You were never a burden
- 14 Posts
- Age 16
When this past October 10th rolled around, Mental Health Awareness day had my social media feeds flooding with posts, tweets, quotes. Inspirational, satirical, and everything in between. Poking fun at a society that stigmatizes it's own people improving their mental health, and moving people to stand against the status quo and eliminate those constraints. I'm not going to lie - it got repetitive. Over and over again, the same message in different words. Every repost, retweet, monotonous repetition, as if the meaning was leeched out of the words every time I looked them over. Slowly I felt myself falling into that dangerous cycle of indifference - where I was reading but not understanding. Seeing but not feeling. The social media rut that leaves so many of us numb to the world's actual problems - the result of shoving millions of people's suffering into 280 characters or less. So I scrolled, liked, and grinned on the occasion I was met with a new story, quote, etc.
And then I saw it.
You are not a burden for having one.
And instantaneously, every ounce of feeling, of being, of consciousness came rushing back like a speeding freight train. And after a month of numbness, of endless sobbing, of sweeping aside every emotion in search of limbo, I let the truckload of feeling hit me with full force. Bittersweet, tearjerking, heart stopping strength. The kind of power that sends you soaring back in time. Me, back in time.
"Why didn't you say anything earlier?"
You were worried with Petal’s college, she said.
You were trying to adjust Komal into high school, she said.
I didn’t want to be a burden, she said.
My grandmother told us of her symptoms a year after they first appeared. Immediately, we ran the tests, searched for a doctor, procured miracle medicines. We did everything in our power. By that point, everything wasn't enough.
My grandmother died on September 18th, 2018, barely a year after her breast cancer diagnosis. It ravaged her body, metastasizing in the blink of an eye. Stage 4 before we even had a chance to fight.
In the past month I've tried over and over again to put the feeling into words. Of knowing she's gone, tangible only in fuzzy photographs and impossibly clear memories. That there will be no more tending to our rooftop garden. No more evening samosas while laughing along to the stupid soap operas that she loved so much. No endless hugs filled with all the warmth and love I can possibly hold, not from her. No more sinking into the folds of her ancient pink salwar kameez for endless hugs, no more solace in the blue and green flowers dotted across her chest and arms. No more bittersweet kisses to my temple, no tearful "I love you's" as we bade farewell until next summer. I never thought, not for a second, that that final farewell could actually be the last one we ever shared. All that thought, the what ifs and last times led me to recount the last two years of her life, wondering where we went wrong.
My grandma experienced her first symptoms a year before she was diagnosed. Swelling, discomfort, the telltale lump that could signify only a tumor. She wasn't well and she knew it. The lump grew. Pained. Scarred. She only knew her external strifes. Little did she know, the growth had already ripped through her breast, scratched at her bones, and just kissed the bottom of her lung. All before we could do so much as a single test. It stole away her comfort, her peace, and eventually, her once booming voice. A cold hearted reminder - you should’ve used it while you could. She waited so long, too long. She endured too much.
And through it all, she didn't say a word.
She suffered, and the idea of her enduring so much pain, so much anguish in the face of this disease breaks my heart. Knowing that she did it in silence smashes its remnants to dust. That she really believed that her illness made her a liability. That her ensuring her good health was a chore to us.
My grandmother wasn't a burden. She had a burden, one she forced herself to carry because she was worried about bothering us. And it killed her.
It took a couple minutes of scrolling through social media and hours of thought for me to put two and two together. From physical illness to mental illness, ailing to seemingly 'healthy,' we all have struggles. In, my eyes, a majority of that inner strife comes from a ridiculous presumption that we should keep our pain to ourselves. Be it to keep up some sort of 'image,' or to not want to be a bother to those around us, we all feel it. To create a stir, disrupt a routine, instigate change we perceive as unwanted. But here's the thing.
Your loved ones are present in your life for the very reason that they love you. That love entails being there for each other through all the ups and downs of life and death. There always been an arm to pick you up, or a shoulder for you to cry on. Love means that no matter where you are or what state you're in, there's someone out there waiting with open arms, a box of tissues, and a movie marathon. You are everything to someone, and that someone is going to be willing to do anything to make sure you're alright.
I know what it feels like. That soul crushing sensation when it seems as if there's no one out there to listen, no one who cares. But I promise, I promise, if you open your eyes and your heart, you'll see that you are surrounded by people who love and care for you, family and friends who are willing to go to hell and back to get you better.
Small or large, your struggles are struggles. Your strife is strife. It exists, it is real, and belittling it to the point where you convince yourself that it's not worth getting help for is the first step down a dark road of anger and sadness. You are not, never have been, and never will be a burden. You are worthy of love. You are worthy of care. You are worthy of help. Never let yourself believe otherwise. For your sake, and for the sake of those around you.
My grandma was never a burden. We loved her, and we would have stood by her through every chemo, every injection, every medication. She was an amazing person, deserving of all the love and care one could give. So are you - never forget that.