An Open Letter to My Favorite Wellness Writer

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Reflections on meeting an-Other

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Let me start off by saying I don’t think this will ever reach you, but I must say my part nonetheless.

I was gifted your book during a very recent peculiar moment in my life, a time when I had started writing in short verse but not yet started reading. I believe that’s the chronology one should follow, to be able to frame individual coherent thought before perceiving others (but that’s not the point of this letter). 

It may be selfish of me to feel this way but I’m very grateful to you for making me feel less alone. I regret you had to experience any of it, I feel sorry for myself too sometimes. I have cried warm tears of joy, pain, sorrow and understanding reading your book. And in all this, I thank you for making this 183 page book my portable companion. 

As I sat in a cream-toned 10*7m² room in a residential basement with my first long-term therapist B ( affiliated to psychiatrist AB) in September of 2017, I never felt heard. I went to her for nearly 4 years every Saturday, but it was the days I dreaded; with the lady who had loose lips, who’d tell AB (the psychiatrist) everything,  who’d tell my parents everything. It wasn’t an irrational fear – it happened multiple times! When I’d confront AB about it he ruthlessly invalidated me. Telling me it wasn’t that bad, that my parents probably didn’t even hear it. 

Safe to say they did. 

The medication numbed me – but the numbness felt better than what was. After days of 20-hour naps, these medicines managed to get me out of bed for 8-10 hours a day, albeit zombiesque. I mistakenly believed that these pills which provided warped relief to immediate symptoms, were the end-all solution to my problems. 

I should have left sooner but I must admit – to adjust and continue with a known evil seemed easier than an unknown one, and after having soothed a multitude of roaring confrontations with everyone who loves me so dearly, one just wants to rest (endlessly). 

In all this, I found my respite in the ideals of love, substances and lies. All vectors of disengagement from my reality – in which  I was not happy in my skin, in my surroundings. And in all this helplessness I actively thrash and search for control. 

I too, lost my partner to my illness (and his lack of understanding). Not to say there wasn’t care,  just never enough in the required directions. We too,  were two lost fauna caught in the blinding headlights of life, nay a billion burning-out fireworks (each hurting more than the last). I’ll never forgive a lot of what he did, but I’ve made my peace with the idea that he probably just wasn’t what I’d made him up to be in my head. 

It was then that I got on this path to decentralize decisions. We don’t realize how much stress and tension we hold in our body. It’s a seemingly minuscule weight of stressors and internal contradictions added every day. Each grows exponentially, until finally, we are atlases with problems the size of the world’s weight on our shoulders. Our bodies, the repository of the weight we carry. 

The opposite of anxiety is not calmness, but trust in the process. I would go as far as to say that a lot of my illness (as I suspect is the case for many from my socio-economic background) stems from unmet expectations. Expectations become  the equivalent of a safety net for people, who have the privilege to have their basic needs of existence met. Alas, if only our survival instinct didn’t require so much external reassurance!

While the world outside verbally acknowledged my troubles, there were scarce amounts of care provided. I, painstakingly, finally mustered up the courage to fight, to leave AB and B. 

I learnt from B all that I did not want in a mental health professional, and to stand up for myself. 

I moved on to A in the summer of 2021, and since – moved to the UK in September after a whimsical phone call with an old friend. 

I too, felt my loneliest moments in that country, and I sometimes wonder if we sat on the same park bench contemplating our existences, feeding the ducks! 

The UK had been unnerving, and polite but not welcoming. 25 years of acclimatizing to what I perceived society to be went for a toss, as I found myself having to reestablish friends, places and comfort. 

I don’t remember intense feelings post-occurrence, (courtesy: internal involuntary compartmentalization) but I think the first week of 2022 was one of my hardest. 

Mental health is deceitful in that sometimes it adapts and hides in your crevices such that the world outside cannot view it, but it’s in you- throbbing, stabbing, growing! A ‘friend’ once laughed at the validity of this tumor, for what use does an otherwise cheerful girl have of meds and therapy? To abuse it of course!

Mental health is prevalent. In that, it is only after I have submerged myself into actually verbalizing my illness that I have found so many like me, yet unlike me in every way. 

When one stops looking at people around them with rose-tinted glasses they realize that everyone is just a compilation of different sets of data labeled as “beliefs”. What data they possess can be a decider for you, on whether you want to give them entry into your life; but how you utilize this data is a running tab, on if you want to continue keeping them in your life. People are bound to change, evolve and adapt. Tracing the boundary between what people claim about themselves and the actions they do, you decipher the space between  ideals and action, social facade and immediate reality. Post this – you decide how much space you are willing to consider before losing recognition of the entity itself.

Everyone is in pain, and everyone is lonely. Everyone is busy, so make time for the right people. 

Post B I  found myself untethered and baseless, but A taught me to have more realistic expectations from the world and myself. Everything, down to the way I was informed during my extenuating circumstances, that she couldn’t continue her practice due to personal reasons. 

Being humane is but human.

And so I come to S, my current therapist and the gifter of your book. When I met S I was in pieces, frantically finishing my dissertation and sporadically crying simultaneously. I’m sure I was incredibly incoherent in the first few sessions, but I was seen, I felt heard.

S taught (read: is teaching) me to love myself. That all acts are subjective, and there’s a stark difference between acts and thought. There are a lot of rules in society which heavily look down upon actions such as lying, cheating or disrespecting elders (these are enforced onto us through negative reinforcement). Each of which interestingly, at the right moment, end up being one’s lifeline, helping us manoeuvr through mangled situations.  If you really think about why they exist you realize, it’s to promote the idea that society is above one’s own needs. But no one can exist in modern society without breaking them

One must do the best for oneself (subjectively) and one must only prioritize the greater good if it’s also good for them. This is not to be selfish, but to think about one’s genuine needs, taking off the weighted jacket of society’s expectations. 

I rant to you about my history only because I hope in all this, you know, that you are seen too, and heard. And felt down to every active morsel of my being. That I have learnt so much from your journey, and you unknowingly inspire so many. That all we’re doing is trying to sketch out basic formations of thought to complement our existence, but we forget thatNo Straight Thing Was (or has been) Ever Made’.

This will probably never reach you, but life is short, so I say this nonetheless.

Jayashree Sengupta

Meet Jayashree Sengupta, a jack of a myriad of arts and a connoisseur of critical thinking. Armed with degrees from esteemed institutions like the National Institute of Fashion Technology and the University of Brighton, this 26-year-old dynamo is on a mission to redefine the boundaries of design. With a knack for multitasking and a penchant for problem-solving, Jayashree approaches each creative endeavour as a delightful puzzle waiting to be unraveled. When she's not weaving her artistic visions into reality, you can find her lost in the depths of her imagination, pondering the mysteries of the universe – or simply conquering the art of time management, one stitch at a time.

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