an old, very smiley pre-corona photo

It's always strange when the people who surround you, the people who are meant to love you unconditionally and know you inside out, be there to weather any emotional storms you face with you do not understand what you're going through. Them asking why you've picked up watercolouring and having to respond that you just wanted to try painting again, not that your anxiety became so crippling and outright unbearable that you couldn't sleep till 6 in the morning and ordering watercolours at 4am seemed like the only non-medicinal way to clear your mind. Them asking why you've been so low for the past few days, and having to say you're just tired and miss normality, not that you feel suffocated and are in the lowest of low moods. Them asking why your eyes are so puffy and whether you've been crying, and instead blaming your shitty sleep schedule and hay-fever that you've never even had. Reading Matt Haig's "reasons to stay alive", finding it to be a shit read and crying even more because even a book about the supposed beauty of life and the reasons against topping yourself just seems stupid to you. Responding to random people's proposals for 'someone to talk to' on university forums and pouring your life out to them through facebook messenger in the early hours of the morning, profusely apologising for burdening them. Having to clip out the part about "oh and I had therapy today from 2-3pm" when they ask how your day was over the phone when at uni.

It's so strange and it's so incredibly difficult, trying to function 'normally' around family when you're feeling totally abnormal. Sometimes I'm worried that I'm not too open with people. That I really do keep things to myself and make things ten times harder for myself by keeping my mouth shut about how I'm feeling. Sometimes I cry on the floor of my room in my uni home and hope that for once, just this once, my paper thin walls will work in my favour (they never do though) and my flatmate will hear me and check up on me. And it'll be a nice way of being checked up on because I'm not the one who asked them directly, it's them hearing me sobbing and feeling concerned enough to knock on my door and ask if I'm okay. There's none of the burden and shame that I feel when asking someone for help. It's just that person selflessly asking me if I need help. It sounds so crazy when I type it out, robbing myself of support that I need because I don't want to have to ask for it myself.

January and February were tough. I spent those two months in a complete haze. Looking back on the little pictures I have from those times hurts because I just looked so sad, even behind a smile and a pretty dress at a languages ball or a group pizza dinner in town with friends. Sometimes I masked it well, going to house parties, dancing to heavy techno and actually meeting people for coffee, and other (most) times not so much as I ticked the 'nearly every day' box in response to "how often have you been feeling depressed and hopeless?" My walk to uni is 6 minutes up a slow incline, up till the last 3 minutes where the hill steepens very much. Those 6 minutes are usually filled with so much dread and so much anxiety that by the time I'd gotten up the hill and started walking through the languages building, I'd be ready to go back down again and sack off the day. I've always found it a little funny and perhaps a bit symbolic that my walk to the student wellbeing centre where I have my therapy is a mostly flat journey. Or maybe that's just me trying to find a meaning in everything in a wider attempt to make sense of life.

Upon being diagnosed, the GP asked if I would like them to contact my parents for me about the diagnoses, so they're aware and can know how to support me. It took me a while to answer, wondering how my parents would take it. They sometimes describe me as sensitive, a worrier, highly in touch with my emotions, perhaps too empathetic, a soft individual who feels intensely. But there's never been a link with the possibility of these attributes being related to something a little more sinister. So I decided against it. They probably wont understand. Which is a shame, because I wish we had that level of openness as a family but instead it's something that's whispered about. I find solace in knowing that I am not alone, that others with similar backgrounds, being first-generation struggle in this way too. I'm forever grateful that my committee society positions allow me to check in on welfare of Muslim and middle eastern/north african students at uni, helping them fill in forms so they too can get those deadlines extended and an extra 15 minutes in exams if they ever need them and just being there to listen because I know how it feels to be completely and utterly alone whilst your mind feels like a war-zone.

I don't know what this post really set out to be. Hopefully not a self organised pity party, although as I proof read it, it does slightly seem that way. I guess I just want it to serve as a reminder to everyone to look after themselves, especially if you're of a similar background. Lockdown has made things even tougher for many, I know I've been feeling the strains of it lately. It's a bit strange to write so openly and freely on here, even though I've been doing so for the majority of my blogging 'career.' Maybe I'm just an oversharer...but it feels good to write something like this, even if it is a little depressing. I so desperately want to get back to sharing posts that aren't just updates on my life but having left my camera in Exeter as I hurried to London on the eve of lockdown, I can't really properly photograph the books I've been reading etc. Anyway, I'll leave this here. I've just remembered its world mental health awareness week so perhaps the writing inspo came at the right time. It goes without saying that if anyone reading this ever feels similar and is struggling, doesn't know the steps to getting help from their unis/NHS or just want someone to talk/cry to, I am always here. Send me a DM or email me (so retro) and I'll reply asap.

Take caarreee!!
Dalal xx

1 comment

  1. Oh, I love the candidness of this – even though it does sound like you're having a really tough time. It must be so difficult to feel as though you're having to keep it to yourself/manage your diagnosis – I hope maybe you found some catharsis in writing this, I know writing always helps me feel a little more coherent. I've been loving your watercolours by the way, even if they were bought out of late-night angst. I hope you're finding a little more peace xx

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Lots of love, Dalal

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