Day 366 – Goodbye

Warning — This is a final post. It will be long. Bear with me.

 

As I sat in front of my screen last year on the night of 30th June, 2015, I thought to myself that I needed help. I needed purpose.

Let me give you some context.

This is what I was a year back — S was a journalist, still. I still called myself that. I wrote in little notebooks of how I didn’t know where I was going, but I woke up every day and sat down to work on a job I didn’t care about at all. Some days, though, I didn’t get up. I just lay in bed and wondered what it was like to be free of inhibition and fear. I was afraid I was screwing up. If you asked anyone in my life — any of my best friends or my parents — I was doing very well for myself. My employers might have agreed that I was doing a decent job. But, I lay in bed on some mornings crying. Crying would be an understatement. I’d wake up, have a shower, get ready to start the day and then curl up on the bed wondering why I am such a goddamned fuck up.

The cycle was simple but self-destructive. I started by wondering where my life was going, then wondering why I didn’t have an answer to that, cursing myself for not having thought of answers to the question and then hating myself for not being smart enough to think of one in the moment. I would break down thinking how I have never been good enough to really handle anything real or handle anything at all.

Welcome to high-functioning anxiety. 

I could tell you some sort of strange trauma caused this. But, truth is, I have always been this person carrying a monster on my back for no reason — a monster that whispers to me every second of every day about how incompetent I am or how ugly I am.

It said the same things till I started believing in them.

I had been hearing these things in my head since I was 13, but I never told anyone. These voices told me I was better off dead and told me how I should kill myself. These voices told me I didn’t deserve any of the praise I got for any of the work I did because I was a phony and that’s all I will ever be.

I googled my symptoms and always found myself hitting the wall with the same answers — major to minor depression (depending on how particularly bad the days were) and/or anxiety. The words lingered in my head like labels that I refused to accept, but let them stick anyway.

At 16, I had my first panic attack in school. A friend then saved me by just writing me a letter about having faith in myself and in God. I wish I could give you a better story, but I cannot lie. So, I will tell you that opening up myself to faith in a higher power saved me. Trusting implicitly and completely saved me then. But, I still didn’t know how long I’d hold up.

I stood on the terrace of the house we lived in and stared at the skies hoping I’ll get an answer. I didn’t even trust my parents to understand. I sang to save myself. I also started writing to save myself. My diaries from 2009 will tell you how little I valued my life.

By the time I turned 17, I told myself that I won’t live beyond 20.

But, I fell in love.
And how.

They say that being loved gives you strength. But, loving someone gives you courage. Not only did I find the courage to love with my eyes shut and my heart wide open, but also found the courage to live despite what the monster on my back told me. For the first time in my life, I felt good about myself. While those close to me (including the person in question here) would say that this love did nothing for me, they don’t realise how on the really bad days, I reminded myself that I had someone to look forward to.

For once, I found home in someone.

So when I realised I was the only one who felt that way, I spent months not eating, not sleeping and just crying myself to sleep. I was wrecked. But, I was not beyond repair. I fixed things myself when I found friends who loved me and made peace with love.

I spent the next four years oscillating between good and bad days, but never really sinking into a pit till I turned 22.

Turning 22 ruined me.

I had lost purpose, I was spending more days in bed than outside, my friends were leaving the country one by one and I had no plans for anything in my life. I started doubting the reasons that kept me alive and the reasons I worked so hard to become a journalist. I was disillusioned and hurt every time adulthood slapped me in the face. My mother worried, but never asked. I was always told I need to “snap out of it” or “get a handle on myself” or “lose weight to feel better about myself.”

There would be days that I would stop walking in the middle of traffic hoping something would run me over just so that the voices in my head would stop talking. The value of my own life started dropping faster than the Pound on the day of the Brexit.

One day, I gave up and told my friend I needed help. I was on my knees and looking towards heaven again. Everything I depended on was starting to fail me. Neither could singing nor writing save me. Or so I thought.

Asking for help gave me perspective I needed. As I sat in my shrink’s office, drawing pictures and talking about things, I realised I just needed perspective. She told me, “It’s okay. You’re a work-in-progress. Take things one day at a time.”

It wasn’t something I didn’t already know. It was just what I needed to hear.

That brings me back to the day I started the blog. I just started writing and I knew I had found my purpose. I had found something to do every day for the next year. Did it help? I don’t know.

But, here’s what happened in the past year — I realised it was okay to ask for help. I realised I didn’t have to hide my fears from anyone. Everyone was in the same boat as me. It may not be with the same intensity, but they knew what I was feeling. Love saved me again and again, in different ways and from different corners in ways that I least expected it to. I started working at my dream job. I learned to be thankful for every day that I was alive because I knew what it was like to want to die. At the end of every day, I thanked the universe for happiness in any form because I knew its value.

If you’re wondering about the monster on my back, I learned to shut it down when I realised it wasn’t helping me or contributing to my life anymore. I still have bad days and I still find myself crying myself to sleep. But, I have more mornings seeing me be able to get out of bed than mornings where I refuse to wake up and face my life. The monster always has something to say and I always have something to shut it up. There will be days where it will tell me I am not good enough, but today I want to prove it wrong a lot more than I did before.

I am writing this because any time you (or I) read this, I want you to know you’re not alone. You’re never alone. You’re always enough. You’re going to be okay. Even if you’re not, you’re going to find a way to be okay with things around you.

This is the last blog post I will be writing here. It has been a year since I started this project and the support has been overwhelming. People asked me through the past year, “How have you been able to write about something every single day? How have you had the patience to do this?”

Truth is, I haven’t. The last three months have seen me slacking off and worrying about this every day, making me anxious. I still tried because I wanted to do this. I needed the blog because writing became an act of survival. I really wanted to have one thing to be able to tie purpose to. I had that for a year and it changed me for the better. Or at least, I’d like to think so. My parents might disagree.

Will I stop writing? No. I still write for money and myself, separately.

What will I do next? I don’t know. But, I know I am still taking things one day at a time.

 366 days down.

Zero to go.

Track for the day – Closing Time by Semisonic

Day 365

For the first time in a year, I have run out of words. Not because I am tired. I am just not up for examining or explaining things. This is not how an ideal second last post should be. I can promise a better tomorrow and final blog post though.

Day 353-364

They say that if you really want to know what a person holds most dear in their lives, watch what they photograph. For the past 12 days, I have been working hard. But, I come back to bed at night and stare at the photos on my phone. I found pictures of my cat haunting me over and over. I found pictures with my best friends because they have been around. I found pictures of myself, but I am pretty sure that is just to validate myself from time to time. I found pictures of someone I loved very much.

But, I couldn’t get myself to delete those photos of this person. You may say it’s not right and it’s probably even unhealthy. Hear me out.

If there is one thing I have learnt in the past year, it has been to hold on to the good and let go of the bad. There have been some great times associated these photos and sometimes, those things make me happy on days that make me feel like nothing will ever go right. People may disappoint us but that doesn’t mean we don’t thank them fpr the happiness they gave us.

Let things go with grace. Don’t hold on to things that hurt. But, don’t regret the things that make you happy.

Day 351-352

Last April, my mother opened the door of our ground floor flat and squealed, “Look at this cat.” She limped her way into my lap and my life over the next hour. She came at a tough time in my life. As I held her and wept on my bad days and let her rest on my stomach on the good ones, I realise now that my cat chose me.

The love of a dog is easy to come by. Those lovable fools know no better than to love indiscriminately. The love of a cat, however, is earned. They look at you with disdain, judging every move but will occupy your lap faster than America can occupy a country with oil.

For every time that she slept beside me or sunk her nails into my leg, I thank the universe. She let me hold her while I wept and today, I seek her presence in my arms and I cannot have her. I keep thinking she will walk in through the door and into the kitchen. I cannot shut my window because I am worried I won’t hear her when she calls me.

She loved me and I love her. She was my best friend for a year and her love saved me.

Thank you, Potato. Thank you, baby boo.

image

Day 338-350

The past two weeks have been the longest ever. While I wasn’t attached to the trip I took to Leh and I took no time in returning back to normal, battling loneliness just got tougher. Sometimes, we feel alienated by the people we care about the most and that’s alright because people are just busy. But, how do we explain to ourselves that we’re not going crazy?

I spent yesterday watching Finding Dory with a friend of mine. As this blog comes to an end, I find myself coming back to animated movies to make my point. What would Dory do if she felt lonely? She’d just keep swimming. What would Dory do if she felt that she had nothing left to fight for? She’d be relieved because, let’s be honest, she didn’t need more things to struggle to remember. What would Dory do if she didn’t have friends? She would turn to family. What would Dory do if there was no family? She’d befriend strangers.

The thing about Dory was that she was never afraid to ask for help. She was never afraid to keep trying because she was sure she would find her reason to keep swimming someday. Someday, the view at the edge will be worth it and it won’t be a struggle to remember why you’re there. You’ll have a reason to wake up every morning and you’ll be enough.

Day 329-337

Going off the radar is unsettling to say the least. Besides having to settle in to the altitude and the breathlessness caused by it and the beauty around me, I was not sure I wanted to stay away from the city. It’s a side-effect of what I have been told as a child — work comes first.

When I landed in Leh, surrounded by mountains, I was afraid of the enormity of everything. The horizon seemed daunting at 7 am that morning and the place literally and figuratively was taking my breath away. As we spent the next five days, struggling to breathe, passing through three snowstorms in two days, peeing in the open because there was nowhere else to go, letting tea fill our cold frozen bodies, I realised how much I missed civilisation.

But, I also realised how alive I really was.

I was watching snow for the first time and allowing tea to be a good friend to me for the first time. I was befriending people and dogs all over the place. I was seeing beauty and really appreciating it. While I worried about work for the first couple of days, I was fine by the third day. It made me realise why we need to get away and why we need to stop ourselves from burning out.

I wish I could explain in better detail what it was like to breathe the winter and what it was like to feel so cold that my body didn’t exist to my mind. I wish I could tell you how it felt to scream every time I felt the cold river tried to stun me with the freezing water. I wish I could explain how I found the warmth I have been seeking forever in my own arms for a change.

Day 323-327

I have had this nagging pain in my left shoulder for the past week. I keep cracking it, hoping the pain will go away. I blame it on my life in front of a screen, a book and my phone. I stretch, I exercise it away and it crawls right back through my muscles and my whole shoulder is searing with pain soon enough.

The only time I have ever had this pain before is when I am busy holding on to something for dear life. A shoulder in pain is usually a sign of stress, and in my case, it’s usually ignoring the stress that aggravates the pain. What have I been holding on to? Let’s see.

What do we hold on to regardless of all of the world asking us to let go?

Ego? Pain? Anger? Jealousy? The past?

I wouldn’t be writing this down if I had the answers. Maybe I am still holding on to people who hurt me. Maybe I am still hoping to avenge myself from them. Maybe I am holding on to envy of someone else, maybe someone I don’t even know. Maybe I need to stop walking backwards and push forward.

It’s an uphill climb and my shoulders hurt. I just tried fixing my neck while typing this. Whatever I am holding on to, whatever I am afraid of letting go of — I can only hope I have the strength to let go of.

I hope you do too. You don’t need a nagging pain in your shoulder.

Day 321-322

One of the other reasons I am not writing as much is because I am saving some time off to write something bigger for the last post. Just wanted to put that out there.

I hope your daily existential crises are insignificant by the end of this year.

Day 315-320

There are two things we have no control over — what our gut says and the affection of another person.

It’s worse when these two collide in the ugliest way. There will be times when your gut says you need to pursue someone just because you’re sure this is something you need to do, because it could be worth the risk. There will be times your gut fails you and you realise the other person would rather keep a relationship as nothing your best dream suggests — it’s like someone telling you to pull back on your meal even though you’re starving. This frustration drives the best of us crazy and we make bad decisions.

How do we save ourselves from the damage that love could cause?

Now, I don’t think love causes any damage. Not damage that will hurt, really. But, what really saves us from the damage that we could inflict on ourselves in love is what got us there in the first place — our gut. When every fibre of your being screams no, you listen. At least, listen to what your gut has to say before you decide to fight it. Let’s be honest, the best ideas have germinated because someone listened to the voices in their head.

I hope your inner voice helps you. It tried helping me. I can only hope she’s right.