myStory: Real Experiences From the South Asian Community

In order to break the stigma against mental health, South Asians are speaking out about their real-life experiences with emotional health issues. Click here to submit your story.

Acculturation Issues * Child Abuse * Divorce * Family Issues * Grief/Loss * Relationship Stress * Self-Esteem


Acculturation Issues

Country of origin: Pakistan

I came to this country 8 months ago only. My husband’s coworker told me regarding MySahana. It is very difficult to be here. I cannot work so I am home only all day. My husband comes very late. Sometimes I eat by myself. I don’t know many people here and my English is not so good. I get very lonely and I miss my family. Sometimes I go for walks. I don’t understand this place. Women are wearing very short shorts. Pregnant women wear very tight clothes. Children are yelling at their parents. And honestly, I do not like MacDonalds. I don’t think I like it here and I want to go home but my husband has work here. So I have to stay. No one talks to anyone here. I do not even know my neighbors. People don’t smile at each other. Back home, I would know everything about my neighbors. They were my best friends. Here it is nothing. They don’t know how to say my name and I don’t know how to say their name. I miss my home. America is not my home.


Child Abuse

Country of Origin: India

Country of Residence: United States

Age: 20

Gender: Female

Generational Status: First generation born abroad

I’m the younger of two girls. My older sister, who is 17 months older than me, is your stereotypical overachiever, and all my life, I’ve had the pressure to be at least as good as her. She was also abusive emotionally and verbally. Being younger, and not having the words to express my anger, I would lash out at her physically, but then I would be punished for it because I got physical, even though she provoked me most of the time. When I was older, I was able to express the pressures I faced and difficulties that came with being her sister, but my parents made me feel ashamed for saying such things. After I realized that my thoughts were getting me into trouble, I stopped telling them things.

I knew my concerns were real and happened to a lot of people, but they were apparently blasphemous. Then I would hear other Indian parents say that their kids have said the same things, and they tell me “see? It’s nothing new.” Made me wonder, “So it’s okay for the other kids to say it, but not me?”

Last year, I had diagnosed my own depression. When I first told my folks, they made light of it. They had the same view many other South Asians have. They’d say “I’m depressed, you’re depressed, we’re all depressed. Get used to it.” No surprise there. But then once they saw that I was clinical, they changed their tune. They sought out mental health professionals and they started talking to me differently. That summer, my sister was being especially abusive and a terror to everyone around her. It got so bad I threatened to disown her. That turned her around. After she found out about my mental health problems, the abuse stopped for good. I’m on an antidepressant right now, but I haven’t found a good therapist. Everyone I saw has pointed to Indian parenting as a cause to my problems. I’ve gotten mixed messages from my parents and the therapists. It’s so confusing. I want to get off the medication quickly, but I don’t know w here to turn. I live in an area with a very small South Asian population, so it’s hard to find someone who understands my situation.

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Country of Origin: India

Gender: Female

Generational Status: First generation born abroad

At the age of 5, I was sexually abused by my uncle. I never told anyone because he threatened me that if I did say anything he would hurt me. Being 5, I believed him. I also believed that no one could protect me. So every night during my visit in India, he would say that he was taking me for a walk but instead would take me to a small room that was by the carport. He never raped me but touching me inappropriately was enough. I knew something was wrong but I couldn’t scream. I remember just daydreaming instead and hoping it would be over. Afterwards, he would always take me to have ice cream. Pistachio ice cream is the best, he would always say. As I grew up, I actually never remembered those nights. It’s like my mind had completely shut off those memories so I had no recollection of what had happened. If you had asked me if I was abused, I would have said no and meant it. I didn’t remember anything. Looking back though, the signs were there. I hate pistachio ice cream and I always wore baggy boyish clothes growing up. In college, when I met my first boyfriend, I was really scared of him. I remember being really terrified of him holding my hand or being in the dark alone. He never did anything to violate me, ever. But for some reason I was scared of him like he did. He was an incredible support and suggested I go to counseling. I didn’t want to but around that time I started having nightmares. I’d wake up in the middle of the night screaming because I’d have dreams of being attacked. I realized then that counseling was probably necessary and thank God I went because my therapist helped me make sense of what was happening to me. After 4 years of therapy, I’ve finally regained my self-esteem and feel comfortable with my body. In fact, I’m wearing a dress while I’m typing this! My family to this day does not know what I went through but I am deeply grateful to MySahana for providing me this forum to tell my story. I don’t want any other South Asian girl to feel she is alone. And I want to emphasize, if this happens to you, it is not your fault.


Divorce

Country of origin: India

Country of Residence: United States

Age: 28

Gender: Female

Generational status:  First-generation born abroad

Five years ago I never thought this would be my story. But here I am, alone in my house, writing about my experience with divorce. I was born in the US and my parents were fairly open-minded about dating. In grad school, I dated this incredible guy. All of our friends said, we were perfect together. We dated for 3 years, got engaged and when I was 26 we got married. My American friends were telling me, we were too young, but I had so many Indian friends getting married it didn’t matter. I didn’t realize that, we had no idea how to be in a marriage though. Our lives were so independent and it worked when we were dating. But when it came to living a joint life, we didn’t know how and no one taught us. All of our single friends encouraged us to always go out, all of our student friends pushed us to study and travel alone. We were always apart, pursuing our own dreams. I didn’t want a marriage like my parents, so divided by gender lines and so male dominated and neither did my husband. But we had no other models, which is something that’s so hard for us Indian kids to deal with. So, we just did what we knew. We dated even when we were married. That took a huge toll on us. The pressure to have children was not easy either. We hadn’t learned how to have a life together and now we had to think about kids? We started fighting more and more. We got on each other’s nerves. It started feeling like the marriage was an imposition on our lives. Two years and 3 months after we got married, we decided to part ways. We were more destructive together than apart. And now, at the age of 28, I sit here alone, single and trying to figure it out all over again.

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Country of origin: India

Age: 35

Gender: Male

Generational status: Immigrant

This summer, my wife and I filed for divorce. What I think many Indians don’t realize is that sometimes divorce is actually the best option. Thankfully we don’t have kids but we had become so unhappy that staying together was just torturous for both of us. Now that we are apart, it feels like I can begin my life again. I was getting stifled in our marriage, as was she. We both wanted the other to be someone that we’re not. The biggest lesson I learned: do not go into a marriage expecting to change the other person. It will not happen. When you commit, you are committing to everything about them. Make sure you are ok with that. Sometimes my parents think that we got a divorce because my family moved here when I was 6 and I would still be married if we were back in India. That is probably true. But is being unhappy for the rest of your life worth being in a bad marriage just to save face and avoid embarrassment? I don’t think so and I’m glad my wife agreed.


Family Issues

Country of Origin: India

Country of Residence: United States

Age: 24

Gender: Female

I’ve been dating my boyfriend for almost a year now, we are young, but we have a very real and deep relationship. I’m not sure what lies ahead for us in the future, but I know that we are compatible in terms of our goals in life and our interests. My boyfriend is 3 years older than me and is also Indian. We are from the same part of India, so when I told my parents that we were dating I thought they would be thrilled. They were the opposite; they were very hurt and disappointed. My boyfriend’s parents do not speak English and did not go to school; both my parents have higher degrees as does the rest of my family. They disapprove of our relationship because of social status and class; they deem his family not compatible with ours, that his parents will become my in-laws and rid me of my independence and happiness. They have also mentioned that they are embarrassed and do not want their social circles and my extended family to know we are together. They are afraid of what will be said and what people will think of me dating someone who is “lower class”. They have asked me multiple times to break up with him, but I refuse because it’s against everything I believe in; I told my boyfriend that I respect him because he’s so accomplished and ambitious, despite the stigma behind his upbringing. I would never make him apologize or explain himself because of where he comes from and the family he is born into, it’s unfair. He brings me much happiness and makes me want to be and do better. I told my parents all of these things, but they are afraid we are in too deep of a relationship and I that I need to stop lying to myself and him about us continuing our relationship. I am so sad and disappointed that the people I care about most are choosing their socio-economic status over my well-being. Isn’t this similar to a modern-day caste system? I was born and raised in America; my parents are fairly liberal and laid back.
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Country of Origin: Pakistan

Country of Residence: United States

Age: 30

My husband is the most wonderful person that I know. He is kind, caring, loving and so generous. When we decided to get married it was the happiest day of my life! The biggest problem in our life is his mother, my mother-in-law. She makes the stereotype of the psycho mother-in-law sound like a nice person. For as long as I have known her, she was rude to me. She would make sarcastic comments to me or flat out insult how I dressed or how I cooked or even how I talked. The kicker was that she never did this in front of my husband when we were dating or even now that we’re married. She will only do it if we are alone. That way when I tell my husband what she said to me and he confronts her, she just denies it or tells me that I must have misunderstood. Or worse, that I’m lying to him! I’ve been married 2.5 years and but have known her for 8 years. I’ve gotten to a point where I don’t care about her or what she says about me anymore. But what I do care about is how much of a strain this puts on my marriage. My poor, amazing husband gets put in the middle. It’s like this tug of war between me and his mother and he’s the one we’re pulling. I know he prioritizes me and loves me so I think his mother and I can co-exist and both be in his life. But his mother doesn’t seem to believe that. Last weekend, I was really sick and he was taking care of me. His mother calls him and asks him to come over for a while. He says no because he was with me and she got really mad and laid a huge guilt trip on him. She actually said, “Well that’s fine but when I’m gone you will have all the time in the world with her.” That guilt really wears on him and I get upset seeing him be hurt by his mother all the time. We are at a standstill on how to handle this situation. I hope by reading others’ stories and the MySahana articles I can get some insight on how to handle this situation.


Grief

Country of Origin: India

Country of Residence: United States

Age: 29

Gender: Female

Generational Status: First generation born abroad

I’m writing this because, I don’t think people understand that someone can grieve even when you can’t see the loss. Six months ago, I had a miscarriage. I was 7 weeks pregnant. We were so excited when we found out that, we were going to have a baby. We had been trying for a year and were starting to get worried but when we got the call from the doctor that the test was positive, we were overjoyed. I felt the typical signs of pregnancy: bloating, nausea, lots of tiredness. But, I was loving it. And then at 7 weeks I started bleeding and before I knew it, I was losing the baby. I was devastated. It’s a heartache that no one who hasn’t experienced this knows. I’ve been crying off and on and no one believes it but I actually miss my baby. All our plans that we had are gone. I’m writing because I have no support. My family tries to be supportive but after a couple of months they expected me to be “over it”. Someone actually said, “How can you be so sad? You never saw the baby.” Yes but I felt it! It was real! It was a real person that died. My mom, in an effort to be supportive, said that when we have our next child this loss won’t hurt as much. This is not true. I have gotten this confirmation from others who’ve gone through this. It is not true. I wanted to write on behalf of all grieving mothers who’ve lost children they never met. It is hard and don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise. And don’t ever let anyone make you feel crazy for grieving your child. They try to push it under the rug because it’s too hard for *them*. It has nothing to do with you. Find a good support system and don’t assume the one you have no is going to be a good one for the loss. The people you least expect will be the most supportive and the ones you expect to be good at dealing won’t be able to. But none of it is your fault and you are not crazy for missing your child that you never got to meet.


Relationship Stress

Country of Origin: India

Generational status: Immigrant

Currently live in: US

When I got married back in the 80s, I was young, innocent and naïve. I truly believed that love was all it took to make a marriage work. Being only 20 years old, no one had challenged that belief my entire life. My husband and I, though we never knew each other prior to marriage, we were a match made in heaven. We got along wonderfully and had the most incredible first year of marriage, travelling everywhere and setting up our house. After that year though, the stress of life began to take its toll. We had financial troubles that almost forced us to move in with my parents. But I always believed that because we loved each other so much we could get through. My husband began drinking a lot and I began to feel alone. We argued all the time. He would yell at me for buying vegetables not on sale and I would yell at him for never helping me around the house. The tension really rose high. I remember one night crying alone in my room wondering if this was the end of our marriage. I never believed we would get divorced. But I thought that at the age of 21, I had reached the peak of happiness and that from here until eternity, my marriage would be unbearably unhappy. Thankfully we were able to make it out of our money troubles and things started to look up. We are financially very well off and live a very comfortable life. But to be honest, the harsh words he threw at me and the really mean arguments we used to have still lurk in the back of my mind. When a loved one says hurtful things, those cuts are deep. There are days when I worry that if something bad happens again, he’ll just say really mean things again. Nothing hurts more than feeling like your spouse doesn’t like you.


Country of Origin: Pakistan

Country of Residence: United States

Age: 33

Gender: Female

Generational Status: Immigrant

OK well this is my second marriage to a pakistani man I feel like I can’t have a conversation with him I feel stupid while speaking to him every time I speak he hurries me and talks about himself or his opinions so I just feel like I am not being heard he doesn’t smile much I like bubbly guys he’s very calm and his emotions are low and that mentally frustrates me I have told him to change but he feeKS I am the one with the issue he says you know it’s not like I yell at you or abuse you but he talks rudely to me and I tell him he denies he’s being rude and gets emotional when I tell him it’s like he’s not rude he is he doesn’t know how to talk politely with me and I see him being polite to others his excuse for being polite to others oh its my job that hurts so much I said I want you to be polite to me too he just doesn’t have anything to say.


Self-Esteem

Country of Origin: India

Generational Status: Immigrant

Currently Live In: United States

Mine is the story of countless mothers who dedicate their lives toward making a happy home. Once the children leave and the husband gets busy with work, we’re left with the question, who am I? We have a tendency to expect perfection and berate ourselves when it is not reached. As I’ve read some of the articles on this website about self-esteem, I realize that mine has dipped quite a bit. I’m no longer the vibrant, confident headstrong person that I used to be. Where does this need for perfection come from? Who puts this pressure on us? I certainly don’t feel it has made me a better mother now that I look back. My children would have probably been better served by a mother who was more confident. I’m working on it though and hope to get back to who I was soon.

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