Featured photo: NaniSer Village, in District Tharparkar, Sindh, Pakistan. February 7, 2019.
Happy July Everyone!
I was happy to learn this week, that July is Disability Pride month. I may have missed this all these years. But I am so happy this is the issue that is covered in July. Happy Disability Pride Month!
And Today is my birthday. Happy first birthday as Dr. Elsa Talat Khwaja! This is special to me.
Birthdays are my mental health days, and I take them off, but luckily this year, it has fallen on a weekend!
And you know why else is it a special day? It is also EID al-Adha. Eid Mubarak to all Muslims who celebrate this holiday!
I share the content of this post in conjunction with Disability Pride month for several reasons. And I hope you, my fellow warrior, reader or writer or dreamer will get the juxtaposition I make with it. Thanks for giving it a chance!
Disability Pride Month honors the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (on July 26, 1990), which aimed to prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities. And this must be for all disabilities, visible or invisible.
This year, as I noted earlier, I am having my first birthday finally as Dr. Elsa and and for the first time ever, have the Muslim holiday, which is the Eid ul Adha, at the same time. An eventful Eid and Birthday weekend indeed. This is significant because The holiday means “Celebration of Sacrifice”. In Urdu, the term “Qurbani” means “sacrifice” and on this holiday, Muslims all over the world complete the sacrificial ritual with goats, which is connected to a key moment in Islamic history (I won’t get into the explanation here).
Photo: a special moment with the children and the baby goats in Village NaniSer within District Tharparkar, Sindh, February 7, 2019.
Coincidentally, over the years, I have often referred to myself as a “Qurbani ka Bakara” largely because of speaking my authentic truth, openly and honestly, for the sake of helping cure painstaking societal, cultural, and religious stigmas that make it harder for the individual to achieve a sense of spiritual, emotional, physical, and mental well-being.
I hope people understand it is not easy to be authentic, real and honest about who you are, especially when these elements are social taboo, when your “invisibility” and “belonging” is delicate and in question, and when there is great fear of social and professional retributions. It requires a lot of courage and is very painful. I mentioned this last year in the same birthday fundraising post and perhaps in previous blog posts, the extent to which my public revelations may have impacted my life, through internal and external forces both (some perceived, some real). I did believe that I could possibly be one good voice for this cause, especially for the intersecting communities of which my identity resides. But at the same time, I fear I might have marginalized myself, or furthered my “invisibility” or “lack of belonging,” as instead there are invisible consequences that I am beginning to see and feel now more than ever.
Sometimes, I feel it may have pushed me in the margins of my networks and communities. I know it may have prevented me from potential romantic relationships and even friendships. I know it has prevented me from some professional collaborations, which I feel is very unfortunate. It could possibly have prevented me from pursuing and even getting the jobs I am qualified for with my doctorate, as well as publications. God knows best. It hurts, but this hurt does not equate to regret. It has been a sacrifice I know in my heart I had to make and will have to continue to make.
Which is why, when it comes to the topic of “suicide prevention” and several other difficult issues, I have described myself as the “qurbani ka bakara”, a sacrificial goat. And today, along with the true meaning of Eid-ul Adha, I plan to honor that “celebration of sacrifice.” I will write more on this notion of what I mean when I say “qurbani ka bakarah” with reference to curing stigmas and what not, for another post. Because I think this definitely deserves another post, and I am just scratching the surface on this day.
I hope that people know that many of us don’t want to have speak on these topics, but in the end, no matter the costs, we have no other choice. Especially if Silence is in fact the killer….if silence is deadly. Some of us cannot keep hiding our authentic truths. Some of us want to be direct, some want to be more strategic. I dont have the regret for my direct bluntness on mental health talk for over 15 years or so online and in person. But sometimes I wish I didn’t feel a sense of responsibility on my shoulders to talk about this. Unfortunately, I do, and I shouldn’t have to stop, just because people are not listening and I haven’t made any impact. God knows best.
Survivors of Suicide are survivors of a real illness, are people with disabilities that impact every day life.
Nevertheless, we have every right to pursue our dreams in any place or domain, without discrimination, just like everyone else. We have every right to express our truths and not mask our suffering which leads to more pain and suffering.
The hardest part sometimes is people not believing that you are suffering, just because you are strong and still alive. The hardest part is remembering the people who die by suicide, but not those who have survived it and are still fighting.
AFSP has helped a lot of people. Including yours truly. Please join me in my efforts to save my life and the lives of countless others.
I recall writing on Facebook, 13 or so years ago, that I really didn’t think I would make it past 40. I mentioned this in previous posts, how my expression of my authentic truth, my suicidality, received much cultural and social backlash at that time and over the years.
I have turned 38 today and have 2 more years to prove that “that Elsa” was wrong.
In the past few months, I had some of the worst ideations where I didn’t really think I would make it. No one will believe me. Because I powered through them and I am still here. I will never get credit for this fight. I’m still struggling but I hope to take more proactive efforts so I can be there for the others who are struggling too, in a much stronger and more effective way, if I am needed.
For Muslims, EID is an important time to give. I hope you can see the value of supporting suicide prevention efforts on Eid-al Adha 2022 and beyond.
I’ve included information about American Foundation for Suicide Prevention below.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) is the leading national not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to understanding and preventing suicide through research, education and advocacy, and to reaching out to people with mental disorders and those impacted by suicide.
To fully achieve its mission, AFSP engages in the following Five Core Strategies:
1) Fund scientific research 2) Offer educational programs for professionals 3) Educate the public about mental disorders and suicide prevention 4) Promote policies and legislation that impact suicide and prevention 5) Provide programs and resources for survivors of suicide loss and people at risk, and involve them in the work of the Foundation
Thank you so much for supporting this cause through me or through any other mediums, and on my special EID/first Birthday as Dr. Elsa!!! And during Disability Pride Month!!!
And sending my very sincere love to all the brothers and sisters living with visible and invisible disabilities and making a difference and impact in this world. Take this Disability Pride month to feel a sense of wholeness even when something always feels “missing” or ‘broken.’
There is always more to say, more to write, but I will stop here and try to enjoy my birthday! Believe it or not, this is not my birthday reflection post! Thank you for thinking of me on this day. It means the world. Thank you for caring. And please forgive me if I have harmed or disappointed you in any way. Eid Mubarak, Happy Birthday, and Happy Disability Pride!
Peace, Warmth, and Blessings
“She wasn’t looking for a Knight. She was looking for the Sword.” – Atticus