“Since I was a kid, I didn’t share much about myself with others or complained if I was unhappy in a situation. I didn’t have a steady group of friends until I moved to Mumbai and even that took a few years. I wasn’t used to opening up to people or letting my guard down. I didn’t want to ruffle any feathers or upset anyone. Because of this habit people perceived me as an easy going girl who accepts everything. ⠀ Not only did I see it as praise, but it also translated into me never saying no to anybody. I had friends and met new people but every time I would open up, it seemed like people would runaway or withdraw. When I finally confronted them about it, a lot of them said that I talked about my problems too much. This affected me a lot and led to me closing up again. I didn’t want to burden anyone or force them to listen to me. I always knew I wanted to go to abroad for college and so I applied to the US. I was happy for a chance to be myself without any preconceived notions. To get away from a society that told me my love for sports was too boyish and that my skin was too dark to be beautiful. I was once told I was ugly no one would even want to rape me. ⠀ Moving to the U.S and joining a sorority gave me an opportunity to socialise and make new friends, which was great. It took time but I found a group of friends and had a pretty big social circle. Yet my sense of self was rooted in the idea that I needed a boy to recognise my worth. I would see boys hitting on girls, asking them out on dates, and I would think "Why not me? Why isn’t anyone asking me out?
Fast forward to when I was 20 and met a grad student through work/mutual friends. On the last day of our event, he threw a party and I went. A lot of my friends were and it was just your regular college party. We got to the party and I had only 2 drinks (1 beer and 1 mixed drink that was handed to me), after which everything starts to become blurry. I remember being excited that he was talking to me and flirting with me. For the first time my interest in a boy was reciprocated. I had thought he was cute from the beginning and he had a French accent that was dreamy to a 20-year-old who had only ever had one kiss before. I only remember flashes of what happened after. I remember talking to him, making out and then being in his room. Suddenly realising where I was and feeling uncomfortable because he was forcing himself into me from behind. I just wanted it to be over. Afterwards I remember putting on my clothes, cleaning up in the bathroom and leaving. Walking back home I remember calling my friend, she had just left the party and walked back so we could walk together.
When I moved back to Bombay, the dynamics with people had naturally changed. It was difficult to settle down. I was scared to go out alone at night. There were a few incidents where I faced eve teasing and situations which made me uncomfortable. My anxiety went through the roof. Besides, I didn't know who to talk to because I hadn’t really told anyone what had happened in college. A lot of times my anxiety came out as frustration and anger which was not easy for my friends or family to deal with. It came to the point where even a casual conversation would come out as me being fussy or grumpy. I withdrew even more and started feeling isolated. I wanted to talk to people, I wanted to share what was on my mind, but even I didn’t actually know what I was thinking. That's when I started seeing a therapist. Through the sessions I started to realise that things from far back in my childhood were affecting me even today. It was overwhelming. It put me in such a headspace that I would confront everyone about the smallest of things. I would think that I was being left out, that people were going out of their way to avoid me. Luckily this time, I have a great therapist. I slowly started seeing reason. I found a new job that kept me occupied. I started journaling again. Venting out pent up emotions made me feel better and put my thoughts in order. Now I can rationally talk myself into avoiding anxiety attacks for the most part. I have a consistent meditation practice which helps me regulate my emotions. My approach to guys has also drastically changed. I am very clear about what I want. Instead of finding happiness in other people, I am learning to love myself and find happiness within me instead. Of course, I am not perfect and there are days I slip into old habits/ or lose my cool, but in the end we’re all just works in progress. ⠀ Now I understand that if I don't love myself nobody else would. I definitely love myself more now and it grows every day.”