The losses of Raihan, Yousef, and Omar were not in vain. The community that she was a part of — the community that I am proud to say raised me — has drawn upon a well of strength I did not know that it possessed. The young women in our community — the ones I am proud to say I grew up with — sprung to Raihan’s bedside with medical expertise and a compassionate presence. Our household can finally say “I love you” effortlessly with Raihan’s help carrying the words from person to person, cracking a code that had remained unlocked my entire life. We now move on with a renewed sense of purpose and a duty to do justice to the warmth that Raihan, Yousef, and Omar emanated. We live with a tearful reminder that every moment is a precious gift, and every interaction is one that should be cherished.

It was halfway through the summer of 2007 when I reached out to my friend’s sister for a summer job. I had already wasted away the first six weeks of that summer, and had made no progress on traditional resume-building activities — unpaid internships, design projects, engineering workshops, etc. With six weeks left, I knew that it was time to give up on that pursuit and look for a side hustle just to save up a little spending money before the start of my sophomore year. It wasn’t going to be easy to find a temp job for six weeks…

Brown’s research found that definitions of vulnerability consistently included three particular components: uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. When asking a public audience whether they had been raised to believe that being vulnerable meant being in a position of weakness, a majority of hands shot up in the air. She then asked how many people had been raised to believe that courage & bravery were important virtues. Again, the majority of the audience agreed. She proceeded to ask the audience if anyone could provide an example of courage that did not contain uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. An uncomfortable silence befell the audience. No one could provide an example.

(to the friend whose bookshelf titles are turned in the wrong direction)

In the summer of 2010, I made a vow to myself to close myself off from the rest of the world. I was just emerging from an acutely difficult period of my life, dealing with lows the likes of which I had never experienced. Many of my friends were in my corner to support me, but to me, their concerns felt like pity. I didn’t need anyone to feel sorry for my plight. I felt powerless as it was, but the weight of everyone’s pity made me feel…

Men need to confront their traumas like everyone else, but that need must be balanced with the preservation of ego. This dichotomy of public and private emotional expression reinforces the stigma surrounding sadness and sentimental pain within males, permeating an unspoken belief that if we are more transparent about our internal struggles, it would come at the cost of our external reputation.

(to the founding member of Surf Tribe)

Society is currently undergoing a tectonic shift in gender roles, one that is long overdue. The #MeToo movement and other waves of female empowerment are bringing the long-entrenched patriarchy to its knees. With womenkind rightfully challenging the perch that men have enjoyed for most, if not all, of human history, masculinity is being forced to take a long look in the mirror. Part of that self-examination is a reevaluation of how men cope with their feelings and a redefinition of emotional expression.

Intuitively, mental illness should be gender-agnostic — there is no known…

But perfection is a false god. It never delivers on its promise that we will be fulfilled once we have reached the utmost level of performance. What begins as a measured pursuit of excellence turns into an insatiable thirst for perfection. Your mind becomes trapped in self-destructive ruminative loops that perpetuate a misguided belief that you are a failure if you fall short of perfection. The irony is that a behavioral affinity that was supposed to protect you from shame actually breeds it, and an untamed predisposition for perfection will instead foster self-blame and judgment. All of these cognitive patterns have the effect of corroding the psyche.

(to my best friend)

My first game console was a Sega Genesis. When we we purchased it, I was going through a hockey phase, so I purchased NHL ’97. One of the cool features in this game was that you could create your own players, and you could play entire seasons with him on a team of your choice. I created M. Nazir, who wore number 17 and played left wing for the Detroit Red Wings. His scoring prowess was unmatched, breaking all of the single-season scoring & assist records on the way to leading his team to Stanley Cup…

For concerned parties of the distressed, it is a delicate dance between providing a compassionate lifeline, giving the appropriate space, and remaining vigilant for any signs of danger. If someone were to call the psych ward as soon as I expressed thoughts of suicide, it would foment animosity towards the well-intentioned person who made that call. This is why I stress that the correct sequence of preventative actions are not as simple as black & white — they are suspended in a perpetual gray.

(to the creator of the PRO series)

When I first started writing my series, several people reached out to me about personal situations. But it wasn’t always about their own emotional struggles. Many times, their conundrum involved a family member or a close friend who was dealing with suicidality. Understandably, these people did not know how to respond but cared deeply about the people that were struggling. I normally hesitate to answer these questions — it’s easier to defer to qualified experts such as psychiatrists or therapists. But it would be foolish to ignore the fact that friends & family…

The bottom line is that the lack of mental health for the masses is a fully-blown public health crisis, and the macro developments necessary to change the landscape move at a snail’s pace. The hardest questions that I receive are ones that come from people who don’t have access to the spectrum of mental health services that I have discussed in my series. But we needn’t feel that medical professionals are the gatekeepers to psychological salvation. Sometimes the most powerful remedy is the reminder that you are not alone, and that there are people in the entangled web of humanity who share your struggle and/or care about your survival.

When I embarked on my search for a psychotherapist in early 2017, I spoke with a female professional briefly on the phone. In the fifteen minutes that we chatted, she saw into my soul in a way that hadn’t been seen in what felt like a lifetime. I asked if she took insurance coverage; she did, but regretted to inform me that she didn’t work with my particular insurance provider. Her rate was $180/hour, which was a hefty price tag and made me reconsider. As a price-conscious healthcare consumer, I decided to refocus my search on in-network therapists. The number…

What I learned from Francisco’s story is that suicide actually exists on the extreme end of a sliding scale of disappearance. We are all entitled to disconnect from civilization — the only difference is how we choose to do it. Suicide represents the most dramatic and irreversible form of that conscious disconnection — the only permanent disappearance, if you will.

(to my Tarneeb friend & tennis foe)

Several years ago, I was invited by my friend Theo to play basketball, where I met his friend Francisco, one of his friends from school. There was nothing memorable about it, but years later, I would meet Francisco again when Theo moved to New York City. I made small talk and traded life updates with Francisco, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Not very long afterwards, I had coffee with Theo when he gave me a life update on Francisco. Francisco had taken Theo to the side and asked him for a favor…

Summiting the mountain required pushing our bodies and minds to their performative limits, especially during the final stretches where we encountered scree, a substance where for every two steps forward, we would slide one step back. It makes for a wonderful metaphor for mental struggle, when every moral victory seems to come with an emotional setback. In both the case of summiting & mental struggle, the most reliable remedy is resiliency. It is only when we put ourselves in these extreme conditions do we test & expand the limits of our resiliency.

(to the friend who fearlessly reached the rooftop of the African continent with me)

The death zone is a term used to refer to altitudes greater than 8,000 meters where there is not enough available oxygen for humans to breathe. In the death zone, there is minute room for error — these altitudinal regions expose climbers to higher rates of pulmonary & cerebral edemas where fluid accumulates in the heart and brain, respectively. When you read accounts of Everest attempts, you will read time and time again the veritable graveyard they must traverse to get the top; the highest peak…

A dysfunctional ego will focus its attention on a smaller number of connections, trapping us in loops of destructive thinking that prevent us from exploring a wider range of possibilities. The ego’s repressive tendencies are designed to protect us from existential threats, but when those inhibitory inclinations narrow our cognitive apertures, it can manifest itself in the form of mental illness.

(to the emotionally vulnerable brown man who walks barefoot in Dolo)

For many Americans in my age group, we relieve the stresses of our daily life with a glass of wine, a pint of beer, or a hit of a joint. And for many people, that’s a completely acceptable way of blowing off steam, to counter the ups and downs of our daily existence. But when you combine substances with the fickle nature of mental disorder, you straddle a fine line between a temporary reprieve and a permanent downward spiral.

It is understandable why someone under emotional duress would reach…

Mindfulness meditation is the practice of quieting the mind. If there is a common thread that weaves through my essays so far, it is the chaotic collision of thoughts. For those with depression, we excessively ruminate on the past; for those with anxiety, they agonize about the future. Meditation offers the tools to escape these self-destructive mental loops, and detach yourself from patterns of thought that plague your everyday existence.

If depression is the inability to cope with events in the past, and anxiety is the inability to cope with the future, then it stands to reason that focusing your energy towards the present can soothe the entropy of the mind. But when we do not consciously engage with presence, our minds are overtaken by the relentless stream of news, advertisements, and social media. As simple as this sounds, we take for granted that our presence is perpetually under attack from the attention economy. A simple thought experiment: If I gave you $100 to spend for the rest of your…

Mehran Nazir

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