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  • Writer's pictureHina Naela

FOUND FAMILY

“My eyes flutter open. I am sitting in a windowless, dark room. The floor is cold and sends shivers down my legs. My feet are not chained but I am unable to move. Running my fingers across the wall behind me, I realize it is covered in scratches. My hands drop to my sides. I examine myself and find no bruises, cuts or bleeding. I am not in pain. The only thing I feel is dull and distant form of anxiety, resting somewhere in my head. I feel nothing else, not even the urge to leave this place. I am empty. How did I end here?”


I have always had trouble with mental wellbeing. During my childhood, it was less pronounced, and my mood swings were easily attributable to childish tantrums. But my issues became harder to ignore and harder to control when I entered adolescence. Even then, I refused to accept something was wrong with me. Mental illness is a taboo where I live, and no one wants to be friends with a “crazy” person. That was a big concern for me because I had never been good with friendships. I went years without a good friend, someone I could talk to about what I felt and resolved to talk to myself for hours on end. Even when I had two wonderful people in my life, I couldn’t bring myself to tell them everything. By the time I was sixteen, professional intervention became necessary. I visited a psychologist and after two sessions, I was diagnosed with panic anxiety and depressive disorders. Labels can be both liberating and limiting. For the next few years, they stopped me from forming meaningful relationships, because I felt like my problems would be a burden to people around me and I would scare them away if they knew how messed in the head I was. That is, until I moved to London to study.



When I moved to London, I was torn between wanting to keep people at arm’s length and wanting to not be lonely. As I met people there, I found that these interactions were different from before. These people did not know anything about me, so they came to me with no expectations. This meant that I could be myself, at least to a good extent. I didn’t have to go out of my way to maintain an image. It was difficult to unlearn the I-am-okay act and I haven’t fully unlearnt it. But I knew I had made progress when four months after I moved, a friend gifted me essential oils for my birthday. She told me she had noticed I was prone to anxiety and wanted to help. My first reaction was embarrassment but soon after, I understood that she gave it to me because she cared about me. She was not judging me. That gift and gesture made me happy in a way I hadn’t been in a while.


Over the next two years I spent in London, I made more friends, who helped me and took care of me, healing parts of me that I did not realize were broken. My university best friend gifted me a set of letters, one each for a negative emotion, that I could read whenever I felt awful. My flatmate took me on long, midnight walks whenever either of us felt down and we always returned feeling better. My other flatmate offered to try out different recipes with me and we would spend hours in the kitchen cooking and making a mess. I experienced my first ever snowfall with my best friend and their presence was as beautiful as the snow itself. I made a friend who is an amazing artist, and they surprised me with a portrait for my birthday. The first friend I had made at university would always send me music recommendations, songs that are now my favorite. There was a particular week in June where I went on five different park picnics, and each added a new smile wrinkle to my face. Even though right now, I am away from London for the summer, my friends’ presence makes me feel seen and loved.


Before I came to London, I had internalized the idea that solitude suits me. If I can convince myself I do not need people in my life, I can make peace with not having anyone. My friends at university took that logic and turned it upside down. Now, it is hard for me to imagine my life without my support system, without them. I am not completely okay, emotionally, and it is unrealistic to expect everything to become normal so quickly. But having these amazing people around me has taught me to not seclude myself; it has taught me to consider asking for help without fear of being turned down and to care for myself enough to do something about my problems. Growing up reading books, I loved the found family trope. Now, I am living it.



“Hours have passed since I woke up and found myself in the room. Or perhaps it has been days. Time seems to work differently here. I am about to drift back to sleep when I hear voices. This is the first time I am aware of the presence of other people. Curious, I strain my ears to listen. As the voices begin to clear up and words and sentences become intelligible, a single bulb flickers on. Light floods into the room and I realize the room is smaller than I thought it would be. No door is visible, and I turn around to see that it is behind me. I am sitting with my back against the wall. I am stopping it from being opened. The scratches on it are from my fingernails forcing it shut. I shift slightly and the voices get louder and familiar. They tell me that they will wait. They will stay by the door until I am ready to come out. They will be patient. They tell me they care but they know it will take me time to trust them and myself. I gasp, as want fills me. Want for change. Want for companionship. Want for healing. The light in the room gets brighter as I begin to stand, for the first time in forever.”

4 Comments


Smriti Gupta
Smriti Gupta
Jul 20, 2023

Beautiful. Just beautiful. I am so glad that you now share your life with much better people. Mental health struggles can feel absolutely isolating and I can't even imagine how difficult it must have been to be so young, and scared, and alone, against such a daunting demon. Sending you a range of hugs, Hina <3 This was one of the most heart-touching things I have read this year. Thank you for sharing your journey!

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Anushka Rai
Anushka Rai
Jul 20, 2023

So happy for you, you are a talented soul and you deserve all the happiness. Wishing more beautiful friendships❤️

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Siddhi Nptel
Siddhi Nptel
Jul 20, 2023

Yayyy, I'm so happy for u that u found ur people ! 💕 and very well articulated! :)

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Dr. Naela Rushdi
Dr. Naela Rushdi
Jul 20, 2023

Beautifully written. It's amazing that you found fabulous friends in UK. Alhamdulillah ❤️

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