But I found my way out of it

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Trigger warning: This essay contains content related to self-harm, suicide, and emotional abuse.

I used to cut myself in middle school. I don’t remember why I did it, but I knew it was something that had to be done. The girls who were older than me were doing it. The girls who were dating guys who were popular were doing it. One girl used to take a compass and ask her friend to cut her on her calves. Since we wore short pinafores to school, the red welts on her leg were visible to everyone, a sign that she’d done…

‘How are you?’ is an intimate question that connects us as people. Why have we reduced it to small talk?

Photo courtesy: Mohamed Hassan (Pixabay)

I’m Tamil so I’m used to callousness and candor. I grew up in the kind of infuriating society where people generously insulted, complimented, and relied on each other to get through the day. But when I moved to Washington DC, I recalled a lesson I learned at University back in Leeds: when people in the West ask how you’re doing, they’re usually not looking to make conversation. They’re being polite. So, it’s important to play by the rules. Good morning, I’m doing great, that’s wonderful.

But as someone who suffers from anxiety, and who has left workspaces and collegial relationships…

Why are doctors and therapists unwilling to listen if mindfulness doesn’t work?

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I didn’t know how much I hated the term ‘mindfulness’ until the day I fainted in my psychiatrist’s waiting room, six months after my daughter was born. I remember sitting there in that dreary office, my fingers trembling, watching her tell me that the Mindfulness Center out in Bethesda offered classes to couples and new mothers. She ripped off a yellow memo and wrote down an address and I took it, half-amused, half-surprised. I’d already been doing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) with a talk therapist then so what did mindfulness offer that therapy didn’t?

Later when I got home, I…

When I began to lose my hair to chronic illness, my body became a fascination for everyone I knew

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I was sitting in Maude down in Old Herndon when the stylist walked up behind me. “Uhm. What would you like me to do?”

I watched her face in the mirror. I recognized the emotions she was trying to hide behind her mask. Confusion. Horror. Pity. I’d seen it all before.

“I have thin hair. Is there anything you’d recommend?” I asked.

I felt her run her fingers over my head, trying to think. but I knew she’d have nothing.

Being sick is a godawful spectacle. When I was twenty-three, I sat in the bathroom, running my fingers through my…

And used three practical steps to write through crippling loneliness

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“How will you handle isolation?”

I was struck when my editor asked me this question during a journalism fellowship interview in 2016. Back then, eager to get started on my writing career, I laughed. I’ll be fine, I said. To me, writing in isolation seemed like a dream come true. But he demanded answers:

Did I have friends or family that I can call?

Did I have a schedule that allowed me to go take time off writing?

Did I have hobbies?

I didn’t think much of it. Later that year, a few months into sitting cooped up in my…

Without muting the President of the United States

Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

I don’t say this lightly: this presidency has taken a toll on my emotional wellbeing. One day I’m laughing with my friends over a tweet, the next day I’m simmering with rage. One day I feel depleted and the next I’m filled with a renewed energy to show up at each and every protest. Since the last election, my mental health has swung like a pendulum, oscillating between happiness and sadness, certainty and despair, anxiety, and calm. Two years ago, I decided that my therapist was right. I needed to find ways to cope. …

I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to my oldest, dearest friend.

Image by kytalpa from Pixabay

I received the text on Sunday night. It simply read: “I regret to inform you that [Munuswami] has passed away.” I rubbed my eyes and read it again. He died. I whispered it out loud in the kitchen. He died.

Years ago, I’d imagined this moment differently. (I suppose that’s what people do). I’d imagined that if he fell sick, I’d be with his family, telling him that he’d be okay, and he’d cackle with a mouthful of broken teeth and tell me that he was going to do just fine.

We were strange friends, stranger family. He was born…

And why I made the choice I made

Photo by Taryn Elliott from Pexels

Two years ago, my boss sent an email asking me to meet her at a coffee shop near my home. I knew why she wanted to see me. Still, I sat there saying nothing as we sipped on our drinks and smiled uncomfortably as we made small talk.

We love you, she said finally, but it’s not working.

I nodded. She used the word ‘closing the position’. What she meant to say was that they were letting me go. I’m not stupid. White Americans are so polite and non-confrontational in their conversations it doesn’t take an eternity to decipher the…

As a child, colorism and racism existed all around me. Now I ask the uncomfortable question: How did it influence me?

Photo by Frank Holleman on Unsplash

The other day I was talking to my family in India on Zoom when my grandad brought up my little sister’s trip to Tanzania. She’d gone there to do a fellowship a few years ago and returned when the political situation became unstable. Soon the conversation took an unexpected turn. I sat there listening to the disturbing colonial imagery of Africans in his mind; the poverty, the violence, the mention of dictators.

“But how would you feel if white people talked about us that way?” I asked in Tamil. …

I don’t want to redefine this cruel reality any longer

Photo courtesy: Catherine Cordasco (United Nations) on Unsplash

New Normal is a term that everyone is using — again. This morning, I learned that NPR even has a newsletter called ‘The New Normal’ (devoted entirely to the coronavirus crisis).

But I can’t bring myself to utter the words, especially when our general standard of normalcy seems so flawed.

Growing up middle class, I struggled with the idea of normalcy for a long time. If normalcy meant that children had their own bedrooms or went to school down the street, I’d say I had a rather abnormal childhood. My family of six lived in rented homes for a good…

Meera Vijayann

I write essays on health, culture, and womanhood. Published in Entropy Magazine, Catapult, the Guardian and more. Twitter: @meeravijayann

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