#LonelyButNotAlone is Youth Ki Awaaz’s campaign to start conversations around mental health and how we experience it in the urban landscape. ‘Where is home?’ is a continuing audio-visual series that features young people’s stories about coping with loneliness, depression and other mental health issues. Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are a filmmaker, photographer, animator or an artist who would like to feature your work as a part of this campaign.
He said, “I don’t know why plants don’t grow in this house, they always die. Before we moved here, you would remember, we used to have healthy plants. It’s better if we shift them downstairs, in the community park. They will be better with their own kind.” This is what he said to me while we were browsing for plants that I could take with me. For the first time, my father spoke in a language that I understood, as if he was trying to apologise and acknowledge my loss, my struggle with accepting existential loneliness.
I don’t know how to be alone. There is a longing that I have never addressed. For even as a child, I knew I was nothing without “you”. I always needed someone to myself, who was exclusively for me. The attachment to “you” is part of what composes who “I” am. It’s not that “I” exist independently and without any relation to “you”. And time and again, when I have lost “you” because of circumstances that aren’t in my control, “I” too have gone missing.
I not only mourn for the loss, but I also become inscrutable to myself.
Who “am” I, without you?
Whenever I have lost “you”, I decided to shut down- sleep, watch television, have sex, and stuff myself with anything and everything I could eat. For me like many others, mourning meant a temporary undergoing, a process of replacing “you” with another.
As a child, I was told not to express loss, to not cry, to not mourn. I replaced you with another, mourning became temporary, “you” became replaceable. But, mourning isn’t a temporary process for me anymore, something that I realised only recently. Because this time when I lost “you”, it was permanent. There was nothing else to replace, my vulnerability is visible and there isn’t much I can do to hide it.
I am not autonomous or in control, because every time I make an attempt to articulate how I feel, I am gripped and undone by “you”, and the others that I have lost. I question what “you” meant to me, I try to figure what “I” have lost and how I can replace it. I try to remain intact, but I am repeatedly undone, in the face of the other, by touch, by memories, by scent. “I” in relation to “you” not just defines who “I” am, but lack of this relationship also dispossesses me. I am left to be with myself, alone.
But, no longer do I despise being vulnerable, I don’t want to secure myself, instead, I want to see myself and take on my own course in life. For me to actually find home, I would have to be alone, with myself.
The post references Judith Butler’s essay Violence, Mourning, Politics from her book ‘Precarious Life’.