Looking forward to the annual budget? Here’s our wishlist for Ms. Nirmala Sitharaman!
An honest personal account of losing independence, not just financial, but also of thought, after marriage. Gaslighted and emotionally abused, this is how she coped.
*Trigger warning: graphic descriptions of gaslighting, emotional abuse, and depression which might be triggering to survivors
For a career oriented girl, to give up her idea of working and accept the role of a homemaker was not a cakewalk. I gave up on my dreams and also my thought process. It was years later that I understood that being asked to keep my mouth shut and not express my opinions freely was a form of emotional abuse. The very basic thing for which my profile was selected for marriage, my education – turned against me.
“Don’t teach us. We know a lot better than your bookish knowledge.”
“Why does she always have an opinion?”
“Ask her to keep quiet in a social gathering, even when she knows about the topic. I’ll see how the issue needs to be addressed.”
These were certain things that would bounce back on me through certain channels.
And gradually, a once confident girl slowly slipped into depression.
It took me years to acknowledge it as depression, which still my family is unaware about, and even if informed, would not term it as one.
Certain things I would hear, when I would drop hints of my situation: “How can it be depression? You get everything just by being at home. If still you are not happy, then you can never be happy.”
I am not complaining. But it took me a while to understand how easily people can be double faced.
Things you wish for your daughter- education, a well paid job, an independent life, a career oriented approach… are also the things you ignore for your daughter-in-law.
“Financial independence ruins a married woman and her married life. She’ll not respect, she’ll not care. Basically she will go out of hands.”
Hushed voices that reached my ears and create havoc inside.
I knew there has to be some way, I didn’t know which is the way.
A book lover, who could read all day and night, lost interest in books. A depressed soul walked around, appearing happy on the surface, but in turmoil inside.
“This can’t be me. This is not how I figured my life would become. This is not how I’ll end.”
A little voice kept repeating and reminding me.
Three years and two children later, I accepted that I am in depression and need to get out of it. And also that I had to do it on my own. No one will understand, no one will support. I’ll be mocked, ridiculed.
Right from my childhood, I understood that the road we walk is lonely and we all have to tread it all alone. With this belief, I began my journey of self healing.
Start doing things that give you a sense of satisfaction. So that is when books re-entered my life. I went to book shop and quietly bought a handful of books. Any genre-romance, thriller, erotic- anything that’ll get me back to my reading spree, to those days when I would finish a 700 page book in two days. Gradually it worked.
Stop living life in future tense. Some day, some time. Instead focus on the present. Start living the present. So everytime on any issue, on any circumstance, My first thought would be “Not now, some day later, but not now.” I would shut it out and instead repeat it to myself again and again- if it has to be done- do it today and now. Tomorrow never comes and will never come. Don’t burden yourself with regrets. Of ‘Things to do’ becoming ‘Things never done.’ So from now on it would a life of no regrets.
If you can’t speak your thoughts in open, don’t turn yourself a battlefield of thoughts. Write them out and let them create havoc in black and white. That is when writing entered my life. I penned down my thoughts, and submitted them to certain newspapers and got published as letters to editors. It was not lucrative, but it did instil a sense of calmness, a feeling of being useful.
This when disclosed in the family, turned into an issue as I used my real name in publication. But regardless, I continued my passion for writing.
Now this chain of thoughts would form into short stories, and publication on certain platforms meant exposure to social media. So my writing became a topic to be discussed in family gatherings.
“Why did you write what you wrote?”
“You write on adultery. Do you support it in real life? Do you have any intention of displaying such behaviour?”
Things I would ignore, but they always found a way to creep into my personal life. A small argument would ensure a serious fight with husband and in laws.
When I interacted with anyone on social media, my character came under scrutiny. All my social accounts would be watched and every activity analysed. It felt like surveillance, it was open stalking.
Things started getting ugly, and I realised that back home, my family is not very conducive to my passion of writing.
When I openly gave it up, stopped submitting, I was talked into agreeing that I gave up on my own. That it was time consuming and I neglected my kids when I took up writing.
I GAVE UP. It was the only viable option that time. Situation demanded it.
But the heart never understands. It wants what it wants. The thoughts that found a safe passage again started creating a havoc.
And that is when I decided that I am done being the ideal daughter in law. That I am not going to carrying any #regrets if I am trespassing the line of this ‘idealness’.
There has to be a way for this.
And the way was to adopt a pseudonym.
I wrote and submitted.
And it got published and rewarded.
The earnings are meagre but the motivation is the real reward.
The fact that I write under a pseudonym is unknown to my family members- even my husband.
They respect and acknowledge my talent, but will not further support it.
I have made peace with the fact and today I carry no regrets for doing this surreptitiously.
Today I understand that of all the responsibilities I deal with, there is one more responsibility that I need to address and that is responsibility towards myself. By continuing my writing I am fulfilling that responsibility. The calm within is the reward that I get, and it is enough for the time being.
Of all the issues I have been through, of all the situations I have emerged out of as stronger and confident, the only lesson I have learnt is that regret is a burden difficult to carry. It’s not okay to think in retrospect and say ‘If only’. Rather do it now, accept the outcome either way.
‘Don’t cry because it didn’t turn out the desired way. Stay happy with the fact that you tried and are done away with it.’
The only thing a woman needs is a little motivation and acceptance. The only acceptance required should stem from inside us.
Follow your dreams. Write your own story. Live a life with no regrets.
If you or anyone you know is feeling depressed or suicidal, here are some of the helplines available in India. Please call.
Aasra, Mumbai: 022-27546669
Sneha, Chennai: 044-2464 0050
Lifeline, Kolkata: 033-2474 4704
Sahai, Bangalore: 080–25497777
Roshni, Hyderabad: 040-66202000, 040-66202001
Image source: a still from the film Astitva
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