The Mental Cost Of Being Gurmehar Kaur

I have written my thoughts in many articles after everything that happened in February, but this one is the hardest and the most important pieces that I will ever write. It is also one of the most personal and self-confrontational ones. I have avoided the topic of how I felt throughout it all, mostly because it is not something I was ready to go back to and accept.

Our mind knows how to protect us, it blurs away memories of things that we don’t need and I never bothered to go back. The image in my head that pops up when I think of the campaign is a blank white wall and nothing else, which is probably why I have always dismissed the question. But today, I want to talk about it because I can’t be the only one dealing with something similar – a memory of an incident that you purposely want to forget, that will not leave your head, that makes airplane rides torturous, that keeps you up at 3 a.m. and that which has turned you into a numb zombie going about motions, smiling when you’re supposed to, laughing when someone cracks a joke, almost robotic.

I want to talk about how I dealt with feeling that way. I know it will make me look vulnerable to whoever reads this but I have felt this way and I still do feel this way more often than I would like to admit, but there is no shame in admitting that. Someone once told me that being vulnerable and being strong does not always have to be mutually exclusive. You can be a strong independent woman or a 150 kg gym-rat and it will still be okay for you to have your moments of weaknesses. This was one of the first lessons I learnt and this is the one that helped me stay sane(er). I understood early on that I don’t have to fit a role, I don’t have to be every single adjective they were using about me, I do not have to be the bravest person on the planet. I let myself be sad, I let myself shed a tear or two on every airplane I’ve taken, mostly because at 40,000 ft with just music in your ears and your thoughts ringing in your head, it is hard to keep control.

I had moments when I felt like I couldn’t breathe. Usually, after I would read a series of bad tweets, my chest would get heavy and my heart would beat like a drum. It seemed almost impossible to feel okay, to feel like I could have a life. While on the internet, it seems like I have a lot going on, which I do and will always be grateful for, it is my everyday life that was paying the price for it. I had been someone who always initiated a conversation with strangers, always giggled and laughed with new people, but all of a sudden, I was suspicious of every person who looked my way. ”What do they think of me?”, “Have they read so-or-so article”, “Does this person hate me”, “Did they write nonsense about me?” These were my thoughts every time I was in a group of people or in a public space and unlike myself, I would stay quiet.

I was no more cracking jokes, no more saying the most random things that popped into my head and no more complimenting people on their accessory choices. Somewhere, this silence became a habit and this habit made me feel lonelier than ever before, drifting away from the person I was and turning into somebody else I couldn’t recognise or accept. Whom can I trust? I still don’t know the answer to that but I have come to terms with it. It is a price that I had to pay.

This is when I realised how important it is to have your people. I created a bubble around me to protect myself, I did not let negativity enter and I surrounded myself with people who couldn’t have cared less about what went down in February. These people became my support system. I didn’t have many friends but I had enough. I started talking to my family more. The last thing anyone our age going through similar emotions would want is to talk to family members, but for me, this became important. I didn’t have to talk about deep thoughts – sometimes my conversations were only limited to talking about what I’d eaten the whole day and if I’d eaten at all, but listening to familiar voices turned out to be therapeutic and comforting.

One night, just recently, I received a hate message followed by countless more, and that night turned out to be unusually unbearable. Think about that one mean sentence that someone said to you that you still cannot forget and how bad it made you feel. That was me, but the same sentence was being said to me repeatedly by almost every random nobody on the internet. That night, I made myself some green tea, I put my phone away in a drawer, dropped the temperature to the lowest on the air conditioner, wrapped myself in a blanket and constantly repeated this one sentence to myself: this too shall pass. And it did pass. All of it passed. There were moments I thought I couldn’t go on anymore but those moments passed. The storm that I was hit with passed and it was followed by some of the most beautiful sunny days.

No matter where you lie on the spectrum of political ideologies or whether you agree with me or not, helplessness and pain feel the same to everybody. If you are someone who feels that there is no end to your suffering, whatever that suffering is, just know that it ended for me and that I survived. And if I can survive that, then you can survive anything. It too shall pass.

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