TW: Suicide ideation
“Never go to your ex’s home on a Friday. Chances are that you won’t leave anytime before Monday morning!” The breakup had been bad. Little did I know that the worse was yet to come. We had been together since two years and lived together for four months prior to the breakup. Before we began to live together, I had committed a serious transgression – I had a fling while my boyfriend was out of the country. Unbeknownst to me, my boyfriend had installed spyware on my phone! He knew about the fling but didn’t confront me. In hindsight, it is clear to me that both of us were passive aggressive and insecure but could not let go of each other. At some point, the knowledge of that fling became too much of a burden for him. Living together was not working out. He finally confronted me and asked me to leave his place. I had no excuse so I hung my head in shame and left. I was too shocked to confront him about spying on my phone and felt terrible about my actions. My cousin had just moved to Delhi and was living at his friend’s home. They took me in. If they hadn’t been there, I would have had no place to go. It was January 6, 2017. Happy New Year.
Barely a week later, my boyfriend called me on that fateful Friday night saying he urgently needed to see me. I thought he needed to vent. Instead, the weekend became about forgiveness and second chances. And make-up sex. It is the only time in our relationship that he came inside me without explicitly asking me. Instead, He TOLD me. And I foolishly said, ‘It’s okay’. I left on Monday morning, thoroughly confused and uneasy. He asked me to move back in with him. I refused but spent most of time at his place. Within a week, I began to lose my appetite. My breasts were swollen and hurt a lot, reminding me of the pain I had experienced when they first began to sprout. I didn’t throw up but felt nauseous while eating. When my period didn’t occur, a friend gently encouraged me to take the test. I was undeniably pregnant. My boyfriend’s response to this was, “How do I know its mine?” With that one sentence, my entire life began to fall apart. He is the only person I have ever wanted to have a child with. I returned to Punjab to my older sister to get an abortion. Her friend was my doctor. I was grateful to be around people I could trust. However, no one warned me that pill induced abortion can lead to labour pains. I have NEVER experienced such intense physical trauma ever in my life. I was vomiting, shitting and screaming in undiluted agony. My sister consulted the doctor and got strong painkillers. Her 16-yr-old son was by my side. I asked him to play his guitar to help distract me from the pain while the medication kicked in. It was so soothing. I fell asleep as he played the blues. It was Feb 14, 2017. I was close to 32.
My boyfriend, who had fathered that foetus on that fateful weekend, abandoned me. He was openly belligerent, conveniently forgot ejaculating inside me and replaced me with a woman who had the same name as me! It was shocking that he could walk away so easy and not be accountable for his actions. My best friend of 14 years went pro-life, said awful, painful things and left my life. I have never felt more helpless, angry and destroyed all at once. Something as commonplace as a bad breakup was all it took to jolt me out of my comfort zone and undo a lifetime’s worth of self-preservation. Accompanying the grief was rage. And beyond the rage lay overwhelming fear, helplessness and loneliness. I left work and Delhi. And thus began my self-imposed exile, accompanied by the deafening sound of silence. I was scared to ask for help as I couldn’t handle the pain of rejection; because I had experienced first hand exactly how dispensable I was. I stopped believing in unconditional love, friendship or family. My self-esteem hit an all time low. I found myself completely alone, getting stoned in the bathroom every single day. There were no phone calls or messages from people checking on me of their own volition. In most cases, it was fine if I reached out. But that effort to reach out needed to be made by me. And for a change, I was too tired and wounded to make that effort. Just getting out of bed in the mornings was exhausting enough. An irrational urge to be a mother overcame me.
In the year following the abortion, I collapsed on the bathroom floor on three different occasions owing to extreme pain and nausea during my periods. Luckily, this stopped in 2018. I got IBS and had diarrhoea for months on end. I began to experience migraines. The migraines are usually accompanied by nausea, dizziness, sensitivity to light and extreme fatigue that incapacitates me. They used to trigger grief. Each migraine attack used to feel like a prolonged PTSD flashback of the abortion and emotional trauma that followed. I have finally accepted migraines as the new normal. Now I have to keep migraine medicine with me at all times.
By Feb 2018, I had completely stopped functioning. I have never been more exhausted in my life. Suicide ideation was all consuming. I never thought that staying alive could take so much effort. The sharp edge of the knife became symbolic of peace and freedom. I wanted to cut deep and didn’t want to stop myself. So I finally reached out and asked for help.I rejected medication and took counselling instead. Made an effort to understand where the pain was emanating from. Began to articulate my anger, my despair, my shame. Finally recognised my family’s role in abetting and perpetuating trauma bonds. Learnt to forgive myself. Identified patterns. Tried to love myself. Began to understand how self-love and self-care are radical acts of rebellion in a society that functions on shaming intelligent and ambitious women.
It’s taken a long time to come out of the woods. I had no idea that mental health involves so much internal fighting and is so tiring. You can fight with the whole world but fighting with yourself is infinitely harder. What do you do when your own mind becomes your enemy? How do you construct a sense of self again? For two years I had voices in my head telling me that I’m a fraud. The voices told me I’m worthless, irresponsible, selfish, reactionary and delusional. That’s why no one came looking for me when I disappeared inside my own private hell. These voices were the dangerous voices of internalised patriarchy. I also had no idea that it takes so long to move on. I’m not completely sure I have. That last relationship was the only long-term, serious relationship I have ever had. Prior to that I had mostly been happily single and enjoyed my own space.I had never aspired to lead a heteronormative life. I had never wanted children. Who knew that intimacy can be so addictive? Thankfully, the overwhelming feeling of wanting to have a child has finally left me.
I am 34 now. My best friend and I have managed to mend our relationship. My cousin’s friends who took me in when I had no home are an inseparable part of my soul. Last week, I began my masters in a foreign country and met some wonderful people. I live alone and often get lonely. Migraines occur as and when they please. But I am largely content. These days, I find joy in cooking my own meals with my favourite mirch ‘bhot julakiya’ and Nusrat, the Niazi brothers, Fareed Ayaz and Abu Mohammad for company. At some point in the future, I look forward to sharing my life with a dog and a cat. Although the foetus had been in my womb for barely 4 weeks, it changed my life forever.”
My Abortion Story is a crowdsourced project in partnership with Mybodymychoiceindia campaign. It hopes to provide a platform for people to share their experiences with abortion in their own words. There is so much discourse around right and wrong but little about people’s experiences. Through My Abortion Story, we are hoping we can address this gap by bringing all kinds of personal narratives to life.