“I heard you people are mad hairy, I heard you don’t shave” How do I respond to this? I mean I’m hairy but why does he care. He then exposes my leg to the entire class. “Oh my god! You mad hairy, do you need some razors?” I wanted to bury myself
“Hey Romana, I told my mom about the article you said you read in class. The article was something about sleeping and teenagers. My mom said that you’re always crazy. She says “Romana to hai pagal. Usko koi samaj Nahi hai”.
I remember being brave enough to go to my counselor’s office in senior year and saying I think I’m depressed. I learned about the symptoms in health class and they matched me. My counselor always had strong facial expressions. She first raised her eyebrows then laughed at me. “Oh, honey you don’t have depression”. “Go to the cafeteria, you’ll make friends”.
Growing up, I knew very early on I wasn’t in the right environment at home or at school. I always felt misunderstood and silenced. At school, I had to be the walking talking brochure for a typical South Asian Muslim girl. I was either this or that. I was what they saw me as. It was exhausting not knowing what I was as a person and being dictated by others. I was dismissed but most importantly never actually listened to. I didn’t think I could contribute to anything. At home and with family it was very similar too. I wasn’t taken seriously. I couldn’t be the perfect child and so I was seen as the opposite. There were no middle areas for me to be in.
At school, I had to be the walking talking brochure for a typical South Asian Muslim girl. I was either this or that. I was what they saw me as. It was exhausting not knowing what I was as a person and being dictated by others.
It’s taken me a long time to get past these moments, these memories, and heal. First, I didn’t understand what healing was. People told me it was to forget the past, to let it go. But what does that mean? How do you forget something that hasn’t just hurt you but affected how you interact with others, how you go on with your daily life, and how you see your own potential? How do you move past this when it’s been engraved in your bones?
So I realized, healing meant to be honest. To honestly admit what happened to you and how it’s affecting you still. I realized that me not speaking up in class, me having mental breakdowns as soon as I was triggered, me not knowing what I wanted in life was because of how I was treated as a child/ as a teenager. I started to acknowledge my daily functioning and how much my past experiences had been embedded into who I was in the present.
So I realized, healing meant to be honest. To honestly admit what happened to you and how it’s affecting you still.
After that, I tried to shift away. That was the hardest part and still is in many ways today. It feels like you ripping yourself from your own body only to move into your new body. But how do you get away from that person you’ve been for so long? How do you rip yourself away into this new person that you don’t even know how it will be? How do you heal when you don’t know what it will look like to actually heal? It became too idealistic. I couldn’t imagine myself without my anger. I felt if I started to forgive people, if I started to reduce the anger, I would get hurt again and I would go back to where it started.
So then came my place to start cutting off everyone that hurt me. I went into this deep spiral of grudges. I started to remember every incident where someone had done something wrong to me. I remembered every incident where I was a teenager and wasn't given proper love and care to be a healthy functioning adult. I assumed cutting people off would mean I would be stronger, I would show them I’m bigger than them, they can’t bully me anymore. But all it did was make me angrier and I started to expect apologies.
I started to expect the other person to admit they were wrong. The more I expected it, the more they hurt me. It taught me that not all people will even be aware of what they have done, what they have said. Why is that? Because many of us aren’t taught emotional health. Many of us haven’t learned to be conscious of what is toxic and problematic and what isn’t. I realized the people I was expecting apologies from probably never even knew that they were ignorant and careless in how they were treating me.
I started to become aware of different kinds of abuse, how to be conscious of my actions and words. I started to set boundaries with people who were too careless. I started to surround myself with people who were learning as I was.
That’s how my healing began. I started to educate myself. I started to become aware of different kinds of abuse, how to be conscious of my actions and words. I started to set boundaries with people who were too careless. I started to surround myself with people who were learning as I was. Who enjoyed having active discussions on calling out what is wrong in our culture, our society. I started to realize my healing could really happen if I didn’t become the same as those who hurt me. I couldn’t repeat what I dealt with to others. I had to in some way break the pattern.
I began to take care of myself more. Take showers, dress in clothing I felt comfortable in, follow those on social media that didn’t make me feel insecure. I started to pick and choose what I would be influenced by on a daily.
Healing still is a journey. What I’ve begun to learn more about is that it isn’t linear.
Healing still is a journey. What I’ve begun to learn more about is that it isn’t linear. There are months that I’m doing great, thriving, and meeting goals and deadlines. Managing my food well and managing my time well. Then there are months when I struggle to eat and sleep. There are months that I don’t want to leave my bed and wish to disappear. But through those months, I’ve learned to forgive myself, I’ve learned to do little things that can help me ease the pain within. I’ve learned to enjoy eating a snack despite feeling dreadful. I’ve learned to rest and not be hard on myself for my “lazy” days. Most importantly I’ve learned to be honest.
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Written by guest blogger: Romana Rubyy