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Anxiety hits Women of Color differently

Kanika Chopra's monthly column begins with talking about anxiety when Brown

Anxiety, like sexuality exists on a spectrum. Let's imagine that human anxiety exists on a scale from one to ten. Now let's assume most people exist and function anywhere from 1-4 on the anxiety scale.

Say you're cruising at solid 3 on the scale when you're sleeping over at your partner's house or partying with someone your parents don’t know about, but you've told your parents you're studying with your friend Pooja. Out of nowhere your mum is calling you at 11pm. You might be mid make out, or slightly tipsy, or in some way have your senses compromised. When you look at your phone you realise that this isn't the first but the third time she's called, and then before you can answer the phone you have a text from Pooja saying SOS.

Your anxiety in this situation would have now gone up to 7-10 on the scale. If you can relate to this, I'm so sorry, I know how scary it is when this stuff happens. My point here however is that some people are on the higher end of the scale almost perpetually, and it doesn't take an actual anxiety inducing situation to be at a 10. That is a hard existence and I have been there for sure. In a situation where I get the SOS text but also where my day-to-day is filled with anxieties I can't rationalise, understand, or quantify, but I have been making an effort to do so.

Anxiety for womxn of colour, especially from colonised/postcolonial worlds is not atypical in anyway so you're not alone. As a South Asian woman myself my anxiety has stemmed from many things - like parental pressure. It's such a strange thing where we are told to go out into the world and be financially secure but at the same tiem I needed to ask for permission to spend the money I made on thing wanted?


And the morality clause that just comes with being female having to sit with my legs crossed, my cleavage covered, be timid, be shy, not outspoken. With the men I dated, where I had to think for myself and be my own person but not if it emasculated them? Or if I liked sex more than my partner it was automatically assumed that I'm raging cheating nymphomaniac.

For me it has been a real struggle with wanting to run away from a culture that wants to be so much like its coloniser that it colonises its womxn with archaic ideology, but at the same time not turn into a colonial product and become so "westernised" that I lose sight of where I came from, because no matter what I'm not going to be able to ever become one with the coloniser (not that I ever want to be a part of that club).


There are so many expectations, and they are so deeply woven into the fabric of our system that it's so hard to know where to go and how to be sometimes. It's also nearly impossible to talk about mental health in the world I was raised in but I somehow have moved passed that and saw therapists and everything to try and understand myself more, and my environment more. I'm still anxious but I'm at the lower end of the scale most days, sometimes I'm on the higher end of the scale too. It just depends as I'm sure it does for you. 


I’m going to be touching upon many things as I write a short piece like this every month. Feel free to email us if there’s something in particular you’d like to discuss in terms of mental health and sexuality (not that I’m an expert in anyway) because these two topics are more often than not out of bounds in the South Asian community and I think it’s time we change that.


Main artwork produced by Pooja Prabhakaran, @byprabhs.

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About the author

Kanika is a writer, reader and all-around curious person, who is a settler on Wurundjeri land, and hails from Mumbai. They love to edit stories as well as write them. She is the founder and editor of More than Melanin which is a collaborative literary zine and creative writing mentor to kids. In her free time, she loves to cook, eat, and feed those around her. Instagram: @morethnmelanin



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