We interviewed Jasmira Bhabra, about what happened after her dad went through difficult illnesses that led to life-changing operations and outcome for him, that affected the whole family in 2011. She decided to put her life on pause after her final exams and took sole responsibility for taking care and looking after her dad, and take pressure off of her mum and family.
Unfortunately for Jas, this meant cutting herself off from everyone. She ended up getting sick with glandular fever and pushing the stress down which only made things worse.
In 2014, Jas’ dad had to have above-the-knee amputation on his right leg and had kidney failure at the same time, which caused him to spend an extended period in the hospital. After his discharge, Jas continued helping him recover, She wasn’t in a job that she wanted, and she was worrying about her own future as well as constantly worrying about how her dad was doing. At the end of 2014, the stress became too much, and this caused Jas’ eyebrows to fall out due to alopecia. As you can imagine, the stress, loss of self esteem and anxiety made Jas want to shut herself away from everyone.
In 2015, Jas was attacked, this was a haunting experience that encouraged her to take control and make some positive changes to her life. She decide it was time to get herself out of a bad rut and set goals for herself.
Read more for Jas’ 6 cathartic ways of dealing with stress and prolonged compartmentalisation:
What’s In Your Head? *cue song by The Cranberries*
My Dad had been ill throughout my life, even just before I was born. We’ve made numerous trips in and out of hospitals and know many of the paramedics around our area – they’re practically close friends. I didn’t quite understand grief or loss because we basically had everything and family were always around. It basically became an unhealthy norm in family life. Sometimes we’d be laughing about everything because it’d be a way to relieve the stress of the situation.
The stress and worry of home kind of came to halt when I started University – I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life as I thought I’d just start working after school, and just feel into my degree. I just ended up not caring what people thought about me and what I was doing. I ended up making loads of friends, became really popular and found I had so much going for me! This had never happened to me before and I felt really happy about myself for the first time in my life. But nothing lasts forever. Again, my Dad had a new illness to add to his medical portfolio and got really ill just before Summer; it just got worse throughout the season. When everything got too much during difficult times, my main defence mechanism was compartmentalisation. Sometimes we can compartmentalise the stress and anxiety of a situation and autopilot takes over to make you think logically and rationally to tackle issues head-on (a bit like The Chimp Paradox – I never really finished that book but it’s good even halfway through). It’s a good short-term solution when dealing with stresses but it’s also just as bad for you. You can end up bottling up and internalising those feelings and then they come out in destructive ways.
When he was going through his major traumas and illnesses, I would push aside the stress, anxiety and swallow all the sadness down to focus on helping him and supporting my family. I carried on doing dead-end jobs to be flexible for him and to accommodate everyone else’s needs and schedules. I stopped going out. I stopped talking to my friends. I gave up sports clubs. I just gave up everything else. But after sacrificing all my friendships, relationships, plans and dreams; I didn’t realise how low I had sunken into sadness and depression. I isolated myself and felt so alone because I had no one to talk to about everything and took responsibility that started to take its toll on my overall health. So it continued to bottle up inside me.
My self-esteem (although not exactly like Miss Universe) was at an all time low and I felt worthless. The only thing I thought I was good at was helping out my family, and I would ignore everything and just carry on with life as normal and just existing and dreaming that things would just magically get better. Because I didn’t want to talk about anything it just festered inside, like shaking a can of pop and then eventually someone pulls that pin and it fizzes out over everything.
Eventually, everything caught up with me. The straw that broke the camel’s back was when I was attacked and it brought back past childhood trauma and stress. The can of pop had been opened. All the anxiety, all the internalised stress burst out. I ended up making myself sick with depression and anxiety, couldn’t eat anything and could hardly move out of bed. It also ultimately accumulated to losing my eyebrows. It may not sound like a big deal, but it made me feel even worse than before everything else. My self-esteem was never the high, so losing them made me feel ugly and undesirable. But on the positive side, I didn’t lose my the hair on my head or eyelashes!
How I dealt with it:
Time heals all wounds. But it’s up to you to choose how much time you give yourself to heal. Sometimes it takes longer to heal, sometimes it’s shorter – it depends on you. So eventually, after feeling like I’ve spent enough time at what was rock bottom for me, I got sick of throwing myself a pity party and feeling like I’m stuck. Ultimately, I decided:
- Put myself first: I could’t stay in such a negative state as it wasn’t only affecting me, but everyone around me. I know I had to change something. I had to change my mindset and stop isolating myself. Isolating yourself and not talking about what’s affecting you can leave you in a very lonely place and is super-destructive.
- YouTube made me feel better (I was Netflixed out at this point). Not only did I find Anna Akana, who talked about her mental health experiences, but TED Talks were also great! They put everything into perspective so you understand what you’re going through, and that you’re not the only one who’s gone through s***
- Going to the gym again and lifting heavy weights is a great stress relief and, in a way, makes me feel like I’m getting stronger and alleviating stress and anxiety, like nothing can hurt me. I also started Boxing. It’s a great stress-relief and feels like fighting back at everything that had gone wrong before and that I could fight my way out of it.
- Getting some headspace: Taking just a few minutes a day in a quiet area to gather my thoughts and not let them run wild in my mind so I don’t take them everywhere I go.
- Writing & Cathartic outlets: Writing down everything I wanted to accomplish. New goals, dreams, new skills I wanted to learn, aspirations. Just writing everything out helped take off the mental load. Eventually I would find that writing was a great creative outlet. I ended up writing stories and little scripted comedy sketches about “All the Eyebrows of the Rainbow”, “When Eyebrows Escape” and “When you’re in the middle of contour Beaut-Tube tutorial and the doorbell rings”, even sketches of the crappy jobs I had (I only kept one filmed sketch and deleted the rest – 🙁 sad times).
- Looking up articles about anxiety, depression and even speaking to therapists about it, so I could become more aware and understand it better. I sometimes still get struck by panic attacks, but I know how to handle and manage them so they don’t happen as often.
You have to know that everything gets better, but it takes action to bring yourself out of that rut. Just having a plan and taking steps towards them can benefit you and all those around you. You end up having your own cheering section and end up bringing more amazing people into your life. Keeping good daily habits can make you mentally strong overtime and shift your way of thinking. Here’s a tip: find a quote to live by (a good constructive one) because it keeps you centred and keeps things in perspective. The one I love and live by is one I have one my wall and phone and tell myself everyday to know that everything’s got a balance and everything’s going to be ok:
Nothing is permanent in this world, not even our troubles.
Get in touch for more information on dealing with anxiety, stress and grief.
*Please not that compartmentalisation is not always a bad thing, it’s sometimes a useful and necessary thing.