From a self-doubting kid to a self-caring adult
Story by Prachi Trehan
Have you ever felt like you don’t know yourself? Have you ever felt confused, lost and disconnected from the life you’re living? This is exactly what nearly 26 years of my life felt like. Looking back to my childhood days, I am flooded with a range of emotions, emotions I could only decipher and heal from when I turned 26.
Growing up, I excelled in academics as well as extracurricular. But my school days were clouded with unpleasant memories of bullying. I was bullied for being short and chubby and at home, our relatives mocked us for being a mere middle-class family.
I had no real friends back in school. I was lonely, distraught and every day seemed like a battle. While my parents strived hard to give us a good life, they had huge expectations from me. I felt like I was stuck in a downward spiral. I was fighting the bullies in school, all on my own, while pretending to be fine to the outside world. While my elder brother stood by me through it all, I indefinitely put myself through immense pressure to not disappoint my parents, but I succumbed.
I was diagnosed with depression at 16. It was my final year of school and I struggled to keep up, since I had always been a good student, there was immense pressure to do well. I felt that no one understood me, no one I could reach out to. My mental health took a toll on my grades and I felt guilty for letting my parents down. But my parents supported me and their encouragement helped me overcome this phase.
Later that year, when I joined college, I was determined to start afresh and make friends, but I felt just as misunderstood and lost here as I did in school. The ones around me made me feel like there was something “wrong” with me. I felt like I didn’t belong. It was here that I recognized my knack for writing and began penning down my thoughts. This calmed me down and gave me clarity.
After graduating I realized that engineering was not my calling and took a gap year after college. I tried my hand at government exams, but it didn't work out.
Now when I think about it, I feel that life was directing me elsewhere. I honed my writing skills and decided to pursue my Masters in Journalism. While my parents were very supportive of my decisions, they didn't think I'd make it big.
Until finally, my first letter-to-editor got published in a magazine! My father was elated and he encouraged me to keep writing and subsequently, more of my work was published.
It felt like I had finally found my purpose! The writing was my calling. But emotionally, I still felt stuck. It felt like I hadn't found my "true self" yet. I was 26 now, I had been in two bad relationships, one of which was emotionally abusive and had wrecked my self-confidence.
So when I landed a new job as a linguist in a new city, I was determined to discover myself. I began travelling and felt truly independent and free. But life had other plans. When my dad was diagnosed with cancer, I felt the constant guilt of not being at home with him. While he underwent treatment, it triggered a barrage of emotions in me. I lost my dad to cancer and all of a sudden, all the trauma, all the unpleasant memories hit me like a storm, and I realized that I needed to get help.
I left my job, began freelancing, and sought regular therapy. Therapy helped me address all my past trauma and understand myself better. It took me a long time to recognize my self-worth. People always told me that I was “too sensitive”. I reacted too strongly to things that were "normal" for others. I was always “too-much” for the people around me. Nobody tried to know the reasons behind my reactions and sensitivity. And this is how most of the Highly Sensitive People spend their lives during their childhood and early adulthood. 20 out of 100 people are Highly Sensitive and most of us don't even know about this characteristic. I acknowledged that I am a highly sensitive person and this was the reason why I noticed and felt things more deeply than others. I allowed myself to address and heal from all the past baggage that had been weighing me down.
I came face to face with my “true self”, accepted it, and moved forward in life.
Professionally, I've flourished as a writer, I have published two books so far and I am working on a third one. My journey hasn’t been easy, but I’ve finally taken charge. After all these years, I finally feel content and comfortable with my life and that feeling is priceless!