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Shakti perspectives: Abira

Although I have noticed a shift in mental health within the Tamil community, we still have a long road ahead of us. Collectively our community addresses health and illness differently and holds rigid social norms and deeply rooted oppressive thinking patterns. A culture living off a lifestyle of ‘what would others think’ ultimately focuses on productivity and achievement so when it comes to mental health issues, it must be ‘handled privately’.

These negative attitudes lead to a detrimental belief system that exacerbate identifying our own experience as we become in denial or dismissive and we end up self-stigmatising ourselves with feelings of guilt and shame. Our community tends to adopt the ‘sweep it under the rug’ approach towards issues and trauma. ‘Mummifying’ the human experience by the constant ‘you’re fine’ and ‘just move on’ only discourages us to recognise healthier coping mechanisms and solutions. This isn’t exclusive to just the older generation but it is confusing and upsetting to see it take place with the upcoming generation too. Change can start through one person and that one person can just be yourself. From there, having open and confident discussions on taboo topics with friends and family helps to end some of the barriers in the South Asian community. By doing this you’re already showing up for others.

Growing up, I was someone who bottled my feelings and experiences and there was just a bursting point. Not talking about significant life events was a form of inhibition that slowly lead to a foam of unresolved wounds.  As a result, writing poetry was a way for me to express the pain or emotions I had inside me. Initially inspiration for my poetry came from personal experience but after a while I learnt to self-regulate my emotions and become more attentive to other things in life; even the mundane. As a result, observation would be what inspires me now when I write. I found that constantly writing and writing ended up ‘dulling out’ negative experiences or at least not letting them carry the same weight. I think the positive thing about writing is that it allows for not only the expression of emotions but also the processing of them, giving yourself the opportunity to heal. It’s a place where you really have to look deep inside yourself which is why it’s hard work but therapeutic.

Other things I do to practice self-care is reading self-help books. Reading is incredible in the way that we gain limitless knowledge and insight. There are so many perspectives we don’t know of yet and it allows me to constantly evolve and grow as a person.'

Follow her work @abirapoetry

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