Issue 1: Featuring Anaum Hammad
Every month, The Mindful Missy platform will feature an inspirational cover story about real life heroes sharing their journeys. Each cover star will be featured without any retouching in an effort to promote body positivity and self-love. By featuring real people who share their struggles and bare their vulnerabilities we hope to start a meaningful discussion and a powerful movement towards a more accepting, inclusive and compassionate community.
Anaum carries herself with confidence and is exceptionally pleasant to talk to. She’s intelligent, charismatic, and always seems to have the most amusing stories to tell. Anaum also displayed these qualities on set the day we were shooting for the digital cover to accompany this story. She showed up late but quickly managed to charm everyone and made them forget her tardiness. She gave her creative input about the shots and it was obvious that she was very comfortable around the camera. A stylist by profession, I can’t remember a time she looked anything less than effortlessly put together. Naturally, it would seem that the twenty-three-year-old has everything going for her but her most endearing quality was yet to reveal itself – her ability to be completely vulnerable and speak candidly about her crippling battle with anxiety and depression.
Excessive sleeping, a complete loss of appetite and weight loss characterized those few months of her life. “It was difficult to keep myself motivated because I would feel physically exhausted all the time.
I couldn’t carry out daily tasks whether it was to shower or join my family for a meal and make basic conversation.
Anaum spent a few months feeling this way until she was diagnosed with depression. When asked what factors contributed to the onset of depression, she paused and then replied, “For me, when I didn’t stop at my limit, the depression began to hit. I had exhausted myself so much emotionally and mentally that it was affecting my physical wellbeing.” She continued, “my anxiety attacks were not just emotional – I would experience somatic panic attacks, where I would be unable to speak or breathe.
It’s not like feeling down or blue which is a temporary feeling but depression lasts for a long period and it’s very intense.
How did the diagnosis make her feel? “I didn’t feel much because I was already very demotivated but I was paranoid about seeking medical help and the dependency that comes with it”, she tells me. What worked for Anaum was trying to get back on her feet with one small step every day. “I learnt that it’s ok not to push yourself to go to work, instead get out of bed and go lie down on a sofa around people. You can go for a drive, get coffee or ice cream even if it’s all by yourself. One can start by trying to find determination and will power– for me it was my three younger sisters. I believe that if I wasn’t an older sister with responsibilities, I wouldn’t have been able to get over half my struggles.”
She also found support in therapy where she could go speak about her struggles in a safe space. “When you speak to family and friends about sensitive issues, you can get defensive and feel attacked because emotions are involved. You’re not in a good enough state to define the boundaries needed for a productive discussion – in therapy a professional does that for you.” Today, she’s much better and still goes to therapy when she feels like it. She also makes an effort to live more mindfully. She says, “I take out time every day and talk to myself. Therapy has helped me identify what triggers my anxiety so I try to avoid those things.”
She says, “It’s important to surround yourself with positivity and good energy because the power of your mind is limitless. One can’t control other people, what you do have control over is yourself, your thoughts, your health and your actions.”
Anaum looks at me intently and quotes a saying she believes in and she reflects on often.
Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you…so how you respond to what happens is more important than what happens.
The Mindful Missy is proud to share Anaum’s story in the hope that it may help many others suffering in silence. By speaking about anxiety and depression we hope to lift the veil of shame and the taboo that is often associated with the topic of emotional well-being and mental health in Pakistan.
Video: Syra Sheikh | Photography: Areesh Zubair | Interview and styling by: Mehek Saeed | Label: Zaha