‘Let’s see what our breathers make of us’ was my last message to Anam as I entered the 10-day silence meditation retreat on a mountaintop in Thailand. She liked the message but didn’t reply. I figured it was her semi-failed attempt at implementing her social media break that she’d announced a few days ago on her social media. I knew we needed a pause in our lives, each for their own reason.

My oldest memory of Anam is me sitting with her at our high school, berating her for scratching her palms with a blade. Those were crazy times, the teenage, and as ridiculous as such actions were, they were far from alarming. Broken hearts, after all, surprise us with the degree we can go to avoid pain; at times inviting new pains to numb the old. Back then, and even now, I could never imagine that this behavior could be a whisper to what would happen on 1st September 2018.

I will not act here as if I knew Anam Naveed Tanoli well or could, even remotely, understand what was going through her mind. But, I did see hints and those often made me uneasy. For example, her last words to me, mere days before her ‘escape’ were ‘I am done letting people in’. She was tired of people. I thought she was disgruntled. Turns out she was truly and completely hopeless.

Newspapers inform that she was going to a psychologist and had a session later on the day she chose to hang herself. Why did she give up so soon? Why couldn’t she wait, just a little, till the clouds cleared and the waves died? I wish I had an answer to that.

As someone who has observed the European society with a very contemplative gaze, I have come to the following conclusion: while they are ahead of us in many ways, they fall short of recognizing how important familial support can be. Extended families might seem suffocating to some and could even be seen as invasions to privacy, but, in the lands where I live now, living alone is not a good way to live either. I personally know several people who are closer to their cats than their mothers. Announcing this topsy-turviness does not alarm them. It’s alright, they insist, their cats understand them better. This is a sad and lonely way of mentation till the final breath subdues them.

The noise around Anam’s suicide has now quietened. The wave that spoke about the importance of mental health has now subsided into occasional tremors here and there on social media platforms. A search yesterday of her mentions across Instagram brought back no recent results. We, as a society, moved on from the tragedy that was her demise and, for now, have limited her to an anomic reflection of the times we lived and survived. Her memory will eventually find itself fixated as a careless whisper that echoes somewhere in our minds. Then, she will be forgotten; completely.

October 10 marks the world Mental Health Awareness day. In a prolific essay published in the Guardian, Lady Gaga reminded the world that 800,000 suicides take place every year. She further informed that 1 of 4 amongst the populace suffer from some mental health conditions with almost half of the said illness already starting at the age 14. Let’s pause and go back to when we were 14. Do you remember how painful the jeers and mocks felt from the class bullies? How, a single remark or the fear of the said remark would make us anxious about going to school? How parents would only call us troubled teens when we would act out giving in to the frustrations that came with dealing with our subjective pain; something that consistently and rancidly felt so real and numbingly significant. How many times did we, and I speak to the male audience here, coax ourselves (or were implicitly or explicitly demanded by people we chose to be impression’d by) to handle our emotional scars without emotions; to be a man. How many of us remember being able to sit down with our fathers and speak with them about our insecurities? Unfortunately, not many.

Pakistani society does not work this way. Our fixation towards living the uneasy patriarchal modus operandi impedes us from shedding light on how broken we all are in so many ways. It is time to let go of these dogmas and return to the brilliant confines of a strong supportive network of friends and family that I know our society has the potential to become. We do not need animals to replace the human audience to our emotions. Of course, this plea does not discard the importance of more professional psychiatric health avenues. On the contrary, I suggest, the two must and have to complement each other in order for us to be more emotionally healthy as a society. Also, we need to embrace meditation but that is a discussion for another writeup. Once equipped with these, we would do a better job at handling ourselves and future instances. Then, we will be more aware of the repercussions of our actions on to people close to us and will better see each other for the nightmares we individually live and survive.

To sum it, we need to make sure that we can powerfully declare the message that it is perfectly alright to be fractured. Dealing with our own insecurities and subsequently working towards a closer, more open society will enable us to better empathize with those who are more sensitive to the pain that come with emotional handicaps and disabilities. We must do so lest it is too late. Or, we can take the easy way out, sweep the seriousness of all of this under the carpet and just get pets.

The writer is working as a health economist in a think-tank based in Islamabad.

Our fixation towards living the uneasy patriarchal modus operandi impedes us from shedding light on how broken we all are in so many ways.