FEATURED WRITER : Beyond the Clouds by Supraja Aravind
“A standing line and then comes the sleeping line” I said to my preschooler who is squiggling his pencil on the paper in an attempt to write the letter L. The forgotten Kettle on the stove let out a shrill steam trumpet as I rush towards it to turn it off. I pour myself a cup of hot water, silently hoping that the noise of the kettle didn’t interrupt my husband who is in the middle of a meeting in the adjacent room. As my tea begins to brew, so do my thoughts. Some say time is a thief while others insist procrastination is the thief of time itself. I beg to differ.As long as we ride along with time, reaching milestones one after the other, it will be an exhilarating ride. The moment, we realize that the time has slipped leaving you behind in a ghost town while others around you are having the best years of their life, we start to panic and then the feeling of abandonment creeps in. Thats where it all begins. Like a water droplets on a shower door, self doubt trickles down slowly leaving behind a limescale deposit impairing your sanity. I had a plan. I remember stepping off the stage with my university gold medal hanging in my neck and the feeling of pride in my chest that comes from knowing I did my best. Few months later, I got my first job at a prestigious company. Life was picking up its pace and I couldn’t be more happier to be in the front seat. Soon love found my way and I got happily married and the expat life called upon us. I put on my optimistic gloves and happily flew to the land of dreams, the United States of America. It's been 5 years since I quit my last job. The plan was to take a break for a year or two to raise our son and by the time he is on his feet, I will get back to work. It was not a big deal. I convinced myself saying it is just like a sabbatical and before I knew it , I will be back. After all, doesn’t time fly! Time indeed flew, without me. Months turned years, privileged “Sabbatical” turned into frowned upon “Career Break”. My social circle started to shrink. I quickly ran out of topics to talk about that isn’t kids or parenting related. I started avoiding parties and get-together for the fear of answering “So , what do you do now? “ and to witness the vanishing interest from their face when i say the words “Stay at home mom”. The lack of recent experience made me obsolete in the industry. Every rejection came as a hard blow shattering my rusty self esteem. Every small mistake I make gets forever etched on the ridges of my mind. In the darkest of the nights, my mind dwells on it, picking it apart and shredding my confidence into pieces. Every morning I lay in the bed wondering what is the point of getting up when I am not good at anything, when I don’t make any difference and my days are like a mass produced paperback of a novel. Same plot, same title. But yet I get up, because I know I should. At least for the tiny human beside me to whom I am the world. I didn’t want to believe that I might have depression because I held a firm thought that I had no reason to be depressed. A happy marriage, an adorable kid, financial stability and a beautiful home. In short I was living the ‘American Dream’. But there was this fluttering feeling in my heart that keeps me awake in the night. It is a profound feeling of incompleteness. I have always believed that finding a right job is not about money but more about independence and exposure. It's about creating an identity and purpose that serves beyond the four walls of your home. When I listen to the happy accomplishments of my peers in life, I cant help but feel a sense of betrayal in my stomach as the voices in my head whom I have tried to hide desperately in the darkest of the attics comes back so loud reminding my failure. When my friends were happily exploring and expanding their boundaries , here I was complaining about my life. Somehow I measured my self-worth by comparing myself with people who are more successful than me. A classic recipe for depression. I am not very proud of my thoughts but depression is like a dark ominous cloud that hover over your head clouding your integrity. It feels very ungrateful for not being happy and contended for all the things I am blessed with in life. It almost feels sinful to be wanting more out of life. Was it the greed that is pushing me? Definitely not. Am I being oblivious to my privileges? Am I taking my blessings for granted? When I ponder these questions, I realize that the reason was in-fact the contrary. The fear of taking things for granted that one day I will be obsolete without them. The fear of not being seen or heard. The fear of not finding the purpose and being ignorant to my full potential. Depression is always accompanied by its evil twin, anger. Like a roaring volcano spewing ashes, the anger bubbling inside me erupts to the surface, spewing hatred. Anger that comes from my inability to make a change. Anger at the universe, for not giving me the right opportunity and for being oblivious to my existence. Hatred towards time, for leaving me behind and stealing the vital years of my life. When my peers are busy climbing up their career ladder, here I was struggling to carve an identity for myself that is much more than being a wife and a mother. Not because I hate being one but only because I believe I can be more. The inner child in me, who had a plan, who had dreams that she diligently penned down in her treasured diary every night with full of hope is disappointed. She is scared and frantically trying to find a way to salvage her dusty dreams. It is funny how we get easily shattered when something doesn’t fit in this construct we have built for ourselves. There are days when I curl up on my couch with fire on the side, wondering if this self sabotaging mental exhaustion is worth the dream. Why can’t I give up and be contended with the life I am blessed with. I try and those days are the hardest. It is the hopelessness more than the pain that crushes the soul. I feel like a smiling ballerina struck inside a snow globe that doesn’t snow. I go round and round with a painted smile and an incomplete heart. And the days when I take time to up-skill myself by spending hours on online courses while my 4year old is glued to some screen, there comes the familiar foe “mom guilt” adding fuel to fury forming a vicious cycle. Being in a community that still has a stigma attached to mental health and growing up in a working class background where depression is often conceived as a “Luxury” for they can’t afford to take break and deal with it patiently, acknowledging depression without wrecking my self-worth was hard. It made me feel vulnerable and attention seeking to discuss my thoughts to anyone. When nobody would bat an eyelid when I go to visit a physician for a physical discomfort, but a visit to a psychiatrist will make them concerned about my mental stability and question my trustworthiness. The taboo surrounding mental health comes from the point of ignorance. We have shushed and hushed mental health for so long that it is time to shatter those illusions. We need to learn to ask help without the fear of being judged. We need to stop viewing anxiety with the rose-tinted glasses as it is not a honest reflection of life. I wish I can say that i found my happy ending with my depression, but unfortunately it doesn’t work like that. But I took the first step of acknowledging it. I realized I was afraid to surrender as I didn’t want to lose control but once I stopped ignoring my depression, I recognized the fact that I never had control all along. All I had was anxiety. I now acknowledge that I am standing in the ashes of who I used to be. But it’s easy to mistake the ashes for snow if it is not for the embers. I refuse to give up on the embers of passion and dream, for the power of a single ember to bring a whole fire to life should never be underestimated. I will work towards the better version of myself everyday by gathering those broken pieces to prove that beauty lay in the ashes too.