Divya: Shakti perspectives
By the time I was 18, one of my best skills was being able to compartmentalise my personality. I was great at portraying exactly what I thought others wanted me to be. To my friends, the funny affable one full of drama. To teachers, eager to please and diligent. And to my family and the wider Indian community, I was sunny, full of life and always ready to join in.
I didn’t realize how difficult it was to vocalize what I was feeling the first time it happened. All of a sudden, I felt a wave of despair and gloom sink over me. I remember my throat closing and trying to tell my parents that this sadness felt unbearable. And the response that invalidated everything in one sentence “oh it’s just a phase, you’re only 13, it’ll pass.”
When I was 14 and moved over to an unfamiliar country and the anger bubbled inside me, a tempestuous bitterness that I couldn’t explain, it was just my own resistance to adjusting and I needed to try harder.
When I was 15 and overdosed for the second time, therapy was the answer. I was uncontrollable and reckless, but it was never explained. When I was 17 and exploited because of my own vulnerability, I was throwing my life away and didn’t understand the ramifications of my actions.
When I was 22, it all came crashing down. Then, it was time for something to change.
I don’t blame my parents for not realizing that not talking was doing damage. I blame a system and community that has spent decades thinking it’s better for children, teenagers and adults to stifle their own feelings to protect their families reputation.
I spent so long trying to bury my depression because I thought it was a shameful thing to feel. As far as I knew, Indian families didn’t talk about it. We didn’t share emotional turmoil with each other. We got angry and we yelled and fought but we never spoke openly about our problems. I’m grateful that now, I can open up to my parents. That we can have these conversations. It’s not always easy, it’s a learning curve and it’s difficult. It’s a culmination of my own fear of saying what I feel out loud and a culture of silence that have led me here. I still feel my hands get clammy in the office of a psychologist or trying to tell my parents that “it’s just not a good day.” But I’m trying. I’m trying to explain that bad days are just that, bad. Not every emotion can be rationalized and unpacked or compartmentalized.
The days that I can’t get up or can’t speak are normal. They are a part of my illness and grief. I can only hope that Shakti gives someone else, maybe younger, the strength to talk about their problems sooner then I wish I had.