Be your own Muse

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An encounter with myself

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I feel everybody wishes to cross that phase of puberty (or adolescence) and move on to become an adult, someone who is more mature about their life choices. For me, it was not just the sheer excitement of becoming an adult, I never felt that growing up meant more happiness or freedom. Growing up was, possibly, the ability to have better communication. That phase of puberty made me realize that I do not want to grow up just because it seems more exciting, but because maybe then, I would be able to deal with my problems and communicate what I feel. A state of being where I would not be disrespected for my feelings or disregarded by the people around.

Sometimes when one you are bullied in school

In my formative years, I studied at a convent school which followed the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE) curriculum and later at a public school which followed the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE). While in school, till my 10th class I was not a very bright kid when it came to my studies. Not that I wasn’t good at the subjects I was taught, but I was not a very sharp student in science or math. I constantly felt the need to be motivated by others around me. I remember being in school and falling sick most of the time. Several times it was out of the fear of going to school and facing a class, where I knew I would be either yelled at by the teacher, or made fun of by my classmates. I was good at sports but despite that I was never really taken to be a good student. I never fulfilled the criteria of being, you know, ‘good’ in class. Once when I was in the 6th or 7th class I remember telling my class teacher that I was being teased by my classmates. My classmates were saying that I had some sort of disease that was going around then. In response, the teacher looked at me, scanned me up and down, and in a very loud voice in front of  the entire class said, “Obviously! you’re so absent from the class and do not attend school most of the time. Why won’t they make fun of you!” I went back to my seat with a tear in the corner of my eye. The teacher continued to speak aloud, “just don’t start crying, and go back and tell your parents what is going on!” 

This was one of the many incidents that took place between classes 6-10 of my school life. Since I was not good at science, I used to try to run away from it. By the time I reached the classes where I had to give my board exams, I worked hard because I wanted to score well. I wanted to switch streams to the humanities. Once in the class, I was told to learn something for the next day, and I did. The next day, when the teacher asked me the question in class, out of the simple fear of giving the wrong answer; I gave the wrong answer. I mixed up two statements of my response. Instead of telling me that I was wrong or that at least I had tried, the teacher slapped me in front of the entire class and made a comment saying that, “just because I could speak in good and fluent English it did not mean that I could give the right answer.” I simply sat down, back then I couldn’t even cry. Such things were a common occurrence with me on campus. These instances motivated other students to make fun of me, most of them knew that no action would be taken against them.

Back then, I was teased not just because I was not good at studies, but also because of what I looked like. I was comparatively chubby from those around me and had a broad body structure. I was called names, like “BMW” (with reference to my body). It was much later that I realised that I was shamed for the shape of my body. Those words made me feel very bad. As a young adolescent, each time this happened, I just wanted to run away from there and cry. Then with everything that was happening, it seemed as if everybody was standing against me.

Not Just a Rebellion

Every day, when I returned home from school, I would think of telling my parents what was going on with me, but I couldn’t. I have always been an extrovert but I never liked sharing my feelings. I always thought that my parents were already working very hard, and it wasn’t right for me to put the pressure of what I was facing in school on them. I never realized that, maybe, telling them what I was going through would benefit me. There came a point in my childhood where I stopped taking notes of what was done in school, I would not study, and my grades started to drop. My father was routinely called to the school coordinator to collect my report cards. My parents would feel bad, but nobody could figure out that all of this was my way of coping with what was happening around me. It was not just a rebellion.

In the ninth grade I met with an accident while riding my bicycle. The accident left me with stitches on my forehead and knees and with bruises all over. After the accident, I skipped school for about a month. Post that I started having severe headaches. My parents took me to all kinds of doctors but nothing seemed to soothe my pain. I realize now that the pain was a form of a severe migraine and weak nerves. I never properly gave myself time to heal. Though my physical wounds had healed on the outside, internally and emotionally I felt weaker. I stayed home most of the time, there were times that I would cry for 3-4 hours straight. I was unwilling to get out of bed, to talk to people, I would barely eat and I had even stopped going out of the house. It was like all my emotions had taken a physical form of pain. After taking me to several doctors, my parents took me to a psychologist. It took one year of consistent sessions with him, for me to be able to speak about what I was going through. For one year I went to him not knowing what could come out of this, but I kept going back. The conversations we had made me feel positive. My therapist made me feel that even sitting there with him was something to be proud of since I vested up the courage to come out and visit him. 

Not ‘Only’ you can help 

Honestly, initially, I never understood the idea of going to a psychologist or a psychiatrist to seek help. Growing up, both in school and outside I was constantly told, “it is only you who can heal yourself and nobody else is going to come and help you”. This came with the adage that if I told people about my difficulties it would only increase their burden. It was only after going to the psychologist I realized that I could open up to somebody and I wouldn’t be judged for who I am. I realized that people can be very understanding. This was the time when I used to have severe and prolonged headaches which accompanied lack of sleep. I was not able to put myself to sleep. When I did get sleep, I would  get up in the middle of the night scared, or I would start talking in my sleep. To help me relax and sleep, I was given certain medicines. Several times I would walk into the counselor’s office for my session and I would just sit there for an hour not able to say anything. Sometimes I would feel that even an hour was too short to express myself. At most sessions, I was overwhelmed by the counselor’s responses, I felt accepted and heard by him.

It’s been 6 years or more since this experience, and over the last 6 years I have learned a lot about myself. It was after therapy that I learned who ‘I’ was. In retrospect, I agree with what the people in my surroundings used to say, ‘yes it is you who can heal yourself’. Unless we make the effort, it is difficult to pull ourselves out of a difficult situation. However, I differ from them, to add, ‘it is not only you who can heal yourself’. My experience through therapy has taught me that, at different points, we need help from a person who is a specialist because they can help us express our emotions in the best possible way. They can make us feel comfortable and in those surroundings we do not feel judged. Today, I can easily talk to my family about my problems and seek their advice. The key focus here is not the problem but how I have become comfortable with talking to others. I can express myself in ways that they understand me. I have come to believe that as humans we are scared of being judged by the other person, scared of the notions they form about us. That is what keeps us from speaking up. 

The need to feel accepted or understood by others in our environment pushes us to the edge where we do not know who we are or what we want from the people around us. My experiences in school intensified these feelings as I started college. It left me constantly questioning, “Will the other person like me or not?” or “Will I be able to mingle in this environment?”. To feel comfortable in certain situations I pushed myself a lot or moved away from everyone in my surroundings, I became aloof. During my initial years in college, out of the fear of offending others, I never said ‘no’ to anyone. But after a while I began to realize that saying ‘no’ was not wrong and that I could be accepted despite my agreement or disagreement. Through my experiences I learned that it is normal to not adjust to every environment. Just like some people are acquaintances and not friends, some environments are to be observed and not mingled with. I have moved from being a person who was scared of talking to people to being someone who can very easily accept herself as an individual. Maybe not completely. (Some things are still tough) Today I have started to see what I want in life. I am proud that I can confidently talk about what I’ve gone through and the influence it has had on me. Honestly, no matter how easy these incidents may seem for some, it’s only those who have been through it who knows what it is like. No matter how small that thing is for another person, it is a big deal for the person who has faced it. As each day passes, all that matters is just the feeling that we have done well. I hope that through reading about my experience  those who have been bullied or shamed in school will know that there are others out there. I hope they will find people who can understand them and help them find their voice. My wish for those reading this is that although the grief may feel insurmountable, just keep going. Each step you take is towards learning to redirect your creative energy. Be your own Muse!

Kanishka Pant

Kanishka Pant is a 24 yr old from Dehradun in the State of Uttarakhand in the northern hills of India. She has completed her formal education in History and Library and Information Sciences. Kanishka is an enthusiastic freelance content writer and subject matter specialist. She briefly taught in a public school. At present, she is taking some time off from work and studies. She calls this her ‘me-time’.

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