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Lilting memory

The evening sunlight flits through the branches of the Parijatha tree, and passes through the partially opened window, forming shadows on the mosaic tiles on the ground. The dust motes vibrate to the sound of lilting notes, some human, some birdsong, both heavenly. Unlike the dust, however, the humans singing stick strictly to both rhythm and tune, following their teacher’s strict yet comforting lead through the nuances and intricacies of the song.

The music floats up till the roof, where it swells underneath the sheets laid on the rafters, enveloping everyone who heard it. Sequences repeat as students follow the teacher, but never tire the listener’s ear. The roof, open on every side but up, reveals rolling plains, with the occasional house in the distance, a distance that seems almost within reach from the vantage point.

A main road snakes off in the far distance, appearing and disappearing behind houses and within the rolling land. The occasional vehicle passes, its sounds feeble, swallowed by the all-encompassing music that blankets the entire rooftop. The brilliant setting sun sets the sky ablaze, while itself hiding behind floating, full-bodied clouds, that look like airborne beds inviting one to sleep in them, swaying in the breeze straight from the sea over yonder. The sky, painted in every possible orange, red and pink, changes similar to a undecided woman going through her wardrobe before settling, finally choosing a brilliant black dress with millions upon billions of shimmering sequins.

The houses in the distance begin to light up, each holding their own stories of daily life, the struggles and joys, the trials and tribulations of the families that lived in them. The welcoming of young grandchildren visiting for the summer holidays, the departure of the elderly who lived the rest of their lives in this quiet village.

The music stopped, but the steady strumming of the tanpura continued to fill the empty space left behind. The final scales were sung for one; for another, their lesson had begun.

The sun slowly went down, unable to tear itself away from the music, just like those who heard it. You didn’t have to understand the words or know the raaga being sung. All you had to do was close your eyes, and let the music envelop your soul, lifting it up, and floating away through space, into another land, into another time.

I opened my eyes, and found myself back in my room, far away from the chirping birds or the scent of the Parijatha tree. Another land, another time. But the music continued to flow, coursing through my soul, making its way back to the place I called home.


In gratitude to the woman who is not only the reason I’m alive, but also the reason I love, learn, live and forgive. My greatest mentor, my favourite teacher, the role model of my role model. Even as your memories fade, the memories you gave me stay strong within my heart and spirit.

Thank you for everything, Dodda. You made me the best person I could ever be.

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Gender matters

The patriarchy. Ooh, the patriarchy.

Isn’t it fun, being told who you should be based on the genitals you’re born with? Being told you should have certain emotions and should not have certain thoughts about your life sure is great! And then, the horror of doing something that has not been assigned to your gender, the castigation following actions that you dared to do, finally culminating into humiliation and ostracism – really warms the heart. Got to love patriarchal society!

Being from a dominantly patriarchal society means that life very quickly gets segregated into ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ aspects. Women are encouraged to develop active interest in pursuits considered ‘masculine’ – ranging from sports all the way to seriously considering their career and financial stability. That is, until it’s time to fulfill their set of obligatory societal ‘feminine’ duties – that of home, hearth and heir.

Men, on the other hand, are pushed into a state of emotional constipation, unable to express emotions and behaviours beyond those considered ‘strong’ and ‘masculine’ – including, but not limited to, courage, valour, aggression, anger. After being fed the propaganda of toxic masculinity for their entire life, they are then asked to ‘express their emotions’ and ‘open up about their mental issues’, to only be rejected by those closest to them, or those they choose to show the instability behind the rigid walls erected in response to societal pressures.

I personally didn’t face a lot of sexism for the longest time, a privilege I completely understand and appreciate. To aid softening the blow of my ‘societal obligations’, I initially chose to reject all that belonged to my ‘side’ of the gender divide. I rejected the value of my physical appearance, the knowledge of anything considered ‘feminine’, and immersed myself into activities and pursuits that were considered ‘for the boys’, ergo, ‘un-womanly’. In fact, I spent so much of my childhood trying to be ‘one of the boys‘ – made easier by the fact that my earliest and longest playmates were all boys – that when someone finally showered me with attention and romantic interest, I was blindsided. I neither knew how to evaluate the worth of a romantic partner nor to recognise the signs of disturbance and toxicity, or red flags (as it is better known) and floated around like a leaf in stormy waters for a long time before anchoring myself and finding my feet.

Growing up, my parents not only had no issues with my process of ‘self-masculinisation’, but they encouraged it, to the point where I placed little to no value in the way I looked or in basic abilities like sewing and having any sense of fashion (because I considered them feminine). I, instead, placed all my eggs into other baskets labelled ‘career path’, ‘financial independence’ and ‘aggressive teeth baring for self preservation’, to name a few.

Now that I look back at it, I was probably trying to escape the discrimination I would inevitably face as a woman by trying to run as far away as I could, by trying to outrun the truth of being a woman. I thought, by some twisted logic, that the lesser I presented myself as a woman, or the more I emulated ‘masculinity’, I could, at some point, eradicate the probability of being discriminated and harassed. And, for a while, it did work.

I wasn’t never the girl all the guys wanted to date or had crushes on. I wasn’t on any of the lists dedicated to the most desirable girls. I was the person who listened to guys bemoan their bad luck, or inability to get the attention or keep the interest of the girl they were interested it. Comments such as, ‘But you’re not a girl, so you won’t feel/do/think ______’ were constantly aimed at and sent my way. No one thought it weird or found it out of place to see me sitting with a group of guys to enjoy a round of drinks, no one even thought it possible that I’d be trying to get a guy’s attention in a romantic/sexual way. You get the idea.

Funnily enough, however, I had been in more relationships than the people around me, or had been with more partners than the girls or guys I used to hang out with. Which shouldn’t mean too much, however, since I used to attract crazies earlier, before I got my shit straight.

Speaking about getting my shit straight included the realisation that feminity was way more than being a girly-girl, and, most importantly, there was nothing wrong with being feminine. All the nonsense I’d fed myself about masculinity being better than feminity, about disregarding knowing about basic things because the gender society assigned to them, was just that – absolute nonsense. Being able to apply make-up decently well and knowing which clothes went well with which shoes was not comparable with getting good grades and having a well paying job, but all these things were important to different aspects in my life in their own way.

Over time, I realised one thing – I was doing myself no favours by rejecting an entire part of myself, and by extension, an entire part of my life experiences.

Eventually, with conscious effort, I did learn to appreciate every facet of my life, but it’s only been recently – ever since I started living on my own – that I’ve realised that the concept of segregation itself is absolute bullshit.

And let me tell you why.

Living alone means that when shit hits the fan, be it in a big or small way, you’re the only one who’s affected by it, and, therefore, the only person who needs to clean it up.

Be it whacking cockroaches with a shoe, buying and storing groceries, getting wifi installed for the house or getting the HOA society to process your request – I’m the only one here to do it, and if I don’t do it, I don’t have a brother or husband or father or friendzoned guy-friend waiting around the road corner ready to spring out and take care of it for me. But the expectations of the people I have to deal with – that some man will eventually join me and take over in getting my affairs in order is… Astounding. And the speed with which things happen when it’s a woman who needs help versus when it’s a woman who is helping herself is another mind-blowing phenomenon. Finally, what really got my goat was the number of people offering to help me with the comment “… Because you’re a woman.”

It made me realise that even if there aren’t any male family or friends around the blind curve in the road, the sidewalks sure are packed with self appointed knights-in-shining-armour. And as with any group of people, some are genuinely trying to help for the sake of helping, while others are busy putting the ‘creep’ in creepy.

I’ve definitely seen more and faced more sexism and gender based perception shifts after shifting in alone than I have in my entire life before, while I was staying at home. Not only am I not considered more masculine than feminine, I now am even considered attractive, something I consider as a problem due to the drama it has attracted in the past, drama that I intend to stay away from as much as possible. And the sexism that comes my way isn’t the type that you can directly protest against without looking like a complete dick, because it’s the type that gets under your skin and digs in deep slowly, even after you brush it off.

If micro-sexism isn’t a thing yet, it should be. As I’ve come to realise, the number of sexist white knights far exceeds than the chauvinist pigs, not only in numbers, but in damage they cause as well.

A direct blow may hurt for now, but it can never exceed the trauma caused by a hundred needles slowly making their way from your skin to your heart.

Hiatus notice

Hey, everyone.

As you’ve come to see, this Monday did not have a post. These past couple of weeks have been really exhausting for me, mentally, physically and emotionally. While everything I write is from a place of expression and outlet, my posts – and my drafts page – have been growing highly personal and highly specific, which is an indication that I’ve still got a lot of work to do personally before I can share it.

I’ve been to my regular psychotherapist, and I’ll continue to go for sessions when required. But given the sensitivity and the struggle around dealing with some of these situations alone, I’m unable to detach myself enough to see some of these situations objectively and share them here with you. This, I feel, has made me lose sight of the quality of the posts I make here.

Amongst other things, the point of this blog has always been to share experiences, both as catharsis for myself and as a way to connect with others who may have been through the same thing. But I find myself on the other side of the line between sharing an experience, and vomiting my emotions in the form of words. I believe that relationships last when you don’t strain them to the point of breaking them, and this platform, while one rooted in mental health and sharing stories, need not be a place for me to dump my raw emotions for the world to process.

Because of this, I shall be taking a hiatus. I will be working on new articles always, and when I’m in a place where I’ve worked through my issues and am happy with the work I’ve put in, both with myself and the articles I write, I shall post again. I hope this finds you safe, in good health, and content.

I’ll see you guys soon. Take care.

All my love

~ck

Shock

There exists a line, a figurative one, but with implications so serious it might as well be a real line. One side of this line contains all that is socially acceptable, with consequences that, while one may or may not like it, can generally be tolerated. On the other side seems to be something that resembles freedom, but with consequences that no one has any control over, either in terms of imagination or real-life implications.

The reason I’m bringing this up is because, for a very long time in my distant youth, I kept dealing with the very real consequences of crossing the line. Losing control over my anger has been my biggest problem, because it consumed so much time in my life, not only because of the act, but mainly because of the consequences. The overwhelming emotional turmoil that follows an explosion of rage has made me rethink my values to the point of reinventing myself.

Other spaces where I would cross the line included romantic, professional, personal – if I saw a line, I ignored it and did what I wanted. Slowly, I began realising the instant gratification was just that – momentary and fleeting – but the backlash that followed was anything but instant. Over time, it dawned on me that I was spending far longer in dealing with consequences than actually living my life and that crossing the line was overrated, exhausting and unnecessary.

For a relatively short period, I stayed in my lane. I worked through quite a few of my problems and worked with a therapist for those I couldn’t handle on my own. I slowly learnt to recognise and react to red flags in my interactions with other people and distanced myself from most people who detracted from my mental health. It’s been a struggle, and it continues to be a struggle, but here we are – in our lane, with crippling cynicism and a deep-rooted fear of opening up to others.

But what do I do when someone crosses my line? What I wished I’d done, and what I did do, ended up being very different things.

What I did do, immediately, was pretend like it didn’t happen. I looked away, my mind immediately told me to not confront and to get away as soon as possible. But there was nowhere to hide – I was at home. I was at home, and the ‘friend’ – I use that term very loosely now – who had insisted on protecting me against some imaginary danger became the very real danger I wanted to escape from. I did get them out of my house, but not before walking through the niceties with a growing numbness that tried to block out what had just happened.

It took me five hours of sleep, and the realisation on waking that I could not run, to begin to accept what had happened. It took an inopportune panic attack, five days later during a very hectic week, for me to truly cry about it. And it’s still taking me time to forgive myself for not having crossed the line.

Shock happened, and shock stayed far longer than I had anticipated. And the fun thing about being in shock is not knowing you’re in shock. There’s this numbness, like a faint ringing in your ear that doesn’t go away. Imagine low-grade tinnitus that affects your emotional psyche, and that was what I was in. I existed, and that’s all I was aware of. I could not recollect how I felt during those five days to anyone who cared to ask. ‘How was your day?‘ was invariably met with ‘I don’t know. Fine, I guess.‘ because I genuinely couldn’t tell for sure.

The other fun thing about shock is that it starts immediately from the point of impact, but you realise it much, much later. You realise it only when you ask yourself the question, ‘Why didn’t you do something? Why didn’t you hit back? Why didn’t you scream? Why didn’t you yell? Why didn’t you tell them to fuck off? Why didn’t you say no harder? Why did you trust them? Why did you think they would respect your boundaries? Why did you just fucking stand there, talking to them like nothing happened, before politely asking them to leave and saying goodnight? Why didn’t you throw them out?’

During that moment, I realised that I immediately tried to play it down, because playing it up would make things far, far worse then. I immediately tried to conform, tried to stay in my lane, tried to find the path with the least resistance, tried to keep the peace, tried, tried, tried. I tried. I don’t know what I tried. I don’t know if it helped. But, as bad as it was, it didn’t get worse. And that, truly, is the only positive in all this.

Because, while what happened to me was bad, things could have gone far worse. I could’ve been easily overpowered. I could’ve been hurt, assaulted in a far worse manner, have my dignity stripped from me in a matter of seconds. And it wouldn’t have been difficult – I’d had one drink, I was tired and I wasn’t alert enough. It could’ve been worse, and in a highly patriarchal society, it could’ve meant my social suicide.

So why didn’t I fight back? I don’t know. Logically, it seems like a combination of the way I’ve trained myself to conform to suffer less, along with wanting to run away but knowing that it wasn’t possible at the time. But taking away the logic entirely, and there’s one emotion that hung over me more than any other.

Fear.

I was scared. It was an overwhelming, complete fear that took away from any other feeling. There was a bat in the corner of the hall, and there was a knife on the mattress on the ground and there was pepper spray in my bag by the table, and they were all in the same room as me. I bought all these things to be safe, but I couldn’t overcome the fog over my brain long enough to use those things. I couldn’t tap into any of my anger or my survival instinct to fight, to create a scene, to show my strength. In fight, flight or freeze, I had always chosen to fight, but at that moment, I was mentally rooted to the ground.

And the helplessness that I feel now, thinking about it, thinking about the could haves and would haves and should haves… It’s exhausting, honestly. To not be able to trust yourself to stand up for the wrong done towards you by others, to freeze in a moment where no one else is there to fight for you, it’s… It’s terrifying. It is terrifying, more so than what actually happened.

Even as I conform, the consequences of my actions still haunt me for far longer than the action itself. And now, I’m not sure whether the act of trying to satisfy oneself immediately is better or worse than the mental pat on the back one gives themselves for following the rules like a well-behaved dog. Either way, consequences exist, and there is no right way or wrong way. The only way is that which happens. And what has happened is something I cannot change, no matter how much I wish I could.

A lot of what happened is simplified, and a lot of layers exist to what happened. There is a lot of shame associated with trusting someone you were told not to trust, someone who, in hindsight, showed all the signs indicating danger, but never at a level that actively crossed my radar. What I do share here is the bare bones of a much more intricate matter, but I realise that I needed to get to the root of the matter to truly face – and make sense – of what had happened. I saw the signs and I chose to ignore them, hoping that I was wrong. I chose to ignore the warnings I got from those closest to me in that moment of mental weakness, thinking that nothing bad had happened, therefore nothing bad would happen. But the world gives warnings for a reason, and ignoring them for the sake of ‘being peaceful’ is foolishness.

All I do hope is that the next time I see the line, I don’t immediately pull back from crossing it. The next time I’m faced with danger, I hope I don’t immediately freeze. I hope, I hope, I hope. But the thing I hope for the most?

I hope I never have to be in this position again.

A reminder

After one week of staying at home, connecting with friends I haven’t seen for months, sharing and laughing with people who genuinely want to know what’s been going on with me, I’ve realised something. I’ve been a ‘Grass is greener on the other side’ kind of idiot for as long as I can remember.

A lot of us grow up believing that there’s something more waiting for us out there. Growing up is romanticised – the fact is, every age group is romanticised. Kids get to run around and play, teenagers live through high school drama and get to fall in (and out) of love, twenty-somethings enjoy parties and college life, and thirty-somethings… Well, there isn’t a lot of romance surrounding being thirty-something. Our perception as kids, fuelled largely by television shows and elder siblings, involves feeling shut-in at home with homework, scary teachers and annoying classmates you need to stay away from because they can give you ‘the cooties’. Teenagers have no perception, apart from the world sucks and life sucks and parents suck and everyone can go to hell. Twenty-somethings are too busy either partying to the point of blackout or getting married. And thirty-somethings are supposed to have “settled down” and “have their shit together”, although I genuinely don’t know what that means.

While this seems like an off-topic rant, the point I’m trying to make is that no one, at any point, sits us down and says, it’s not going to get ‘better’ as you grow older. It’s going to get ‘different’, but that’s not necessarily ‘better’. Life doesn’t magically tell us what is required of us when we reach a certain age. Society does tell you what you need to do, but society changes so monumentally in such a short period that believing anything anyone says is socially acceptable (or otherwise) seems like a waste of time. Jokes I used to laugh at as a kid are now offensive. Nicknames I used to have as a kid are now considered insulting and shaming. Everyone’s trying to be so considerate that they’re shooting themselves in the foot, and all the wokeness in the air makes me want to go right back to sleep.

You’re expected to make decisions based on your life and career at a point in your life when you haven’t experienced any of life. You have zero bases on judging whether what you’re choosing to do for a large chunk of your life is going to be useful, fruitful and satisfying. Any later, and you lose that tiny window of time in which it is acceptable to be hired and/or married and/or pregnant. If I knew at eighteen years what I know now, would I make the same choices, or choose something else? Thankfully, my gamble played out, and I do enjoy what I do, but my choices within my career would be very different.

But what makes something a good choice is the knowledge that the alternative choice would bring more misery to your life than what you’re suffering currently. And there’s no objective way of knowing that since you will never be at that point in your life again, being presented with the same options as earlier. All you can do is imagine what the outcome would be, and then gauge whether you made the right choices or not. And coming back to the ‘Grass is greener’ phrase, I involuntarily choose to believe that the choices I didn’t make would not make me as miserable as I currently am.

Logically, though, I know that the grass is greener where you water it, and not necessarily on the other side. But when you’re brought up to be dissatisfied and highly critical, you develop selective colour blindness – a weird condition where, suddenly, your eyes are unable to discern the colour of the grass underneath your feet, but show the grass on the other side of the fence to be so bright it could probably double as a massive neon light.

But knowing this, knowing that life is what you make of it, does it help? Not really. It comes at the end of two and half decades of believing that things will get better soon, that tomorrow will be better than today, that what lies ahead will be better than what I have now. So while logically, I’ve transitioned to understanding that life is truly a series of exchanging one set of problems for another, I’m still emotionally invested in a better future, while believing that I’m currently living through a series of ‘couldn’t-be-any-worse’ moments.

So what this is is a reminder to me and you, that life isn’t inherently bad or good, that the future isn’t shittier or better than what we have right now, and while ‘different’ does not equate to ‘better’, the ‘same old’ does not equate to ‘worse’. Classes with scary teachers and the end of summer holidays are as tragic as the end of the world as dictated by raging hormones, because at that age, we don’t know any different.

This is a reminder that romanticising the future is just as bad as romanticising the past – it does more harm than good, and it’s a pretty useless endeavour overall. This isn’t to say that life is a hopeless pit of chaos and we’re all doomed to live and die in misery. I personally don’t know what life is all about, but I know I’ve come as far as I have because of hope, and that’s what keeps me going.

And finally, let us all remember that the grass doesn’t get any greener than what we have under our feet, and the neon green stuff across the fence is probably toxic.

Jokes aside, though… What I do want you to remember is that life has always been tough. But the tough times have taught us the value of our rewards.

Fear

What I’m feeling is a change in the weather. The moments of calm, the feeling of static making my hair stand on its end. Or is it dread? I can’t differentiate. Something big is coming, and I can’t be sure what it is.

Something has changed. I had given up the hope that things would ever be different, to be honest. I had given up hope that I would ever get the vindication of having kept my mouth shut through all the unfairness thrown at me and powered my way through the frustration and exhaustion. Why is it unfair, you ask? What is fairness, if not a construct, you say? I say, we can choose to be philosophical in a general sense, or we can see life as a sum of its parts, and examine each part. And in this part, what I see is a situation that only time can improve, a situation where the only thing to look forward to in the future because it is in the future that this time will pass.

Philosophically, nothing matters. We’re all going to perish, and then it’s not going to matter what my marks were or whether my dress coordinated with my shoes. Even beyond that, nothing is going to matter – whether I’m married or single or having kids or being good to my parents or being friendly with my neighbours… None of it is going to matter. But living life with the strict mantra of “It doesn’t matter” prevents you, in quite a few ways, from actually enjoying what life, in its infinite chaos, has to offer.

The past does matter because it affects our present. The present does matter, because it’s here, and we’re in it. And the future… Well. It matters, but not quite. There’s so much you have no control over, and very little of what you do have control over actually counts. I stopped grieving over the past and worrying about the future, but that doesn’t stop me from experiencing a sense of dread when my subconscious picks up signals that I can’t quite put into words yet. And that is happening now.

The tides are changing. Something is shifting. It feels strangely eerie, and I feel like it’s not going to be long before I’m able to fully perceive what I’m feeling. The peace feels very temporary, and I know it’s going to pass soon.

God, this week has been tough. It’s been stressful to the point of nausea, it’s been frustrating to the point of exhaustion. I’m home, but I don’t know if I want to be here. The people I grew up depending on are now depending on me, and I don’t know how to feel about it. People I thought I knew have grown and changed, and I feel… I feel alone. Untethered. Floating around, trying to find my roots. Trying to make sense of the pandemonium that is my life right now.

Sleep feels like a construct. Life seems like a confusing dream right now. I’m not on mood-altering substances, even though this entire conversation has been disjointed from start to finish. But I still feel the dread. I still feel something is coming, and I do know I can’t stop it. I feel my connections to people changing, the string tying us together growing slack. There’s so little happening outside, and so much happening within me.

I’m scared. I’m genuinely scared. And it feels like this emotion is here to stay for a while, an unwanted guest, a blaring billboard with the message loud and clear:

Something is coming. And you’re not going to like it.

Finals week

All members of binary and non-binary members of society, I have finally reached the point where I can no longer find any fucks in my reserve fucks bank. In the words of someone wise, I. Am. Done. I am done with the expectation others have of me giving up any semblance of balance for the sake of professional glory, and all the toxicity that comes with it.

Over the past couple of days, I’ve come to realise that single-mindedness towards any goal is overly romanticised, and not very healthy. Focusing on one thing to the absolute neglect of all others to achieve something is the sure way to burnout and imbalance. Not so sure about success – there’s a chance of success, but at what cost?

Funnily enough, this blog came to be at the end of a long period of single-minded focus which eventually led to burnout and my first therapy session. What I realised back then, and what I continue to maintain now, is that hard work is necessary, while overworking is foolish. There are very few things that absolutely need your presence, and while a loss of control over everything in one’s life might be a source of anxiety for some, the stress that comes with it is not worth it.

And that’s the thing about work – work generates stress at some level, be it physical, mental, emotional, moral, spiritual, financial, and so on. The phrase “Do the thing you love and never work a day in your life” (or as that phrase goes) is a nice thing to say to motivate people to follow their motivations and reach their goals, but that’s not completely true.

I love what I do, and feel like every aspect of my personality is entirely suited for the work that I chose to pursue. I love animals, I want to spread my love, I want to help in any way I can, and I tend to remember and recall most things that I read, hear, or see. It’s a privilege and a joy for me to be able to do what I do daily, but it will be foolish of me to pretend that it doesn’t physically stress me out, or emotionally drain me regularly. I have days when I cannot function beyond making myself a meal and hitting the bed. I have days when I want to cry and mourn the pain and death I see, but I can’t, because there’s something else that needs my attention urgently. So while I love what I do, there are days when I just need to get away from it all.

A lot of people I work with pretend like it doesn’t stress them out. A lot more romanticise the lifestyle and condescend over those who can’t keep up. A recent exchange I heard was between a student asking a professor for a few days off to go home and see his family, and the professor’s response was, “Why, isn’t this like your home? Who will handle these cases while you’re gone? I can’t permit you to go.” The same professor told me that my idea of going home on the first day of semester break was unwise, because if he hadn’t conducted the exams within the stipulated period meant for conducting exams, then he would have taken it during the sem break (which, by the way, is not allowed officially), and then what would I have done? (I later found out that this professor was on a power trip and wanted to screw everyone over perceived slights.)

When conducting exams during finals week (which is 10 days, actually) isn’t possible or taking a semester break isn’t an option, what the hell are you doing as a professor in an academic institution? But this sentiment, as I came to realise, is not restricted to that professor alone.

There are a lot of things messed up with the system, and this isn’t the only one. People stay in their position for so long that an abuse of power goes completely unnoticed or unrecognised. Power trips are normalised, egos are fragile and easily bruised, and unreasonable behaviour from a senior has to be accepted by a junior due to a lack of alternatives. That includes covering shifts with less than a few hours notice (Is it considered as a notice, at that point?), being put in situations with no help and no alternatives, and having to go along with whatever new idea the professor might come up with, regardless of how inconsiderate it may be. One of my professors insinuated that I might have to cancel my flight back home less than 12 hours before I had to leave, simply because it had escaped his notice that both I and my colleague were leaving for our semester break. I didn’t engage, ready to ask him for the full refund for my ticket if he persisted with that line of conversation. Thankfully, for the both of us, he decided to drop it, and I’m currently writing this while on my flight, with my mobile phone on aeroplane mode.

The past week, being finals week, has been a shitshow, to say the least. Surprise exams being arranged at the drop of a hat with no warning, addition, subtraction and multiplication (never division) of the year-end assignments given to us, unreasonable deadlines and atrocious demands had become so common that towards the end of the week, I was functioning with a baseline level of anger and frustration raging in the background of my psyche. I was churning out assignments and answering papers like a daily newspaper printing press, while still being expected to give my 110% during my hospital duties and department responsibilities. My plans of unwinding and relaxing the day before going home were quickly replaced by working till midnight to send out another assignment, and then spending the next hour and a half cleaning up my kitchen and bathroom so that I don’t return to a cockroach infestation when I return. I finally slept for 5 hours (a mainstay for this week, by the way), earplugs in to block out the noisy karaoke party my neighbours were having, before having to wake up to catch my morning flight.

And I give up on seeing the positive about my colleague. In one of my previous posts, I had talked about my colleague’s, who we had named A, inability to show competence. This finals week consisted of watching A have a mental breakdown multiple times a day and having to manage them to ensure they didn’t come and bite me in the ass. The constant whining, complaining and reacting over the last few days got to me to the point where when my professor asked me to talk to them about rescheduling one of our holidays and having one of us stay back, I told my professor that I would not be the one telling A that because I was tired of handling their mental breakdowns. And I meant it.

I have given up on seeing the positive. Being a good person does not give you a pass on being incompetent, and people who try to protect you for being good or sensitive or innocent are not doing you a favour. Although now, I’m beginning to realise it’s less about protecting A and more about the professors wanting to minimise their interactions with A. Either way, I no longer care.

Maybe other places are different. Maybe other places are just as bad, if not worse. It doesn’t really matter – every place has its ups and downs, and my experience here has come a full circle. And even as I go home and proceed to put all this behind me, I shall never forget this –

High levels of professional success, while rewarding, come with a price, and I no longer am in the market to sell away my peace of mind and my personal life to enjoy the ‘good job’ from a superior I may never be given wholeheartedly.

To the Darker Side

One of my friends asked me how postgraduate has been, and my answer was, “Same old. Overworked and underappreciated.” And that, ladies, gentlemen and others, sums up my postgraduate life to a T.

The last week has been particularly shitty. I finally got a taste of what being dragged into department politics feels like here, and it’s just as nasty as everywhere else.

I try to stay away from politics and drama as much as possible. I do enjoy second- and third- hand drama as much as the next person, but I try as much as possible to not get involved. What I’ve come to realise, though, is that the more relaxed I get with people around me, the slower I realise the quagmire under my feet until it’s reached the level of my throat and I have nowhere to turn. And I sincerely tried to stay away as much as I could from the drama, but where there are people, there will be drama.

As someone who enjoys work and the challenge of doing something new, I recently realised that it’s being interpreted in a completely different meaning. While I cannot (and don’t intend to) change people or perceptions around me, I’ve decided to change myself. But fuck me if the drama doesn’t tire me out.

I’ve passed out at 8:30 in the evening due to sheer exhaustion, or I’ve found myself unable to do the work I had planned to do during the evenings once I was home. I was honestly angry, frustrated and depressed, and with less than a week left for finals week, it was a bad place to be in.

And at this time, I didn’t have my usual people to turn to. My partner was down with the ‘Rona while having to figure out what to do about leaving home to go back to his country of employment, and my closest friend, also down with The Virus, was struggling with figuring out her study schedule as the biggest exam of her life approached her. With my two closest confidantes out of the picture, and my family back home suffering their own set of problems by way of sick geriatrics, it was a shitshow all around. Everyone had their problems, and everyone was barely keeping their boats afloat.

At such a time, being alone is a blessing. Not having to care for another human being’s feelings while feeling like shit is a great place to be in, because I don’t have to worry about offending or hurting anyone with my general sense of frustration and exhaustion. At the same time, being alone meant having no one to confide in, which meant that I blurted out my feelings to whoever asked how I was doing. Which, in hindsight, was a stupid thing to do.

My colleague, bless their good, genuine heart, has the most none existent work ethic I’ve seen, simply because they don’t work. If they did have a work ethic, it would be, “Don’t do work, and don’t have work assigned to you.” Which, after careful consideration, I realised was a brilliant idea, but had a lot of implications.

I have always been told, growing up, that hard work is its own reward, which is probably a roundabout way of saying, you’re not going to be appreciated for the shit you do, so learn to appreciate yourself. (An aside, but I should really stop swearing. I don’t swear as much as I used to, but I’m still terrible) Which, while a terrible way of promoting the quality of working into a child, is, in some way, true. While growing up, however, hard work did come along with some appreciation, and laziness was reprimanded, which in itself was an incentive to work well. Personally, also, given my competitive nature, I have always prided myself on efficient and effective work, with the higher goal of achieving ‘perfection’, i.e., a level which I can be happy with.

My current environment, however, treats its hardest worker in the same way as its laziest loafer – that of silent expectation. The lazy person is expected to be lazy, and the worker is expected to pick up the slack for both people. And that, everyone, is the crux of my issue.

Sure, it’s great when you don’t expect anything from others for the work you do, but it’s difficult to implement in real life. And when you do the work of three work alone, and the only response you get is to have more work put on your plate, it gets tough to stay calm. But you have to stay calm – showing your frustration towards your coworker will fuck things up for you, and showing your frustration towards your professors means you won’t finish your postgraduate on time, and the nightmare (which it’s become at this point) will extend for far longer than it needs to.

A piece of advice given to me by my senior came to mind. “Leave your ego and self-respect at the door and enter your postgraduate. For as long as you’re studying, you need to realise that the entire power in the relation rests solely with the professor. So, for the next two – three years, swallow your ego, keep your head down, and finish your postgrad as soon as you can.” And, honestly, I wish it wasn’t so, but it is.

And that’s where change comes in.

I’m going to have to accept that being efficient isn’t the best thing for me. Instead, to paraphrase something someone posted on reddit once, “Always have 70% of your work done. Never have 100% of your work done at any point in time. You’ll just be given more work to do.” And my coworker, while being the bane of my professional existence, has a solid point, and it’s something I might take up.

The other thing I’ve come to realise is that, in relaxing my guard due to familiarity, I’ve started sharing my thoughts and emotions a lot more. That, while is a good thing for me, is something I’d rather not have bite me in the ass, as it has done with before. While I’m happy to open up to others, don’t enjoy the paranoia that accompanies it. So, for a while, I’m going to go back to keep my mouth shut, and ears open.

This isn’t the greatest possible outcome, but life isn’t about the greatest outcomes. I don’t really know what life is about, but I’m trying to make the best of what I have in front of me. I honestly wish things did not have to come to me dumbing down my work ethic in order to keep my mental peace, but here we are. Here we are, and it’s not a good place to be in. How will this go? I don’t know, and I’ll find out soon, if I am not wrong. But, hey, it’s something new to try out, so let’s give it a shot, eh?

The skincare saga

A year ago, the pandemic wave in my area was at its peak. Incidentally, so was my career as a visiting veterinarian, going to patients’ homes and administering basic treatments. To protect myself, I would double-mask, have a 500 ml bottle of sanitiser in my bag (which, to be perfectly honest, I used more on my patients than for my personal use), and, on the one occasion, quarantined myself for a week when a client was irresponsible enough to not let me know that they were covid positive until the end of the appointment.

But double masking for 14+ hours a day wreaked havoc on my skin, and I got a serious amount of what appeared to be fungal acne all over my face – hundreds of tiny bumps all over my face that wouldn’t go regardless of the amount of face-washing I did. And honestly, it was my first time dealing with such persistent, generalised acne on my face. I had been genetically blessed with clear skin, which would mildly breakout a few days before my period, and even then, it would be one pimple, at the maximum, two, and it would be on my face for a few days.

Finally tired of how I looked, I finally went down the rabbit hole of YouTube skincare gurus, trying to figure out what skincare entailed, and what I had to do to take care of my skin. Finally, I ended up finding qualified doctors, dermatologists and aestheticians on youtube who gave some really great general advice on skincare routines, products and overall skin health and maintenance.

I will say this, though. Skincare is a luxury. It is expensive, and good skincare is yet to be made affordable to the lowest denominations. The cheaper skincare that is generally available contains compounds that, in the long run, aren’t great for your skin (read: fragrance) and can cause serious problems than solve them. But, to a degree, skincare is an investment you make, and the fortune you may spend on treating your skin cancer may be saved by spending an amount significantly lesser than that on a good sunscreen.

So, here is my list of YouTubers who helped me in my skincare journey, from the beginning up until now:


Hyram

Visit this channel here

My first introduction to skincare was through Hyram, a Hawaii based skincare specialist who makes videos a few times a week talking about skincare routines and skincare products. His videos are light in tone and informative, and his skincare for beginners video (see here) helped me understand the different components of skincare. Most importantly, he taught me the importance of doing your research regarding the ingredients used in skincare products, and how one must be informed about the products they buy and use.

While I did follow him initially, I soon outgrew the content once I found other channels on the platform run by qualified dermatologists. He isn’t a licensed dermatologist or aesthetician and isn’t professionally qualified to give skincare advice. Suggestions are informal and can be freely exchanged, but advice, especially from a medical standpoint, is a completely different thing.

Hyram did leave me with a lot of great lessons for which I am truly grateful. It was a great starting point , which eventually led me to the others coming up on this list.


2. Doctorly

Visit their channel here

Dr Shah and Dr Maxwell are Youtube’s dermatologist-duo with the best advice and consistent, evidence-based information that will ensure you not only make the right choices with your skincare journey, but also know the ‘why’ behind the choices you make. From explaining the science behind commonly used skincare compounds such as retinol and salicylic acid to educating their audience about various dermatological conditions such as milia, acne and acne scars, hair loss and much more.

Some of the best things about them include their easy-to-understand content, the research-backed information that they share, the affordable alternatives to established and expensive products, and the myriad of topics that they cover. And also, they have got to be two of the cutest/hottest dermatologists you will ever see, with great chemistry that gets commented on at least a couple of times in every video. They create both 30-second shorts for on-the-go information, as well as their regular longer videos where they take the time to provide in-depth information.

All in all, their videos are great, and I would widely recommend them to anyone who is into skincare, new and old.


3. Dr Vanita Rattan – The Hyperpigmentation Clinic

Visit their channel here

For all my skin-of-colour brothers, sisters and others, there is finally a doctor who is wholly and passionately dedicated to skincare to skin of colour. Meet Dr Vanita Rattan, a doctor and a cosmetic formulator, dedicated solely to the treatment of skin of colour. She posts videos daily on her youtube channel, runs her Hyperpigmentation Clinic in the UK, and formulates products targetted specifically to coloured skin, as the western market has products that mainly target caucasian skin, and the needs of coloured skin is different from that of caucasian skin.

Her videos cover a myriad of topics, from skin issues specific to POC to reviewing skincare products targeting POC. My favourite part about her content is how she goes over every ingredient present in the products she reviews, and gives an in-depth explanation about the pros and cons of the products simply based on the ingredients list of the products. Another great thing about her is that she reviews skincare brands from African and Asian countries, such as Minimalist or, along with American and European countries, which isn’t something most skincare content creators on Youtube do, making her content more inclusive than most content creators.

The last great thing that I’ll mention here is that while she formulates her own products and explains them, she also realises that most of her audience would not be able to afford them or have them shipped to their countries, and always offers alternative products. Her content is not sponsored and her videos are always bright, cheery and packed with information. For a POC looking to start their skincare journey but find the general skincare content to be targeting caucasians, Dr Rattan is a great person to follow.


4. Dr Dray

Visit their channel here

Dr Dray is a no-nonsense, to the point dermatologist who, while being utterly respectful, isn’t afraid of speaking her mind regarding brands and their products. Her videos are information rich, without a lot of frills. She goes through many common drugstore brands and gives a good idea about the efficacy of affordable skincare. She’s very transparent in case of sponsorships, although she doesn’t do a lot of those. Listening to her feels just like how one feels listening to a doctor at their nearest clinic, which may or may not appeal to a lot of people, but it’s something I enjoy.


5. Finally, the honourable mentions… Cassandra Bankson and James Welsh

Visit their channel here

The first of the last two people I’ll mention here is Cassandra Bankson, a licensed aesthetician who focuses on skincare and lifestyle. Her content ranges from reviewing skincare products, speaking about her own skin journey, the science behind cosmetology and cosmetics, and other lifestyle-related content. She is bright, bubbly and honest with her opinions while being very respectful. She focuses the spotlight on skin conditions that might not be widely known and had used her platform to share stories about rare and common skin conditions faced by ordinary people, and their struggles in overcoming the stigma and the discrimination associated with living with skin that is deemed “abnormal” by society. This is something I truly enjoyed, as it shed some much-needed light on what people go through, and started some necessary conversations on what we can do and what we should be aware of.

Visit their channel here

James Welsh is a skincare and haircare enthusiast who, similar to Hyram, has invested a lot of time in learning about the science behind skincare and haircare, but is not a licensed professional. Like the others, he shares his opinions on skincare brands and products, with his main focus on critiquing popular skincare products, and demystifying popular practices circulating in social media which may or may not be good for the skin. Personally, I love the vibe of his channel, as it is soothing and refreshing, and you do feel like you’re unwinding with your best friend at the end of the day while you do your skincare routines together. And he maintains that he is not a professional, but an enthusiast who wants to share his findings with the rest of the community, a clarification I feel is very important to make, and I’m glad he makes it.


So, those are all the channels I have followed for my skincare advice, which truly helped me get a skincare routine that was needed for my skin. Skincare is a luxury that is slowly becoming affordable and accessible, and it is also an investment from the standpoint of preventing skin cancers and accelerated ageing of the skin.

Hopefully, these doctors, aestheticians and enthusiasts help you on your journey, directly or indirectly, by helping you fall in love with the large and complex organ that is your skin. I wish you all the best on your journey of, what is in a way, self-discovery, and while you’re there, don’t forget to apply your sunscreen!

Waning

The Universe hasn’t stopped trolling me – if that’s what I can call this. One after the other, with maybe a day or two in between, having one fear after another thrown at me. This time, the Universe has come for all the geriatrics in the house, including my dog, and all of the wickets are wobbling dangerously.

Well, I knew this day was going to come. But there’s no way I could’ve prepared myself for it. All of my veterinary experience, all of the pain and suffering I’ve seen and treated couldn’t prepare me for the pain I feel now when my dog is sick.

There isn’t a good time to fall ill, but when all the old people in the house fall sick at the same time, it’s a different kind of hell. And not being able to be there with my parents and help them through this physically is another level of remorse. I know I shouldn’t feel guilty, and I’m not. I just wish, with all my heart, that I could be there and help them out.

My dog is the reason I chose veterinary science as my profession. He occupies a lot of very important positions in my life, which is something every pet lover understands, and every non-pet owner doesn’t get. “It’s just a dog, how could you love an animal so much?”

This animal came into my life at a time when my entire family was disconnected, and we’d become a bunch of really young and much older roommates sharing a house. He gave us a reason to bond and band together. He gave me a safe space to love without conditions, to open up myself and be vulnerable in my emotions. He didn’t give two hoots about me being a child with anger issues and insecurities that required a tome to list accurately. He didn’t tell me that I was weak for crying to him, or I was clingy for showering him with kisses or letting him lay his head on my lap for me to stroke gently. He didn’t tell me I was a nerd for studying too much – he would lie in my lap while I studied with my books on him.

He didn’t complain when I used him to study first-year anatomy, or to practice fourth year general medicine. He didn’t move a muscle when I would have to draw blood from him for his biannual blood test, or complain when he needed his gastric medication or his tick medication. He’s been my best friend, my little brother, and by far my best patient by a large margin.

Seeing him sick has disturbed my family far more than their sickness did. My father, who would think more than ten times before spending money on anything for any reason, has spent more money in the past two days than he has in a month, and has gone more times to and from the hospital for his tests than he has in the entire past year.

My mother, having to deal with her illness, then her husband’s illness, then her parent’s illness and her in-law’s illness, is now having to give my dog his many medicines. She’s honestly having a far worse time than I am, and, in a sense, has to do it alone. And being far away means that the only support I can give is through the telephone, and the only thing I can support her with is being there for her emotionally.

Having to see your mother, your bedrock of strength and your role model, deteriorate before you mentally and physically is a pain I don’t think I’ll ever be able to comprehend. To have your mother tell you that you’ll incur no sin by killing her in her lucid moments because she no longer wants to live with an incurable disease that makes her completely dependent on the people around her… I cannot imagine the anguish that my mother must be suppressing within herself to be able to function on a day-to-day basis. And the most I can do, in all of this, is be someone who listens.

Two of my favourite people in this world – one who gave me a goal to pursue, and the other who taught me how to live my life – are knocking on heaven’s door, and one is more insistent than the other. All of this has made me realise that at a certain point in a long life, all you have to look forward to is death.

So, please. Call up your aged parents, or your surviving grandparents, and tell them that you love them, if you have a good relationship with them. They are growing old, and aren’t going to be around for long. Video call back home and check on how your childhood pet is doing, because they aren’t going to be around for long, either. None of us are going to be around for long. So if there’s someone you want to send your love to, take the time to do it today.

2022 is going to be an eventful year indeed. Here’s to our good health, mentally and physically. Stay safe, everyone.

The Launchpad — the starting point for the journey of mental health.

My journey towards understanding and bettering my mental health started with the recognition that my thoughts and thought patterns in romantic relationships had been detrimental and painful to me and those around me. I had realised that I hadn’t been living in the moment, but had been re-enacting scenes of abuse and pain I’d accumulated over the years. That led me down a journey of self-discovery that spanned five years, involving writing, reading, watching videos, discussions, and finally, therapy.

It took me a while to come to therapy, due to the factors including the cost of therapy as well as the need to be self-reliant at that point. For a while, I found my answers from some brilliant content on youtube, including entire channels dedicated to mental health, and individual videos of speakers sharing their perspectives on the self and the world.

Given the easy accessibility of Youtube and the helpfulness of these videos to me, I have decided to share the channels and videos which have largely helped me in finding answers and forming perspectives that have improved my mental health.

This, however, comes with a disclaimer.

I am not a psychotherapist. I don’t claim to be capable of helping you mentally in a professional setting, nor do I claim these videos can completely diagnose or cure your mental issues. Some of these channels attempt to explain certain mental diseases, but they should not be taken as confirmatory diagnoses either for your mental ailments or somebody else’s mental ailments. That is something only a professional licensed psychotherapist or psychiatrist can do. These videos are just a starting point and are in no way a replacement for professional mental healthcare. If you need professional help and can afford it, go for it. The intention of this me sharing this list is to share with you what worked for me initially, as a fellow traveller on the mental health journey to another traveller on the same journey.

So, without further ado, here are the videos and channels that helped me in my mental health journey which, I hope, will be of help to you, too:


1. The School of Life

Visit their channel here.

The School of Life is an organisation that provides online psychotherapy in the form of individual counselling as well as group sessions for businesses or schools, and have a youtube channel that has all their ideas in individual videos, with a 2.5 – 8 minute runtime per video, mostly narrated in the soothing voice of Alain de Botton.

They focus on the philosophy that our adult emotions find their roots in our early childhood experiences. They explain that our early childhood shapes our emotional self, and our experiences with our parents and the world around us as babies and toddlers determines our emotional thinking and reacting patterns. This has far-reaching consequences over our romantic life, personal life and professional life as an adult.

It is a great starting point to explore our childhood, correlate our adult emotions to our childhood experiences, and figure out the patterns within our psyche that are influenced by the interactions in our early years.


2. ‘Feeling good’ by Dr David D. Burns, M.D.

Visit the website here

I have elaborated on this book in my very first First Impressions post, but I shall briefly introduce the book. This book contains the groundbreaking work done on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, commonly known as CBT, which focuses on simplifying the most complex and intense emotions and emotional reactions to their basic roots, which are cognitive distortions. And along with identifying our internal cognitive distortion using scientific tools, this book also helps the reader in correcting those distortions with tangible activities and processes meant to improve our emotional quotient and our overall life. This not only answers the why but also the what’s next. Of course, this barely scratches the surface of this deeply scientific and empathetic book, which manages to walk you through the entire process of discovery of, identification of, correction of and recovery from the cognitive distortions that disrupt our lives.

I would highly recommend listening to this book as an audiobook, as the experience feels very similar to a therapy session. And while you may feel attacked initially, I advise having some patience for both yourself as well as the author, because, in the end, it will be worth it.


3. ‘The art of being yourself’ by Caroline McHugh TedXMiltonKeynesWomen (and TedX, in general)

Watch the video here

Caroline McHugh is the CEO of IDology (visit their LinkedIn here), an organisation that, much like The School of Life, works along with people and corporates to help people be themselves and live authentically. I found this video five years ago, along with a host of other videos, while searching for ‘self-motivation talks’ on youtube.

In this video, Caroline McHugh talks about what it means to be ourselves, and how difficult it is to find ourselves. The most fantastic thing that this talk revealed to me was the idea of ‘Interiority’, which is a self-contained view of ourselves that is completely unrelated to the people around us and the position we occupy in others’ lives, and the ‘I-complex’, which is the multi-layered personality that makes us who we are.

Humility isn’t about thinking less about yourself, it’s about thinking of yourself less”. Listening to her anecdotes about the learning moments of her life made me understand that the focus of my thoughts needed to be lesser on what I did or didn’t do, and more on who I am. It took me multiple replays of the video, and returns over the years, to understand her message, and, in some small way, implement it.

I’d now like to take a moment to talk about TedX here.

Those who know TedX from its infancy know that the platform initially used to be a highly exclusive platform, accessible to those who were most innovative and successful in their field. That exclusivity, however, was quickly removed, and now everyone has their own Ted talk, to the point where it’s become a joke. The sheer quantity of available content is insane, and while the overall quality may never compare to that of the initial days, the quantity of talks ensures that there is at least one person, if not more, who has spoken about something that may be of value or interest to you. I have seen a lot of TedX videos revolving around self-help, self-confidence and overcoming negative thought patterns, and of the scores of content I’ve seen, this has got to be the most powerful video that has me coming back again and again.


4. Ted-Ed

Visit their channel here

A branch of Ted that produces animated educational content, Ted-Ed covers a variety of topics from mythology to animal behaviour, from philosophy to physics, and they also have some videos on psychology and the biology of certain manifestations of mental health. Their videos are a great starting point for not only psychology but also physics and other sciences.


And finally, congratulations on taking your initial steps into bettering your mental health!

The journey towards better mental health spans throughout our lives, and while the first step may not seem to do a lot, it is a moment of great significance. It’s not easy and has its trying moments, but the fact that you’re here and are willing to make the effort to improve your mental health is commendable. I hope you remember to pat yourself on the back and to remember that you are not alone.

These resources are a great place to find your footing initially and start your research. You may or may not find the videos helpful by themselves, but they will help you find your way towards tools or professionals who might be able to help you eventually. Every step is significant on your road to self-discovery and mental growth. So onwards, brave soldier, and all the best to you!

Reintroduction

I guess the Universe has decided it’s time for me to face all of my fears one after the other, in quick succession.

Two weeks of non stop, exhausting work bringing me close to burn out, only to find that none of it meant anything at all? Check.

Having a fight with my boyfriend where he had to choose between his relationship with me and keeping his parents happy, which triggered my previous, very terrible, encounter with abusive parents? Check.

Having to face my parent who I thought I was finally escaping after being traumatised by their actions? Check.

Wondering if I’m pregnant and waiting for my period to start, while experiencing my worst premenstrual depression? Check.

Testing positive for covid-19 while living all alone in a city which I’ve just begun to understand? Check.

The Universe, ladies, gentleman and non-binaries, seems to have a funny sense of humour when it’s been regarding me the past few weeks, and I’m not sure I get humour in the cosmic joke that is my life. I’ve had at the most a day before the next fuck-up begins, with barely any time to get my wits together and get over that which has previously passed. And somehow, the stakes kept rising until — until I woke up at 3 am, fever of 100.6° F, and rising.

Two days of terrible fever, and four days of exhaustion later, I am tired of this shit. I am so, so fucking tired. I am tired of being unable to think about what to eat next. I am tired of being unable to clean the house or do my laundry because it means staying upright, which is something that has become so exhausting now. I am tired, most of all, of this disease, and I am tired of people telling me to ask them for help whenever I want it, because their help will not reach fast enough for me to be able to rely on them. Instead, I have to help myself through the shit I’m going through during the time I have to wait for them, and by the time help arrives, either I would’ve helped myself, or it will be too late. But yes, thank you for offering.

Staying alone while having covid is quite nuts, actually. I kept all my medicines, my thermometer and 5 litres of water by my bedside, and would wait for the fever and the body pain to drop before being able to get out of bed long enough to be able to cook. And that’s all I could do – cook something basic, lie down, eat it, lie down again. Get up again to maybe wash the dishes, and then lie down because the exhaustion didn’t quite go away, and now the fever is climbing and soon, I’m going to be delirious.

And no, I don’t want you to tell me how brave I am and how proud of me you are, although some people do genuinely mean that. At 2:45 am, as I sat on my bed with my temperature increased yet again, my head splitting because of the most infernal headache, having had to take medicine that kept me from vomiting so that I could eat some food and take some paracetamol, I wanted to whine and cry about how shit it all was. I didn’t want to reassure another person about how I’d take care of myself while being alone — I wanted to be selfish, and terrify others with how much pain I was in. I wanted them to panic, as they thought about what to do if my temperature rose, and threatened to cross 104°F. During the worst of it, I wanted someone to worry and think for me, think about how they’d take me to the hospital, what they’d need to pack in a bag for me, how much it would cost, and whether I’d be better or not, because during the worst of it, I could not think.

I could not think. I could not concentrate long enough to put together two halves of a sentence to make sense. All I could feel was the heat radiating from my feet, almost like I’d got rockets attached to my soles, along with the nuclear power generator that runs the rockets. I was hot, it was dark and I really fucking wished someone was there with me.

But, thank God nobody was there. Sounds confusing? I understand. But, let me explain why.

Thank God nobody was there to catch the disease from me, and resent me for passing it onto them. Thank God I was alone in this house, without having the fear of disturbing anyone else with having to get up at 2 am to eat a banana and take my paracetamol. Thank God no one was there to coo over me and fill me with self pity, because that was the last thing I needed. And thank God, because after these excruciating days in Hell’s pits, I’m finally out of it.

It was bad. But it got better. And albeit a bit subdued and strangely tired, I have another week of being alone in my safe space, which I intend to enjoy to the fullest.

The Universe has been no stranger when it comes to throwing the most awful shit at me, but somehow, it has all come at a time when I was capable of handling it by myself. If I had to handle catching covid any earlier, I would’ve caught variants much more virulent than omicron, and while omicron was terrible, it isn’t as virulent as delta or the original coronavirus.

(Quick note: there is a difference between infectious, i.e., a pathogen’s ability to cause infection, and virulence, i.e., the intensity of disease caused by a pathogen. Yay immunology courses!)

And having dealt with a constant stream of people not meeting my expectations of friendship or break my trust in them these past couple of years, my partner’s goof-up (it was just a mistake, regardless of how I try to see it) couldn’t have come at a better time, at a time when I was no longer plagued by the sadness of mentally checking out of a lot of relationships, and after conclusively dealing with my own doubts about my relationship with my partner.

There was a silver lining to all of this, and while it was, pardon my French, a really shitty time, it did show me my capacity to handle adversity. It showed me that I didn’t turn into a baby requiring assistance when I fell ill. It showed me that I was still carrying baggage from past relationships that I had to acknowledge and let go of. It made me realise the importance of repair in a relationship, whereas past relationships had me focusing only on the rupture part. It made me realise that my partner, as wonderful a human being as he is, is still human, and as all humans, can make mistakes and be forgiven for them.

Like the popular saying goes, adversity introduces us to ourselves. And that is what this cosmic joke being played on me turned out to be – a reintroduction of me to my strength, my tenacity, my ability to hold on even as I complain about and hate on everything happening to me at that time. And it reminds me of something depression-era me used to say and believe in, which I’ll leave you with –

Things do get better. There is light at the end of the tunnel, even when you can’t see it. Just take one step after the other, one deep breath after the other, and before you know it, you’re through the worst of the storm.