When I first met my husband I was under the misassumption that I had a firm grasp on how the world worked. Things neatly fit into these boxes within my mind. After a very short time together he not only unpacked those misconceptions, but he completely burned my boxes to the ground (in a very loving, passive and Ankit sort of way). Ankit inadvertently taught me not only about his experience in this world, but about myself. Previous to being with him I had never truly considered the lives of immigrants from India. In fact, I had not met many prior to our first Tinder date. After being with him for years, meeting his friends, and the friends of his friends, I finally realize just how little I ever saw the world from his perspective. This blog is devoted to the things my husband taught me, from the silly to the hard reality of my own privileges. So strap on in, and get ready for a ride into the psyche of my marriage!
I am acquainted with exactly zero people in this world who enjoy moving. That is because moving is awful, especially when it is hot and sticky outside. Once you actually get all your boxes unpacked, you are also left with mountains of cardboard. You have to relearn where your utensils are, which side of the closet is yours, and there is the never-ending question of “is this in the right spot?” You will have to learn where the closest supermarket is, and where your new favorite gas station is located. You will need to find new routes to work, school or even just your favorite parks. All of which can be an exciting adventure for a daring person. When you are someone who is most stable with routine though, suddenly moving becomes unbearable.
I am that person who thrives on knowing what to expect. I am at my worst when my home life has been disrupted. On my best days, if I can pretend I have some sort of control then my genuinely uneasy nature seems to shake with a little less noise. On my worst days, when there is no chance I can pretend I have any control then I quickly spiral downward. Last week I had an anxiety attack over a refrigerator. Then there was the lack of trash pick-up or any reliable internet service. There was a mailbox situation and a new puppy situation. Our dogs got into a fight, and one left the squabble with stiches. Then as if my body created a physical manifestation of all of my emotional distress- I got sick.
When my husband married me he got a two for one special. The Sesame Seed Hannah, with a side of Remi rice. My son had no real father figure in his life up until that moment. His biological father was out of the picture the second I decided not to get an abortion. So for a long time I played the roles of Mother and Father. I was happy in that environment. In a way I could greedily gobble up as much of my son as I wanted. I never realized though what a father would look like for my son.
When my husband came along he had never truly interacted children. Computers, cricket and being a lone wolf were more of his jam and butter. Early fatherhood did not come effortless for him because of this. There were continuous moments when he would question his abilities. Often times the only snippets he could handle watching my son alone were when Remi was already dreaming about castles and knights.
For someone who writes predominantly about mental illness, it was extremely difficult to take a mental health week. My already impressive anxiety played fictitious tapes in my mind.
What if you lose followers?
What if people think you’re weak?
And finally, the one that made me realize I needed a fucking break: You are a failure.
The last tape played over and over, a continuous loop of self hatred. It was also the strongest of the three I listed because it could generically be applied to any part of my life. If I’m being truly honest, there were also little things I was in fact failing at. They became warning signs for my need of a mental health week.
I was stress shopping at an impressive level. Well, not to everyone, my credit card definitely doesn’t find it impressive. Instead my card just kept moaning that it’s in pain from overuse. Impulse control has never been my strongest suit, and when I’m stressed it goes out the door. As does my health. Working out 5 days a week quickly disintegrated, into laying on the couch reading 1980’s romance novels instead. I didn’t even put up the pretenses of wanting to eat healthy. I became an Oreo ogre faster than you could ask why Shrek was sitting in our living room.
The most obvious warning sign that I need to take responsibilities off of my plate though, is when I started to forget my personal hygiene. When I was unconsciously putting off showering, and the days in between began to pile up. It is a clear signal to my psyche that there is something wrong. I’d stopped brushing my hair, or shaving my legs. The bun on top of my head slowly shrank as it got dirtier and dirtier. Then it was only a matter of time before the anxiety attacks themselves settled in. At this point I became the perfect target for one, and I like to imagine my anxiety licking its fangs while she maniacally rubs her hands together. She becomes giddy with excitement.
In May of last year I was accepted into a Bachelor’s of Science in Public Health program with a concentration in Health Studies. At the time I was completely overwhelmed, I went from being dumbfounded that they actually accepted me, to elated, and finally settling on just completely psyched to begin. I chose the Public Health field because I wanted to not only understand why health disparities existed, but also what we could do to minimize their impacts within our society. I also am a complete science nerd. I love understanding how interconnected health is to our behaviors, environment, and our assigned roles within society. Having said all of this, I am writing to tell you why being a Health Studies major completely sucks when you also have a slight tendency to see diseases where they do not exist. And by slight tendency I definitely mean I absolutely do this all of the time and it gets extremely out of hand, very quickly.
My first incident of seeing a disease where it absolutely was not, occurred in my “Public Health Diseases” class. It was a course completely devoted to various diseases which were prevalent within our society that could be prevented, but are not. I had a final project which consisted of an in depth investigation of a disease of my choice. Obviously I chose Pelvic Inflammatory Disease. And by obviously, I mean I have absolutely no idea why I would do this to myself. Looking into the risk factors I saw that I could check off many of the boxes. As I investigated further, I soon found myself contacting my doctor and asking if I could have a dormant case of PID. Even as she assured me that she did not think it was likely, considering I had none of the symptoms (which by the way, to justify my insane reaction, a dormant case would not) but that I could come in for a test if I wanted. My feelings were not assuaged. I then replied that there was no gold standard in regards to testing for this particular disease, and the level of my craziness magnified from there.
For some unthinkable reason I decided that taking summer classes would be a fabulous idea, and not at all burn out my already fragile psyche. Obviously this is another brilliant move I am going to blame on sleep deprivation, and prolonged Frosted Flakes consumption. I am currently cursing myself, and forcing my Amazon Echo to tell me once a day: “You make bad life choices Hannah” in her creepy robot overlord voice. In other news though, one of my classes has focused heavily on mental illness thus far (totally not triggering me and making me view myself as a case study, right?) and it made me question the persistent haze of stigma that surrounds mental illness.
How many times in our lives have we heard someone refer to an individual who is moody as bipolar? When someone is having bouts of irrationality, have you heard someone call that individual a schizo? When we feel insecure about our accomplishments, how many times have we referred to ourselves as having imposter syndrome, without a mental health professional ever suggesting this as a remote possibility? When we witness an individual doing something a tad fucked up, how many of us has referred to that person as a sociopath, insinuating they must have antisocial personality disorder? When a mass shooting happens in the United States how many news outlets start streaming coverage about the “mentally ill” shooter? The answer in my world, for each of these questions, is too many times.
When the word bravery flutters towards my mind, an image of my mother is always associated with it. My mom is a more reserved person, often observing and assessing before diving in. She is cautious with her words, understanding the weight they carry. She is careful with her actions, seeing how they can impact others. Despite these pieces of her, my mother epitomizes bravery. You see, bravery is not the absence of fear. It is not always the knight in tarnished armor running head first, disregarding caution, into battle. In fact, I would argue that true bravery is feeling the dread and committing yourself to the best decision anyways. That is what my mother has always accomplished.
When I was a teenager, drowning underneath the weight of my mental illness, I am sure my mother felt there was no right answer. I know she was terrified for what my life was becoming, yet instead of losing herself in that fear she fought for my life. My mother has always been my protector, something I resented as a teenager, but as an adult I cannot imagine my childhood without. My mom was my advocate, my champion, and she would have slayed any of my demons. She was a warrior, feeling fear but moving past it to shield her loved ones. Very simply, she exemplifies courage.
When the word loyalty springs into my consciousness, my mother’s lips spread into a coy smile and large aqua eyes crinkling with unspoken laughter, appears. No matter what mistakes I have made in my life, my mother has always been there to love me until I could love myself. She saved my life, when all I wanted was to self-destruct. She defended me against myself, attempting to build me up when all I could imagine was fading away into my darkness.
I had a friend once tell me “you seem like an anxious little thing.” My response was to high five her, and tell her I’m like a scared Chihuahua who shakes and looks like they’re holding in their pee. We laughed. The reality is not too far off though. My anxiety is one of my greatest struggles in life, and it manifests itself in a variety of ways.
Hollywood would have us believe that all anxiety looks the same. It’s the girl that can’t catch her breath and is sobbing on the kitchen floor. Now, that’s definitely been me, but the more I get away from that trope the more I can identify different ways anxiety has become insidious in my life. Take for example when grades were released after finals this week. I knew I had easily earned a B in all my courses. I could literally have failed each of my finals and not lost that status, but I am a neurotic perfectionist to my core. I deeply felt I needed only A’s to have the ability to validate myself. A single teacher was delayed in submitting final grades and the entire night before they were released I obsessed. I worried that my husband would be less proud of me if I got a B in Environmental Health despite his assurances that grades will never impact the love he feels for me. I worried how I would look at myself. My fun pack bundle of anxiety ruined a night I could have achieved blissful sleep.
Before my husband and I did our “I Do’s” in a community center, with pizza and homemade hot chocolate as our catering- we had the housework discussion. Now anyone who knows me, knows that I have always hated the idea of becoming a 1950’s housewife. There is absolutely nothing wrong with professional homemakers but in my mind they’re basically superheroes. They are the modern Renaissance men who can cook without giving their family botulism, clean while actually knowing how to separate clothes for washing and make their kids kick ass lunches. The most amazing part of all of the actions I just listed is they accomplish these feats EVERY SINGLE DAY. That is an incredibly overwhelming prospect for someone like me.
There is a somewhat controversial concept within environmental health called “hormesis”. The majority of the scientific community are in agreement that all radiation exposure, at any level, is terrible for you (cancer and all that shit would always be a potential side effect). Hormesis however says that potentially very low doses of ionizing radiation may prevent cancer. I promise I am turning this into a kick ass metaphor, and am only going to sprinkle in some boring scientific terms here. In an effort to maintain full disclosure, there is a small chance I am subconsciously writing this to both memorize the concept and find an acceptable reason to procrastinate. Seventy pages of environmental health can be overwhelming for any distracted and reluctant reader. Yet, my mind did perk up at this definition and not so much at chloracne, luckily for you guys, since that shit is rough.