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Blog contest: Success comes in all shapes and sizes

For a woman belonging to the lower middle class,whose family shifted into a new country following the partition of India and Pakistan, life was a struggle. At the prime of youth, life takes on the scene of  a constant battle when you discover that you suffer from bipolar disorder. Saima Salman writes for “Success comes in all shapes and sizes.”

You are now treated in one of these two ways, either defensively, where family members defend your normal errors, blaming your “weak mental faculties” or when they react with utter disdain. No one believes your life can be a ‘success’ any more, which in the subcontinent basically means having a husband, kids and running a household.

At the slightest turn of events you’re thrown into a spiral of gloom. You end up making a fool of your self regardless of how much you try. You cannot control the voices in your head and as you mumble to a loved one, they fear you rather than sympathize with your situation.

She was barely five feet tall and so round and soft all over that whenever I could, I would find a reason to snuggle my head in the crook of her pudgy arm. As I curiously eyed her colorful pills, which she gulped by the dozen through the day, I was told that they were just to help take the cold away. Hence I grew up oblivious to my mother’s struggles with life. She was given powerful tranquilizers, yet she woke up each morning and dressed us for school, but I think the meds started to take over after a while because I remember doing my own hair, but that was about all I had to lift a finger for.

She was there, ready with a meal when we got back in the afternoo and she would listen intently to all our stories. Even if she was stepping out for a few minutes, we would find a loving note stuck to the refrigerator telling us not to worry and that she had gone into the street to buy vegetables from the vendor who passed by our house each day. We laughed at her constant worrying about us, but we never understood until much later, why we siblings were prohibited from using the words ‘mental,’ ‘mad,’ or ‘insane.’ She detested those words because she believed that they applied to her and keenly observed whether we were of sound mind more than body.

I have two children now. I am a successful journalist and teacher. My brother, although pretty much a loner still is a well-respected marketing executive. For me, my five feet tall, schizophrenic, wonderfully soft mother is the embodiment of success, she taught us above all, to battle one’s self and conquer through sheer will power. I just wish she was around so I could tell her all this.

Saima Salman

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17.08.2012 | 14:55