Salaam to all of you beautiful kings and queens and everything in-between! My name is Usman Khalid, but you can call me Uzzy if you want. I’m a 29-year-old, super-gay, Pakistani-American Muslim, currently living in Washington, D.C.
Last we left off, I had come back to my apartment building after I had come out to my parents.
Now, before I get started, I was at one of the lowest points in my life, and I’m not one to sugarcoat things, so things are going to get a little dark. This piece is going to focus on what happened after I left my parents’ house the day that I came out.
In other words, back to the depressing shit.
Now, let me tell you, the drive back was one for the books. I mean I had sad songs blasting and I was sobbing uncontrollably. I had “Someone Like you” and “Make You Feel my Love” by Adele and “Shadow of the Day” by Linkin Park on loop.
I’m honestly surprised I didn’t crash into another car, even though at that point I didn’t care what happened to me.
I was sad to the point where I simply did not want to be. I wanted to be invisible, and with all my heart and soul, I didn’t want to exist. I wished I hadn’t been born so that I didn’t have to feel whatever the hell it was that I was feeling.
As I got closer and closer to my house, I started thinking about my brother and how I couldn’t believe he hadn’t even told me it was going to be okay. I was thinking about how I was in front of him, snot and tears included. I kept picturing him moving his head away from me. To be fair to him, if I was in his shoes, I wouldn’t really know what to say either. It’s important for me to make sure that people understand that my brothers had the same upbringing as me, so it’s not like it was easy for us to talk about these things. It took me a while to understand that his reaction wasn’t his fault, just like it took me a while to realize that it wasn’t my parents’ either.
Read More: [Unhinged: How I Came out to my Very Brown Parents]
My brothers are…awesome. Since I’m the youngest of three, I’ve always been a baby to them and to the rest of the family. Growing up, I would do everything to be like them. I’d beg them to take me wherever they were going with their friends, and they would (sometimes) take me. All of their friends called me mini-versions of my brothers.
We grew up watching all the same shows, playing all the same video games, hanging out with the same people, and most importantly, all being raised the same way. The three of us shared a room for a good amount of my childhood, and when we eventually moved and my oldest brother got his own room, me and my middle brother shared a room. This continued until high school for me but remember, my brothers are older than me so they were both in high school while I was in elementary school.
I’m sure I wasn’t the greatest of roomies, but we had a good thing going, and he would help me with my homework. I would listen to his music along with him since he would blast the hell out of his headphones listening to Deftones on his CD player. I would irritate the shit out of him by pretending like I was a pop star in front of our computer while talking to all my friends on AIM. In my opinion, we had a great thing going although it was SO nice to get my own room when I got to high school. When I came out to him, it was a big relief. He had literally zero reaction. For anyone who knows him, that will come as no surprise.
The man hasn’t had an expression on his face for his entire life. He’s basically this emoji: -_-
I came out to my oldest brother just last year, way after I came out to my parents. I know that might seem weird, chronologically, but let me try to explain my reasoning. My two older brothers have always been very protective of me. They made sure that I was safe, that I wasn’t doing any bad things, and that I wasn’t hanging out with the wrong people. Normal big brother stuff. They taught me a lot, like apparently how I couldn’t start cursing until I was in the 6th grade, which was some shit they completely made up, which I, of course, followed.
My oldest brother was always a bit more protective of me. I think it’s because I was the youngest. As the oldest kid in a desi family, you have to learn how to take care of your younger siblings, and he really did. He would take me to go hang out with his friends at the hookah bars, but rest assured, he would make sure I wouldn’t smoke…even though his friends would sneak me some puffs when he would go to the bathroom. He started my first bank account for my 16th birthday and put his own money into it. In fact, when both of my brothers started working in high school, they gave me money every time they would get paid. $40 here and there were millions to me back then. It was the good old days. Now credit card companies won’t stop sending me my statements every month, which is just so disrespectful to me.
So, the reason it was so hard for me to tell him was that he raised me along with my parents. He has literally changed my diapers (which he will never let me live down).
The night that I came out to him, he was driving me back to my new apartment in D.C. last April. I just came out and told him. He wasn’t sure exactly how to react, and he admitted that he didn’t know much about the subject. The main thing for me was that he didn’t throw me out on the street, because that’s honestly the fear that I had with everyone that I have ever come out to. That they will immediately become disgusted and never speak to me again.
He was fine, though I was a nervous wreck, of course. I told him about what happened with my parents and he was able to understand from their point of view. I think it’s harder for him to see things from my side of the court, just because I’m always going to remain a child in his eyes (which is fine, because they give me money sometimes).
I look up to them a lot because they’ve protected me throughout the years, and I wouldn’t be anywhere without them. So when my middle brother didn’t reach out to help me, I couldn’t help feel so alone. I felt like I had absolutely no one in my corner. I was driving with these non-stop suicidal thoughts racing through my head, shirt wet with tears, and I could think of nowhere to go. I felt like I was the only person in the whole world. It was the most intense loneliness I had ever felt. It was killing me.
I guess you could say…my loneliness was killing me.*
*BOOM, THAT’S RIGHT ANOTHER BRITNEY SPEARS REFERENCE.
Ahem, thank you.
Anyways, somehow, as I was driving, singing, and crying, a little voice in my head told me to call someone that I knew I could trust, and who was so conveniently placed in my life. So that’s what I did. I called my neighbor, and now one of my best friends, Anjali, who coincidentally went to the same college as me. We discovered that we both lived in the same building shortly after I moved in, and she was usually always at her apartment with her boyfriend (now husband), Haroon.
I went straight to her apartment, where she immediately lit up a pan-mint flavored hookah and we started talking about what the hell had just gone down. I was so thankful that she was there to listen to me. She didn’t say anything, she just listened, and that was exactly what I needed at that point.
Anjali and Haroon, and their great hookah, helped me process what happened at my parents’ house, as much as they could. This was a pretty critical moment…Anjali is Indian and her family is traditionally Hindu, and Haroon is from Pakistan and Muslim, like me. They were well aware of how judgemental people can be, especially conservative Pakistani Muslims. Although at this point there was no comforting me, I had a voice in the back of my head telling me that I shouldn’t be alone.
I remember starting to feel exactly how I did when I was younger…like there was something under my skin that I needed to get out. I started having the same thoughts that there was actually something wrong with me. All of the feelings that I had kept buried inside from all the years of hiding from my parents, the intense fear of rejection from all of the people that I love, and all of the nightmarish thoughts of suicide were slowly making their way back up.
It had been a couple of hours since my life had shattered, and I was physically and emotionally exhausted.
I went back to my apartment and took a shower. I had called a couple of my other friends who had come over to my apartment to attempt to distract me. Unfortunately, nothing really worked.
I was, in a word, inconsolable.
I remember having this visceral reaction to all the pain that I was feeling…like there was something eating my stomach from the inside out. At the time, it was hard to put what I was feeling into any kind of adjective. Now that I’ve grown, just a little, I can say it was this monstrous guilt for causing my parents so much pain because of something that I know I could not change.
I realized all that I was thinking about were the tears on her face as she was listening to my dad talk. The look of disgust on her face, the look of absolute disappointment at something that I couldn’t change about myself. I was so ashamed to be myself and to exist in their presence. It kind of felt like someone dropped me into the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and my guilt weighed enough to sink me all the way to the bottom of the sea.
After my friends left my apartment and I was by myself, I climbed into bed because I had to go to work the next day.
I remember calling my mom before I fell asleep. I couldn’t stop thinking about how she was feeling. She picked up and I could tell she had been crying. I asked her if she was okay, and she ignored that, and said “kisiko batana mat,” which means “don’t tell anyone.” I could tell by the way that she was saying those words that she was struggling to speak. I could feel her embarrassment and shame from miles away, telling me that I had done the worst thing. I could feel myself shrinking into nothing as I realized that she wanted me to lie about myself. To tell nobody else, to continue to keep to it to myself. But the worst thing that I was feeling was guilt. It was eating up my mind like a parasite.
I remember telling her how scared I was, and she just reiterated what my dad had said to me. She told me that I needed to figure out a way to change and to ask for forgiveness. I told her that I was so scared that they wouldn’t let me see my nieces and nephews again, and she told me that they wouldn’t have to do that if I just fixed myself. I didn’t know what to say. We hung up.
It probably goes without saying, but I cried all night until the sun came up, and many nights after that. My body was continuing to go to work, but my mind was in an entirely different place. My entire life, as I knew it, had been flipped upside down. I didn’t know what to do, except for just pretending everything was okay.
My world was stuck on that day. The words that my parents had said to me were echoing in my head. I didn’t need any trigger or any reminder, my brain was on a never-ending loop.
I thought to myself, “Of course I can’t stop thinking about it, it just happened….it’s too fresh for my brain to not be able to think about it.” This went on for days…and then weeks….and then months….and then it just became a normal part of my life. I would think about the events of that night every waking moment, and sometimes in my dreams. With those memories, the feelings of guilt would just get stronger and stronger, speeding through my mind like a runaway train picking up depression, anxiety, panic, and fear along the way.
While all of this was going on, I had to keep going living my life. I had to keep going to work, birthday parties, and weddings, etc. where I had to keep pretending like there wasn’t absolute chaos under the surface. I’ve always been the type of person to absorb everyone else’s emotions and never deal with my own, and that’s exactly what I was doing. I was just waking up every single day, thinking about how I would make it through each day. Thoughts of ending it all became a part of my routine. Darkness was starting to creep into every aspect of my life.
When you feel like people hate you for who you are, it’s easy for your mind to just go into a loop of negative thoughts, which is what was happening to me for months and months after coming out to my parents. Not to say that I had never felt like this before, but now that my worst fucking nightmares had come true after talking to my parents, it was a different kind of pain.
What’s important to remember, is that your existence is everything but meaningless, and you are worlds away from a mistake.
Until next time,
Be kind to your mind. You deserve it.