A letter to my lover.

** This is the first letter of an ongoing series for my blog. I have decided to publish all the letters I have written and plan to write, with the consent of the addressee, right here. Call it cathartic or a grand gesture of letting shit go get lost on the web. Call it a moral journey in which I’m trying to help people going through similar experiences and recount my hiccups and mistakes. Call it what you want, but this is one of the most profound and indulgent things I have done in my adult life. I really do want to let go of bad memories attached to each letter and handle it like a rebirth. It is actually only for my own gain. Take what you want from the series.

Most people who read my blog are aware of my mental illnesses. I have decided that I am going to write letters to everyone who has impacted my life, especially myself. I wrote this to my partner when I was struggling to speak about my mental health on bad days in the hope that they would begin to understand. They did. ** 

When a person loves and cares for another, they deserve love and care in return. I’m writing out my thoughts in an attempt to articulate what my “lows” and “bad days” look like to me. I know that those days just look like vacant eyes and a desperate grapple for an explanation. I realise that I keep a lot of my thoughts to myself, and that in turn makes me feel desperately lonely. When I look straight past you it’s not because I don’t see you, but because if I look at you I’d have to confront some ugly creatures in my head that have been lurking in the shadows when you’re around.

Because there are days where I don’t want to live anymore. And no one but myself can change that. It’s not your responsibility to “save” me, because there’s no such thing as a hero in this story. This story is just one of an uphill struggle where I pray for a moment of peace to sit and rest. But believe me, when I’m silent I’m not expecting you to pluck the right words out of thin air. In fact, I carry the same fantasies from my childhood when problems would just magically fix themselves because there was always something or someone there to make it right. I don’t have that anymore and I guess I look for that in the people I love. But it’s just a childish fantasy, nothing more.

I’ve always been determined to get my thoughts onto paper and actually communicate something valuable so someone can understand my lived experience. I want you to know that when I lash out in the form of silence or frustrated tears I’m expressing frustration at myself for not being able to handle the situation better. I’m fed up of having these expectations that I didn’t ask for, rather these expectations that were built due to unfortunate circumstances that have shaped who I’ve become. I’m tired of never feeling good enough, like I need validation all the time just to know that I’m doing okay, that I can’t validate myself in the same way as a stranger can. I’m tired of feeling scared that something I love will be gone without any notice or care for my soul.

All of these are things I can explain to you. I can tell you why I think like this, how I can get better, what I’m trying to do to get better. Yet, I always fall short when the pressure rises and seem to fail myself. This sadness that I’ve kept inside me for so long is making its presence known, like a very toxic friend. It feels like a dead weight. It used to chain me to my bed and lock me in my room so I couldn’t escape, now I don’t have any chains on my wrists. I just stay in with the fear keeping me trapped. It’s a bit like Stockholm syndrome, where you fall in love with your kidnapper. I know I need to shout it away, but something is keeping me tied to it. I’m not sure if I like the ride or if I’m too scared to see the world with clear vision.

This depression makes me paranoid. It gives me all kinds of dysphoria. I don’t recognise who I see in the mirror half the time, I can barely look at my own body without feeling sick or guilty. I know it’s my relationship with my family and everything we’ve been through that has given me a warped view of myself. It affects how I have sex, how I interact with people, and how I predict lovers to treat me.

I have never been in a long term, stable, loving relationship. I’ve have pleasant flings, but the long relationships have always turned out to be toxic and abusive. In those relationships I’ve seen sides to my mind that I’m still too apprehensive to explore. I have a history of things abruptly ending with a violent bang. And I’m being honest when I tell you that I’m scared the same will happen again. I run thoughts thru my head all the time, thinking about how two people could potentially end up hurt. I always question if it’s worth it. And if it seems like I have little faith in you, and in me, then I want you to understand that it’s because the past has been so disappointing and painful that it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

But I want everything. I always want love and affection even though I have no faith in it. I’m so conflicted with craving love and then feeling sick at the thought of it being taken away. I understand this puts you in a difficult position. I have tried to be honest about my illness from the very beginning. In all honesty you gave me a bit of a drive to get better and get back out in the world because all you wanted was for me to be happy.

I can’t explain what it’s truly like to wake up and think you’re dead, and spend the next few days in a stupor where you’re debating internally if you’re dead or alive. I can’t explain what it’s like to go through that when you’re in the room. When you touch me, I feel it, but when you touch me and I’m not there, i’m almost on autopilot. And I hate you seeing me like this because I want to protect you from all the negative energy. Even when i’m frustrated with you, I know through all of the pettiness how wonderful you are. My depression means that you can make me feel like the most loved person in the world, to someone who isn’t given a second thought. I violently swing between the two because I’m so used to being shown affection and having someone be present for me, and then randomly not be there anymore. I can’t seem to have faith in anything because of it. It’s hard to love a faithless person.

But, I don’t want to patronise you by assuming you can’t “handle” all of these things. I don’t want to offend you by assuming you don’t even want to. I do, however, want you to understand that this might not bear a reflection as to who you are, but minor things you do can trigger this. Like when I need to be loved in a certain way (i.e – being told comforting things or being held) it’s hard for me to state my needs because I fear rejection. As you might know, people with mental health issues can tend to put their partners on a pedestal. I’m aware of this and while I feel that this relationship is special, i try to remember you’ll fuck up just as much as i will, and we’re just two ordinary people trying to figure each other out because there’s something in the other which lights a fire within us.

When I was a little girl, I had no expectations of the world. My dad gave me everything I needed before I realised i had even needed it. I had hay fever pretty bad when I was in primary school, and he’d wrap a wet wipe really neatly in some foil in my lunch box. My mum would be stunned that a little girl could turn a hardened man like my father into the gentle giant i knew him to be. When he died and my brothers left, my mum found a new community, and i was alone in a big house in south London. All my friends were in my old town. I had nothing. I think that programmed how I navigate relationships. I get into them, make an explosive ending, leave, and start again. New. Nothing ever lasts with me. Or rather, nothing has ever lasted with me. A few things have, which I’m trying to hold onto dearly, but there’s always that voice in my head warning me that this too will fail.

I won’t lie, I day dream about beautiful partnerships. Obviously with you. Lounging by the lake, smoking on a balcony, lying in bed with the sun shining on our bellies. I do hold onto those moments, where i can feel your eyes looking into me. when i know i’m on your mind, and when i see you becoming happy when i get excited about another boring academic thing or tasty cake. When you’re just as content as I am in silence, being alone, having our own understandings in public. Being considered in your life. they come crashing down by a kick to my throat and i’m back on the floor wondering what I’ve done to deserve this literal illness that is rotting my mind. I think about my desires to be seen and held – and to have someone present for me. Like, what does that even mean? Does it mean phone calls in the form of, “hey, how are you doing?” or a message “thinking about you. if you need anything just say,” “i can see you’re in pain. you’re more than your pain but your pain is beautiful.” That’s how I show love and care, but it’s probably not how a lot of other people do. I have felt your care. You lifted me to the shower and washed me when I couldn’t look after myself. You’re a physical person, you show love in practical things. Practicality is probably what I need right now. I show love with poems and letters and grand spontaneous gestures.

What a beautiful thing those two things merged together could be.

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Transit.

It was All Hallow’s Eve in 2016 and I sat upon a slightly damp seat on the District Line, with the intention of changing at Bank so I could make my way to my old house in the South of London. It was like any other night, plus the shimmering creativity of many young Londoners preparing for the night ahead. I walked past young men sprayed in glitter, and queers with blood dripping from their eyes. The underground was alive tonight and I settled down to be entertained for 23 minutes. Halloween brings a time where the capes drop down, and many embrace their shadow selves in the form of costume. It’s a drag show, a pantomime, and it’s unabashed. I feel comfortable in what I am wearing because I like to dress up a lot, too. Everyday I am at least 2 characters.

However, this particular All Hallow’s Eve introduced a jarring realisation within me as my theatre ticket was revoked and I was once again shoved onto centre stage. Almost every other Halloween I would indulge in the cartoonish sinful delights of dressing up as our darkest fears we have locked away for 364 days. Like a skeleton who dances and jokes, going home with a vampire who’s a pro at drinking a jaeger bomb, not to suckle on blood of any sort.

That day, I had sat there wearing the clothes I was told to wear. Bemused, nodding in a semi-approval to one woman’s artfully constructed scar sitting next to a man with grey eyes and a top hat, I began to unpack my own costume bag. Out would come hair bands, a head wrap, a loose satin scarf, and a thick double breasted jacket which would fall below my knees. I have become the master of concealment and turning virtually any bag into a Tardis whilst a poker face had inexplicably painted on.

As I lifted my arms high to twist my hair into a bun, Dracula would ogle and the sight of a half naked femme dressing themselves within the vacuum of interpersonal transportation.

As I slid the bandana down my forehead a drunk werewolf would snigger at the show, the punchline: that’s a Muslim. How absurd, someone applying a headscarf on a train on their thickly padded head. I wondered, is every day Halloween for me in which I’d clamber into a new outfit for the next party, the next prayer meeting, the next family gathering, the next date. 5 years ago I wouldn’t hesitate to slip out of my baggy trousers to reveal a skirt and bare legs underneath. Now, if possible, I stick to my de-robing to ironically public bathrooms. Perhaps, the underground is my natural dressing room and the audience pay a £1.85 minimum fee to get through the doors. Call it in-flight entertainment.

Distant cousins would look upon me with fascinated disdain, like a drama. A man would look to me inquisitively, is he excited? That’s the beauty of art, I suppose. The audience complete me.

This is a constant transition within transit. And whatever I am transforming into, I am mid performance. Sometimes there’s only one other sitting across from me as I partake in this high femme, consumptive drag. Other times I have the most diverse audience, the commuters of London. The stereotypical, neurotic, and shy rat-racers with an urge to look at something different from the hair growth adverts. I go down the steps into the tube wearing baggy, nondescript clothes with my tight fitting and non-normative outfit underneath as my make up clinks in my bag and jewellery tinkles away. I think I look like a shit-show before I settle down and get my dressing table ready on my lap. I wear anything to conceal what’s underneath before revealing it to complete strangers. I feel more of an intimate connection with them than with the most tender lovers. This is not to say that Purdah for me is “ugly,” the mosque where weddings and meeting are held is a 10-minute walk from me. I can do that particular performance in my closet, my bedroom. It’s when I move through London, through people, and different experiences, the only way I can ensure my outfit is correct is when I do it in a tunnel under the city. I submerge into the unknown, and then I rise, elated, as my true self. Well, in that moment anyway.

I rush to undress in front of thousands of strangers everyday and defiantly stare them down as my autonomy overpowers their disbelief that the veil could ever come off. I have always heard that fashion and clothing expresses the wearers identity, but what does our fashion and our expression say about the identity of others?

This isn’t a rejection of Desi fashion or Islamic dress. It adds another layer of its cultural influence on fashion. I can look just as fly at the local mosque as I do in a club in East London, regardless of my unstable dressing room. Sometimes it’s important to see the vulnerability back stage, along with the pain and energy to be naked in front of thousands of strangers who consume bodies on a daily basis.

A Radical Softness

I attempt to ascertain my sadness as a form of productivity because it’s been drilled into my head I am worth no more than the fruits of my structured labour. I cried on the phone to a friend of mine.

Why are you Crying?” He asked me.

I told him I was ugly, I said I knew not why I wept and that I wish I could stop

This is when he taught me about this “radical softness.” A state of being in a harsh and brutal world where one can open up their petals for the chance to be kissed by the sun. Call it escapism, but it made a lot of sense to me. I staggered my thoughts to articulate them in a fanciful web of utterances which wouldn’t communicate how it is I feel. To feel weak in a powerful way. To radiate your sensitivity through a hardened exterior, shining forth to blind others as they squint away. To cry for no god damn reason.

Why do you think you’re ugly?” He asked me.

I told him I’m ugly because of my skin, because of my identity, because when people get too close to touch me they flinch and recoil.

This is when he assured me I was one with the earth. If I wasn’t in such a state I probably would have hung up the phone because who has time for this hippy bullshit? But I was in a state, so I heard him out, I heard what this friend of mine on the other side of London murmured as I curled up under a blanket, my once white pillow turning a blotchy black. My brown skin wasn’t to be hated, but nurtured. To bloom. How can I bloom in the dark? Can any of us bloom in the dark?

I dunno, trying to write about a thing that is uplifting seems to go against all the nihilistic tendencies of my mind. It doesn’t seem it, it is it. I want to write about happiness but whenever I want to write I am unhappy. I want to communicate the speck of hope I often examine on the tip of my finger but then I ponder, “what’s the point? This happiness or unhappiness is mine and therefore I cannot communicate it to anyone because it is mine and it is mine alone.” So aside from being selfish in my own unhappiness, the only logical thing to do is be generous in my happiness.

Can I take this happiness as something to be found within my tears, within this radical softness? Flowers will bloom because what the fuck am I going to do about it? I’m going to bloom because what the fuck are you going to do about it? After embracing my radical softness (don’t get any ideas because I’ll still cut a bitch) I found a strength. Not only am I soft to others, but I am soft and gentle to myself. And in doing that my regimented self care came to fruition.

I envy your tears,” I recall this provocation as I sit in this pub nestled in a South London town completely on my own. This place doesn’t serve food, only liquids. It would be a bad idea for them to serve food, there are so many places on the street that offer cheap and hot food. It would just cost them money. My tears which have been since elated are in a bit of an uncertain position. They’re not used to gentle treatment. Now I idolise them in their happy bountifulness. They’re not used to a confrontation without the stigma of manic depression. I always precariously gift my mental state to others, like a cat who brings home a mutilated creature. I thought I did good to bring home my prized possession! I hunted my mind, won’t you examine it? Commend me for my agility in its entrapment, let us dissect my brain and dance in its blood. And so on, and so forth. Perhaps cats know just how hideous their prey is, and that their masters will recoil at the offensive smells. But what else can kitty do, it must bring home something. It can’t simply be an elusive “thing, object, pet” with no substance. I cannot go on with no substance! Here, I thrust my rodents under your nose. Smell the decay and through the decay you shall smell the roses.

Through these tears I wiped away the dirt and uncovered my self! I sit here in a cheap fur coat, too broke for a beer and I could easily scream “I exist!

I exist!

I am a fog

A selfish fog

A fog that wants to encompass everything

And smother your sight

Your breath

Your voice

I am the fog which is the only thing everything can see

There is nothing

Nothing, besides me

But, like all fogs

For I am no exception

We fade away

Slowly, the mist evaporates

My self dissipates

Then you’ll see

You’ll see beyond me

The veil is lifted and I,

Well I, I am no longer a fog

You can see now, with a forked tongue and eyes alight

I am a fire

My colours they dance!

They dance, they sway, they flicker, they beckon

My colours, they dance

The fire that I am, I want you to come closer

Move away from the fog and touch the shrill blue

My beautiful blue that truly

Encompasses everything I do

Recoil! Shudder! Move away!

The blue, this blue that wants you to stay

But you run, you hurt

You’re in pain,

I’m sorry that this blue

Was misleading in its hue

My rain comes forth and smothers this fire

Killing this pain and in turn

Nurturing you higher

This is my love, my love for you!

And I will water it, all the way through.

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affect

When I drank from the treacherous grail my insides would bubble and spit. Polanski’s witches would appear in a hallucinogenic state and circle me, cutting off my hands and burying them next to my head. I’d wake up screaming. I’ve been drinking again.

This state of vulnerability is polar. On one hand, as a feminine subject, I am prone to bouts of shock and hysteria. On the other hand, as a structurally brown and foreign subject, I am deemed to be staunch and unmoving. This calls the question, why is addiction and mental health issues within feminine bodies of colour spoken about like a game of Chinese Whispers, in which the first instance of trauma is so far removed from the actual experience it’s shut in the closet of cultural secrets. It is then ignored, and starved. Then it becomes a depraved skeleton of a ghostly suffering.

Brown women are not meant to be victims of addiction because that contradicts their figure as mother, as country, and as a conduit for tradition. So within the closet of the home space I shut away my self-medication within the closet of my body. I cannot be addicted or have a “weak” psychological frame as it doesn’t fit the social narrative. Addiction only affects hard done by middle class white people. AA meetings are saturated by the trophy housewife whose husband is experiencing sexual impotency. It’s not where I belong.

To bring into question my “belonging” is to throw another bone upon the pile of trauma I was and am subject to.

Why won’t we talk about mental health and women of colour?

Whilst my stomach acid screams from within me to be pissed or vomited out in a state of limbo where I can’t distinguish between who I’d be fucking or who would be beating me, a psychological thriller plays in the background of this violence (self-inflicted or otherwise). Is it wrong to frame my experience in a fictitious setting? Is this self-appropriation of an unfortunately commonplace “problem” detracting from the actual work that needs to be done? Or is it so that I may tell my own story with however I see fit.

I’d claw out my eyes when I look into the mirror because the reflection wasn’t a self-realised version of myself. It was alien. The subject upon the surface did not look like me, or how I beheld myself. It could not be deemed as uncanny. I’d see “my” face twisting, eyes bulging and throat swelling. I’d envision snapping my jaw in half and plunging my balled up fist down my throat to bring back up the intestines that had betrayed me in a bout of a binge. Adrenaline would pulsate through my veins in a frenzied state and I’d smash the mirror and brush away the pieces in a moment of tranquillity. Until the next night. The days, I had learnt, signified the calm before the storm. Before I’d utilise my mirrors I danced grotesquely at my scarred and impressionable vessel.

She would follow me wherever I go, and I heard her dripping through the taps. She would whip by me and whisper things into my ear, masquerading as a cold gust of wind.

“Why are you shivering?”

Because I can feel her close by. She’s approaching me when the sun goes down. She is Jinn. Hiding underneath darkened trees she would await me as I made my journey home; she would greet me inside and strip me of my clothes and my armour. My body became possessed on a nightly basis in which I made incomprehensible love to my own demise. If I slept facing up she would put mirrors on the ceiling so I would face her in a state of paralysis crawling around. Thudding by the light bulb she would go

Thud thud thud.

Why did I not beseech an exorcist? Why did I not purge myself of her toxic presence, of her mischievous lop sided grin. Of her pathetic attempt to parrot my movements. Sporadically, I would catch her out in her own game. She didn’t like that. I’d get punished severely that night. But why did I not tell anyone about it? I kept that all to myself. Why?

I guess I enjoyed the company. Waking up after a night of binging on your own was never a pleasant thing. She was better in the morning. She’d make me drink up water and give me my medication and take me to class. I need my energy for when we play again tonight.

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I didn’t quite know what to title this piece of writing. It’s difficult to pigeonhole tumultuous thoughts invading your body and mind into one or two words in the hopes it aptly describes one aspect of this shit storm of depression and anxiety you’re going through. The past few months have grown increasingly difficult to cope with, so much so mental health awareness week or whatever wasn’t even on my conscience. What was on my agenda was staying alive and being okay with it.

To write about mental health is a tricky area as it may invite unwanted phrases such as “but I thought you had this going for you,” or questions such as “so what?” perhaps those people are right, maybe it’s not such a big deal. I’m not here to list out every single one of my woes and concerns to justify my state of mind. Before I write anything, I go through something I call my “paranoid session.” I fret that maybe these words and sentences don’t actually have any intrinsic meaning to them, that there’s no point for me to write about experiences. To overcome this session, I just have to acknowledge that it is indeed the truth. There is no intrinsic, profound meaning to my words, that yes, this blog post won’t change things. I’m not about to wrap a thin veil around my justification and say I’m trying to raise awareness of my “psychological problems” as my doctor phrased it, and to perhaps encourage others to reach out about their own mental health.

As a side note, speaking up about your emotional state is of great importance. There is a big reason for the existence of mental health awareness week, no matter how flippantly I mentioned it. Doctors and campaigns are only the start of recovery or a better life. In short, they enable change for the better, even if it hurts. I told my therapist that talking to them felt like an open wound, that even the slightest breeze would make me wince. My temporary and unsanitary bandages would previously come in the form of destructive self medication. But now I’m keeping the affected area clean and applying the right ointments. I have accepted that the scars I’ll bear from here on out will not always be visible.

Rather “selfishly”, I have this condition where writing about my “self” and putting it out there for the masses is so much easier than having an intimate discussion with a loved one. After my first session in a while I remember calling up a friend, I was desperate to talk to someone, to spill everything out and just tell them “you know what, I’m having a nervous breakdown.” I heard the comforting and familiar voice say “hello?” to which I felt myself completely shut down. I just did the usual act-like-everything’s-fine-and-deal-with-it-later and cut the conversation as soon as it hit a minute and a half. It was awkward, it was strained, it was unhealthy.

I’d been lumbering around with endless responsibilities on my back, far too “grown up” than I had ever anticipated upon entering my twenties. When I had the first moment in two months where I didn’t have to send an email, go to work, to lectures, to meetings, to figure out if I can afford my education, if my education was even worth it, if I’d even succeed in it, I’d sit down and feel like I had entered a vacuum. You know, everything was eerily quiet like my mind had been converted into a lynchian ghost-town where the spirits of admin lurked around every corner, ready to pounce as soon as my alarm went off. It was all or nothing: either I be thrown into a pit of duties I had no profound interest in, or I strapped myself into a rocket and launched myself into space without a helmet. Sitting down and writing this feels alien. I’m not meant to express myself, not in this position for sure.
My doctor told me they wouldn’t officially diagnose me with anything because chances are it would put my future career aspirations in jeopardy. I’m not too well versed in how mental health works with “work” but I didn’t want to take a chance. I just nodded and took whatever prescription was being offered to me. I’m on mood stabilisers without “officially” being unstable. Go figure. Without knowing what to completely expect, not having a single word to define my “psychological problems” feels much like not finding the right word to title this piece.

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Comin’ Out Like Diana Ross.

The closet I was confined to was a bottomless pit of bleak homoerotic narratives. I was content down there after a day of being “out.” I’d climb down a few steps as I walked through the corridors of my home before letting go and freefalling. No one actually knew I was falling, though. Not in the “real” world, not in my domestic space, and not even in that bottomless pit. I’d wave to people who acknowledged the pit in a fleeting moment before they were blurred out completely and I’d continue falling. Time managed to stand still in this place, so before I knew it I wasn’t quite sure if I was falling or if I was floating, suspended in mid-air. I always looked down, because if I looked up I’d see God. Yeah, I’d see God looking sternly down at me with two fingers on each hand suggestively rubbing each other. It was a kinda “I know what you did last summer, and every other week. And I’m not happy. Although, it doesn’t matter if I’m pissed off with your rampant queerness because I’m a figment of your imagination that stems from your anxiety which, by the way, is entirely your mothers fault.

I might be reading into God’s face a bit too much.

God was miming the act of scissoring and looked really pissed off. It was like the God character from the Simpsons. Although you never saw his face (I think) you could probably imagine what he looked like. Matt Groening was never famed for his diversity.

So I’d try my best to ignore the lesbian god of hateful dyke positions and focus on the looming darkness that encompassed me. Was I falling or floating, again? Nothing was real in the pit. Sex tapes would float by that I assume Scissor God sent down to spite me. I’d look past Spit-Roast-Spectacular and contemplate the inevitable solid ground. Due to this ineffable “ground” I anticipated that I was subject to a multitude of possibilities of what the ground actually is. Should I succumb to this or just watch God scissor some more? God’s alright. This place was like Narnia only so repressed Freud would have loved to go strawberry picking in here and rub them all over his knob. If only my closet was as fantastic as the one from Narnia.

All of a sudden I thudded awake. I hit the ground. I’m meant to be getting married soon. The only problem was me being a massive sexually active queer. I didn’t even know when I was coming or going (sorry). Panic gripped me, maybe this is what the Harry Potter fans felt when Harry… Did… Something. Anyway

I’m at the bottom of the pit now (the bottomless status has been revoked therefore I shall now call it my power bottom pit – you can stop reading, honest). I felt lost and isolated. Who can truly understand what a queer person from a heavily religious family must feel like? Anyone who does is either doing their very best to remain invisible or has enough on their plate anyway. When saying “no” to arranged marriages is against the rules after a maximum of five years, one begins to feel hopeless. I didn’t know who to turn to. Then, I felt a comforting weight in my hand and I saw my phone.

Ah, my phone. My companion. My literal light through this heteronormative darkness*. In this device I had connections that could help me out of the pit and then fill it to the brim with dirt. Some of these connections would be in my own family. Without going into too much detail, I came out to my sister-in-law. She was the closest way of me coming out to my entire family and could help deter this arranged marriage. By the way, I met a potential husband last night and I’m honestly crapping myself. So I’m out to her. Pretty soon I’ll be out to everyone. Coming out is never an easy thing to do, regardless of your personal situation. Who knows where I’ll be in the near future but I am almost 100% sure my entire family won’t accept who I am.

As I write this blog I am somewhat apprehensive about reactions from certain people. People I once called my close friends who I would do almost anything for, would they abandon me? Would they pass harsh judgement on me? It’s time to stop hiding about gender and sexual identity. It’s time to be open about myself. I will not allow faceless groups to confine me and control the way I express myself.

Here’s to being a queer in 2015.

*I tried my best to avoid binaries but they creep up on you, you know.

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Sober.

I started writing this post in a state of forced nostalgia, referring to around two weeks ago. You know, the whole “university is over, bring on unemployment!” type of thing. About a few lines in I just deleted the whole thing because it seemed so false with regards to what I really wanted to say.

But Shiri, why don’t you just delete this whole thing as well? Hey, fuck you.

The moment in which I am writing this I have been sober for 6 days. I wouldn’t say I’ve completely relieved myself of my personal vices, rather I’m in a state of rehab which is: home. Or what is my new home, anyway. Turns out being in a cramped environment in the suburbs of London with three tiny wailing humans is the perfect way to really sweat out every addiction you’ve ever had. You see, coming from a Muslim family is difficult enough when you want to get your hands on any substances. It’s even more difficult when everyone thinks you’re a woman ready to be married. The real kick in the cunt, however, is that I managed to shift from my flat in Surrey to this conservative home just as Ramadan began. So there was no wiggle room, there was no weaning period in which I could probably sneak out for some indulgence. It was a day of hectic moving and then bam: flashback to when I was thirteen. Only a lot more congested.

I’m not anti-Ramadan, I’m not even anti-religion. It’s ridiculous I have to clarify this before someone readily twists my words into a tragic narrative of a subordinated Muslim woman, trapped by the barbaric Islamic constraints and forced to live her life in line with radical Muslims. Come on now, honestly.

I’ve said it before, so I’ll say it again: writing is an act of complete self-indulgence for me. Say whatever you want about it after you’ve read it, it’s not mine anymore. It’s all transient anyway. I’m going to talk about my own experience with my most recent addiction: alcohol. I’ve been on cocaine before but I’d happily go back there rather than be hooked on this mind-numbing and unforgiving liquid. University life is all about drinking, apparently. Whatever, that wasn’t the case for me. The issue was I was drinking whenever I could. I was drinking when I was alone, when I was in company, before lectures, before bed; I even washed down my medication with wine from the night before in the morning. At first it was a charming aspect of my lifestyle, “Shiri’s had a bit to drink” or “Shiri’s such a good drunk.” It was just something everyone around me had accepted. Perhaps they didn’t, perhaps they just didn’t want to say anything. It was when I began lying about my drinking habit that I knew I had a problem. People I would never dream of disrespecting would be on the receiving end of my lies as to where I was going (it was normally a shop to get another bottle) and who I was seeing (probably just sitting at my desk at a god forsaken hour on my own).

Coming clean isn’t just about abstaining from a substance. For me, coming clean is also about being upfront. Something I was once so ashamed of needn’t hold me back. I’ve still achieved a lot in these short three years, more than just understanding what the hell Derrida’s going on about. People might not have known, but that doesn’t matter. I was scared I’d lose “me” if I stopped drinking. After a while I realised that this “me” I had cultivated as a result of alcohol wasn’t who I was before I became dependant and it doesn’t need to be me for the rest of my life. The “me” I had created, whilst all aspects of my interactions are a performance, was a reach even for myself. In fact, the thing I’m most petrified of becoming is boring. You can root around my head for years to figure out why I did this to myself but there’s this truth lurking somewhere deep down, and that is I was too damn bored to throw myself into anything sincerely productive. I can mask my habit with essays and lists and books and friends and meetings and events all I want but all I could think about during the day was when I could be all by myself so I could have something to drink for hours until I passed out.

I’d sit in front of a counsellor every week with the same guilty look explaining to her why I did what I did when I drank however much I had. I’d nervously grin at my lecturers when proposing an essay topic thinking “oh god, they know how much of a screw up I am.” I’d wake up with bruises all over my body after sleeping with someone because I needed to know I could be broken, and that I am real. Alcohol just became a way of numbing my senses before I harmed myself. See, cocaine was different. When I was on cocaine I was hyper-aware of my surroundings. That’s one of the reasons I quit. I just didn’t want to know anymore. I could sense my counsellor growing tired with me; “you need to learn to look after yourself” she’d say in an exasperated tone. The problem was I didn’t know how and no one was giving me any instructions. Drinking began to take over my life after the shock of the assault set in which took quite a while. For anyone wondering, no, it does not react well with anti-depressants; it certainly gave it a kick, though. I know this sounds very bleak. Normally, I’d try and put a humorous twist on my tribulations in the hopes people wouldn’t mind coming closer. However, I’m learning that not everything has to be funny or charming. Sometimes it is the way it is, and right now it’s just plain ugly. No amount of cheek could possibly cover up this ugly period of my life like the way I tried to cover up others.

I’d march through sympathetic phone calls and stern meetings where I’d sit in front of an older woman warning me about the dangers of drinking. I remember thinking she wasn’t doing a very good job because she’d make it seem like such a vacation. When my mother was in hospital I remember a corpse lying in the bed in opposite her. When my brother came in to do his rounds I asked him “why hasn’t anyone moved her?” At that moment I heard shallow breathing. Two bony hands rose up and, what I assumed, clapped. Her skin was so yellow, I genuinely thought she was dead, her face was sunken and her frame was skeletal. She had a bit of blonde hair. Whenever I thought about the effect drinking would have on me later I would think about that woman. Anyway, after all these sympathetic phone calls and meetings so insincere I very nearly gave up after investing so much into these so-called guardians. That is, until I realised the only person I could trust was me. The only problem was I had to learn how to trust myself. I knew that when I nailed that I had everything in the bag. I had to be the change I wanted to see. Change comes from within. Another cliché.

Six days might not seem like much and going cold turkey might not be the best idea for most. For those who have never experienced addiction I must say it’s a bit of an achievement. No, cold turkey isn’t the best way out for most people. I know the second I get out of the house for an hour I’ll be at a bar sensibly enjoying a drink (maybe with someone, who knows). I want to get to the point where I can enjoy alcohol around the people I feel safe with. This may sound perverse, but I’m lucky I come from the family I do. My mind seems to automatically switch off when it comes to alcohol and other drugs until I step outside again. This is the bit where I trail of and ask myself “what was the point in writing all of this?” I tried coming across as an agony aunt near the end, trying to remind people that it gets better but fuck it. This is my story and I’m six days into a better life.

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My Recent Experience

Before I recount my experience I’d like to address the difficulties of speaking about an individual case of rape without statistical evidence. By no means do I wish to homogenise what has happened to me as if it applies to all survivors. In writing this my end goal is to help normalise victims coming forward and speaking out against the atrocities that have happened to them. I want victims of all kinds to reclaim the discourse surrounding abuse. This post will not be explicit, but I will be talking about the detrimental effects it has on my mental health, the way in which authorities have handled the situation, and some words of advice. I don’t mean to patronise in any way. Whatever has happened, it’s never the victims fault.

I was sleeping in my room when the attacker walked in at half past 3. I normally leave my door unlocked in case I need any help from my flatmates so they can easily come into my room. Ever since I had been diagnosed with manic depression and anxiety I have been medicated which induces pretty horrible dreams so I never know if I’ll scream or cry in my sleep. I now lock my door if I’m in my room any longer than a minute.

I used to enjoy watching horror films for the thrill but whenever I watch them now, I feel numb. The real monsters, I realise, are walking among us. My nightmares have become less surreal and are now hyper real, recounting every moment of an event in excruciating detail. Nowadays I struggle to differentiate between my dreams and reality. If it wasn’t for my friends I would not have reached out to authorities and thus allow it to fester in my mind and body. My body went into over drive- I wasn’t allowing myself to think about common questions such as “why?” “Why me?” “Did I deserve this?” I was throwing myself into paperwork, meetings, dissertations, drinking.

The university has been incredibly supportive and fast working, but I cannot say the same for law enforcement. This isn’t to discourage anyone from coming forward. If anything, I wanted to close the case before they came to the agreement that there was not enough evidence to pursue the case. In relation to my experience, this is extremely questionable. I wanted to close the case for reasons not uncommon. It can take up to 18 months to reach a decision, it’s emotionally draining, it’s scary, and it’s always throwing things into a new light and forces you to view things from a clinical perspective.

There is always specialist help at hand. I was pleasantly surprised at the range of counselling services available for me, I occasionally get phone calls from a counsellor who asks me how I’m doing. My tutors are aware and sympathetic, and my friends are unwavering in their solidarity and support. Unfortunately, along with trauma I have seen a cold side to the people I have once loved who do not show me the compassion I would have expected them to. Whatever happens, I’m not ever going to lose sight of the commendable actions of my closest companions.

I’m writing this to prove that I have not lost my voice, and I will make sure that justice shall be served. I hope that my voice enables others to come forward, to help correct the flaws in the legal system and show that this brutality will not weaken me. This week in particular slowed everything down and unfortunately I dwelled on everything  in a way that sabotaged my own wellbeing. The future for me is working on self-love and compassion, and trying to leave feelings of resentment behind. It’s never going to be easy, slip ups will happen, but emotions are never concrete, it does actually get better.

I think all I really have to say is: when you’re ready, come forward, speak out, take the help you can get, and don’t lose sight of how valuable you are and how you were unjustly wronged. Be kind to yourself and I’ll be with many others to listen. No one deserves this..

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Remembering my father.

I’m lying in bed aching from the week of hedonistic socialising that I had to be greeted this morning by a sobering thought:

It’s been 11 years since I lost my father.

For me, this issue of time really puts things into perspective. For me, losing my father was truly a life changing experience. I know that it has affected me in ways I can’t even conceptualise. In all honesty, I don’t really think I have a reason to write this post. Other than I always talk about how great my father was, and is in my mind, one of the most wonderful people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.

No one can deny the fact that he doted on me, perhaps creating this high expectation of affection I’m working on, ha. Of course, I only knew one side of him. That side was blurred by childhood enthusiasm and short attention spans. I was just happy to have a sweet man play with me as my mother cooked and my brothers were living their lives.

I cannot say for a second that he was the most moral person I have ever encountered. That would be a lie, what can nine years of uncertain memories and fantasies really say about a person? I’m not an idiot- every one that I will ever meet will have a life before and after me, regardless of consciousness or death. For now, all I can hold onto is the happiness and love that I feel so blessed to have received at such a delicate age.

After his passing my life was difficult, but that’s not the point of this. The point is that I had such a fantastic time that I am so lucky to have had. My father never spoke about marriages, or career aspirations, or even the issue of me playing in the mud and wearing jeans all the time. I was taken to art galleries and the London eye. Even as he was dying with cancer he played the simple game of “catch” with me in the garden as the sun set over our small home in North London.

I clambered onto his lap and said to him “dad, even though you haven’t got much hair left I still can’t count every single one of them!” He probably couldn’t hear me as the only thing he was doing was breathing at that point. I let him win at Connect Four and let him watch James Bond and Star Trek (even thought I couldn’t stand them). His dying days made me the most empathetic and intuitive I have ever been in my life. It makes me sad that I couldn’t articulate my love for him as a child. Sad, I feel, is the right word. If I was a child I would’ve hardly said “mournful” would I? I can’t say I believe in an afterlife, and that this is just my sentimentality speaking, but I can confidently say I will sugar coat every memory of him until my own deteriorates. He left me a story that I can weave and feel warmth whenever I relay it to my own loved ones.

The bitterness that I felt after his death subdued when I started university. I couldn’t help but feel his departure was to blame for financial troubles, homelessness, abuse, broken relationships, and mental health issues. Now that I have matured ever so slightly I am able to understand my family. I can understand the anger, the fighting, and the desperation. My family are not broken- I can see that they are stronger than ever. If they can’t see it for themselves then I will show them.

There are young children in my family now who have me as their Aunt. I’m disappointed that they’ll never meet my father and have the same sort of affection that I received from him. I was the youngest child by a mile therefore he had time to spend on me in his old age. Looking at my nephews and niece, I promised myself (and them) that I’d look after them and be there for them when they feel alone. I guess that’s the reason I feel so protective over them. That’s probably the reason I feel so protective over my mother now, too. However, years of tension have rendered me a bit emotionally stunted when it comes to the older generation of my family for which I am very regretful. It’s another thing which I am more than happy to work on. I am working on it and I’m seeing results.

I feel guilt for living something of a “double life” but I know my own father was not without his own adventures. I know how much I am like him- my family are always reminding me.

Truly, dates shouldn’t mean anything to me. Blog posts shouldn’t mean anything to me. It’s like I’m putting forth my fragility yet filtering it through what is and isn’t acceptable to say to the public. But I’m lying in bed recovering from a heavy week, looking at the disposable camera on my window sill and thinking “I should get the pictures developed today.”

Dad always converted the bathroom in North London into a dark room. I’d sit and watch him delicately dip plastic sheets of paper into the water. They’d turn into photographs later. He loved taking pictures of his family and friends. In his old age, I reckon he knew that nothing is permanent and he was trying to hold onto everything as much as he could.

dadandi

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Knitting.

A new hobby would be the best thing. Creating warm and comforting things after her warm and comforting thing died whilst it was being warm and comforted inside of her. Knitting, I suppose, she thought. Knitting, just because her baby is gone does not mean that there aren’t plenty of other babies in need of warmth and comfort. The house was so big, so empty. A room, a new room was built to serve no one and she would ensure that it never will. The other creature left, leaving a draught in its wake that spread to half of her bed room. The most movement the kitchen saw were the shadows gliding over every surface as the stars and clouds danced with each other, serving a reminder of how stunted our perceptions are. They are not dancing, and they do not know each other. They are millions of years apart, falling together in line for our entertainment.

Are we then omnipotent? Do we see all we are meant to see but are simply cursed with this stunted perception? We know nothing but we see all, don’t we?

Her footsteps around the house left small and apologetic prints in the dusty snow. The whole house was full of this oppressive snow. The whole house would be full of life again because she is the giver of life. The draught doesn’t contribute to the life that could have been. It didn’t to begin with, because that life was not.

She wanted to knit a sweater out of her intestines, and fashion the cross stitching with her veins. She would package them neatly in her womb, and that would be her gift. A gift for whom? How would she do it? Sadness occurred, for her mind could only burst forth with ideas. She had no sterilisers to dissect herself and make this gift. The thought counts.

A cupboard stood in the corner of her grandfather’s room. There was a blizzard inside, enticing her with the promise of suffocation. There, at the bottom, she saw it. Her stomach drooped over her cave as she bent, her tendons working furiously to support her weak frame. She bent, allowing gravity to take her, but not too far.

You’re meant to bend your knees and lift with your back to prevent injuries at your own risk.

In her grandfather’s room in her house by the coast, all he left was this bed space. His green bedroom. He wanted to complement the shifting colours that were given by the ocean but only created an insulting clash that caused injury to the external setting. Maybe to someone prudish, but she liked the green. She liked how it separated them from the outside. There was no deception. They knew where they were.

Without blurring boundaries the truth proved to be ugly.

She read somewhere once that green complements brown. She felt her numb self melting as she sat on the green bed holding this box that had what she needed inside.

Wool. Knitting tools. Her creation would be complete. She is the gift that would keep giving.

Moving from green, to dancing shadows, to door, to the salty air and harsh winds, she moved further up hill. She moved further up until she sat down by the cliff where she made love to the draught and achieved loss. Now she would make love to herself, looking forward to the never ending horizon instead of loving at a wet brown body lying on top of her.

She finished moving and sat on the cliff. Her house, the draught, the green, the dancing shadows were behind her now. She could only do and not think.

Spreading her legs and replacing the emptiness with the box, her feet floated a mile above the smooth wet rocks being licked by the ocean’s children.

She knitted brown and green to finally hold up to the sky and laugh. I am not submitting my creations in accordance to you.

She knitted until there was no wool left. A shapeless scarf that required more warmth and comfort. So, pulling on a thread of her long yellow dress she continued knitting. Each click was a welcome and a goodbye. Each click would be heard by her failed creation, by the house, by the draught.

The winds licked her legs and attempted to comfort her vessel to make up for the space left by the discarded box. Wet drops from the clouds above kissed her layered stomach and life giving breasts as her dress was hitched higher and higher. Her hair was so dense due to the length getting confused with the threads from her yellow dress. The threads of her head became one with her attire, she was becoming one. A foot of jet black mingled with the shapeless green, brown, and yellow.

She was being made love to by her surroundings as she became altered with her hands inching up herself. Her unrelenting hands. Her fingers came closer, pulling on her skull as the clicks became louder. Deafeningly loud. She had never heard anything so close to her.

She was now a puppet, with her hand made strings pulling her spine forward into the oceans embrace. She joined her floating feet and swooped down the chalky cliff, clicking along to every heart beat she wanted to give warmth and comfort. She clicked, finally clicked with it all. Her soft stomach gave a click as it welcomed the knitting needles upon greeting the wet rocks entwined with the oceans embrace. She clicked.

She is the gift that finally gave. She gave back.

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