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Some days ago, a leading blogging community in India asked their community members to write about the change they want to bring in. The question was: “If you could change 1 thing in the world, what would it be?”
When I read the question, the story of a girl flashed in front of my eyes. Before I start writing about my answer to this above-mentioned question, I want to tell my readers her story.
Let’s open the album of her memories.
A girl gets admission to the Engineering college her parents wanted. The college was situated in the city that was one hour’s distance from her home. Although she never wanted to become an Engineer, yet, when she saw her name in the selection list of the counseling result, she became overjoyed. At that moment, she thought, all she wanted to do in life is becoming an eligible Engineer.
The girls in her class were very smart, but she wasn’t. All along her Engineering years, she was labeled as a ‘not-so-smart’ girl in her class. Her batchmates were very apt and quickly adapted to what the lecturers wanted to deliver even when they were not teaching in the ‘right’ way. There were ‘other’ ways too; for getting higher scores in the internals and practical. But the girl didn’t know them well.
She kept facing humiliation in college, even from the lecturers. Although she had a small circle of friends who never judged her for her schooling background or her performance on the exams, they accepted her as she was. So, she was happy with her small circle of friends.
But she was becoming someone different, slowly, silently. The leader girl in the school, who always stood beside her friends in their needs, who was always there to lead her tribe, who was a star performer in both, academics and extracurricular activities, slowly, became the girl who feared entering into the main gate of her college. She developed social anxiety, avoided public speaking, and became afraid of going to college.
Every morning, after waking up, she had fear in her heart; and she relentlessly prayed to God to have a ‘normal’ day in college where everything would be fine. She started experiencing a strange kind of fear, and it slowly engulfed her, only to drag her to the deeper surface of the abyss.
The girl was a curious student in her school. Everything that came to her mind while the teachers were teaching the class, she asked them right away. And her questions were always welcomed and appreciated by her teachers.
But now, she fears standing up for asking questions to the lecturers. Because she fears if she would ask her doubts, her classmates might think that she is too dumb to understand that simple thing. Slowly, she becomes quiet. She prefers not to ask questions, not to participate in any extempore or debate competition, and not to enroll herself in campus placements. She was eagerly counting the days remaining in the college.
When they were promoted to the final year, she wanted to give it a try to gather an experience around the campus placements procedures, but couldn’t appear in the placements because she met a terrible accident in her final year. Meanwhile, she graduated with good grades and started weaving dreams for her career.
But at that time, she was unable to walk, even from one room to another. With shooting pain in her ankle, she supported her mother when her father got admitted to the hospital for his surgery. She helped her mother in the everyday shopping for vegetables, fish, and groceries, and even went to the bank and post office with her sister.
She saw, her friends entered a new phase of life; they grabbed their dream jobs, went to new cities, made new friends, and this way, life changed.
For her friends, and for her, too.
Meanwhile, she also came to a new city after her father got retired, and this city welcomed her as an ‘outsider’. She always remained an outsider here; everyone started questioning her age, her future plans for marriage, and her married life. But nobody asked about her plan for her career.
Whenever she used the word ‘career’, everyone rolled their eyes and told her to keep her mouth shut because this is the age, sorry, the perfect age to get married because she was 23 years old and she will get the best groom for her until she becomes 27.
Only her parents and sister supported her in her aspirations, and they kept protecting her from the outer world. But, when her years-long struggle came to an end, and she realized that her childhood dreams didn’t come true, she went into a trauma. She thought all along her journey from the Engineering years, she has been only a failure because she couldn’t prove her capabilities to the world.
She started experiencing strange kinds of palpitations at a fixed time of the day, and after every episode of racing heart, sweating, and breathlessness, she experienced severe tiredness. After some months, she came to know these symptoms are a sign that she is experiencing anxiety attacks.
“You’re a loser. You’re a failure. You’re not capable of doing anything. You couldn’t prove your talent to the world. Society keeps pointing fingers at you because you’re old, you’re unmarried, you’re not beautiful as before, and you can’t do anything. This world doesn’t want a girl like you.”
A voice keeps telling this all in her mind. Every minute, every second.
Life seems like hell; then where’s heaven? She started searching…
She looked back to her journey from the day when she saw her name in the Engineering college’s selection list to this date. She recalled whatever she did, and she didn’t. Lots of memories, people, and their words flashed in front of her eyes.
“I want to… “
‘Quit’, the voice in her mind told her to write. “I want to quit. I want to quit. I want to quit. Finish the sentence… Write, I want to quit.” The voice kept urging her to finish the story with the word ‘Quit.’
She took the diary close, tightened her grip, started at the pen, gulped, sighed, and tried to write the letter Q. Her hand was shivering.
For one last time, she remembered the chapters she left behind. But surprisingly, she could only remember her study room during her school days, where she weaved her dreams from her teenage. She remembered that she always breathed in dreams.
“Can I give myself one last chance, for the sake of my Dreams?” Tears rolled down her cheeks.
Holding the pen tight, she filled in the blank and wrote the word that sowed the seed of her dreams for tomorrow. She looked at the page and smiled. She read it aloud.
“I want to change.”
Instead of writing the word Quit, she chose the word Change. This is how she ended the first part of the story and started rewriting the new chapter with a Hope to bring Peace with the light of Love.
This is my story. When I was experiencing mental health problems during my college days, I wasn’t aware of the word Mental Health. Although I was familiar with its Bengali term, Manosik Sasthyo, I never paid attention to the signs and symptoms.
Some years ago, when I came to know that I have been suffering from different mental health issues from my college days, and I am still not comfortable talking about it with my neighbors and relatives because they label me as Mental, I realized, this is something I want to change.
I want to change the culture where people are tagged as Mental or simply Mad whenever they want to talk about their mental health issues. I want to change how people think of us when we try to tell others that we are facing strange experiences. I have been subjected to hatred, and that’s why, I want to change the language of communication and incorporate compassion as a daily practice. And this way, I want to speak about how to change the narrative of your story.
From hatred to love; from loneliness to compassion, and from silence to words.
Most importantly, from ending your story with the word Quit to ending a chapter with the word Change.
I wanted to send my letters of hope, love, and peace to people, and this way, my light will touch millions. I named my letters ‘Letters of Light’, and started my initiative. Then, I wanted to tell mental health stories so other people come forward and share their experiences. This way, we can tell the people suffering in silence, that, It’s okay to be not okay, and You are not alone. I started my storytelling initiative ‘The Peace Stories’ with this vision and mission.
But all along my journey with these initiatives, I was asking myself how can I contribute to the change I want to see in this world. I never got the answer that could satisfy my search.
Then, some days ago, while thinking about it, I found my answer.
“Empathy is the answer”, my inner self replied to me.
So now, I am working on Empathy as well as Peace, and thus, I am doing my bit to be the change.
I don’t know how far I will be able to see the change I want in this world, but if someday I ask myself what I have done to bring the change or be the change, that day, I will tell myself, at least I’ve tried.
Swarnali is an Author, Blogger, Wellbeing Researcher, and Singer. She blogs at 'The Blissful Storyteller'. She runs The Peace Stories initiative where she shares stories of healing, recovery, personal winning, and self-discovery. An avid read more...
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