Loving You Gave Me Anxiety, Loving Myself Gave Me Freedom - by Shahnila Laghari

I loved him. I tolerated abuse because he once told me that he liked those silent girls, and I had hoped that would make him love me too. He used to call me on special occasions when he drank and called me names all night long because he was bored so I had to be there for him. As said earlier, I loved him. He cheated on me multiple times and came back to me to share stories about him making out with girls. I listened because I loved him. Ever since I have known what love was, it was because of him. Had I known earlier that a high-school crush would lead to so much self-destruction, I wouldn't even have started it in the first place. I kept blaming myself. I used to get very happy when he praised my simplicity and loyalty towards him. I was so naive to think that my affection alone would make his heart melt so I suffered happily. My mental health deteriorated and no hobby would cheer me up until I talked to him. I was failing at life and my academics.

I don't remember a night where I had not cried myself to sleep in all those months but cowardice would not let me utter a word otherwise. I was losing myself and had to pour my heart in front of someone because it was getting heavier each day. And I spoke to a friend of mine and she made me realise how toxic the relationship was. I wasn't even getting the love and care in return whereas I was devoting all my energy. I had to get back up and stand up for myself because who else will? The day I finally gathered the courage to talk to him, I was shivering with fear and I could hear my heart beating so fast that I feared it could pop out of my mouth any minute. I asked him to treat me better if he wanted us to stay together and to my surprise, he uttered the words that will stay with me till the day I die.

"Tumhein apna waqt deta toh hun aur kyaa chahye. Badtameez aur nashukri matt bano. Tum merey baghair ek din reh nahi sakti Hahaha."

I hung up and couldn't move for the next few minutes. The words that severed and gave me life had been uttered. Worthless, unloved, ugly. These were the words echoing around me and deafening me. The rage, pain and anger spoke to me and guided me towards strength.

I grieved without denying myself the space for it and let the pain serve its purpose. I started doing basic things to distract myself. I pursued my passion for books and started writing too. I didn’t realise but I was on track very soon and everything around me felt so lighter than before. I was at peace and the moment it occurred to me that it was because I was investing in myself, giving myself the unconditional love I had always been capable of. That’s when I had emerged and never looked back to the version that mistook abuse for love and oppression as affection.

26th of November was the day when I chose myself. I became my saviour and those were the darkest days of my life but I didn't give up on myself.

"Tum merey baghair ek din nahi reh sakti hahaha" "Main tumharay baghair saari zindagi guzaar ke dikhaungi.”

Loving someone doesn't give them the right to treat you poorly and even if it seems that you can not live without them, you have to prove that you can. You are a whole human being and the mere presence of someone who doesn't even reciprocate the same efforts doesn't deserve a seat at your table. Love is sacred and it follows the paths of respect and empathy. I would happily be called a "Badtameez Naashukri Insan" for standing out against disrespect rather than being a "Saada Aurat" who tolerates silently because she is in love. I can not emphasise enough how important it is to love yourself to be loved by others.

It is not always about doing makeup, skincare routine and dressing beautifully. Loving yourself means to speak for yourself when your rights are being violated, it means to say no to things you don't like, it means to follow your dreams however risky it gets and more importantly being true to yourself. If there is anything I have learnt from life, it is to make myself happy. The most mundane things give me power over my happiness and I am grateful for it every minute of my life.

Cover credits: Collateral magazine

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