What depression has taken from me.

It has become hard for me to keep up with my social relations.

What makes keeping up with them harder is that most times than not, I do not feel like talking to people (especially over the phone). I just want to remain in my own quiet. This feeling has increasingly been present in my life these days more than it has ever been.

When people call me, it fills my heart with dread. When people call me, I’m filled with an anxiety and from the flight-fight mode, I choose flight. I run, I cover my ears to it, close my eyes to it.

When people text, I feel burdened with the responsibility of engaging and replying. I want to reply, I do – I have even thought of what I want to write. But I do not write it. I feel like I do not have the energy.

I’ve had some very very dear friends. Friends who now live far away from where I am. I ‘wish’ I could do a better job at keeping in touch. Sometimes, months go by.

I do not call, I do not call back, I do not reply to text messages (most times than not).

I have hurt people in the process. I have hurt FRIENDS in the process.

I have not intended do. I have wished that they would understand. I think it is hard to understand… and the fact remains that when they needed me to be there, I was not.

There are those who ask why I am being weird. There are those who have lashed at me for not being there for them because of my depression. There are those who have harbored complaints for not calling back, replying, reaching out.

It is safe to say, I am not a person you can count on. Maybe I once was, I’m not even certain anymore. But I no longer am.

I am afraid. I am afraid I am losing friends.

And I do not blame them.

I hate that this is what has come down to. It boggles my mind that this is what it has come down to. The process was a subtle one and I did not feel its bite till the bruises were left.

This is suffering upon suffering.

And I do not blame them.

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A day in depression

The files lay strewn around me.

I open his file. I write his name, date of birth… I think about what his problems are – but are they problems? I think about what the long term goals of the therapy are – but they aren’t specific enough. I think about his broken family – and I wonder what he must feel about it, he doesn’t talk about it – he is too little to understand that some things happen beyond our control and eventually it is that which also shapes who we are – there is a bigger picture – but he is too little to understand that right now.

I open another file. I write things under the same headings… and I pause – what do I write? I don’t know what to write. I stare. I can’t do it. This is hard.

I close the file.

I think he has childhood depression. What if this little bubba kills himself some day? How do I treat him? He doesn’t talk… What if therapy saves him? Will he cry some day? About how he feels? He doesn’t talk about how he feels.

I open an article to read about how I can work with him. It’s hard to sustain attention.

I bring the files home. I can’t finish them there.

I’m so tired. I feel so tired.

I congratulate my friend on her new job. I also ask her if she’s coming tomorrow for a breakfast plan. All she says is she plans to. She probably hates me. I wasn’t there for her when she needed me.

I go out to buy an SD card… I can’t find the fast ones. No one has them.

I feel sad. Disheartened – that’s the word my brother used to describe me. “You get disheartened so easily.” I said, “but I really thought my storage problems would end today.”

Maybe no problems ever end. Like my depression will never end. Maybe I thought buying an SD card would fix one thing in my life. But no. I couldn’t even get an SD card.

I didn’t look carefully to my left while crossing a busy street. I thought it was okay to cross but a car suddenly came while I was crossing. I didn’t see it. I didn’t care that I didn’t see it. What if it had hit me? Maybe it would just be easier that way. What was the point of life? What was the point – but something inside me fights and says, there is a point to all this.

Why didn’t you buy the fries, my brother asked. I replied, I would’ve regretted it. It would’ve been like, why did I have FRIES? Fried carbs.

I feel like a sad person.

I thought I was a happy person. I even did yoga today. But today, I feel like a sad person. Yoga doesn’t treat depression. But yoga is self-care. So, maybe, I would’ve been worse off without yoga today?

I feel like crying. I feel like a good, big cry.

Maybe something in me does cry. Deep down.

I didn’t though.

 

 

Reflecting on what suffering taught me.

I was wondering what suffering has taught me. I know that it most certainly has. And that’s something I don’t want for to just pass me by… I want to crystallise it in words, so I may remember insha’Allah.

Of the first thing that comes to mind of what heartbreak has taught me is that, I was never completely broken… I am never completely broken. Just when I’m experiencing heartbreak acutely and intensely, I can feel Allah ta’ala around me. I know He’s there, around me, near me. I know that He can hear me. Tearfully, I have said to Him, ‘I know you know how much this hurts me.’

I also discovered that Allah – who is always there – will not even have you physically abandoned. He will send someone, and He most surely will send someone, to make you smile, to bring you heart peace… To bring you happiness. Divinity packaged in an awesome somebody around you, near you, masha’Allah.

I learned how empowering this process of grief can be. It taught me to actively seek those things that brought me happiness. It taught me how to cultivate joy, and that I was responsible myself for cultivating it. Any joy and happiness that’s contingent upon someone else giving it to you is conditional and iffy. Sometimes you’ll get it, sometimes you won’t. And if that’s the only happiness one knows, then that’s also signing up for a lot of misery.

It hurt when I fell to the ground, realising what was once my safety net, was no longer there. But perhaps what hurt more than the fall was the realisation that the thing I depended on to keep me from hurting was gone now. And that’s how also how this was an empowering process: I learned to pick myself up, and smile.

And perhaps what has been precious and dear learning, is how I discovered healthy self-esteem. A healthy sense of self. It has been a struggle for me, these feelings of not good enough. I was worthy. I AM worthy. Because Allah ta’ala made me like that. I became aware of what I deserved and what I did not, and that had to start with my own self. I began to respect myself… And it was only then that I could stop a person from showing disrespect. It was only then that I could ask them for respect, instead. It was only then, that I would be given it.

And lastly, it taught me forgiveness.

Actually, that wasn’t the last: I learned that love is the best healer of all.

I once said, “I think this is bringing me closer to myself.” For a second, I couldn’t recall why I had said that then… But I just remembered, it was then I began to exercise my voice for something that really mattered to my life, it would’ve, in fact, changed my life.

It was true then, and it still is. Everything I wrote above, is the manifestation of just that statement.

 

 

On forgiveness

Merriam-Webster defines forgiveness as the act of stopping feeling anger toward (someone who has done something wrong) : to stop blaming (someone).

I was reflecting on this the other day, and I think there are two types of forgiveness. (But there may be more which I’m unaware of.)

There is forgiveness for when someone hurt you. With all your grace and acceptance for life, you let the anger and blame go. However, you’re also cognizant of the fact that they will never have the same place in your heart, again. That they may not even be allowed to be a part of your life again.

You forgive them, because you value love too much to hate. You forgive them, because the God who is merciful to you, is merciful to them, too. You forgive them, because the Lord in front of who you err, forgives you, too.

You forgive them, because you value your peace too much to let it be ruined by anger. With the grace bestowed upon you, you wish them peace, too.

But, you’ve also become your heart’s own guard. You aren’t open to letting people who have hurt it, re-enter.

And then there is another type of forgiveness… At their expense, you have known a broken heart, and yet… Yet, you forgive them… For the same reasons as mentioned above. But, you are also willing to give them that place in your life and heart that they previously had.

And this type of forgiveness… This is fierce heart work. This is love warrior work.

The deeper the break, the more difficult the forgiveness.

Because what you’re doing is, you’re letting the person who broke your heart, into your life again, into your heart again. What you’re doing is, risking heartbreak all over again.

It seems idiotic. It really does. Why would you do that? Because, maybe, you believe greater in the beauty of something else… In the beauty of love. Perhaps, still drunk on the idea that love, and only love could heal our brokenness.

This forgiveness comes by harder. It is courage work. It takes more time. Because there are wounds within. Wounds that need healing. Like Jeff Brown says, “the healing process has a heart of its own, moving at its own delicate pace.”

Healing takes its time. And so does forgiveness. Especially this second type of forgiveness.

On empathy gone wrong

I just listened.

 

You know what was said to me after?
“I feel like you just therapy-ed me.”

Trust me, I did not do anything else. I just listened, and that is all another needs sometimes; for you to listen, with all your presence.

 

*

That was on feeling heard. This one, on feeling unheard.

 
I’m writing about this because it is so close to my heart. I’m writing about this because more often than, I have experienced what it feels like to feel unheard rather than heard. More often than not, I’ve experienced the frustration, anger and hurt associated with the experience of the other person not REALLY listening to me.
 
I’m writing about this because I live with mostly keeping things to myself, because sharing problems with people has taught me this, “what’s the point of telling someone, it’s not like they really listen, or understand.”
 
I’m writing about this because we all deserve to be heard better.
 
I’m writing about this because if we don’t know what’s wrong with something, or why it fails, we can’t make it better.
 
*
 
It would pan out like this:
 
I would start telling my experience, something that might’ve been bothering me. After listening, or sometimes cutting in the middle, and then saying, “I can relate to what you’re feeling because I’ve gone through that too.” And then they would start narrating their whole experience.
 
You know what happened there?
 
They could connect to what I felt, because they went through a similar feeling in their life. That’s good, that’s great (in the empathy world). But you know where they went wrong? When they took it as an opportunity to start talking about themselves. That was the moment when they stopped being connected to me, and started being connected to themselves. That was the moment when I stopped being heard. The moment when their well-intentioned empathy failed.
 
And they would end like this, “so yeah, that’s why I can relate to you”, or, “that’s why I know what you feel.”
 
(Um. Gee, thanks? But like, you kinda stopped being with me and hearing me out? Awkwarddd.)
 
On other times, I would tell something that I’m going through, and the response I would get would be this, “don’t think like that”, or, “don’t feel like that”, or, “that’s not how it really is.”
 
Those are well-intentioned responses. They are. But you know why they are failed empathic responses? Because what’s being communicated to me is that my emotional experience is baseless and wrong.
 
But the thing is, emotions just ARE. Don’t tell me they shouldn’t be a certain way. Understand why I would feel that way. By saying what was said to me, I will leave this person with a feeling of feeling unheard, un-understood.
 
In another situation, I would tell, and I would hear in return, “why don’t you do this, or try doing that.”
 
That’s a well-intentioned response, too. But you know why that is a failed empathic response, too? Because by saying that, it was basically communicated to me, well-intentioned as it may be, “you haven’t tried hard enough to fix your problems, let ME tell you.”
 
It’s a failed empathic response because it’s being communicated to me, “IGNORE the feelings, ignore the wound. Ignore the pain, put on the band aid. Heck, I’ll put it on for you.” (Anyone else have a problem with Coldplay’s “Fix You” song? Yeah, me too.)
 
Don’t fix me. I’ll fix myself. I know how to. I just need perspective to be able to do that. For that, I just need you to listen to me, understand what I’m saying.
 
Empathy calls for connecting to that emotional place that came alive in you when I told you what I felt. But here’s the catch, you connect to that place not for yourself. You connect to it for the person who sits in front of you, opening up to you about something. A person…SAYING something to you. A person sharing a piece of their heart.
 
They chose to tell you. You.
 
That is privilege. Sheer privilege.
 
Empathise.
 
In the moment, everything in the world will feel right to them (when in reality, things might’ve been a mess). You would have given them a gift. An irreplaceable gift. Of feeling heard. Understood.

How the delicious Cadbury milk chocolate frosted cupcake ended on our table

The short story of how the delicious Cadbury milk chocolate-frosted cupcake ended on our table:

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There were three girls sitting on the table next to ours. It was one girl’s birthday, they were singing the birthday song… And when they ended, we also clapped and cheered. In a moment of what would be the definition of spontaneity, she gave us one of her birthday cupcakes.

Completely taken aback, we wondered, “what just happened?!” We figured, no, we need to return this. And we tried, saying it was a very very sweet gesture, and we really appreciated it, but this was not necessary, and that we wanted HER to have her birthday cupcake. But she insisted so much, that it would have been worse to not take it.

And ladies and gentlemen, that is the story of how the delicious, Cadbury chocolate-frosted cupcake ended up on our table.

An act of such sheer generosity. In awe. So blown! ‘Cause like, who does that?! WHO!!! 

And it was SOOO GOODDD!! The cupcake wasn’t just a delicious, one-of-the-best-cupcakes-I-ever-had cupcake, but a manifestation of kindness. There are lovely, kind people everywhere. And sometimes, we are fortunate enough to experience that 🙂

And you know what happens then? The magic spreads. Smiles and happiness. Cultivates inner joy and gratitude. Inspiration.

Wow. That is huge. Absolutely huge.

When good people come together, great happens.

 

 

On Awe

I’ve never “seen” the amount of beauty in my entire life, than I’ve seen in my roughly two years in Islamabad. Correction. I have never “felt” the amount of beauty I have felt in the last two, three years of my life, most of it concentrated in Islamabad.

I’m not sure what has changed, or how it has, but my relationship with experiences has become intense. The joy, the awe I experience when in communion with nature, it is like never before.

Such a pretty city, Islamabad. And how superficial do these four words appear when you read them? Sounds superficial to me. Islamabad, surrounded by the gorgeous and green Margalla. Islamabad, with the pretty sunsets and lovely weather. Islamabad, and its crisp winter.

The thing is. There are no words.

That’s what awe is. An experience, a response to things that are perceived as vast and overwhelming and that alters the way we understand the world. There is no space in our mind to make sense of it. “Mind blowing” would be the work. It transcends our understanding, all that we know and make sense of. You can try to contain it, to no avail. You can try to capture it, to no avail.

That’s how experience the clouds I see in this city. So incredible. How they form like fluff balls, mounds and mounds of cotton, suspended mid-air. Have you ever seen anything like it?! So cute.

Awe that quietly screams. Awe that loudly squeals.

Awe, when stumbling on to lilac flowers blooming on a tree. Because, BLIMEY, they’re PURPLE, for God’s sake. Bunches of purple flowers, hanging off of a tree. Or white flowers blossoming on a leafless tree, setting the entire tree on white! When it rains. Oh, when it rains. The first hail, jumping in joy, like a child’s happiness unleashed. Acutely mindful happiness. The first ever snowfall, unbelievable. What a phenomenon. The prettiest thing I ever saw, falling from the skies, turning everything into a white wonderland. Magical. Absolutely magical. Anything that it touches, becomes extraordinary. And oh, the way it glitters at night…as though diamonds have fallen from the sky. The way the wind blows, and trees sway. The way the wind blows, and fallen leaves fly and dance. A rhythm to this abstraction. Or how the sky changes colors, hues of orange and pink at sunset, or the shades of blue at twilight, with the stars emerging one after the other, twinkling. And oh, the joy in discovery, as you tread through green fields, and finding a river, shielded by tall, tall trees. Can you imagine, a river?! I’ll be damned. A river.

Today’s evening in Islamabad was awe-imbuing. I felt love-struck when I stepped out and saw the sun in the middle of clouds, and crepuscular rays splitting from around the clouds. A picture of royalty, of yellow and gold. I could never have captured it on my phone camera, I didn’t insist on capturing. It was meant to be experienced.

An experience so magnanimous, our brilliant minds are too feeble to make sense of it. So much so that, that my first thought is, “There is a God. SubhanAllahi wabihamdihi.” All Glory is Allah’s and all praise belongs to Him.

Such sheer magnificence, can only be a reflection of the one who creates it. The Exalted.

 

 

Reflection on adversity, faith and transformation.

Just a little while ago, I wrote,

“It is through times difficult, in which change is crystallized.”

And right before I wrote that, I wrote,

“And no one ever learned to have faith without having being tried.”

A couple of days ago,

“It took the pain of heartbreak to transform.”

And even more days ago, I wrote:

“Jahan jaane ka socha tha maine, wahan main gayi nahin. Lekin jahan gayi, woh jagah thi behadh khoobsurat.

Sochti hoon, zindagi kay iss silsile pe bharosa rakhna chahiye. Ek achi jagah hee le kay jayegi humein :)”

(Where I had thought of going, I did not go there. But where I went, was beautiful.

I think, I should trust the process of life. It’s going to take me to a good place.”)

*

I am amazed at the pattern. The series of these thoughts were not consciously thought out. But as I see them altogether, I believe this is no coincidence. It was also meant to build up to this moment, to me writing the very words that I am writing right now.

I wrote all of that because I have learned that, and I believe that. I am still learning that and am on a journey that is trying to make that faith, that embracing uncertainty, a part of me. I am learning that, that can never truly happen were it not our travels through deep waters. Our travels through deep waters make us resilient. And what would be of resilience were it not for adversity, the difficult times?

I remember, years ago, I overheard someone at an airport saying, “hardship is the fertilizer of faith.” He was right.

I’ve learned a lot in the past year. And what would that learning have been, but transient and meaningless, had I not transformed? But I transformed in the past year. Even now, I can’t believe that I did. But it happened, and it happened because I experienced pain the likes of heartbreak.

It doesn’t make me bitter anymore, that pain. I am so so grateful. Because were it not for that, I would not have been this person that I am today. I love who I have become, by the grace of God.

To love myself, I learned that then. You have to understand, I am a very sensitive person, I hurt easily. And your words, or perhaps, even lack of them, would pierce through my heart. You have to understand, that hurt? I felt very very intensely. You have to understand, I was once very self-critical and self-derogatory. I didn’t like myself much. This ‘loving yourself’ business? So new to me. This ‘loving yourself’ business in the face of heartbreak? So alien to me. In my brokenness, I could count on God and myself. And counting on myself? That was a first. And I know I didn’t do it alone. He was with me wherever I was, I was being loved every second by a Divine Love. And it was then, I began to learn what it was like to respect myself, to love myself. To be there for myself. A healthier sense of self. I learned to count on myself, by the grace of God.

That brokenness allowed the learning to enter to become a part of me. You cannot take that away from me, unless God takes it away from me, or unless I let you. But you cannot mess with me like how you once would be able to.

Learning is light. And it was an open wound through which the light entered. And as it did, as though through a prism, it changed me. I rose up, stronger from the break. But that open wound needed to be there for all of that to occur.

What a beautiful outcome of a painful process. Did I think there would be a beautiful outcome while I was going through it?  I did not. I did not what plans God had had for me.

I have not completely learned what it means to have faith (and I never will) because we are always learning, always growing. Every step of the way. Which is why, I am still learning, and will always BE learning, what it means to hold on to faith when that seems hard. The faith that, beyond the darkness, something beautiful awaits. Because that is what God has intended for you. That is the process of life.

And life. Life is uncertain, but sometimes, we are more acutely aware of this fact. So right now, when things are looking bleak for me, and I am despairing and being hopeless… but because of what I have learned over time, I am not wholly despairing and feeling hopeless, alhamdulillah. A part of me screams within, “trust the process, trust the process!!”

But I was still sad. So I asked my sadness what it would like to say to me, and it said, “I’m sad because things are not happening the way I want them to.” Sadness is a guest, from a guide beyond, asking to be heard. So I did. And then I asked myself, “What positive change does sadness want for me?” Because sadness, sent from a guide from beyond, it, too, has come to teach me something. And a voice in my heart said, “it wants you to have faith.”

By God, I never knew I would learn about faith by conducting a research that seems to be going nowhere.

And these words would never have poured out of my soul, and I would never have been thinking of embracing uncertainty , holding on to hope and faith, if things were not looking uncertain. It would never have happened were it not for the crack caused by sadness and hopelessness in my vulnerable heart. It is through the cracks that the light enters. Alhamdulillah.

And because the light has entered in a time that I perceive as “trying”, that’s how change will occur insha’Allah. Because that’s how change occurs, like it did before. That is how change will become a part of me, and that’s how I will transform. By the grace of God, a little closer to who I want to become. Insha’Allah.

And insha’Allah, something will culminate of the research too. Haha.

‘Cause baby, it’s hot outside.

 

It’s sweltering. It’s bad outside.

It’s even worse when you have to walk under the scorching sun.

I had to, today. From the campus gate to the hostel. It’s about a kilometer. It’s not that the distance is a lot, or that the walk is too much for me. It’s not. It’s the fact that the intensity of the sun makes it a killer walk.

Every step, I was dragging myself, just so I could finally get out of the sun. I was thinking how no one stopped today to offer a ride to where I wanted to go. People do that here sometimes, in a display of sheer kindness.

I entered my hostel, thinking how that was a terrible walk. So bad.

But I was reminded of seeking gratitude, alhamdulillah. Of being people of alhamdulillah.

I reflected.

I sat down under a fan, sitting in a room built of concrete structure, sheltered from the sun. I poured a glass of cold water from the jug. I had two glasses of cold water. I came upstairs to my room, made myself cold milk. I had cold running water flowing from the pipelines. I had a change of clothes. I was in a room with a functional fan.

Yes, it is bad outside. But, I have no reason to complain. No reason at all.

Infinitely blessed by He, who is Most Merciful and Most Gracious.

Verily with hardship there is ease. MUCH ease.

I was glad no one stopped to offer a lift today. Had they, perhaps I would not have gotten to reflect on this, and be grateful for all that He has given me to be able to counter the scorching sun.

He gave me moments of gratitude. By it being hot outside. SubhanAllah.

On not being present for another

Why can’t some people be there for another? In the little things, in the the small things? Even in the big things, the huge things?

Why must they talk of themselves in the moment?

I’m getting trained in content vs process. Content is what we can observe. Process what is underlying, the dynamics; what is within. You can make out content, but you discern the process.

Leaving it at content would make things so much easier… but alas, I am a clinical psychology student. It is God’s gift to me, it is my training, and second nature to try and understand things than to accept them at face value.

It is not that people “can’t” be present for another. They are capable of it. So why aren’t they when they’re not? What’s happening? Because something else sure is happening.

For the unfulfilled vessel… for the unsatisfied vessel… Upon hearing what a person has said to them, that content coming from the other person perhaps triggers that emptiness inside of them. It triggers an unmet need. What they then start talking about is coming from a place of that emptiness. They are then talking about themselves, engaged with that which is missing in their life. They are present with themselves, no longer present with you.

If one disengages and distracts themselves from their pain, they will invariably find it hard to be with another person’s pain. Because they don’t even let themselves be with pain. They will invariably try to ‘fix’ you up, rather than sit with hurt.

If they experience little joy, and much dissatisfaction in their life… Don’t cultivate their happiness, nor practice gratitude… they will invariably find it difficult to be joyous in your joy.

I understand. I completely understand.

But is that the way it should be?

Perhaps not.

I am familiar, as all people are, with dissatisfaction, with the painful thing that pain is. With places of emptiness and unresolved issues… People’s content may trigger my emptiness and dissatisfaction, and that has all the potential to become alive… and it does come alive. It comes alive and it can get in the way of my being present for another, if I let it. If I let it.

Being mindful of emotions makes much difference. If I cannot sit with my feelings, I will not be able to sit with another’s, with presence, awareness and non-judgment.

Awareness is a part of mindfulness, and it is essential that one is aware.. Awareness of what is alive inside of you, your thoughts and feelings. Awareness of what the person in front of you is saying… Awareness of the PERSON…of the person in front of you…sharing a piece of their heart.

They chose you to tell. You. That is privilege. Sheer privilege.

Don’t squander it.

Say hello to your stuff inside, and then decide…decide that you’re going to put your stuff aside in that moment and are going to be there for the person who chooses to talk to you. Eyes, ears, heart and soul.

Don’t squander privilege given to you.

P.S, and then attend to the feeling that arose inside of you. It asks you to acknowledge it, understand and accept it.