Challenges – Part 1: A time before now

If I were asked to describe my 2018 using one word, that word would be “challenging”. There have been some unnecessary challenges along the way – some of them I could have done without – but for the first time in a long while, the connotation is not negative.

Not too long ago, I was diagnosed with a mild case of depression. Don’t worry, this is not going to be that kind of a post. But I feel that some background is needed to fully understand the part of my journey that I’m going to share over the next few posts.

I don’t think I will ever forget how I felt sitting in the waiting room before my first session. I had to talk myself out of leaving a few times before I went in and met my therapist. But I stayed, and what followed was an emotionally tumultuous four years. Every person’s journey through psycho-therapy is different – no two people have the same issues to work through, and no two people will work through their issues in the same way – BUT, one thing we all have to do is face some difficult truths about ourselves. One of my most difficult truths was that I shied away from anything that I deemed challenging.

People who know me know that I love sports. But something many people don’t know about me is that for a very long time, my deepest desire was to play a sport at a professional level. I had some pretty unrealistic dreams of being selected for our national cricket team (and the men’s team, not the women’s team). I was either going to be a professional athlete, or an athlete’s wife (I was convinced that if you put Shahid Afridi and David Beckham in the same room, they would throw down over me).

We all have to grow up. We learn to distinguish between realistic goals and pipe dreams, and we are able to identify what it takes to achieve goals, and to decide whether we are willing to work for them. However, I reached a point in my adulthood where I hid from any challenge. I hid from my own interests. I would find a million reasons to avoid trying new things, the biggest reason being fear of failure.
If I wasn’t sure of success, or if I knew that my family wouldn’t approve, I wasn’t doing it. If it wasn’t going to benefit anyone else except myself (because really, that’s just selfish) I wasn’t doing it.
Real life, misplaced guilt, lack of motivation and some seriously unhealthy coping mechanisms all contributed to eventually burying me under 97kg (213 pounds, for those who use imperial measurements). For a long time I didn’t like who looked back in the mirror.

Then some bad things happened, and I realised that I needed help to deal with it all. And while I was learning to identify and eliminate the causes of my depression, I was also learning to prioritise myself. Every journey starts with baby steps, and mine was no different – I focused on small, regular changes that would make me feel good (making a bigger effort wrt personal grooming, making time for a hobby, eating healthier, getting out of the house a bit more, being more polite, embracing the unique, albeit unfashionable things about mysef).

It was time for Mariam to wake up, to start liking herself again, and to start trying new things.

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