I vividly remember the day my father died. The next day we prepared for his burial. I wept. No, I actually bawled. Losing a parent is a very emotional and personal moment. When it was time to take my father from our house to the graveyard, I started weeping. In the midst of everyone- I just started weeping. “This will be the last time we will see you in the house dad,” I thought.
Suddenly, I feel someone tapping my shoulder. With a stern face, this person just said to me: “Don’t cry. It’s not good to cry.” I ignored this person but I felt a pinch inside of me. Maybe he meant well, but what a thing to say. Now I was standing on my porch, where we just put our father inside the ambulance. Again, someone else turned to me and said the same thing: “Son, don’t cry.” I don’t know what happened, but I actually spoke up and said, “uncle, I will cry as much as I want to. I have lost my dad.”
The Shame Culture
It has become so imperative to express our emotions. I have seen in myself, and in others, that repressed emotions often do more damage than anything else. In our culture, there is a huge stigma on men crying- it’s un-manly, it’s not macho, it’s a sign of weakness and so on. Men are just not expected to cry.
In the same manner, there is a culture of shame. “Sharam karo,” – Shame on you- is one of the most used phrases in our culture. Parents use it so casually, not realizing the level of shame and guilt that begins to make it’s home inside the child.
In my work as a psychotherapist, I am seeing a lot of shame and guilt in my clients. Most of it stems from the messages that have received from their parents, and from society at large. They are ashamed to do the things they want to because they have been shamed into thinking it’s wrong. One female client was not able to go to the US to pursue her Masters because “women in our family don’t go outside of Pakistan.” As a result, she developed a very low opinion of herself- low self-esteem. It’s damaging.
In other cases, some of my clients come to therapy without telling their family. One of them even mentioned that if they told their family, they would be labeled as “crazy.”
Ever since the lockdown has been put in place, I’ve had more people approach me for therapy. The idea of isolation and quarantine is bringing up a lot of new emotions in the people. It is so imperative to address what your emotions are telling you.
This is where this book comes in handy. It’s a series of short notes on mental health, covering all aspects, from asking for help, shame, grief, kindness, and courage. The curator of the book Scarlett Curtis starts of the preface by talking about Trigger Warnings and explains that “it is to be shot in the gut with memory too painful for your body to withstand. To be triggered is to be flung back in time without any tools available to pull yourself back out.”
She further goes on to say how important it is to address these trigger warnings and goes to show how urgent the need is to help those suffering from trauma or PTSD. The book is endorsed and supported by Shout, which is the UK’s first free 24/7 text service for anyone who is struggling with issues.
There are some recognizable writers, and for me, some of the standout stories are by favorites Matt Haig, Jameela Jamil, Sam Smith, and Jonny Benjamin. The sweet thing about this book is that it covers mental health from a range of diverse people; in addition to the white perspective, we also have the black, Asian, Middle Eastern, and Southeast Asian perspectives as well. Mental health affects everyone.
It is OK
The book’s main message is that it is OK to feel a certain way. There is no shame. There is no element of guilt, and that it is OK to seek help. Always know there is way out. Nothing is the end of the world. We are in this together.