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On anxiety in Autumn.
I don’t deserve
cause I am paying
for sins I don’t
– rupi kaur
These past few months, I’ve been putting everything down to tiredness or quite frankly, exhaustion. Guilty of always running at 100mph, I’ve been keeping myself busy with social events, activities and holidays, but anxiety has been soaring through my veins so fast lately, it’s like a flame against the skin.
Sometimes it’s a wild fluttering in your chest, like a moth is sat between your ribs, searching for the light.
Other times it presents itself as insomnia, nausea, stress, anger, or other emotions, thoughts and feelings to the point that you don’t even recognise yourself when you stare back at yourself in the mirror.
That’s the thing about anxiety: you don’t really see it coming until it’s gripped you so tightly that it’s like a dragon holding onto a pot of gold.
It’s swarms of butterflies bursting into flight in your stomach.
It’s that familiar sensation of a hot flash, a tight chest, a heart beating so fast you can feel a pulse ricocheting against your skull and an ever stronger desire to just jump the hell out of your skin.
Anxiety eats away at you, piece-by-piece – and it leaves you starving.
In the UK, anxiety disorders account for more than half of mental illness diagnoses within the South Asian population. Mental illness disproportionately affects women within the South Asian diaspora. The latest NHS figures also show that a white person with mental illness is twice as likely to seek or be receiving treatment, than someone from an Asian or Black background.
South Asians who open up and try to have the necessary conversations around depression or anxiety are likely to be greeted with the same regurgitated responses: ‘just pray it away’, or ‘no you don’t, don’t say that.’ Most view the subject as taboo; a topic which should only be discussed in private. Some people even attribute illnesses such as schizophrenia with supernatural causes such as black magic, refusing to accept any other answer, further feeding into the stigma.
شرم, – Sharam – (Shame)
This culture of shame, or ‘sharam’ around mental illness is incredibly detrimental. Most of this is due to a misunderstanding of mental illness in general, as well as deep-rooted and out-dated preconceptions and various societal and cultural pressures within the community. When will this change? By forcing people to remain silent, we will never change the discourse.
عزت – Izzat – (Honour)
‘Izzat’ is something we hear about a lot when it comes to discussing mental health within the community, but if there’s anything people should be ashamed of, its of their prejudices, not other people’s struggles with their own mental health. We need an open dialogue in which people are accepted and a space where they feel they can share their stories. There is no honour in staying silent about something that is very much present.
It took me a while to truly understand that self-care is never selfish, so I’ve been actively trying to find solace and it’s working.
A wellness hour each day.
Writing and poetry. Listening to music. Going on long drives. Taking social media breaks. Indulging in Netflix binges. Facemasks, bubble baths and lighting candles. Drinking water, eating whatever I want, and exercising. Medication and vitamins. Taking that extra hour in bed. Seeing friends. Meeting new people. Praying.
Self-care isn’t always pretty. It’s addressing what is inside, becoming more self-aware, dealing with fears and limitations and trying to become a better version of yourself. It’s ignoring the negative voice in your head and understanding that you are allowed to feel anything you want.
It’s knowing that you are valid.
It’s saying no when you would usually say yes, putting happiness over history and most overwhelming and difficult of all, removing toxic relationships of any kind, because it is necessary and liberating.
It’s giving yourself time to heal.
It helps that autumn is finally here, it’s always my favourite season as it’s the ideal time to reflect before the new year begins. The sunset is of a hundred different colours and the leaves are sprinkled with prisms of ombré, amber and gold, radiating warm hues of light. There’s pumpkin spiced lattes, blanket scarves, fluffy jumpers and nights spent curled up in front of the fire.
There’s a delicate softness in the evenings and crisp cool air which makes it so much easier to breathe.
To be still.
To anyone struggling, it’s ok to not feel strong all the time, it does not mean you are weak. You are enough, even on the days when you feel like you aren’t. You are not always “fine”, but you know what? That is ok. You are here. You are present. You are not alone. Living, creating, re-creating – despite it all.
Kindness, acceptance and empathy go a long way, so listen without judgement and interruption and check in on your ‘strong’ and ‘smiley’ friends because they need you too.
Be kind always – and don’t forget to look after you.
British, Pakistani-Indian journalist and writer. Pathan. Occasionally stood in a corner drinking an overpriced coffee. Find me over here: firstname.lastname@example.org