A little while back, I found myself asking some existential questions that provoked self-thought, something I had forgotten about. The judgemental prick that I am was left in a slight panic trying to answer whether I will always be what I have been, or have I changed with time? Which begged more questions, like, if change is the only constant in life, by changing myself am I only just keeping up with life?
In January 2016, when my father was diagnosed with cancer, I found myself lost. Not an easy thing for me to accept as I have always seen myself as in control and focussed. His lengthy hospital stays and extended rest periods meant his (very hands on catering) business was left without anyone at the helm. At the same time, the company I was working with was at a critical market penetration stage, requiring a lot of my time, being on top of things. I adapted and went to work in the mornings and ran his business at night – everything else, including time for myself was a distraction. And I did not entertain such distractions.
After almost a year of 18hr work days, I realised that I too had cancer. A cancer that was gnawing at every fibre of my being and slowly destroying every ounce of my confidence, a cancer that was pulling at the strings of my very core and consuming me in the process. It started with simple existential questions but eventually that very cancer had me questioning myself. I started questioning what I had learnt, I started questioning god, I questioned what I’d been told by my parents, my teachers, religious leaders, everyone. Nothing resonated within me; there was no answer and definitely no happiness. I was unhinged and rudderless, yet at the same time I could not find anyone to speak with. My image was so important to me that despite crumbling inside, I put on a facade of strength and resilience, a mask of serenity and calmness, and I did not talk to anyone about anything. Not even my wife.
Shortly, I found myself down a route I had no memory taking, moulding my results to mirror my expectations. I did not look to family members or friends for support, because I assumed they would not understand me. Yet at the same time I wanted them to accept what I am going through as a reason for my non-involvement in their lives. My favourite hobbies no longer excited me and I spent every pocket of free time, catching up on sleep. I eventually lost touch with myself, making every day a cycle of self-doubt followed by a steep learning curve followed by self -doubt followed by a steep learning curve, endlessly trying to do more to overcome more.
Then I hit the wall.
As a champion of outward smiles and inward screams, I found it easy to hide this, but it started showing. By lashing out at loved ones for no reason, cutting people off to avoid being let down by them, skipping meals and being so mentally exhausted that simple conversations felt taxing.
I had become a monster.
I could not look to others to heal what was broken in me so I tried to look inward and found myself feeling sympathy instead of empathy for myself. I needed help but did not know how to ask for it – I did not know what I wanted help from. Slowly, it dawned on me that the same feeble voice that was gasping for help was the same loud voice that used to judge me, controlled my desires and told me all the things I could not be or do. That voice asking for help was the same one that had pushed me deep down that well I needed saving from. I finally learned that I cannot be controlled by the voice, that I cannot be put down by the voice and most importantly, I cannot be weak because of the voice.
The voice and I still have lengthy conversations but nowadays we have a lot of respect for each other. We no longer tell each other what to do, instead we plan out what ‘we’ need to do. With varying perspectives and a lot of help from a few very endearing people in my life, I came to see that the only change I needed to make in my life was my perspective.
I no longer want a new me, I just want the old me but with a shitload of respect for me. Do you want a new you or are you happy with you?