Updated: Aug 11, 2020
Over the past nine months or so, I have been through various trials and tribulations both personally and through my family. As well as managing my own newly diagnosed back pain caused by arthritis, my family has been dealing with my dad’s oesophageal cancer diagnosis. On top of this, I share caring duties for both my grandparents and my dad, with my mum. During this process, my grandad’s younger brother did also live with us, while we looked after him and his ongoing battle with dementia. As his condition worsened, on top of caring for my dad and grandparents (stroke and heart patients), extra help was needed and we had to make a difficult decision to send him to a care home.
The heaviness of all of these situations toppled on one another came thick and fast, and as you can imagine, started to take its emotional toll. Many of you reading this may know me as the blogger or model or someone who “does radio”. I’m generally known for being positive and having a motivating energy. I would say this is a big characteristic of mine. But, because this is how I’ve always seen myself: being busy, juggling projects and family life, socialising and having fun, but still always getting the job done. I never really allowed any room to dwell on my feelings.
As people began to learn of what I was going through at home, I’d often get asked if I was ok or how I was still coping. Truth is, it’s the only way I knew how. Keep calm and carry on. Prayer is something that has always kept me going. But I found myself reaching points where I couldn’t control my emotions anymore. I’d keep my true feelings bottled up and sometimes the smallest of things could trigger the most overwhelming of emotions.
It first happened at a close friend’s celebration. I found myself staring at the room from a distance. It was very early on when we found out about my dad’s illness. I hadn’t share the news with anyone. I could see all the happy faces and feel the happiness in the room. But something inside was eating me up and I couldn’t grasp it. I could feel heaviness in my chest. I was scared and didn’t want to make a scene. I tucked myself away in the bathroom and knew that I needed to take deep slow breaths, but as I was doing this, I couldn’t believe I was having a panic attack. Amrit Matharu who’s always so positive and looks on the bright side is actually having a panic attack. Then I started to feel ashamed and weak and that started to upset me even more and I found it harder and harder to control my breathing.
Until I heard someone outside the door say “there’s someone in there”, I froze and knew I couldn’t let anyone see me like this. I quickly got my shit together. Splashed my face with cold water and dabbed it down so my makeup didn’t smudge. I’d just experienced a real life panic attack.
I carried this guilt around for days until I felt it was safe enough to tell someone. I felt like it was a dirty secret I was keeping and that made me feel worse bottling it up again. So I told my cousin. To this day I don’t think I’ve told my parents. I especially don’t want my dad to feel the burden of his pain causing us any pain. And it isn’t his fault. I’ve since learnt that mental health is all something we go through and experience. But by telling someone, it lightened this heavy pressure I was feeling about what was happening. I began sharing it with my cousin and talking about my experience which made it feel like it wasn’t just in my head. It allowed me to also process and understand my emotions and why I was feeling this way. I’ve figured out that I like to be in control and and support those around me. In order to do that I need to be strong and tough and in the situation that I am in, that mostly means grinning and bearing it. Caring for the elderly isn’t a pretty job and being physically and emotionally there for someone going through cancer treatment is an even harder job. So sometimes when it gets too much, my brain and body need a release.
This firstly began for me in the form of panic attacks. My emotions just got on top of each other and I think it was my mind and body’s way of forcing me to process my feelings. When this happened I could have been watching TV or reading something particular moving. It was like someone had flipped a switch. 0 to 100. In order for me to acknowledge what was happening and how this was affecting me, I actually videoed myself so I could see it. I’ve never been to sure what I’d do with these videos but they’re a strong reminder to me of how I found ways to cope.
I realised my emotions weren’t being processed. So I slowly began to open up about this to people in my immediate circle. This doesn’t have to be family or friends, but for me it was. It might not be your parents or siblings, but a cousin or caring aunt can make you feel like you’re safe enough without burdening your immediate family. Or a work colleague? Some workplaces have mental health first aiders who can also help. There are so many people around you that you can use to share these feelings with so you’re not alone. That’s the biggest thing I learnt from this - while it may feel like you are going through something and no one else gets it, you’d be surprised how many people experience their own forms of pain/anxiety/depression/loneliness etc - it’s all just triggered by different things. So if we learn to just be kinder to each other, we’re helping each other in more ways than we know!
Amrit AKA Amaretto is the creator of Amaretto's World. Amrit started as a fashion and lifestyle blogger around 9 years ago, during which her blog captured the transition of her journey into the world of media, broadcast and modelling. Amrit is a body confidence activist who models for mainstream brands and an author of Desi & Desire - a non-fiction piece tackling themes about British-Asian female identity. As a broadcaster Amrit often talks about challenging themes such as body image, social media and taboos within the Asian culture, all of which can be found by searching "Amaretto's World" on all social platforms.