"They always say, "where there’s a will, there’s a way." While this quote was just a sequence of wise words for me before, today it is what my life embodies, a tale of a girl making her way through loads of lemons life just thought to decorate her path with.
Life always has a thing for taking turns, not the ones you crave but the ones unfathomable in one’s wildest dreams. My story is all about this one unprecedented turn, and the rest was just the aftermath of what I had never seen coming.
It’s strange how a normal university day with a hectic lecture schedule followed by a regular lunch and much-needed sleep had so much to offer. I woke up sensing a terrifying vibe in my gut that something was terribly wrong. On the crossroad of my thoughts, the first thing I could do was to reach NUST Medical Center, an on-campus medical facility with limited services to offer. Within an hour, I was confined to a wheelchair and then referred to the military hospital. All this time, struck in awe and trying to absorb all that was too much to take-in, my numb self just got paralyzed in the right side and I was admitted to an emergency ward in CMH. God knows when I lost my consciousness but when I finally gained it back, everything was changed. I found my mother right beside me in the hospital room, who traveled all the way from Lahore to tell me that it had been 4 days of me battling for life. The chills of horror and shock ran through me as the doctors failed to explain what exactly I was fighting against. And just like that, one fine university morning marked the beginning of something so unpredictable and terrifying that shook me to my core.
We, humans, find peace in having things planned, a sense of security and comfort that whatever comes our way, we’ll have a way to handle. But when this nervous breakdown showed up with no red flags, it was not only the plans but my entire existence that took a death stroke, shattering everything into pieces. The plans falling apart, the body not responding, and the diagnosis not found. It was only after consulting with numerous doctors and undergoing many scans that a diagnosis was reached, with the news that I have had a paralysis attack accompanied by a nervous breakdown. With a diagnosis, this big, 6 months confinement to bed, and dependency on a person for literally every other thing came in complementary.
Well, as those 6 months passed and things started to make some sense, I felt better and wanted to complete all that was left due - my project, degree, and the work that needed to be done. I went to my mother trying to convince her to let me resume my studies. It was then that the magnitude of my situation really hit me. All my classmates were graduates now, my mental health extremely deteriorated, the regular sessions with doctors I couldn’t miss, and to top it all off, the severe fits that would leave me unconscious, triggered by the faintest of anxiety and tension. My mental health conditions made me “unfit” for an in-campus hostel facility and so everything just got twice as hard. Feeling the underlying fear of not being good enough and being left out of the rush life, I started to slowly retreat within myself.
Being in a situation like this, the physical pain is still easy to overcome, with all the medications one is bound to take, but the real challenge is the emotional exhaustion. The pity in every eye that looked my way, the sorry in every voice I heard, and the belittling behavior that just killed me inside. It was as if no one could really connect to me and there was absolutely no one I could really confide in, except for my mother who stood by me, always.
With all the support and hope my mother filled me with, I finally took the courage to resume my studies, successfully making it to the mid-defense of my MS degree and getting myself enrolled in a B.Ed program to make up for all the time that was lost. This multitasking was hectic, but I felt life again, its normalcy, and its routined chaos as if everything started to fit back into places but it was only until when life had to serve me with thorns again. Right before the scheduled date, my mental health deteriorated again and I had to get it rescheduled again, not once, not twice but thrice. On the other hand, the B.Ed program required me to travel to Lahore quite frequently, even on a daily basis sometimes. As harsh as the circumstances were, I did not even once let a shadow of self-doubt take the best of me. After months of rescheduling, I finally passed it with flying colors and am hoping to perform the same way in the final defense and the degree.
There’s a saying that when life gives you lemons, make lemonade, and well my story is much more than that. Being a person diagnosed with conversion disorder, I have achieved quite more than what people normally do, Bachelors in Biotechnology from GCU, Lahore, MS from NUST in Biomedical sciences with research on depression, and a B.Ed from Allama Iqbal Open University Islamabad. Not only this, I have a wide set of services that back up my resume, which include volunteer work at Chadar, NUST; career counseling at SOS Children’s Village, volunteer teacher for a graphics designing course at eRozgaar Training Program, Rawalpindi. Other than this, I brushed up my skills for remote working including content writing in a private organization that has led me to work as an ebook writer with the Pakistani company "ebook Consultants".
Now that I look back, I realize that my life isn’t all about that one unprecedented turn, it's about the lessons I learnt through it, that how in the end it’s you whose motivation can literally drive everything to make ways for you to achieve your goals, only if you’ve wanted them enough, how nature actually does conspire to make the seemingly impossible, possible, and how a human might just be a drop in the ocean, but holds willpower sufficient enough to make anything happen."
From Afsana: Farwa's story highlights the power of inner strength in navigating university as a student with conversion disorder. Yet there is more to be done to provide support for women like Farwa to further their education. Please continue to support our platform to learn more ways to help, and if you also have a story to share as a Pakistani woman, please contact us.
Written by Sana Jamil and Shifa Shariq of Afsana