Feature Friday: Work in progress – Sujena Begum

I think a lot of people want to talk about talking about mental health, but not many are willing to actually talk about it. I deeply appreciate the people who do share, because it makes it easier for others like me to share as well. I didn’t want to just speak on normalizing this topic, because I think it’s important to talk about our own struggles and experiences with it.

I think everyone at some point in their lives feels some form of anxiety, whether it’s before an exam in school, a meeting at work, or even just a difficult conversation with a friend or family member. It is normal. We’re all human and it’s the most human thing to deal with these struggles. So… I wanted to share my experience. 

I’m not sure exactly when it started. Each time my dad went through one of his many trips to the hospital, my heart felt a little heavier. Over two years ago, I watched the strongest man in my life struggle to walk or even stand. My dad needed to have his fourth surgery. Between work, school, and my personal life; I was emotionally, mentally, and physically drained.

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The more I tried to bury everything, the more things started piling up and breaking through. I started having panic attacks and mental breakdowns. I’d be crying on the bathroom floor or in my car, and then walk out like nothing happened. As the months went on, I began to close myself off from my family and friends almost completely.

People think depression is just feeling sad, but for me it was the inability to feel anything at all. At first you like the emptiness because it’s better than feeling pain or sadness, but then you’re fighting to just feel anything at all.

Something I want to point out is that a lot of people have the impression you feel depressed because you think your life is crap. That’s not the case at all. I knew that I was blessed with a good life. I felt guilty because I felt like I had nothing to feel depressed about; I have a great life, a great family and great friends, and there are people less fortunate than I am— I shouldn’t feel this way. But depression and anxiety don’t discriminate, they can happen to anyone. 

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I knew I had to open up to someone and talk about it. Everything that I tried to keep locked away, I had to put out in the open. This was hard for me because I knew things like this could be easily misunderstood. Even those closest to you might have a hard time understanding. I didn’t want to hear things like, “there are people who have it worse,” or “you’re just overreacting.” People mean well, but it’s hard to find the right things to say at times like this. I didn’t need someone to say the right things; I just needed someone to listen.

Finally, I decided to tell two of my closest friends what I was going through. I want to say that there’s no magic overnight cure for feeling better, but talking about it helped. I woke up everyday fighting to want to feel better and slowly but surely, each day felt a tiny bit better than the last.

I’m doing better now, and continuously trying to keep that progress going because once that struggle is in you, I don’t think it ever truly leaves. You have good days and bad days. Alhamdulillah, it’s been mostly good days for a while now, even though there were plenty of bad days to.

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I’ve only really opened up to three people about this struggle. It’s hard for me to open up to people, especially about personal things. My grandfather passed away almost a year ago and I didn’t tell any of my friends. I used to think handling things on my own made me strong, but now I realize that it’s one of my biggest weaknesses. I’m working on letting things out, and not letting them build up until I can’t handle it anymore. My grandmother also passed away a few months ago, and this time I didn’t close myself off. I told three of my closest friends even though I didn’t want to talk about it. Like I said, I’m still working on it. It’s okay to not always have it together. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to be a work in progress. – Sujena Begum

Sujena Begum moved to Detroit from Bangladesh when she was three years old, and has been in Detroit ever since. She is a business student at Wayne State University with a concentration in Marketing. She will be graduating this May. Follow Sujena @sujenaaa where she shares her sense of fashion and style, a combination of girliness and tomboyness (a result of growing up with four brothers), and her love of makeup.

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2018, I'm ready for you

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If you are interested in writing a Feature Friday post, don’t hesitate to email zuni@thephdream.com or just fill out this form!

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Hi, I'm the founder of The PhDream. I'm a second year doctoral student who wasn't satisfied with just sitting behind a desk and writing papers. While my research may have an indirect impact, I wanted to engage more directly with the community and provide a platform to discuss neglected and sensitive issues. Along with that, I try to stay sane in my program by stress baking, glamming up even when I'm down, and sharing my dad-joke captions on the gram -- if only that creativity could translate into my research... Anyways, I'm always looking for contributors, collaborations, and people to eat my zelicious creations, so don't hesitate to reach out or follow me @ZuniJilani :)

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