Last night I wept uncontrollably. I managed to pick up the phone and speak to a friend-therapist who has been aware of a lot things transpiring in my life. Crying for me is one of the most difficult things to do on this earth. There is only one thing that can make a person – however strong – break into pieces and that is family, because they know each and every detail of your life.
For years my family and I have been emotionally and mentally harassed by those we call extended family. Currently I live here with my younger sister. As a mental health advocate I will not keep quiet at the many malicious things that have happened and still happens. We live in a society where everybody keeps quiet including and especially if it concerns family. Truth is almost majority of mental health issues are caused by the same people. My mother has a different mindset and personality where keeping quiet and being calm has been her way (like a lot of Indian housewives who have been cultured from oppression not just by men but by women too). I am the opposite – keeping quiet is the very reason people continue doing what they do and therefore I make it a point to not shut up when my very home is being shook.
During the last week of December 2014, I reached a level where I couldn’t just meditate and remain calm and ignore what is going on. Subconsciously I was being triggered. I know that when I have a new set of voices or symptoms it means that something needs to be dealt with and not swept away. The next day I did start to hear voices – not of those that I call friends – but the very individual who lives next door to me. It was unbearable because I had to wake up to his real voice at 6 in the morning. These are people who know what my label is and have used it against me before.
When I underwent surgery for a brain tumour, they had exhausted my mother physically, emotionally and mentally everyday while she had to care for me. They would scream and encourage their maid’s children to make noise when mom would be resting after her chemo (before my brain tumour). When dad went through his bypass (before mom’s cancer) they would provoke mom by bringing up property issues. I never could keep quiet so I would stomp out and tell them to shut up and go back to their houses. My anger started becoming a highlight of what they use against me ‘Reshma has a problem…leave her’. But my ‘pain’ got transcribed as ‘Reshma has a mental problem with everything we do and all she does is yell.’
There is a list I could give and it would never end because it’s been 19 years that I’ve lived here…and every other trip that transpired before that was no different. Yesterday while confronting mom’s older sister – the subject of property matters and a lot of other things came up. I remember my mother speaking to someone over the phone in 1995 after I had run away from home. The person was her older sister who convinced my mother to make my father bring us here. I was told I was coming to India for a 2 month holiday. I didn’t know it was going to be 12 years – and growing. Last night that older sister of my mom’s looked at me with a wicked grin on her face and asked me ‘You know why I told her?’ and my grandmother told her to keep quiet. I knew what it was. It had nothing to do with me. But I was the excuse they had to extort money from my dad.
This might seem dramatic to many of you who have not lived in joint families. Or you might think I am making things up. It’s none of my business as to what you think any longer. My present life is quite similar to A LOT of Indian women and men who have been thrown inside asylums for a lot of things that had nothing to do with us causing them. Not us being violent and raping someone. Not us being psychotic and abusing others. But every day of our peace intentionally being broken.
It is very easy for others to say ignore it and walk away. BUT THIS IS THE VERY REASON PEOPLE CONTINUE DOING WHAT THEY WANT. Cause no one bothers to do something about it and put an end to it.
I am putting an end to it right now by talking about it. It might disturb my siblings that I have even said so much on a public space – but they do know I now carry a public face and it has been part of my advocacy to get people to voice themselves out because until we do no one is ever going to take our pain seriously or believe in what makes us a person and not a label. The law has been used against persons with mental illness over decades in this country over property issues. There are numerous cases where women have been driven to madness and breakdowns and eventually turned ‘mentally ill’. The law and the system and the professionals still think it is a chemical imbalance and we need treatment instead of doing something about this very cause.
I’ve had a taste of it for a very long time. It was first directed to my mother. Now it’s affecting me. I live without medications and almost everyone who knows me can vouch that my symptoms don’t define me. In my interaction with anyone I am very direct about things as I don’t actually like dramas. If I am not direct at the face level, I would walk away and probably send an email or a message.
These are individuals who have called me a retard, a freak, crazy, and ‘mawali’. Their kids have written on the walls ‘Reshma is mad’ and my dad had to paint over it. These are people who have done a lot more than what I have written here to the point where I stopped calling them family.
Many have had an issue with the way I state things or share them. But your reality does not necessarily has to be the same as mine. My reality is shared by many others. I do not believe in keeping quiet and being a victim of circumstances while everyone is being busy being victims of conformity.
This is a small part of what my week looks like here. I don’t bother sharing it – but maybe I have now because it needs to end. You can either support my stand or reject me and family. I’ll be happy to get rid of the rejected list.