To be your storyteller, I am glad I did not take that flight – my escape!

“Take me somewhere I can grow, Give me something let me go

Tell me something I don’t know” – Laura Marling

Myself, Maham Shah here from Pakistan, introduced as an author of my debut poetry book “My Therapist Tells Me Not to Ruminate”. I am a storyteller from Fuzia – empowering women. I am eager to listen to your story to make you feel heard, and to inspire others through you. And to begin this journey, I shall start first with my own story.

Recounting an incident in my late teenage years, standing on the rooftop of my college building while wondering if the step forward would help me escape from everything, and I’d land into paradise. A call from a woman behind shook me out of my reverie. At the same moment, my friend approached and escorted me from this deadly muse. I was forced out of the wish of jumping off the roof. All I knew that not being able to take my flight off would make no difference. I dreaded going back to my home to another fight between my parents and my mother’s distressed face. I worried if tonight we’d all sleep peacefully rather than sniffing in our pillows.

I just didn’t want to go home.

In the coming months, my psychological state worsened to the point that it started affecting my physical health as well. Body aches, cramps, and ultimately a rapid loss of 10kgs to getting underweight – I ended up being bed-ridden. Everyone thought that I’d no prospect left of ever having a successful life. Or maybe that’s what everyone assumed at that time? 

Ironically, in some socio-cultural contexts, treatment of psychological conditions is usually perceived to come under the expertise of a faith healer, instead of a mental health expert.

As a young girl, I was suffering from delirium, sometimes high fever that wouldn’t even let me stand on my knees. Everyone knew that they had a family member labeled as mentally ill, and when I talked gibberish, it’s the demon talking who had possessed me. No, it was the child talking with its (God knows what!) unmet needs being mistaken for a demonic possession, which was a clear case of mental regression. I believed I was a demon at one point, and the next series of nightmares involved me seeing myself as turning into one.

 I ended up hating and fearing myself even more.

For six-months I remained bed-ridden, and on my 18th birthday, I woke up after my first episode of sleep paralysis and this continued for years afterwards. I lived through two gap years and saw my own siblings and acquaintances leaving me behind. No one remained beside me except my mother. I guess for her if not for myself, I somehow managed to resume my studies.

Or was it because of the fear of abandonment?

Dozing off under the impact of my medication, I cleared my intermediate exams as a private candidate. Daydreaming every day about how I would see my friends having their happiest and most carefree college days through Facebook, I was here, bound to my home because of my state. 

I was fed up with being the victim. I was fed up with those long dreary days. I had to make it to the outdoors. So, I did eventually…after an extensive struggle!

As soon as I got enrolled in one of the prestigious universities of Pakistan, I was already craving for meaningful relationships. At the same time, I was seeking revenge.

There are two ways to avenge yourself; either you treat the ones who wronged you the same way, or you decide to not let what happened to you ever happen to someone again to the best of your capacity.

And I chose the latter one and it paid me well, nevertheless!

During the four years of my undergraduate studies, I evolved from a naïve and innocent young girl to a strong, determined, and resilient young woman. In my book, I have spoken about my journey with my mental health conditions. What led me into that state? What was it like? And how I resolved to recover to be able to fight back? All the moments of reflection on my therapy throughout these years!

With a major in Sociology and research, I focus on the resilience-building of individuals, just so that I can instill in young individuals what I lacked. From remaining silent for hours and keeping it all bottled up inside me to emerging victorious with my spoken-word performances on-stage – full of rage, fervor, and feistiness. From being a daydreamer and sleeping with a lump in my throat thinking how my dreams would never get fulfilled to becoming a mentor to many underage students – full of dreams and ambitions.

I did not, ultimately, consider my circumstances the whole of my life rather just a fragment of it.

Some life lessons! I am glad I didn’t take that step that day on the rooftop about ten years ago. I am grateful that I have lived until now throughout all as said, because that sort of flight was not the right escape for me. Being escorted from the rooftop did prove to make a difference, eventually.

I learnt the real sense of having wings was in the fight that I had to take up through acceptance, not denial of my circumstances.

Otherwise, there was no step further to be taken after that, except into oblivion and not to the fancied paradise!

You can make a difference if you have not entirely been a victim of your circumstance but created something out of the worst of your days as well. We all have different stories and life lessons. But we are all connected on some spiritual level, where empathy is playing its role.

To all those survivors out there, let the world know how you overcame the worst of your life and turned the tables on your circumstances.

Let the world know about your stories of resilience through Fuzia. 

We are here, We are listening!