We live in a land where no one's life is free of trauma. When I first came out of the bipolar closet, I was overwhelmed by the support I received. I woke up to messages of solidarity every day.
The response made me hopeful about our future as a country.
So many reached out to me; family members, who I'd least expect to be proud of me for what I did, called me to tell me that they were.
The world became a better place.
Many could truly empathise, not just sympathise. Yet, there were those who lashed out at me, mocked me, or suggested I get locked up. I became an easy target to deflect on, worthy only of mockery.
When I discovered that the writer of an anonymous blog who suggested that I be locked up was actually someone who outwardly supported mental health awareness, I was upset not by what people had to say about me, but about the hypocrisy and hate that flourished.
Also read: Being bipolar in Pakistan
The tweets calling me a lunatic or a psycho, speculating on everything I've ever said by connecting it to my disorder, stereotyping me, reducing me to a statistic, etc. were not as upsetting as the silence around them.
Ableism is no joke. It cripples those who are subjected to it. Being called crazy, psychotic, etc. leaves long term negative effects and certainly silences anyone who fears that label.
Many young people contact me and ask if they should tell others about their disorder. They always receive a firm no.
Not everyone is strong enough.
A handful supported me, tirelessly replying to my attackers about their misconceptions, sending me messages of love and support and I will always be grateful to them. Unfortunately, it seems that the vast majority are happy to condemn ableism in theory, but not in practice.
It's not enough to just say that making jokes about mental health isn't acceptable. It's important to not do the same if you wish to be an ally.
Living in Pakistan, I wouldn't have written about my mental health issues had I not been ready for the hate that I knew was inevitably coming my way. It was very easy to dismiss it when it came from strangers. But, perhaps I wasn’t ready for the pain of it coming from the ones I love.
Over the years, I've had to cut out family members who have used my disability as an excuse to demean, mock or silence me.
One family member is heavily addicted to multiple substances and uses me to deflect from her own issues. Another didn't like my feminist perspective and that alone was reason to declare me "mad".
I have not just been verbally and psychologically bullied, I am often seen as a liability if I apply for a job for example, or a scholarship. It feels cruel to be labelled a statistic but I've also been very lucky in finding people to work with who don't stereotype, who aren’t ableists and who don't see me as my disability.
Also read: World Mental Health Day: No ray of hope
The vast majority who attack people brave enough to publicly speak about mental health issues are simply deflecting because they don't want to deal with their own mental health issues. They deeply resent me for not letting my disorder define me.
Hence, I have come to realise that my mockers too, are wounded. Stuck in a rut, they are unable to move past their own pain. How can I feel anything but sympathy for them? I know them intimately. I was one of them.
I have an excellent support system, a very large and loving family who will always be there when I need them, fantastic doctors and therapists, as well as the resources to be able to obtain any help or medication I need. I also have a most precious gift, one that so-called "normal" people often lack: rationality. No one can take that away from me.
To my bullies and haters, to the intolerant, to the bigots:
I have nothing but pity for you because I know history won't be kind to you. How can I then possibly hold a grudge against ignorance?
In trying to constantly break me, you have unknowingly given me a precious gift and I thank you for it. You have shown me who my true friends are.
I forgive you and I sincerely hope you can heal like I have, free from all your demons.