You will never forget your first time…partially because it is the first, and it makes a mark in the hippo-campus forever reminding you with the little trinkets that appear before as life moves on.
I was seven years old, a first grader when I allowed it to enter my life.
I just wanted to be able to “feel” something, to be able “control” what was happening with me.
It was during arts and crafts, I realized the purple round, edged scissors that were in my hand were in my control. The bullying and name-calling, the sidelining all didn’t matter as those round edges were going to give me the gift of “feeling.”
Of course I was scared, I wasn’t sure what the outcome of this new power would wield, but that was the beauty of it…it was the unknown, yet compelling.
The longer I waited, the more I felt the fear take-over, and I wanted to best it…and thus, as the cool steel touched the flesh of my index finger; the fear the was looming over my child body started to fade away…and as I pressed deeper and saw the barrier of skin being split with the deep ruby red slowly trickle down onto the surface of my first grade desk, I felt a pressure being lifted.
I stared at the work which I had done to myself, feeling a smirk coming upon my face when suddenly, my teacher pulled me aside to cover my handy-work, asking me questions as to how this happened, and I would simply reply that it was an accident…knowing then that what I did purposefully would have been seen as something wrong.
And so, my way to “feel” and be in “control” started from when I was seven, a child whose purpose was to only move forward with what life throws at her, but what if what life gave wasn’t all that maneuverable.
Life goes on, and I along with it. I grew up, and I just felt I was different…I never really did fit in with the groups formulated at school or my extracurricular. I was an outlier. There was a lot of racism happening during that time, and a lot of bullying too. I admit, I wasn’t the prettiest girl growing up, but that wasn’t in my control. I just didn’t understand who I was supposed to be…
Every now and then to feel in control I return back to the methods of what I did in first grade. It was the only thing that brought me solace… but it got to the point where it started to take control of me rather than me controlling it. The power I once felt was flipped on me and that ruby red that I saw started to feel more like I was loosing myself rather than holding onto myself…I would breakdown to the point where I couldn’t breathe…
I started to feel worthless, and started to give up on myself…I wouldn’t be missed anyhow…
There would be the music that I listen to that would start to consume my body, which I transformed into movements with my limbs. I didn’t care whether I was good or not, but it got me moving, and allowed me to express myself, and I felt as if I was in control again. This was my new release, and I was happy for a while… It was through this expression that I was able to reconstruct myself.
Eventually, I went to college and I got to create an entire new personality for myself. No one knew me. I felt like I was where I was supposed to be, doing my major, which was journalism—I love people and hearing their stories. The one thing about journalism is that you’re interviewing everyone else, so you get to be on the other side. You’re safe. No one’s looking at you. It’s kind of this protective barrier. Everyone feels like they know you, even though they don’t know you at all. So, I lived in a world where everyone thought they knew me, but I just knew them. I wasn’t honest about how sad I was, or how depressed I was through that time.
I was doing well in school, and so there was happiness, but there was also still the thoughts of self-contempt and loneliness that stayed. They never went anywhere. They were always with me…
I don’t know whether things are getting better or if they’re still the same…but I am trying…
When someone who’s famous comes out and says, “I have a mental health issue,” and they’re praised and applauded, I guess that’s cool, but they’re famous, so they have a different life. They don’t experience the stigma of not getting a job because they’ve disclosed they have a “disability.” They already have a fanbase of people who love them, and even if they feel isolated, they have money to hire many people to make them feel better. Not to say that their pain isn’t real, but what I would like is for people—the rest of us, the everyday folks who struggle—to actually have affordable mental health services that are culturally appropriate, because it looks different for [different] folks, and that has not happened. There aren’t enough people of color even serving people of color.
I am going to be community-specific right now, but for me to find an Indian-American therapist, I’d have to do a lot of back-bending and dancing to find them, even so, I don’t know if the school of thought that they’ve been trained in is what I need because everyone’s needs are different. I don’t know that mental health is anywhere near where it needs to be at all and I will be advocating it until my last breath.
It is something that is disparaged to talk about in ethnic communities and creating negative connotations such as “ABCD” need to change.
If you’re hurting, afraid, or need someone to talk to, please reach out to someone. There are people out there, trust me.