…That Takes Courage

by Gurpreet Sihat

Autumn didn’t just bring change, it also brought an influx of returning television dramas. So many, in fact, that I had to put watching the second season of Thirteen Reasons Why on hold. But finally, earlier this week, I was able to catch up with it.

For those of you who don’t know, the show revolves around the story of Hannah Baker, who leaves thirteen tapes explaining the reasons behind her suicide. During the second season, one of Hannah’s friends, Jessica, is talking to Hannah’s mother, Olivia. Jessica comments about how brave Hannah was while she was alive. Brave for shutting away her feelings, her problems, and ‘protecting herself’ by doing so.

There hasn’t been much in this show that has stayed with me, but Olivia’s reply did:

“Keeping it in… that’s not brave. Feeling the pain, facing it… that takes courage. It’s okay to let it out.”

For years, I refused to tell people what I was really thinking. Really feeling. I hid it away. Hid myself away. I numbed myself out to the emotion. Pretended like I was okay no matter what happened. I thought I had it under control.

I didn’t.

My flight or fight mode fell out of whack. If I wasn’t curled up in a ball in bed or hiding beneath my desk, I was screaming and shouting hysterically at people that did something small to trigger me. It took a long time for my mum and sister to get through to me. To convince me to help myself.

This past year and a half, I’ve started opening up. It’s a slow, ongoing process. First, I opened up to my mum and sister. Then the rest of the Sihat Pride (as in pride of lions, not as in proud, by the way). Then to a very a small circle of friends whom I trusted enough with the truth. How much and which pieces of my truth I share really depends on the person or the situation, but I’ve created a strong safety network for myself. I’ve shared enough of myself with enough people that I know I can reach out when I need a listening ear. Maybe not immediately, but eventually I tell someone what’s going through my head.

The point is that I’m now actively doing my best to deal with it. I let myself feel my feelings, even when they are scary or painful. I face them. I don’t let them bottle up anymore.

I hated the idea of talking about my issues publicly. I’m stereotypically British: we don’t air our dirty laundry for everyone else to see. But a number of people convinced me that it wouldn’t just be good for me, it might be good for others too. So I started writing about it. I published articles with Fearless Femme. I started writing about it in my blogposts. And then the comments started coming in:

“You’ve inspired me.”

“It’s nice to know someone out there’s going through it too.”

“I’m starting my recovery thanks to your words.”

So as I watched this show that I’d been contemplating giving up on, as I heard Olivia’s comment – “Feeling the pain, facing it… that takes courage.” – all of those words of encouragement, of gratitude, of love came flooding back to me. Me, a girl who struggled with suicidal thoughts not so long ago, is helping others by talking about her problems. And these days, through remaining open about my feelings and following an emotional self-care routine, I’m marking my moods chart with sevens and eights and even nines.

My intention here is not to brag. My intention is to push you out of your comfort zone, like I came out of mine, and make that first courageous step.

I want you to feel the pain.

To face the pain.

To let it out.

It may not feel like it’s helping immediately, but it will eventually. And someone, somewhere, is going through exactly what you’re going through and your words could help them.

You are meant to be right where you are now. You are meant to walk the path you are on. You are meant to be you. And if you weren’t here, nothing would be as it should be. But if my words aren’t enough to convince you of it, Christmas is coming, and I recommend you watch It’s A Wonderful Life

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