.

 

-Maya