Downs and downs

I’ve been in a complete writing slump.

With both my magazine column and my story, I’ve only been drawing blanks.

The words won’t flow, and I’m starting to think that I could be the least creative person on this planet. And to make matters worse, I’ve been unable to even look at my own writing, trashing ideas, notes, and my self-confidence every time I open a draft.

As for my column, I decided to go with a more scientific topic, which will give me less space to be cringy. Did you know that 2021-2030 has been named the Ocean Science decade by the UN? The little nerd inside me is ecstatic.

But my story, well. I hate it. Not the concept of it (it’s a piece of sea fiction with a strong female lead. Wait, I just noticed the ocean theme overlap), but where I’m going with my plot (spoiler: nowhere)

And yes, the setting is difficult to write and needs an awful lot of research (and the consumption of even more nautical fiction, yay!) but friends, what even is storytelling? The number of dead-ends and their discouragement companions that I’ve met over the past several months is sad.

I tried storytelling guides and plot-building tools, but I’m still struggling. And sometimes, it’s better to receive a direct point of view. I know that writers face this, and the more experienced ones have overcome plenty of times.

So, let me know how you break your way out of a writing block that feels like it isn’t planning on leaving anytime soon. Please?

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Cars at 6 a.m.

It’s been a month since my last post. Wow, I would forget how to write at this rate.

On Monday the 4th, I started my new job. It’s embarrassing, but I was so nervous that I woke up before 4 a.m.

Once I left home, I became certain that there’s something magical about the air at 6 in the morning. I’d missed it, that strange feeling of new breath, and I hadn’t realized it until I met it again. There also is that serenity around the languid pace of cars passing by, preparing for a hectic day ahead. A whole life had been my room’s window away from me, a life that I had to take a lovely break from, but one which I truly missed.

As a person who feels at ease with schedules and routines, I appreciate having to wake up early and going to work. It is far too soon to determine what I feel about this particular job, but I’ve yet to have that dreadful realization of making a wrong decision. People who know me asked, and my description of the job received, “It suits you.” I sure hope it does.

I often use the phrase “bottom of the food chain,” to describe someone who is completely new to a situation, and yes, I do extend the analogy. The marine food chain, to be specific. In my new workplace, sharks and whales are incredibly kind, and everyone around me is so knowledgeable. Instead of discouragement, I feel like there’s so much room to grow.  I am intimidated but looking forward to upgrading to a secondary consumer. إن شاء الله God Willing.

On other news, I got accepted as a columnist in Sail E-magazine! My first article will be published in the October issue, as far as I know. To keep up with that role, I remade my reading/writing twitter and hopefully, will not abandon it anymore. I’ll look forward to seeing you over there :).  

 

The world is ending, but I can save my family if I wash my hands another time 

I have been a sufferer of obsessive-compulsive disorder for years. So far, the internet has done a  fairly good job explaining that OCD is a serious mental disorder, not a set of organized pencils nor a neat closet, so let us not get into that. In basic terms, a person with OCD suffers from reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) that lead to behaviors (compulsions) that are done and repeated in order to remove the obsessions or reduce their intensity. Both can take numerous terms, but this is my story.
It started at the beginning of 2011, during a rough time for my family. A wash or two of hands, obsessively setting things in place before doing anything that requires dedication and focus, and repeating every other thing a few times over didn’t sound like a massive problem. The fact that the other side of my family is subtly paranoid about seemingly meaningless things made it all somehow alright, expected, that a bit of me will be off, not quite right, but only insignificantly so.

Let me first mention that I am Muslim, and Islam is a religion that values cleanliness. Before performing prayer, a simple act of washing is to be performed. But what if that simple task became never-ending hysteria of water wasting? It is completely against Islamic virtue to waste, be it water or not. I’ve always been aware of that, but back then it did not seem like an obsession that I was doubting that water had reached every nanometer of my hands. It was only me noticing things, maybe a little to intricately. It is all right to be a bit wasteful, I thought. I deserved the punishment of being wasteful since I had noticed things no one else did.

A few months later, being physically restrained from sinks became a necessity. Long had passed before I made anything clear by asking for help. During that period, the disorder advanced into a complex series of washing and washing again, counting, avoiding spots on the ground that I stepped on unwashed, fighting the urge to wash once more and then submitting to it.  I was aware that it was irrational but still was ignorant, then, to the nature of the problem: that it is an illness.

But I still remember the exact moment that forced me to ask for help. The triggers, which are too dreadful that I am still unable to mention them, had started a few days before. One massive trigger, however, took me to my knees after having pretended for so long to be fine.

“I am tired.”

And I truly was, from something as simple as a two-minute act of ablution to take an hour five times a day, from never feeling stable, from spending hours upon hours putting things in place.

But my acting through the prior months was convincing, apparently, because the person who helped me had not even suspected that whatever was happening was happening.

During psychotherapy, it became clearer that I wasn’t cursed with a superhuman ability to notice. To me, it was liberating to know that something I’d struggled against while dismissing was a disorder; something that could be diagnosed and treated, something that happens to others as well.

Reading about the symptoms shocked me. I learned that the obsessions, excruciatingly violent and “taboo” thoughts had accompanied me (on-and-off) since I was young, perhaps six or seven years old, an entire ten years before the compulsions appeared. That the thoughts could not have been my responsibility, and that other people too frantically count on their cracking fingers to ignore the threats of their brains of divine punishment, paved the way to recovery. As for the religious aspect, I just kept in mind that religion is not meant to make life difficult and that divine punishment will not befall people for merely stepping on a particular, unclean tile.

Finally, the disorder still looms and lingers. I am now aware that my brain is playing tricks, as I occasionally was then. But now, I can defy all of my compulsions.

On a good day.

Another little update

This blog’s now two months old, so another thank you to the 300+ followers and every visitor/commenter/liker!

As for my writing Twitter, it has thoroughly been ditched. I may save it if it means interacting with other WordPress writers since WordPress doesn’t really support direct contact so much. If you want to talk/ be friends etc let me know either here or there.

I’ve been keeping a Ramadan Ramblings Journal to keep me writing, and that has been well maintained. I may publish a few pieces some other time.

On another note, Ramadan’s almost over. It is quite sad, really, but I hope I make as much as I can out of the last days. So if you’re a Muslim, let’s keep it up until the end 😀 If not,  enjoy breakfast on our behalf for another few days.

Conviction

“You don’t really love your God as much as you say you do.”

I am unaware of the faith practiced by the doctor who said this peculiar, borderline-offensive phrase. Him being Indian, however, may have convinced me of the spirituality of the matter (forgive my occasional belief of this stereotype). It is important to mention that said doctor was not a psychiatrist, but what brought about this sentence was his knowledge of internal medicine.

He’d said that to a relative of mine who had stomach problems, and it somehow might have been the exact thing I wanted to hear.

Because I have a number of such issues myself, I had visited numerous professionals. It was diagnosed over and over again as stress, anxiety, or overthinking. “Try to calm down,” they would say, or, “you’re too young to be this stressed.” Futile, really, because it is almost impossible to be relieved with a few words.

But what this particular doctor did was force an immediate link to spirituality.

His objective was to emphasize the relation between health and faith. No matter what religion is yours, it is human nature to want something to hold on to, to believe in. All the anxiety I have been going through is related, in one way or another, to the future. What ifs and whens are destructive, and being someone of a religion that is not passive, but one that encourages you to try your best and leave it all up to the Almighty, I should be able to overcome such fears. Faith is crucial, but so is the effort.

I had promised that this wouldn’t be another automatic list of things to do when anxiety pulls you down. But always bear in mind, Dear Reader, previous stressful times; you’ve pulled through then and hence are stronger now. It has always been, to me, a comforting thought how today’s struggles will not mean much a year from now. Sometimes matters cannot be helped, and in such cases, acceptance is key.

I hope I do not come across as a preacher because I am not. I am only human. Despite the ease of pen to paper, the application is difficult.

Relieving your fear of the future, letting go of your feelings of inadequacy, and turning away the thoughts of people’s eyes will never be easy to those who have them so deeply embedded.

But just think of the size of Earth, Dear Reader.

Breathe. Take your pills if you need them and keep in mind the following verse of the Quran, the Holy Book of Islam, that I am sure will bring solace to you no matter your faith or beliefs:

 

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click for source

 

Illumine

 

There’s something incredibly happy about being someone to you.

It is not a priority to be a priority to someone to remain in their life. I’ve always believed so. You will definitely mean more to some than to others, but to be content is to know your worth.

I think that that, I have finally achieved.

What had snapped me back to reality was the realization that I do not mean to someone I hold so dear as much as they mean to me. And it really isn’t as bad as I thought.

I had spent long avoiding the fact, too proud to admit even to myself that I wanted to matter. But it suddenly became all right. I would like to matter, yes, but I only have to matter to the person I’m sure to stick by for my entire life: my own self.

The confrontation eased the loneliness. Took it away, even. I am, very contentedly, no longer willing to put effort into gauging my intangible worth to others. It is not an equation to be balanced, after all.

A change of heart is still certainly sad. But it is a part of growth, a part of life.