• Perspective Mag

Disjointed Thoughts in Therapy - Zeerak Khurram

naturally, we are all caught in

downmoods, it’s a matter of

chemical imbalance

and an existence

which, at times,

seems to forbid

any real chance at



How did it come to this?

For some reason that was one of the questions swirling around in my brain as I poured my heart out to the stranger at the other end of the crisis hotline. I had been putting it off for weeks. Dialing that number. Which is to say that I had the tab open on my phone for some 20 odd days before enough was enough. And when I say enough was enough, I don’t mean that something monumental happened. I just … sunk under the pressure of my own mind …

I didn’t crack. It was like walking on wet sand. Sometimes, you can walk across with the most perfect little footprints and other times, you are ankle-deep, a shell stabbing into your sole, the sun scorching your face, you are miserable.

I called the hotline because I needed to talk to someone. Someone actually trained to help me with what I was going through. I’ve needed to talk to someone since I was thirteen. I started six years after the fact.

It’s not something I announce with every next breath. “Hi, my name is Zeerak and I go to mental health professionals every month”. But it’s not something I run from. If the topic comes up, I’m fairly open about the less gory details of my health. The only people who actually know the full picture are, you guessed it, my therapists.

I was in a downmood

when this rich pig

along with his blank


in this red Mercedes


in front of me

at racetrack parking.

it clicked inside of me

in a flash:

I’m going to pull that fucker

out of his car and

kick his



But where does that leave me in our desi society that often looks at people like me as “weak”, “not strong enough” or “nafsiatee” (crazy)? I use those adjectives not because I believe that they describe people that have mental health issues but because I have heard them being used to discredit people who want to get help and those who have the opportunity to go and see professionals. We have a tendency to paint everyone with the “oh they have a mental illness” brush. So much so that people that do have problems, refuse to acknowledge them. They feel that everything they have accomplished so far will be washed away by this one admission. These are “family secrets” or secrets in general, to be hidden away from the world.

When they do come out into the open, usually when people have been pushed beyond their breaking point, when they break or shatter instead of sink, that is when the labels rise up again. Sometimes people can’t believe something like this has happened because “they didn’t look the type”. People with mental illness are well rounded individuals, as much as desi society can’t believe that they are. It was a journey for me, but believe me when I say you are not defined by your illness no matter what people say. Anyone who becomes defensive or tries to tell you how to feel, does not understand. Self touted experts on mental health exist but much of their advice is toxic and harmful.

The argument to be made against Big Pharma aside, sometimes a doctor is right about their patient needing medical help. If you have doubts, you are entitled to a second or third opinion. But the very fact of the matter is that mental illnesses come about due to chemical imbalances in the brain. These chemical imbalances are not as easy to cure as the person telling you to watch a good show may understand.

I followed him

into Valet parking

parked behind him

and jumped from my


ran up to his


and yanked at


it was



windows were



I was wrestling with my own suicidal tendencies when I turned on BBC and saw the headline that read “Actor Robin Williams takes his own life”. It was over a weekend, that much I remember clearly. The next Monday, people had their own opinions: that he shouldn’t have done it because of his own role as a mental health advocate. If it couldn’t get better for him, how could it get better for anyone else? He had let people down. But, for some reason, I understood why he did it.

This is not to romanticise suicide by any means. If you or anyone else you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, it is a sign of mental illness and proper professionals need to be approached. What I mean by saying that I understood was that I understood the sadness, anger and fear that he must have felt before going ahead with it. A few hours before he passed, he called up his best friend and told him that he loved him. Those hours must have been agony. They are agony to everyone who has ever been through something like this.

I rapped on the window

on his


“open up! I’m gonna

bust your


he just sat there

looking striaght



There are good days and bad days. The good days are nice. You feel happy. On the bad days, it feels like someone is holding your head in a bucket of ice cold water. You just want everything to stop. When you are in the middle of the whirlwind, it’s far easier to think that your illness defines your life.

It doesn’t… it gets better…

(I don’t really know why I wrote that. But if it helps anyone, that’s more than enough.)

his woman did


they wouldn’t look at me.

he was 30 years


but I knew I could

take him

he was soft and



Two of the greatest failures society has made has been the romanticisation of suicide and depression and the normalisation of teen angst.

The issues with the romanticisation of suicide and depression and anxiety are obvious. Being any of those things are not and should not be considered personality traits. It doesn’t matter which public figure gave the masses the impression that they should. People deal with their mental health issues in different ways. Some use humour. This humour can get mistranslated through a screen (or air for that matter) to make it out to be something poignant or poetic or exciting. No one is laughing about their mental illness in private.

The normalisation of teen angst. This is the concept that oh, all teenagers are hormonal and feel a certain type of way. This generalisation of the vast range of emotions people feel during puberty results in mental health issues flying under the radar. Not everyone feels depressed. Not everyone feels anxious all the time. The sooner we recognise this the better.

I beat on the window

with my


“come on out, shithead,

or I’m going to start



he gave a small nod

to his


I saw her reach

into the glvoe


open it

and slip him the



I came across a book recently by Charles Bukowski. It’s a collection of poems. My favourite is red Mercedes. It’s not the most beautiful of his poems. And there are various ways of analysing it. There always are when it comes to literature. For me, I see it as Bukowski walking away from someone who has similar mental health issues to his.

Sometimes that too is the problem. We think that we are so alone in this that when we find someone else, we hesitate at the thought of reaching out to them. It’s that internalised taboo coming back to haunt us and the way we interact with the external examples of mental illness that we see.

I saw him hold it

down low

and snap off the


I walked off

toward the

clubhouse, it looked

like a damned good




all I had to do


be there.

Charles Bukowski (red Mercedes)

In order to fully heal from society and their views about mental illness, introspection is half the battle.

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