It’s Ok to Not Be OK…

I’ve been grappling with what to write lately. Part of me has wanted to write a review of the year so far. Part of me wants to tackle my mental health challenges and where I’m at currently with it. Or maybe I write about both?
I’m just going to write until I’ve emptied myself, then I’ll figure out if everything I’ve written in this particular writing session will be in one epic blog post or if I’ll create several blog posts.

I just need to get back to writing and doing so without judging myself and without getting so hung up on the end product. 

Process > Outcome.

I keep reminding other people of this, yet I’ve completely forgotten to internalise this truth. Just write. See what takes shape and then take it from there. 

I’ve promised myself and my readers recently that I’ll get back to writing this blog. It’s not happened and I’ve struggled to make it happen. 

One of the best creative decisions I made this year was to start writing this blog. It tapped into latent aspects of my creativity and it has resonated with people strongly. 

I loved doing it and I still want to do it. But I’m struggling. 

I’m struggling to get started. 

I’m struggling to finish what I start. 

I’m struggling to trust myself and my creativity.

I’m struggling to be honest with myself.

I’m running around telling people I’m ok. I’m not. I’m not trying to alarm anyone. I am the strongest and the most resilient I’ve ever been in my life. I’m proud of how much I’ve grown since 2017 and how much I continue to develop my self awareness. 

But in spite of all the positives, I have to really start being honest with myself. 

This has not been an easy year at all. Not even close. Yet I walk around acting like the year wasn’t that bad or that it’s not reasonable for me to be hurting and struggling to function.

I’ve had to process a lot of emotions, thoughts and grief. I’ve had to make some really important decisions around how I look after myself and how I’m going to pursue my dreams.  

My divorce came through in January, it took 3 years and I welcomed it. I felt much lighter as a result of it. But it was quickly followed by unexpected conversations with my ex wife about where she and our daughter would live going forward.

After 3 years of me playing musical chairs around different parts of South London, I’d finally decided to move to Morden to be closer to my daughter in Worcester Park.

The initial plan my ex wife had was to sell up and move to Kingston upon Thames. That was a slight adjustment, nothing I couldn’t handle. An extra 15-30 mins on travel time each way depending on traffic. 

But we had to discuss issues around money, quality of life and yes, Brexit. Brexit is not fun and the UK has become a much more toxic place as a result. My ex said she would stay close to me geographically so that I could see more of my daughter.

But I’ve never wanted my daughter to feel beholden to me. I want her to have the best chance in life. So I told my ex I was open to her exploring her options outside of London.

Within a week, my ex called me up to talk. This was the catalyst for the post “Love Is An Act of Sacrifice”.

She had landed a job offer as a head of maths department at a top private school in Dubai. 

I meant to write a follow up post to that, but I just couldn’t. The same way I’ve struggled to write and complete any blog posts over lockdown.

I’m scared to write because writing is a clarified form of thinking. And quite frankly, I don’t want to think about all the factors that went into me ultimately giving my ex the green light to take the job offer and move to Dubai at the end of July this year. 

I don’t want to write about and ultimately think about a lot of things this year because it has been exhausting. I’m fucking tired. Yet, I know I can’t give up. I can’t give up on life. I can’t give up on my gifts. So I’m trying to navigate the balance between being “kind to myself”, but also holding myself accountable and trying to “get shit done”. 

I’ll likely write a more in detail blog post, or even a series of posts around my daughter and  how I’ve been processing and navigating her move Dubai. 

Needless to say, it’s been challenging and I had to navigate all kinds of opinions and advice from friends and acquaintances on my decision. Most of it has been supportive. Some of it well meaning but really not helpful. I had dinner with my friends Ty and Sofia back on March 8th to process all of this. 

It was an emotional dinner at the time, even more so now as Ty has since passed due to complications from Covid-19 and I almost lost Sofia to Covid-19 too. 

I’ve not allowed myself to acknowledge how hard that was. Two close friends, both struck down with Covid-19. It’s stressful waking up every day wondering if your friends will still be here. 

It’s stressful when you lose a friend. 

I’m grateful that Sofia survived. 

I had to not only lose a friend, but attend his funeral and help lay him to rest.

Prior to all of that, at the beginning of lockdown, my ex wife got ill with Covid-19 symptoms. I had to figure out what life may look like if she had passed away and my daughter came to live with me. My daughter was shook during this whole time. She loves her mother dearly and it knocked her off balance to see her mum so ill and to entertain the thought that maybe just maybe something bad might happen to her. This took so much out of me in a brief period of time. My ex wife recovered quickly, but I’m not sure I’ve fully recovered from this incident.

I’ve literally packed this whole event in a box and sealed it shut with metaphorical rolls of brown tape. 

As this year has progressed my daughter’s departure to Dubai drew ever closer. I focused all of my time almost exclusively on my relationship with her. 

We watched Rick and Morty together, she held space for me and held me when I cried after Shortee Blitz’ edition of “Pass The Torch”, an online celebration of Ty’s life. We joked, laughed and took the piss out of each other. My daughter Zaynub asked me to perform poems I wrote and she complimented me on how much she loves my writing. She told me she acknowledges supports my pursuit of my dreams.

She opened up to me about so many things that will remain private here. She’s getting older and I want her to feel safe and unconditionally loved in ways I didn’t when I was growing up.

I’ve been often critiqued for my parenting skills and my parenting style. I’ve learnt to respect people’s opinions and input, but to follow my intuition as a father. 

Very little of how I conduct myself and live my life adheres to sensible conventions. Why on earth would my parenting and my relationship with my daughter be any different?

Anyways, we’ve become closer than ever. A beautiful double edged sword. My relationship with my daughter is in a place I’ve longed for since she was first born. But it’s bittersweet as it comes at a time when she is now leaving to go live in another country. 

Saying goodbye at the airport was fucking hard. Zaynub’s best friend and her mother also came to see her off and they were both very emotional. I did my best not to show any emotion and neither did Zaynub. Zaynub’s best friend revealed to me that Zaynub had been in tears the night before as she will miss me. It should hurt, maybe it does on a subconscious level, but I was reassured to hear this information given to me by Zaynub’s best friend. 

I’ve struggled to feel secure about my relationship with Zaynub, both for the first 7 years of her life when I lived with her and her mother and then for the tumultuous 3 years her mother and I tried to negotiate our divorce. 

This information and a handful of other moments during lockdown really allowed me to feel closer to my daughter and give us opportunities to clearly express our love to each other. 

This year, I also made some tough choices around how I intend to earn a living going forward. 

I want to earn a living as an artist, I know I can and I will. But I have to bridge that gap for now. Between where I am and where I want to be, where I know I can be. I’ll get there. Insh’Allah. 
But in the meantime I have to find a way to do “bread and butter” work. Stuff that’ll pay rent, groceries etc. 

For the past 3 years as I’ve leaned more into my creativity I’ve grappled with what I do for a living. I’ve alternated between working for startups and during extreme bouts of depression and anxiety, I’ve worked for below living wage delivering pizzas. 

Regardless of what I was paid, the challenges were the same. Giving too much energy to things that don’t contribute to my dreams and then having to find a way to switch gears when I get home and “create”.

I decided to retrain as a copywriter. Again, like so many things I’m touching upon in this post, I’ll go into more detail around why I chose to be a freelance copywriter. This decision to retrain is partly driven by my autism (I’ve been diagnosed) and my ADHD (I’m awaiting a diagnosis). Some of it is driven by the need to have greater flexibility and to earn better money while freeing up more time to work on artistic projects.

I came so close to landing some great clients back around March/April this year. But Covid-19 saw that work disappear. I’m on Universal Credit. This is the first time I’m on benefits. 

Again, I’ve yet to fully allow myself to acknowledge what I feel. I’m frustrated, hurt and angry at my loss of income at a time when I have retrained in a new skill and wanted to make major changes to my lifestyle. 

Let me cut through the noise I’ve just typed above. My self esteem has taken a massive hit. My entire life I’ve struggled to hold down work and earn money, whether it’s when I wasn’t pursuing my dreams and even now while I’m pursuing my dreams.

Basically, those contracts would have been the first time in my adult life I’d be getting paid consistently for something I want to do and enjoy. It was going to be on my terms. It would be to fund my dreams. To keep me going. I’ve taken this set back personally and as a reflection on me and my own abilities. So much so that I’ve not been able to regain any kind of momentum.

I try. I start. I stop. 

I need to forgive myself and remind myself of how hard it’s been for so many people to find work, keep work and earn money this year. I’m not alone. 

I got diagnosed with autism last month. That was huge. For most of my life I’ve known something isn’t quite “normal” or “right” with me. I’ve struggled to hold down jobs, form or maintain friendships and relationships. 

Being diagnosed with autism is a huge win as it allows me to begin to understand myself. But it was a lot to process. Overlapping this with all of the other emotions I’ve struggling with this year. It’s a lot. 
I’ve yet to forgive myself for all the things I did “wrong” related to my autism or that people judged me for related to my autism over four decades of my life. 

I’m anxious about my ADHD diagnosis. The final piece of my mental health puzzle I’ve been trying to solve since 2016. 

You see, even as I write this, I’m only just starting to realise how much I’ve been dealing with this year. 

I’ve succeeded in suppressing almost ALL of it. 

It’s not a shock that I’m currently not ok right now. 

I’m grappling with a very strong and stubborn depressive episode.

I’m in pain and I really want this pain to end. I’ve written about this in a previous blog post called “The Chemicals in my Brain Are Liars”. 

I’ve woken up recently and wished I’d never woken up again. It’s not new, I learn to deal with it. 

Taking stock of this year, I know where the problem lies. This year really hasn’t gone according to how I wanted it to. I have years, decades of unfulfilled potential and output as an artist to make up for. I am closer than ever to carving out MY life, not the one others thrust upon me. 

I’m close. So fucking close. But I’m treating the shortcomings of my achievements this year as an indictment of my own abilities. They’re not. 

I’ve not forgiven myself for how this year has gone. 

I’ve not forgiven myself for the past. For my marrying someone I probably shouldn’t have.

I’ve not forgiven myself for not following my dreams in my 20s and now trying to play catch up.

I’ve not forgiven myself for losing momentum creatively over lockdown. For losing momentum with this blog and my creative practice. 

This blog post is far from my best work. Sentences are not perfect. There’s likely too much repetition and it’ll be deemed “unfocused”.

I’m focusing on all things that this blog post “isn’t”. That’s what’s caused so much creative anxiety and procrastination. 

But what trumps (so sorry for using that word) all of that is what this post IS.

This post IS finished. 

Please stay with me. I have so much to share. I’ll be doing a 2nd write up of 2020 entitled “2020 – The Year So Far” where I focus on my wins and the positives. Things that should be celebrated.

I’ve written a lot of very sad, melancholy and dark work. My output from 2017 to 2018 was largely drenched in that tone and energy. It wasn’t my fault…maybe it was….but shit was hard and I couldn’t frame things in any other way than through pain, cynicism and sorrow.

But that’s been changing. Whether it’s my blog posts or my poetry, I’ll show you darkness, but my goal is to end on the light. 

Light > Darkness

I think that’s another reason why I’ve been reluctant to write and share work with you. I’ve been scared to show you the darkness, the hurt and the pain. There isn’t enough light in this post. But that’s ok. 
My follow up post will have plenty of that. 

I’m learning to trust myself, trust my process, trust my journey and trust my audience. 

Stay with me. Please.

The intermission is over. For now. 

I promise I’ll continue to lead with honesty and lead with love.


6 thoughts on “It’s Ok to Not Be OK…”

  1. This year has been so tough for many and I really appreciate you articulating your fears and vulnerability by sharing your story with us. I admire your strength & courage and your honesty brought tears to my eyes. I wish you well on your journey and I look forward to walking with you as you write more. Thank you.

  2. This is a wonderful post. So honest, generous and necessary. Even if it’s just for today, forgive yourself. You deserve happiness. And there is nothing ‘unfocused’ about your writing, even if you feel foggy about it in this moment. Keep going. You are valued. Truly.

  3. Pingback: Jump Starting a Car - i am haroon

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *