The Stars in the Darkness

Warning: this is perhaps one of the cheesiest articles I have ever written

I struggle to understand why depression seems to strike so many of the most sincere people I know- the people with the greatest, kindest souls. Perhaps it is a question of spectral binaries: the people with the most intense light within them also, unfortunately, have the most acute darkness within them, too. For them, existence is not just existing: it is a never-ending battle between light and darkness. There are days- entire months sometimes- when their emotions are pervaded by this darkness. It results in feelings of deflation and hopelessness, like nobody cares about them, and like everything they do is wrong.

Depression does not strip people of the colours of their personality; rather, it shrouds their vibrancy in heavy coats of grey. But they are still the same people underneath. Observers looking in from the outside might mistake their sullen behaviours for obnoxiousness or a lack of gratitude. In reality, depression is overwhelming, and uncontrollable. It arrives unexpectedly, and remains for indefinite amounts of time. The least you can do for friends who are facing the demons of depression by themselves is offer to listen to them, and to do whatever you can in order to aid their recovery. Do not let them face it alone.

The solution to the problem is not as simple as changing one’s routines, or ‘loving oneself’, without really knowing how to. But there are a few things that might assist in lifting some of the heavy manacles that mental illnesses impose: firstly, extracting the weeds that inhibit the growth of your figurative garden. By this, I mean, try to get away from toxic people and habits; the things that broke you simply cannot be the things that fix you. Your body, your life and your mind belong to you, and you hold the power to design and live a life you truly love. Things might seem hopeless now, but at least you still have yourself. You don’t need to be strong all the time, and your life does not always have to be structured or in the pursuit of great ‘success’. I hope that you come to give yourself credit for every little thing you have done, and every difficult day that you have managed to get yourself through.

It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to cradle your own shaking body and watch your tears spill from you. You have been hurt, and parts of you are still hurting. Maybe you’ll never be done with healing, but you are here now. You are a survivor, and I am proud of you.

Life is glorious, and this world is still beautiful, but sometimes it gets messy: trust me, I know what chronic sadness feels like. Other people, irrespective of how ‘close’ they might be to you, will never be able to truly comprehend what you are going through, and the workings of your mind. Your thoughts and experiences are your own, but that does not mean that you need to go through difficulties alone. Although your brain might attempt to convince you otherwise, there are people who love you, and who would, from the bottom of their hearts, yearn for your presence if you were gone. When it comes to emotions, to put it crassly, people can suck. They can go for years without writing to you or telling you how much you mean to them, but they still care about you. Besides, your value as a person does not decrease based on others treating you poorly. It’s their loss, not yours.

To quote Logic, “You’re the reason I believe in life”.

You are loved, you are beautiful, and you are doing so, so well. There are billions of stars scattered within your darkness, and I hope that you soon find the strength to see that.


Sadia Ahmed, 2017

Imposter Syndrome

There is a common phenomenon- a disease of the mind, if you like- that a staggering number of people are plagued by, and it often goes unrecognised. It can lead to anxiety, low self-esteem, and, as a consequence, masses of wasted potential. The disease was termed ‘Imposter Syndrome’, by two clinical psychologists, Clance and Imes, back in 1978, and it can be defined as a constant feeling of intellectual fraudulence, of never being good enough, despite all the evidence that might suggest otherwise. Imposter Syndrome is the polar opposite of qualities of exaggerated superiority (like arrogance, narcissism, or egomania) and it comes as no surprise that whilst many women suffer from the former malady, more men seem to suffer from the latter, perhaps as a result of gender socialisation.

Feelings of inferiority tend to stem directly from comparing oneself to others, and it goes without saying that people tend to be intimidated by those who are more ‘clever’ or more experienced than them, but the very people who are guilty of frequently belittling themselves in comparison to others fail to look beyond this initial erudite disparity, and they also fail to realise that they too have the capability to reach the same level, and to venture even further. Moreover, they fail to remember that people tend to specialise in different branches of knowledge and intelligence. While some people excel in writing stories, or in endeavours of the aesthetic kind, others are mathematical geniuses, or doctors-in-the-making, or chess champions. Sure, there are several people who are academic ‘all-rounders’, but this was almost undoubtedly the product of hard work, as opposed to mere luck. As most students discover at different points during their educational journeys, there are no substitutes to self-belief and hard work.

People are unique and varied, but something that seems to connect us all is our shared curiosity and desire to improve. This is where the notorious notion of the ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ comes into play: irrational self-doubt can severely limit us and hinder our intellectual growth, so the next time somebody compliments your talents, consider humbly accepting and internalising the compliment, rather than desperately trying to evade the spotlight. Acknowledge your brilliance, but don’t let the toxic sentiments of inadequacy or (on the flip-side) complacency cloud your mind-set. Your cerebral hinterland is neither static nor limited, so let it grow. Get involved in things, and contribute to discussions and debates, irrespective of how ‘inexperienced’ you might be. You can, and you will, get there (and even further): it just requires some time and effort.

The main determinant of intelligence, in my view, is not a factor that is genetic, nor arbitrary. All human beings are born with roughly the same amount of intellectual potential, but what sets some people apart from others is (aside from the lottery of birth, of course) how well they nurtured this innate potential, and, ultimately, how strong their passions for their chosen fields were.

Personally, I have found that the best way to combat the monster of self-doubt is through adopting a growth mind-set, rather than a fixed one- by telling yourself that although you may not be where you want to be yet, you most certainly can get there. You must strive to keep growing; self-doubt and self-pity will restrict this growth, but self-belief, on the other hand, will proliferate it.

I hope that you soon come to see that you are good enough. You are not stupid or less worthy than anybody else, and nobody belongs here (or anywhere) more than you. You are an individual with a fertile mind and an immense amount of potential, and anything that you deem worth learning is learnable. So grow, into the person you know you can become, even if doing so might make a few people uncomfortable.

As the cliche saying goes, the key is to simply believe in yourself, and, as Stephen Hawking once said,

“Remember to look up at the stars, and not down at your feet”.


Sadia Ahmed, 2017

Nowhere and Everywhere

If you asked me where I come from, I would tell you:

I come from a place where mangoes are not a myth,

Where people walk without shoes,

Even when the sun is the only thing in the sky,

Caressed by a continuous cerulean blanket,

And even when the invading clouds become angry.

 

I come from a place where tea is drunk in copious amounts,

Where children spread the wings they do not have,

Where fingers are stained with henna and stories and secrets,

Where curry is the national dish,

And believe me, when I say that curry burns through my veins,

But don’t worry- I don’t mean the type that causes heart disease.

 

I am the product of sugar and spice,

Of curry and samosas and rice,

Of colours and jewels that indicate infinity,

Of heavy accents and songs about silence.

Of being, but never quite belonging.

 

Look at me.

I am writing love letters to a country I have only visited twice.

A country that is oblivious to my existence,

A country I am infatuated with the idea of,

The idea of belonging somewhere in the correct way,

And having the right skin tone and features to show for it.

 

You see, I am the daughter of two worlds, and both are jungles.

One is replete with coconut trees and charming waterfalls,

Little secrets hidden behind rolling hills,

Uncorrupted by the filthy hands of man.

The other world is bustling and the economy is booming

And prosperity is a thing now.

Time flies and houses are tall,

And fishing isn’t the preferred pastime there: making money is.

 

If you asked me where I come from, I would tell you:

I come from somewhere that is imperfect,

Where some of the pieces are in the wrong places,

And some of them are nowhere to be seen.

But the grass is still green beneath our feet,

And love roams free, and I know that peace will reign triumphant.

I come from a place where there is beauty to be seen-

Beauty that succeeds in drowning out the bloodshed.

 

You see, if you asked me where I come from, I would tell you:

I am the daughter of kings and peasants,

Of prophets and criminals,

Of storytellers and poets.

My story is your story too.

We are relics of the past and promises of the future,

We are children of here and there,

and nowhere and

 

everywhere.


Sadia Ahmed, 2017