“Speak your mind even if your voice shakes.” – Ruth Bader Ginsberg

Perhaps this post should naturally follow the last one, the post I wrote about popularity contests, and whose voices count, and that “power” behind the “like.”

It didn’t generate much interest, I didn’t expect much traffic, but I thought there might be some intrigue.

And I do think overall it was a good post or perhaps potentially could be great.

I was off Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for just a little while and then came back to these forums a bit sooner than intended.

I do believe I post meaningful content about my life, my story, about others, about important issues, and beyond, but the diminished natural and organic engagement I once had when I would post things, and in the past few years (and especially this past year), had negatively affected my mental health in a very severe way. I thought maybe it was best to just stop the habit of posting essay-long posts.

I guess I never really had that much engagement of my posts, but maybe it was hitting me more these days. There was definitely a decrease.

I decided to stop the essay-long Facebook and Instagram posts while I was returning from Montreal, Canada last month. It was the first time I was able to return to the academic scene after becoming a “Dr.” and share my research on Pakistan and Afghanistan again. It shouldn’t matter all that much, but it did because I was still at it, I still remain hopeful for my research to have a greater impact at the policy-level as intended, despite not landing an academic position that would allow me to continue to nurture my findings full-time. I am proud of that. And I should be.

Immediately after my final posts, (which I guess ended up not being final since I returned a bit sooner this week), I began facing a very painful “social media withdrawal” in a way I never have before. I knew this was an addiction a long time ago. Through deep reflection, I identified social media as my “Achilles Heel” just last year. I realized that my relationship with Facebook in particular was not a healthy one and still isn’t. I returned a bit too soon, but I learned the week before that I lost a colleague to suicide a few months ago, and I just wanted to express what I was feeling. It was Suicide Prevention month (September). And he died by suicide when I was fundraising for Suicide Prevention on my birthday month. 

I guess I gave in and relapsed on my vow to myself to stop writing essay-long FB and Instagram posts. Part of the reason why I wrote directly on those online forums more often than my website and blog (of 6 years) was because there was a point in the past where I noticed that people would not click on my blog posts and read the same kind of content that I would write on FB and Instagram (but in a more polished way). I was getting much more engagement even just a year ago, on my direct posts to FB and Instagram than my blog pieces. So I just continued to post until it became an addiction. Being off social media, I thought I could try to make blogging here my “addiction” and I will still try to make a stronger effort.

I need to still try to get it in my head that not all posts need to be polished master pieces even as self-published articles. This was supposed to be my apprenticeship for my book writing, articles, both creative and academic, and you’ll find a mix here. I will still try to make this “my addiction.” Habitualize it. That way I do not need to feel obliged to take hours and hours to write a post and get hurt when “my people” do not engage something that I pour my heart into.

There is so much some of us desire to share with the world. I even started my YouTube Channel, finally, excited about trying to elevate my voice in that forum, and I am going to continue it in one way or another. It has been hard to continue it because of my depression and the energy that it sucks out of me. It’s exhausting being chronically depressed and for a span of nearly 3 decades now. But perhaps I should use my Channel to document it as a vlogging element of the channel, or to help me get out of my rut. That too takes energy though.

Instead, I was and perhaps am allowing the silence around me, towards me, to “silence” me. 

I am not someone who gives up on anything so it is probably why I felt yucky giving up on sharing my story and journey on social media, which I made such a strong effort to do, something I had been doing for such a long time, and to give it up simply because no one else cared about my story or perhaps people stopped caring. I am not someone who caves in or surrenders to unjust forces. Because indeed there are certain forces working behind the scenes attempting to silence authenticity, vulnerability, unique and unconventional voices, and and speaking one’s truth. Other forces besides capitalism. 🙂

It is difficult to realize when something isn’t working, for you, and for the community and tribe you want to serve. But it is like what Albert Einstein stated, “the definition of insanity is doing things over and over again and expecting a different result.” I feel that. It is however important to step away, step back, and realize what is happening to you. How you are reacting and responding to your reality and whether it is healthy and productive.

Perhaps I really should not take it this way. Perhaps this is just a moment, where I can break away for a while.

Perhaps it is just a sad and angry and frustrated mind that is making me think many people would say “good riddance to me” if I left the virtual world permanently or at least a long period of time.

Then you wonder if that is how they feel about your virtual presence in this world, would they feel the same about your actual presence? Would it matter if you left the world permanently. If you were silenced in such a way that you could no longer speak again.

Why is it such a big deal to not speak up when you have the ability to? To choose silence? One may ask.

It’s big, because I have never done well “Struggling in Silence”.

A writer.

That is what I am.

That is what I was always was.

Even when I didn’t know it. Or when the “imposter” creeps in and tells me that I am not.

A writer must write to survive. To be free. To exist. To “silence” a writer… for a writer to be “silenced” by whatever forces, is like removing their oxygen tank.

I have tried really hard to cry. And even that isn’t happening. The release that is so necessary sometimes. Maybe one of my neighbors would hear me, I tell myself, as I lock myself in my apartment. The walls are thin. So I hold it all in. I want to scream. But I cannot. Not here. Not anywhere.

I was going through some of my poetry both that I shared in this blog and many pieces that are in fragments, which I haven’t quite pieced together. I found this piece which really helped me. 

Writing has always helped me. When I cannot write, as I have done on social media as a form of catharsis, I feel imprisoned. So you can understand that to stop myself from writing openly on social media on Facebook and Instagram, in part realizing the social and emotional consequences of sharing my truth, speaking my truth, is a very painful withdrawal.

I only believe it was and remains a necessary one, if one has an unhealthy relationship with it.

For example, when you know there are people who watch you, watch you, and watch you, with everything you post online, but choose not to engage those pieces that you pour your heart out to, it hurts a lot. And then it reinforces your pain, and then it silences you.

Another example, as I noted before, constantly checking your Facebook, seeing if the people you love and admire will engage you on something special and important you have shared (either positive or negative, good, bad, or ugly), and being hurt that they didn’t see it, sometimes thinking that they would see it and not engage, even when you have no solid proof of it.

It is why I must turn away from it, and focus on other forums for writing on mental health. I created this space here and I must now transition here. 

I will say that I will not change the very nature of my posts being personal, real, and honest on Facebook and Instagram. I was always real and open on Facebook, and I am not going to use it as a professional platform. It will remain personal. I have a LinkedIn Profile if people prefer to not see anything personal from me, they are welcome to only engage me on LinkedIn.

Removing myself from social media for a little while made me realize that I have in fact drifted apart from a lot of people in my life, I have lost friends not because of conflict, but rather the distance created from PhDlife, my academic ambitions, and the pandemic quarantine life. I don’t think I am the only person who has become a greater hermit or recluse in the Pandemic era. I think this is very common. 

I also think I have also been so hurt in the past, that I don’t think I can say that I have anyone I can call a real “close friend,” though I am open to the fact that perhaps my criteria of ‘close friendship’ can be expanded, or must be expanded. Or perhaps it is just a matter of having the courage to call someone up and say hey, can you lend me a listening ear just for a few minutes? Do you want to grab coffee or lunch? And without fearing the very possible rejection, one that some of us may be more familiar with than others.

When you try, you are reminded of those times when you have failed, and the trauma and the pain of being “abandoned” returns again and again and again.

Connection. There can be a “connection” without an understanding.

People should be able to understand the consequence of Pandemic life; we are still immersed in it, and still processing our trauma from it…

And I do believe that not many can truly understand the consequence of Pandemic + PhD-life, when someone constructed their entire life around such a  journey, such a monstrous massive arduous endeavor.

People told me at times to reach out to them when I was feeling depressed.

My question is (always)…. How?

How can we truly expect people suffering, to have the strength and mindset and emotional power to “reach out” to someone never there and in the middle of their episode of depression?

Either I am too grown up now, I can take care of myself, and others think that I have been able to get through in the the past, so they can continue to ignore my “calls for help”…

I am open to the possibility that “the algorithm” has tricked me into believing that no one cares. But there is some truth in  “the algorithm”, as I noted in my previous post.

People don’t believe you. And when they don’t believe you, and the level in which you are suffering, they are “raping you” and “erasing you” erasing your struggles.

“She’s so strong,” “she’ll hold on,” “she’ll tough it out,” “She always does,” “it’s all in her head,” “she always gets through it”, “she will survive,” until…. she doesn’t?

I am suffering. I am in so much pain. I always tell myself this way of life is not sustainable.

But I cannot say all this in my online networks anymore, like I used to…

And that is a change in my life that is very painful to accept.

It becomes a trigger.

It takes courage to realize you have to make changes in the way you see things, approach things, do things…and first and foremost for yourself and your health.

And there should never be shame associated with your realization that you need a radical change in your life. 

Change is very painful experience. Change is supposed to be painful. Maybe it is a good change.

I have always talked and written about the yearning to “change your (my) stars”… 

And we can rewrite our story and start over as many times as we need to, to get it right.

“To get it right.”

Whatever that means.

No one can stop you.

Let the world choose to stay stagnant in how they perceive you and treat you, as you keep growing, changing, evolving, finding yourself.

You cannot allow that noise to stop you. 

There are moments where I am only holding on by the thread. That was me when I came back from Montreal. No one noticed I was gone. No one knew the level of my pain at the moment or would care. No one asks me or checks up on me, knowing how long I have been chronically suffering for most of my life, knowing how much struggles I have gone through, especially the past year, knowing how much I have disclosed about my illness and struggles.

“She’s so strong.” “She’ll pull through”… “she’ll figure it out.”…

It is astonishing that I haven’t ended my life, simply with that level of pain coming from no support network relevant to mental health, that reinforces the already existing pain.

I was trying to find that “support network” in my social networks. I guess I wasn’t looking in the right places. Or maybe I was in denial that it wasn’t going to be found there.

There have been so many moments, where I have come so close to “calling it quits.”

I am tired of suffering so much. And being pushed into silence, yeah…that is just not me. 

I will not continue to live in shame for my pain, and in guilt for sharing my pain. And if I have to, I will say this over and over again until it is ingrained in my subconscious. 

I remember when I was in my 20s. How I didn’t want to live my 30s and 40s the same way I lived my teens and 20s. I lost half my life to this great depression.

And I always say this will change, this must change. I say I need help. I go seek help, I get disheartened, because I do not find it. No one answers my “call for help” specifically on mental health. And the “vicious cycle” continues. It’s quite fascinating how synonymous my story is to the aid and fragility narrative in countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan. I want to write a book on that “connection” some day. I will argue as I have stated before that the right person to be studying “fragile states” is the person who understands “fragility” at a very personal visceral level, and especially through mental illness. 

I should try to use the time away from social media, on the many things I need to do on my to do list, to really ground myself, and immerse myself in the life I want to live, the scholar, the person, the writer I want to be, even if it means losing the little “connection” I did have, but lost because I was in too much pain to “see” that it was there… distant, but there.

I know that most things I write will not please others, cannot and should not be for pleasing others. With that said, I will need to accept now that the audience for my voice may not be my friends, family or colleagues, but there is a tribe out there that would want to hear my authentic, sincere, honest, bold, fierce and real voice and I remain hopeful I will find and connect with you some day. 

I am not sure a lot of this made a great deal of sense. 🙂

I wrote this piece as a release, for some catharsis, and I know when I hit the “submit” button that says “publish” it is another attempt forward to burning down the “imposter syndrome.”

It is possible that that itself is a “suicide mission,” and perhaps I will just need to cope with it. I won’t give up either way. As I said, I am not someone who gives up. I am not someone who thrives in “silence.”

I am a fighter. I will stay consistent, I will keep writing and keep fighting.

But I will step back and reflect and change course and re-strategize as I need to.

And in the meantime as things don’t change in the ‘radical’ way it needs to, I will keep hanging on to that thread of hope.

Thanks for giving my voice a chance.

“The unexamined life is not worth living.” – Plato

Peace, Warmth, and Blessings

Your Sister

Dr. Elsa

Warrior KQueen

“She wasn’t looking for a Knight. She was looking for a Sword.” – Atticus

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