I lost my father when I was 14 years old. I was closer to him than I have ever been to anyone. It was very easily the worst day of my life. The pain I felt in my gut was unexplainable, the sense of loss, loneliness, and helplessness I felt, was absolute. I went numb, and refused to acknowledge my hurt.
I grew up as a very reserved child. I was withdrawn, and I would internalize everything. It was my father who tried teaching me the importance of catharsis.
When he died, every little step that I had taken towards bettering myself, unraveled and fell away. Everything that I kept inside and refused to address, festered, and became toxic. It began showing its face in the ugliest of ways. I would latch onto people, looking for an ounce of comfort, an ounce of pity, anything that would validate the legitimacy of my questionable thoughts and emotions. I never tried to find that validation within myself – my validation was inferior, and didn’t count for anything. Every time I’d encounter betrayal, I would have nothing to fall back on. I’d have breakdowns, anxiety attacks and outbursts of self-loathing. I started hurting myself, initially passively, clawing at my skin till I bled. Slowly, it became a conscious practice. I would burn myself with cigarettes and the subconscious clawing became active. I couldn’t rationalize any of this to myself. It would begin as self-loathing and ended with a twisted feeling of liberation.
As a young woman, growing up in a sexually oppressed society, I was no stranger to different forms of harassment. I encountered unwanted advances often – some from strangers, and some from people I knew, loved, and trusted. My sense of self worth was slowly disappearing. All I wanted was to talk to my father. There were many nights where I would foolishly, on an impulse, dial his number, and my heart would skip if there was the slightest delay in the recorded message that said the number was unavailable.
I tried killing myself. I found no real happiness, comfort, or solace, anywhere. I had lost hope, and told myself that nothing can be worth this, nothing can be worse than this.
I was wrong. It did get worse. It was worth it.
I started going back to therapy – something my family had decided I’d needed before I lost my father. Then, I took no interest in my sessions, because I knew their decision was a patronizing one. After a year or two of losing my father, I started going back, on my own initiative. I was hesitant of course, as I too encountered people who stigmatized therapy and neglected mental illnesses. People I was close too and whose support I thought I needed (ironically) for self-help.
The more vulnerable I let myself be, the stronger I became. The more I talked, the more I felt a version of that validation that I had always sought – a version that felt exponentially better, because it came from myself. I learnt the immensity of the power of the self, and it began changing me in ways I never knew possible. There was a significant change in my art, which became my primary channel for catharsis. I became more approachable, and formed relationships with unbelievably beautiful people – because I let myself be vulnerable, and that invited them to be the same with me. I became more secure of myself. I was finally reaching a point where I could successfully say I was happy with the person I was (becoming).
This isn’t to at all say it was all sunflowers and shimmering stars after. My depression comes back in bouts, it usually doesn’t take much to trigger my anxiety, I still feel an urge to go back to self-harm, I still have suicidal thoughts. Self-love and self-help, are not the end. They’re the beginning. They require self-evaluation and reflection, detaching yourself so as to not get consumed in your negative thinking. None of these things are easy to do. In fact they’ve been harder for me than losing my father was. Seeking help, reaching out to people, accepting and understanding mental illnesses for what they are, overcoming them, and realizing that you’re not alone; these are important. It’s okay to talk. Tell yourself, everyday, that it’s okay to talk, and I promise you, one day you’ll believe it.
I now know, that it’s okay to talk.
Amaaya is gathering odd experiences whilst pursuing a gap year between school and college, she is an aspiring artist working towards furthering her studies in Fine Arts.
Art by Amaaya Dasgupta