SHE- is Courage
SHE- is Courage
I have dived deep into the recesses of my mind and bared my soul. SHE- is Courage is my story. Life moves forward, despite having to cope with grief, pain, abandonment, deceit, and abuse, with some fleeting moments of joy. I am going through anxiety attacks, even while I am writing this.
Teen Bride & Post-Natal Depression at 20
Almost a child bride at 19. I had my son at 20. They did not diagnose or treat post-natal depression as it was unheard of. I spent 6 months in a personal hell hole. The complexity of the C-section increased as I weighed 38 kg when I conceived. Maybe that was the trigger for post-partum to become clinical chronic depression.
I forgot all, and I had my daughter at 25, expecting everything to be rosy as I was fine and healthy. I planned my son’s 5th birthday and the birth of my daughter from my hospital bed. My daughter was born on August 25th and my son’s birthday was on September 10th. It was an upbeat party, and I went to bed swathed in happiness. The next morning, I rudely woke up to the post-natal monster.
By chance, my brother, who read a lot, had read about post-natal depression and took me to a psychiatrist. I was on medication, yet it took 6 months to clear the cobwebs from my mind. I thought I would not have any more kids and I wouldn’t have to go through hell anymore.
Perfect Mom and Wife
I was an ideal mom and wife. Spent most of my time devoted to the kids. I never had an argument or fight with my husband in 21 years of marriage. The next 4 years went by smoothly. I was on cloud nine, a happy mom and wife.
Monster Strikes Again
Then we moved from a joint family to a nuclear family. I never enjoyed eating alone, and I started skipping my afternoon meal. I was weak, and the dreaded depression beast struck again. It devastated me, as I thought I had gotten rid of it. I was then put on permanent medication, which I still continue.
The World Turned Dark
Then came the Holocaust. My husband suddenly passed away when I was 40. Except for the roof over my head, I had nothing. Family, friends, and society ostracised me as if I was a pariah. In India, being a widow is still a curse. We consider a widow a source of shame, isolated by society. I took it all stoically and kept my chin up. People around me derided this and life was dark. What I needed was empathy, but there was none.
Started My Career at 40
I stepped out in a few days looking for work. Thanks to a friend’s recommendation, the Hindu Metro Plus, asked me to write for them. Except for my kids’ essays, I had written nothing until then. I was a bookworm since the age of 5 and that made me a wordsmith. This helped me in writing about lifestyle, dream homes, fashion and trends. Let me mention that this was pro-bono. They only paid me 500/- for an article after 6 months. The writing was therapeutic. I used to go interview people for my articles, which soon had a good following and people looked forward to reading my article over the weekends. My blog started in 2009 was a place to vent. I poured my heart out.
Putting myself totally into what I was doing, I ignored the poisonous talk about starting work within a month after my husband’s demise. I joined an NIE program of The Hindu. I took 2-hour classes for school kids and earned 200/- for those 2 hours. If one class was in the heart of town the next would be in the suburbs. For someone who always stayed in the comfort of her home, stepping out and braving the big bad world was difficult.
I had to scale down my standard of living. We started managing with much less. It was simple living, but finding joy in small things. Less was enough to keep us happy.
40 to 50 Gone in a Daze
My husband treated me like a queen and here I was sweating it out. But now I knew I had to educate my kids and put them on their feet. Wagging tongues alleged I was having a great time as I was going out to work. But all this negative talk never riled me.
After 2 years, my daughter went to Delhi to study, and I was on my own. I have a 5 bedroom home which became a house without people. When I was having depressive episodes before, my family used to rally around me, but now I had to fight my inner demons alone.
Smile Through My Tears
Never, ever did I cry in front of anybody. From meek, naïve, gullible me, I could stand firm and face all this adversity valiantly. I smile even through my tears. I have a smiling face, to the chagrin of my so-called moral police. When you lose someone you cherish, you gain the strength to face anything.
My Dad is My Hero
When negativity encircles us, it becomes tricky to be positive. My 86-year-old dad was my rock of Gibraltar, during this time. It devastated him when my husband left us and he soon followed.
In the meantime, I was selling garments and imitation jewellery. I was a sought-after Mystery Shopper and I also evaluated budding beauticians who had done the course in the PMKVY scheme.
I was 40 and reasonably attractive. The men saw me as an easy target and hovered like vultures. By patriarchal and primordial logic, a widow is available and desperate. I stood up for my integrity and self-respect. Sexual harassment was a problem in every workplace. I stood my ground as I value my self-respect immensely. I left the job or gave a smart retort.
I Changed jobs over the years–Spoken English Trainer, Director of a net company, admin and marketing of a mall, and after that, started my personality development Institute. They sabotaged this from inception, and I had to look for a job again. My last and best job was with Air Costa. It was short-lived as I had a Spinal Fusion and doctors advised me not to work full time.
It was a distressing time as I lay on my bed alone and looked up at the ceiling. I had no job, and no income, and the depression hit hard. Thinking of ending it all, I got sleeping pills, but a call from a virtual friend saved my soul.
Brainwave and a Homestay
One day, I woke up to a brainwave. I had extra rooms in my house and I started giving them out for rent. Within days, I was running a homestay, which became my only source of income.
Yoga, meditation and a 5km walk
I had been used to the gym, but the exorbitant fee made me take up yoga. It was the best decision I made. Yoga is more than a series of asanas. The class was on the 5th-floor terrace and it was a joy to welcome the sun with Surya namaskars. I adopted this way of life, which brought me mental calmness, humility, kindness, mindful breathing, and respecting the body. Yoga became an integral part of my life and helped me cope with my anxiety attacks.
Believe it or not, I have never walked as an exercise other than on my shopping trips. I played badminton and TT but walk, never. Now I walk 5 km daily, which is the highlight of my day. The lush greenery of the park and the peacocks are great motivators.
Alone and anxiety attacks became a part of life. I had to fight my inner demons all alone. I was open to trying anything to kick out my anxiety. I have been talking openly about my depression and actively seeking help. Practising mindfulness, I tried to control my negative thoughts and stay focused.
Hoping that there was a way to overcome my fear. I practised breathing and meditation, Access Bars therapy, Reiki, Praniki, and now Tapping. Last year I started practising Positive affirmations and did an NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming)course which helped me disassociate from past traumas.
2020-Happiest Year of My Life
My son and family were here for vacation and got stranded during the lockdown. They spent four and a half months with me. I was in a blissful state; happy with my grandsons.
2021- When Time Stood Still
Nothing had prepared me to deal with my son’s passing. It destroyed me. Time stood still, and it left me lamenting my grief. I felt like it ripped apart my umbilical cord. It shattered me into a million pieces and I thought there was no way I could be whole again. My daughter and I sought solace in each other. I went to a therapist who was like a friend and she made me see life as it is.
Why is losing a child so painful?
The pain of grief is tremendously strong for a mom, as it is the finality of not seeing the child ever again. While memories flood the mind, there is deep emptiness and an inconceivable void in life. One goes through 5 stages of grief. The first is shock, denial, guilt, anger, and depression. I was in denial for a very long time, and I could see and hear him call out to me.
During my mourning period, every person who condoled me asked me to be strong. It infuriated me to no end. I started asking if there was a pill to get strong, and then I will take it. I lost 17kgs in a few months. It upset my grandsons to see me distraught. One fine day, I woke up with the resolve that I was going to move on. I will celebrate my son’s life and the wonderful human that he was.
I stopped playing the victim and started accepting that I was STRONG.
What did I do to jump back into everyday living?
- I found humour in many things. Stand-up comedy is what I watched. I practice humility and take it slow and easy.
- From a home chef and food blogging, I write on mental health now.
- I am always available to anyone with a mental health issue and I help them out of it. There is great solace in helping others.
- I am grateful for what I have and practice gratitude every day.
- I discovered self-love only in 2020.
- Value my life
- Even though life is enshrouded in sadness, it is beautiful, like the stars and the moon. Yes, I have gone through difficult times, but life is still worth living. Each one of us is unique. There is none like you. Only you know your journey has been rocky, but you overcame it, learnt something and are a better human for the experience.
- I appreciate myself as I’ve been through every bit and still am standing tall.
- Positive self-talk
- I trained myself to come out of the negative mode and talk to myself compassionately as I would to someone I love.
- Positive affirmations play a powerful role in my progress.
I always neglected my diet. Spending money on fruit is an extravagance, I thought. Never used to have any salad. Now I make a conscious habit of eating fruit and salad every day. I rarely eat out or takeaways. I eat fresh home-cooked vegetarian food.
From wearing hand-me-downs all these years, now I buy my own clothes but never splurge. I may have had a tough life, but how I dealt with it makes all the difference. Never give up!
I always mouthed this cliched line, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going” but for me, I had no option and had to face setbacks often and move on. Prosaicisms like–‘every cloud has a silver living’ or ‘there is light at the end of the tunnel sound good, but only if you live through struggle can you comprehend what that the person is going through.
When a woman is put to the test, she emerges with her true mettle. I faced hardships, tragedy, and the fear of what life had in store. Yet, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, I emerge stronger, smarter, and more impressive after every catastrophe.
Last year, I was gloriously victorious. By sharing my experiences, I just want to show my sisterhood that it’s possible to walk the road less travelled and stand tall again.
This blog post is part of the Women’s Day Blog Hop, themed on She: A Tribute to Her, hosted by Swarnali Nath
‘This post is part of Blogchatter’s CauseAChatter’
This post is a part of Blogchatter‘s weekly Blog Hop prompt.