If you must…

My brother got married this December, and because I had lost a lot of weight (side effect of a medication I take), many people assumed I did so to “catch” a husband. This was my standard response: no, I don’t want to catch a husband. Just an STD. It’s easier to get rid of.

Yet despite giving out such a response, many persisted on asking me about marriage and men. Eventually I decided to dole out what is apparently considered an “impossible” list of things I would potentially want in a spouse. Women, as we know, are expected to settle and I’m simply being difficult for asking for this. So here I am putting this down mostly because I’m sick of repeating this over and over again to aunties who constantly keep asking me about marriage. I’m not closed to the idea, but I’m not that open to it either. I would never marry simply because it’s expected. Despite not being a fan of romance, I hold romantic notions of what I would want: unconditional love, trust and respect. Apparently it’s too much to ask for.

So if you must find me a man, find me one who is proud to call himself a feminist, one who understands that I may look like a female by gender, but don’t particularly perform the part.

Find me a man who believes I’m beautiful no matter what and not just when I’m dressed as a womanly woman. Find me a man who can accept that I won’t shave for weeks on end or thread for months. Find a man who, in other words, has no phobia of body hair.

Find me a man who doesn’t subscribe to gender essentialist roles, who doesn’t care about how well I can cook, and who can love a woman who doesn’t enjoy nurturing anything other than her cat.

Find me a man who doesn’t want biological children, one who would never ask me to endure pregnancy and childbirth simply because he wants to pass his genes on. Find me a man who could love any child, not just one who he shares DNA with. Find me a man who wishes to adopt girls.

Find me a man who enjoys argumentation, who can debate me for hours on end without resorting to petty remarks or silly attacks. Find me a man who would never, ever throw a gendered slur at me out of anger. It just shouldn’t exist in his consciousness.

Find me a man who is a firm believer in non violence and universal human rights AND is willing to defend them at all costs.

Find me a man with a sense of humour who can laugh at himself, but would never make sexist jokes in order to demean me or my entire gender.

Find me a man who can support my causes, especially Pakistan Feminist Watch. Too many men, upon discovering it, start becoming petty. “Oh but why must you be a feminist when it’s possible to be a humanist” is not an acceptable answer. At all.

Find me a man who is willing to call me back after reading my blog.

Find me a man who isn’t a manly man, one who doesn’t subscribe to the cult of masculinity, one isn’t afraid to cry or be judged as not being man enough.

Find me a man who doesn’t feel the need to protect me, doesn’t get insecure about my male friends and doesn’t believe he is my guardian or protector. Find me a man who can respect me as an individual and not just as a woman.

Find me a man who is sensitive to mental health issues, one who can be the partner of a bipolar woman who is also a survivor with PTSD. And please make sure this man never tries to reduce me to my disability and is well aware that I generally have brilliant mental capacity.

Find me a man who accepts that my weight and health constantly fluctuate due to medication. Find me a man who accepts that there are days I won’t need much sleep and days where I’ll need much more than usual. Find me a man who doesn’t think this is an issue at all.

Find me a man who is willing to let me live in my own room. Find me a man who can respect my private space and privacy. Find me a man who doesn’t believe partners necessarily have to be with each other 24/7 or share their friends’ secrets between themselves.

Find me a man who will always be there for me when I need him and leave me alone when I tell him I need space.

Find me a man who isn’t scared of signing up for intense psychotherapy and exploring the very depths of his soul.

Find me a man who reads philosophy daily, who I can discuss ethics with for days on end. Find me a man who isn’t afraid of Buddhism and Kant. Find me a man with an ethical code which he lives by, but isn’t set in stone for he should be open to re-evaluating his views often.

Find me a man who can satisfy me sexually when I need him to and walk away when I tell him I’m not interested. Find me a man who knows that marital rape is real and understands that coercing one’s spouse through verbal means is also unacceptable.

Find me a man who vociferously opposes all forms of violence against women, not just physical. Find me a man who understands that emotional abuse and bullying can easily occur in relationships due to power dynamic. Find me a man who doesn’t want power over any woman.

Find me a man who isn’t afraid to change his mind and yet isn’t afraid to defend his well thought views.

Find me a man who is a staunch secularist, yet not a militant in any of his views. Find me a man with any religion as long as he doesn’t believe he has a right to preach it to me or inflict it upon anyone else. Find me a man who believes there must be a complete separation between the mosque and the state.

Find me a man who supports democracy and adamantly opposes dictatorships. Find me a man who is left leaning like me. Capitalists will not do.

Find me a man whose family can accept me without trying to change or “mould” me. Find me a man who doesn’t expect me to be a good daughter in law.

Find me a man who can hold his drink and never does hard drugs. A bit of THC now and then, however, is perfectly acceptable.

Find me a man who has no issues with my work schedules and understands that writers cannot conform to a 9 to 5 life. Find me a man who will support my work and respect my writing. He doesn’t necessarily have to agree with me. If he can provide me valuable feedback and perspective, I would probably respect him more.

Find me a man, who, like me, would never ever want to identify as an elite. Find me a man who works hard and understands the value for money. Show me no man who owns land or has inherited a business. I cannot possibly respect such a man.

So if you go looking for a man, find me no man from a well off or “respectable” family. Respectable families do not exist. Respectable families are those who are wealthy enough to suppress their crimes, just like much of my own.

Find me someone who sees me as an equal and not a subordinate. Find me a man who cares not for wifely duties, but wants a partnership with no gendered terms involved. Find me someone who can value me, deeply, for who I am, for what I want to achieve… Find me a man who takes pride in having a dominant, intelligent wife.

So if you must find me a man, step outside your comfort zone, your tiny bubble and your ethnicity. I care not for looks, religion, race or anything but integrity. Many within a certain class claim such men don’t exist. They do. They just aren’t visible to you.

Reblogged by The Friday Times where the comments are hilarious.

Lock up the lazy bloggers?

A few months ago, our social conscience, the greatest most ethical journalists in the world, Cafe Pyala, blatantly lied about me and even after being informed they were incorrect, they didn’t correct their error. I didn’t want it removed at all because I want the world to see just how easily people lie about bipolar people (by assuming the worst in us) simply because we are bipolar. I want this to remain up there forever so that I can convince any manic bipolar person not to come out to the public. Many think writing an article like I did will be a wonderful idea. It’s not. Truth be told, I regret coming out because society isn’t ready. And even those who claim they are sensitive to my disability really aren’t and end up assuming all sorts of things about me based on stereotypes. For example, if I rant or make an angry statement, people end up assuming I’m manic or having some severe rage. I can no longer just be annoyed or amused. Everyone will assume an extreme.

But back to Pyala who can’t even spell my name correctly (it’s Shaikh with an A). Seems rather lazy not to check how I spell it but anyway… Pyala claims I invaded a journalist’s privacy when I did no such thing. The journalist in question had all these details up on line. But in order to mock a bipolar woman, I guess it’s ok to define reading something that’s publicly available to all as “invasion of privacy”. Secondly, no summer plans could possibly get ruined because the profile is very old. Unless Pyala thinks I have a time machine, I cannot possibly ruin someone’s plans that have already occurred.

But that’s not my point. My main point here is that any of us can selectively use tweets to defame anyone. And here are some of Pyala’s tweets to analyze:

Cretin, a word so loaded, so abusive is easily used by Pyala. It mocks the weak, the infirm.

Apparently the very intellectual team is unaware that words like lunatic aren’t ok to use. They are actually unaware that words like lunatic are extremely demeaning to those of us with mental health issues. Yeah, I buy that.

Pyala’s tweets aren’t free of misogyny either.

Ah yes, if a woman’s a presenter, then her appearance is fair game. And if her haircut is bad, it’s because her husband cut it at home because men can’t cut hair and women MUST look good.

I have many more but I’m saving them for a workshop. Moving on to ad hominems:

Maybe because they’re in good company?

And here’s Mr XYZ making a personal attack on another author on facebook. Don’t worry, I’ve protected his identity. I know who the team members are and unlike most Pakistanis, the last thing I want is to get back at them by telling the world who they are (most people already know anyway). Logical deconstruction and the fallacies they constantly provide me are the best revenge.

The Pyala team, just like the rest of us, loves to preach but not act. I’m getting tired of being someone who is always ready to point out flaws but never reflect. I’m tired of Pakistanis being so unhappy in life that the only satisfaction we get is by being nasty and then basking in our own intellectual glory. I want no part of it. And I do, indeed, deeply fear the massive backlash I will face because of this.

Part of the problem

I’m irritated. I’m irritated because I live in a country where people can’t see themselves as a systemic part of the problem, only as saviours & champions. One would think that adults would realise that when someone refers to say the elite, or the rich, then they are referring to the collective, looking at it critically and not targeting individuals. Perhaps our persecution complex has become so deep rooted that only deprogramming will remove it…

I’ll give you an example. A few days ago I was talking to someone about the fashion industry and it lead to a conversation about how we all perpetuate the beauty myth. We are all part of the system that allows it to flourish. Whining about it without challenging it is ludicrous.

At one point, I said: “mothers, too, force their daughters to comply with norms like encouraging them to wear high heels and ignore the pain.” At that point, my mother & sister went into uproar. Total outrage. “No they don’t! No mother I know does that!” My mother then added, “I never did that that to you!” Clearly they weren’t making the effort to listen to my words. They were simply assuming that I was referring to my mother (because any daughter who uses the word “mother” must only be talking about her mother, right?). I told them both to watch Toddlers & Tiaras.

My mother may not have forced me into high heels but perhaps she’s forgotten that she had to bribe me in order to endure waxing at a young age. I remember crying & hiding and could only be coaxed to endure it if I was given enough candy, money and comic books. Of course, this then lead to a very jealous younger brother who went ahead & got his arms waxed because he too wanted candy. Poor thing. I don’t blame him.

Deliberating inflicting pain on your daughter simply out of the fear that her hairy body will turn men away can definitely be classified as anti feminist. And just because she, a feminist, chose to do this, doesn’t make this ok. Nor does her association with WAF give her a free pass. She is part of the system that encouraged her to raise a daughter who, like most women, hated her body for years. Feminists aren’t immune to it at all.

Pakistan is flawed because we are flawed. Pakistan is corrupt because we are corrupt. And nepotism, which we only protest when the Bhutto’s perpetuate it, is rampant, accepted and common. This is a system that we are all part of and simply pointing fingers will do nothing but create a whiny culture with a severe persecution complex. Acknowledging oneself as part of the problem can lead to change.

PS: this post was inspired by an aunty who unfollowed me on twitter. See here’s the thing. This aunty was VERY encouraging until I tweeted about her son harasses women. I guess seeing me out her flesh & blood was too much for her. It’s ok for me to be critical of anyone who isn’t related to her it seems. Ironically this aunty is also a “champion & saviour” of women’s rights. Like most elite feminists, she gives elite men a free pass to do as they please. They aren’t part of the system or part of the problem in her worldview. I think this explains why so much of our activism is unsuccessful.

DO NOT read this blog post

I just want to start by saying that if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t like what I have to say, then what you are doing here, on my blog? If you have issues with the way I write or what I address, then please it’s best for you to leave now. If you’d like to read on, then I wonder why you’re making the effort to choose to be offended. Perhaps you, like most Pakistanis, suffer from a severe persecution complex but are in deep denial of it (don’t know what that is? Click here!). I don’t know and I don’t care. What I do care about is that there are people who choose to come read me, make a big issue about what I say, and then cry about it. Funny thing is, these are the same people who’ll insist Rushdie did no wrong and that only idiots make a big deal out of not much. The irony is amazing!

I have a brilliant idea for you all. DON’T. READ. THIS. BLOG. Go here instead. It’s more up your alley.

You still here? Not willing to leave? Ok then. I won’t tell you what this blog is about. I’ll tell you about what it’s not. I’ve recently decided there are certain topics I should not write about because they have to do with the elite. And since we know the elite are our saviours and champions, I must not have anything but praise for them.

So the elite are our champions, I urge you: don’t buy this propaganda against them that circulates the internet from bitter, jealous, insecure fools. They’re the kind of fools who call them liberal fascists and spread lies to further their interests.

For example: no privileged Pakistani has ever actually killed someone while drunk driving. That rumour stems from the jealous middle classes who can’t afford champagne. I mean come on! Drunk driving hasn’t killed ANYONE. If it did, wouldn’t many people be serving time in jail? It certainly isn’t easy to get out of convictions if you’re rich. Not at all.

“Haan mein nay mara tha! I did his family a favour. They’ve probably never seen so much money!” has never been said with glee. Those words have never been uttered. No one is that insensitive. And, like I said, NO ONE has ever run over a sleeping worker on the side of the road and ended his life. No one. That’s all lies and propaganda. I mean they’re rich enough to have drivers to drive them. They don’t need to get behind the wheel while judgement is impaired. No one ever tempted to do that. Ever. Ever. Ever.

Similarly, no rich, self identified liberal Pakistani has ever given a bribe or received one. They are immune to the epidemic the rest of the society suffers from, our lords, champions and saviours! For example, they have never, ever, ever bribed powerful people in the industry they are associated with. They have never done any judges any favours. They have never made promises to any politicians. They certainly haven’t ever made a powerful network with the army wallahs (those scums!). They’re lily white. Don’t you ever forget that.

The elite are also the biggest feminists in Pakistan. If it weren’t for them, women would have no rights. We’d be sitting in our chaadar and char diwaari. We owe them everything. Don’t believe me? Just see how wonderfully they treat their women. No elite man cheats on his wife openly. No elite uncles molest girls or sexually exploits 18 year olds. No elite man beats his wife and they certainly don’t slap women across the face when drunk at parties. No elite man date rapes anyone. No elite man ever emotionally devastates a woman. No elite gay man has ever married a young girl & turned her into a baby machine for himself. No elite man pressures his daughter to marry someone to further his business interests. No elite man denies his daughter her right to education and gets her married instead. No elite families give grand dowries. No elite people truly think women are secondary to men. That’s why elite women have such high divorce rates: when they do accidentally marry an idiot (always “middle class”), rest assured NO ONE in their families gives a hard time or tells her to make it work. Rest assured they NEVER blame the woman. Rest assured they are nothing but an incredible support system. No elite mother has ever said: “deal with it beti, your father did all this to me too!” to her daughter and sent her back to beaten. That has never, ever happened. All elite treat women wonderfully. That’s why the elite women are so well adjusted and so wise. Anyone who says otherwise is a… yes, say it with me: jealous and insecure fool!

The elite are also the most hamdard people in Pakistan. They feel everyone’s pain on a profound level. They truly understand the poor people’s suffering. They cry for them. They treat them better than anyone in this society. Their servants have servants! Go to the back of any elite house and you’ll see a palatial area, fully air conditioned, nothing squalid or dirty. Their servants live like kings which is why no servant has ever stolen or gone as far as murdered their benevolent employees. After all, elite boys don’t get drunk, line up servants against a wall and throw water balloons at them. That has never happened.

Did you know that the money the elite spend on their grand weddings is nothing compared to how much charity they give? Also, these weddings aren’t grand displays of wealth at all. We stupidly think so because we’re too poor to know any better. We’re also wrong to believe that these weddings puts pressure on all other classes to do the same. We’re totally wrong in thinking that if these events were less ostentatious, others may not feel so pressured. When the other classes choose to sacrifice their daughter’s education in order to give her a grand wedding, then they are the idiots for making the wrong choice. Elitism had nothing to do with it.

Our elite are NOT hypocrites. No, not at all. They praise me for criticising everyone they don’t like, but lose it when I comment on elitism. You see, dear readers, I’m the one who doesn’t know any better. I’m wrong. I’m just plain insane about this but not much else.

On Women’s Day

Happy International Women’s Day! If you don’t know what it is and why it is an important day for many people around the world, read this.

This morning I went with Women’s Action Forum to the lawyer’s convention for women’s day. Needless to say, I was disappointed. The rhetoric used by the lawyer’s today was appalling and their knee jerk defence of each other even worse.

It started off badly. The first speaker was a woman who, we assumed, would be speaking about women’s rights. That was not the case. The speaker basically used women’s rights as an excuse to glorify religion. She started off by telling us that Islam was perfect and granted women all their rights. If we implement it, we won’t even need to struggle for our rights. Miraculous I tell you! Forget the fact that there is no consensus on this or sharia in general. Apparently these abstract concepts are ALL we need.

She also reminded us that Islam blesses women with male guardians. I don’t understand why she needed to make this point unless she wanted to remind me that it’s ok for men to treat me like property since they are, after all, divinely appointed to be my guardians. I fail to see what the point of bringing this up was other than to please the patriarchy, which I’m not ok pleasing or praising, especially on women’s day. And I’m not sure she knows that there are many Muslim families around, like my paternal grandmother’s, where men are NOT considered our guardians or superior to us.

Her argument was the same old tired argument we’ve heard too many times before such as “Islam is a pro-woman religion because the first person the Prophet disclosed his chosen state to was a woman, his wife” and “Islam grants women more rights than other religions”. Furthermore, she just made these statements without clarification or without even emphasising what “Islam” she was referring to. Instead of focusing on women’s issues, she was blindly praising only one religion and insisting that it was the only one that gave women’s rights.

In her zeal, she actually started ranting and confusing facts. She consistently referred to Hazrat Khadija as “Khadija Fatima” and at one point, she looked like she was short of breath. It was religious fervour at its finest. She was ranting and raving. It was ridiculous to say the least.

Do I need to even get into why this is problematic on many levels? One of the WAFers who was with me is a Christian. She felt extremely upset and insulted. Her religion was being demeaned to promote the dominant one was the “feminist” religion. We failed to see why religion was even brought up. Why oh why can’t we simply have a discussion on women’s rights without dragging in religion but not culture? Indeed religion grants women’s rights that are then denied to them culturally but justified through religion. For example, there are many, many pious Muslims in Pakistan who truly believe that it’s ok to deny women an inheritance or honour kill women. There are many who believe that it is their religious sanctioned right to deny females education even though that is a gross violation of religion. Religion and culture are intertwined and cannot be separated conveniently.

As luck would have it, WAF was called to the stage right after this maddening drama and Gulnar gave an excellent response. She looked at the lawyer straight in the eye and asked “what kind of hypocrisy is this? If men are meant to be our guardians, why are YOU out here in the public sphere?” She also called out the whole religious rhetoric and why it’s problematic. “Why did you lawyers assume that there’s only Muslims in the audience? We have minorities in Pakistan!”  she declared and here she touched a raw nerve: in order to appease the crowd and win the audience over, we Pakistanis play up the Islam card without considering how those who don’t agree will feel.

Now a pause to address my trolls who are probably foaming at the mouth while reading this: I am not advocating or saying that religion denies women’s rights. I’m saying that using the language of a religion severely limits discussions on women’s rights. And here’s the thing: rights are rights. No one needs to deserve them and no one needs to bless them upon people. For this reason, they should firmly remain in the realm of the secular.

I also want to add here that the atmosphere did not feel like a safe space for women at all. There were many men around and I was extremely pleased to see that. However, there was a very obnoxious man at the back who was making sexist remarks and NO ONE said anything to him. When Jugnu Mohsin, who was sitting next to me, got up to speak, he heckled her. I turned around to object. The female lawyers nonchalantly excused it by saying “oh ignore him. He’s mad!” Really lawyers? I never had much faith in you as a community bringing about change and now I have it even less than ever. And the only positive thought I’ve had after this is “I’m so glad I changed my mind and didn’t go to law school!”

Post script: I’m sorry this is so badly written. I’m tired because I haven’t been sleeping properly. Last night, I only got 4 hours of sleep even though I need a full 8 hours. I wanted to write this today though because I knew that if I put it off, I wouldn’t have written it at all because I’ve got a hectic week up ahead.

Mocking Mental Heath Disorders

Some days I fear for the future of a country where the most educated and liberal lack empathy for the disabled. Today someone tagged me on facebook alerting me to an article published in the express tribune today. Because they have removed the article, I am putting screen captures of it as well as the comments.

Headline says lock up the crazy, like we don’t deserve the right to live a life the way “normal” people do. I wonder if the writer knows about the history of mental health disorders and how, for most of human existence, people did just that: “lock up the crazy”. Because society chose not to understand us, they shunned us and put us away, as if we were invisible. And this still exists today in Pakistan. The way we treat mental health patients is appalling and inhumane. The last thing we need is for people to advocate that we deserve to be locked up, even as a “joke”. Some things are just not funny and one necessarily has to lack a sense of humanity to think they are, such as the suffering associated with mental illness.

The evidence provided by the author was the DSM IV, a google book, which was published in 2000. Surely a more current statistic could have been found? Furthermore, the figure seems inflated. I wonder if the author would be kind enough to direct me to the page number where she find this statistic for I can’t find it, nor do I have the time or patience to go through this whole thing to find it.

I also wonder where the author discovered that the above celebrities were sociopaths. Were they diagnosed or is she making a guess? If so, is she simply speculating or making a wild guess? What evidence can she provide other than her own analysis.

Also, please note the language. The author refers to those of us who have mental health issues as “the crazies”. I know I’m not alone in saying that it is offensive, demeaning and rather insensitive to choose this phrase to describe people suffering from illnesses that can be extremely distressing. There are so many people who would like to talk about their plight in public but they don’t because people get away with calling them “crazy” to their face and demeaning them. In the same paragraph, the author uses the words “loco” and “kookoo-ness” as well.

Where to begin with this one… let’s start with the fact that it seems like the writer is racist when she says that Angelina Jolie created “her own little army of coloured kids”. I feel like telling the writer: by kissing her brother, Jolie may have committed incest and you want to declare it offends you then please do so. However, do not assume that incest and bipolar disorder are related.

I am bipolar. I have written about it and come out with it publicly. There are so many celebrities who are actually diagnosed with bipolar disorder who could have been used an example such as Stephen Fry who has made a documentary on what it’s like to be bipolar. Jolie was a ridiculous example because she has never declared herself bipolar and speculating that she is without solid medical evidence is weak reporting.

I also find it offensive that Jolie, first declared bipolar, is then portrayed as a stereotypical “home wrecker”. There is no connection.

Isn’t Meera Jee’s twitter account fake? And weren’t tribune the first to tell us that?

I’m not letting this slide simply because it has been removed because it causes a lot of damage. It triggered me. After reading it, I was crying with rage and I was not alone. There were others with mental health problems who felt horrible, almost punched in the gut. Perhaps this is because we expect better from tribune, but that’s not relevant. What’s relevant is that this piece caused a lot of human suffering and no apologies can make up for the distress many of us felt. I would like to know why this was even allowed to go into print. What is tribune’s editorial policy regarding mental health issues? Does it even exist? If not, then perhaps now is the time to consider one.

I’m not advocating that the writer, Saba Khalid, be fired. But I would like to know if anyone has even reprimanded her or asked her to get some sensitivity training. I’m not going to be judgemental and declare her a racist or someone insensitive to mental health issues. To declare that she should be deprived of her job would make me as bad as the kind of people who advocate that mental health patients be locked up. I want to be better than them.

I want answers. I demand answers. Here is an email I sent to the author, the editors and the life & style desk:

Dear editors and Ms Khalid,

As a person who has bipolar disorder, I found this piece to be in extremely poor taste and I was very upset to read it. I am quite sure that none of you have any idea just how badly people with mental health disorders are treated. It took me 6 years to come out with mine in public, which I did as a blog post on dawn and it was the hardest thing I have ever written. You see, we, the “crazies” as Saba so kindly calls us, are treated quite horribly and mocking us makes things even worse for us.

After reading your piece, I was crying with rage and extremely angry that Pakistan has an educated and liberal class of people who think it’s ok to mock mental health disorders. I would never do so for I was raised by people who taught me that making fun of disabilities is inherently cruel. Picking on the weakest, the most disenfranchised and the disabled is bullying. Furthermore, it shows a severe lack of empathy for the plight of those who suffer from life long disabilities, like me.

I hesitate to tell you I was crying with rage for I fear that may have been your goal: to reduce those of us with mental health disorders to emotional wrecks so we stay away from society. You are, after all, advocating for us to be locked up.

I have a few questions that many people would like answered. I’m hoping you have the courage to reply to a bipolar person since, I’m assuming, you want to believe I’m a knife wielding lunatic who will come kill you. After all, you have asked people to have me locked me. The ignorance amazes me.

  1. Why was this approved? Is it because it’s funny to make fun of the “crazies” as you so sensitively call us? Because it’s ok to pick on the weak & disabled?
  2. Did you assume that people with mental health disabilities wouldn’t object because you know that most of us are too scared to publicly admit we have a disorder?
  3. What evidence does the writer have that these celebs have the mental health disorder she claims? Can I please be provided with the evidence that was used for this piece because it seems like speculation.
  4. Did you speak to any mental health specialists who confirmed you were right?
  5. Do you actually not realise that there is a big difference between drug/alcohol addiction & other mental health disorders?
  6. Are you qualified to write about mental health disorders? And do editors allow just anyone to write about mental health issues? Do you not realise why that is problematic?

I realise the piece has been removed but I still expect an answer and there are many who are demanding answers. I’m asking because I subscribe to tribune and read it daily. One of the main reasons I do so is because it has less triggers for me than most other papers. (Don’t know what trigger is? In that case you shouldn’t have been allowed to comment on mental health issues!) In order to live a “normal” life, I need to avoid triggers and if tribune is going to become a trigger, I need to unsubscribe. Unless tribune can assure those of us with mental health issues that we will not be mocked, we would not like to read it.

I realise that your ideal solution would be to lock me away from the world but that’s not an option. That’s not an option because my doctors and family believe that I can live a full, “normal” life if they support me. And guess what? They are right!

I also wonder where your moral center lies. In a country where rapists are running around free, where murders roam the street without fear, where men subject women to the worse form of violence, you are advocating that, instead, we lock up people with mental health issues. It greatly upsets me.

Looking forward to hearing from you but greatly fearing that no one will bother replying to a “crazy” who should be “locked up” since I assume that means I should be denied all internet access so that I can’t distress the “normal” world.

Regards,

Nabiha Meher

I am well aware that my email is strongly worded and may even come across as emotional. So be it. This is an emotional issue, one that lead to this status update on facebook by my friend Adnan Ahmad: “Dear Express Tribune, When writing *anything* that references mental health, please try to research and vet what you’ve been handed. This is not the 19th century, nor is this the early 20th Century. Malicious mockery of health conditions of which you obviously have no clue about is not funny, nor has it *ever* been. It is mean-spirited, uneducated, and I look forward to the shit-storm that this, and other articles of an equally tabloid nature, will hopefully bring about.”

These are questions that need to be asked and I wrote this email with input from other people with mental health disorders. If the authorities at tribune really do not want to alienate readers with mental health disorders, then we deserve answers.

UPDATE: Express Tribune has issued an apology BUT I honestly believe it is not enough. Is it really too much for me to ask what happened to the writer? I am especially irked that no one is answering this question and I know they will answer IF enough people ask them to.

I’ve also been tweeting Bilal Lakhani, the owner of the publication who, from what I can tell, seems to be very open to ideas. I must add here that I personally find Tribune’s prompt responses quite amazing, especially in a country where most media owners only care for ratings. Kudos to them.

Tribune also seems to be open to training their staff regarding mental health issues. I am incredibly happy to hear such a positive response. This speaks volumes: it says we care about mental health issues. They are not trivial.

Because of this whole fiasco, I have decided that this is something I need to consider doing on a regular basis. My doctor’s words ring in my ear: “you are a success story”. As a success story, I have the power to make a difference. As a person who is willing to speak up in public about what it is like to be bipolar, I feel like I should try and reach out to as many people as I can so that others lives are made better. If there’s anything I learn on an almost daily basis, it is this: this country desperately needs mental health awareness.

We live in trying times. We live in a war torn land, at war with itself, at war with everyone else, never at ease, always craving for a peace that never comes. Depression rates are off the charts and thanks to our love for inbreeding, mental health problems exist in numbers higher than we want to believe. There is no one I know who hasn’t been effected.

There are so many people out there who are unwilling to speak up and “educate” others about our illnesses and I do not blame them. I do not blame them because of the incredibly horrible judgement that comes along with admitting one has a mental illness. One necessarily has to develop very thick skin in order to deal with it and not everyone can, nor should everyone have to.

So I’m now brainstorming ideas on what to do and how to go about this. Because of my disability, I cannot have a full time job. As a result, I cannot do this as volunteer, or any unpaid work on a regular basis. The goal is to be able to speak to all sorts of people, in all sorts of fields, and clear up misconceptions about mental health issues. I would personally be very interested in media training and speaking to students. Anyway, watch this space. Something pretty amazing may just come out of all this.