Arzoo Multani is a 24 year Sikh woman from Brampton, Ontario, who has recently completed an honors Anthropology program. She has various creative pursuits ahead of her, and is full of love and light. This is the story of the trauma that led to the deterioration of her mental health, her hospitalization, and her subsequent journey of struggling through the pain to a happier life. It is also yet another story of abuse by our so-called protectors- the police.
TW: This article discusses multiple forms of trauma, including sexual assault, police brutality, and mental health
A Rude Awakening: Navigating the Imperfect Emotions
They kicked my dad out, locked the door, didn’t say a word and started hurting me. I am a 5”3 medium built brown girl and there I was being trampled on, jumped on and assaulted by 7-8 White men in uniforms that read “Protect and Serve”. I was screaming for my life as I was tasered four times. And the rest is a blur.
I slowly regain consciousness and I’m in a small room. I’m unable to feel my legs and arms. I can’t breathe and I puke. There is an IV hooked on my left arm, my mom’s bangles are broken. I have on my dad’s favorite red shirt, it’s ripped and there’s blood everywhere. Hands cuffed, legs cuffed, and a bright light above my head. Isolation.
This reminded me of being locked in a dark closet as a child after that man used to touch and hurt me. The man that I had known as my uncle my whole life, used to rape me as a child and it took me 20 years to surface that truth during my spiritual and mental breakdown as a 23-year-old.
My name is Arzoo Multani and I am 24-year-old Sikh Woman, a first-generation immigrant, a wild and bubbly soul. This is my journey of suffering with anxiety and depression for most of my life.
It peaked last year in 2019 when I decided I had to drop out of school to save my life. I thought I had everything, the classes, the job, the boyfriend, and the apartment. But, something was always off — I didn’t have myself. I grew up in a very small White town in the Niagara region and moved to Ottawa for my undergrad. I started off studying Biology but ended up in Anthropology after failing my first year largely because I was severely depressed. It was the best failure, because I found my true passion and calling.
In June 2019, when I was assaulted by the police and committed to the psych ward out of my own will, I had reached a very crucial point mentally and spiritually. I had a major breakdown prior to being committed or rather a breakthrough.
It was what people would quote as “she went insane”. And what I present as my awakening.
There I was fighting for my life in the Brampton Civic Hospital Mental health emergency room, or at least that’s what I was told it was. I requested the nurse to uncuff me — I was trembling in pain and I wished I had just died because holding onto life in that moment was excruciating. I asked for water, for clean clothes and some painkillers. Nothing — not a single thing. They don’t believe a single word that comes out of a person’s mouth in the psych ward. Finally, I change, clean my face and distract myself by talking to other patients in the waiting room. I worried that if I closed my eyes I wouldn’t have woken up.
I see the crisis management psychiatrist on call, a slender tall white lady with brown hair, I tell her everything that happens. She then asked me, “Who do you not feel safe around right now?” — I replied “My family”. She didn’t believe me and decided to call my family. Seeing them made me have another major panic attack. After a few days I got transferred to the general psych ward and spent quite a bit of time there. I made the most of it- I connected with the nurses and other patients. Things got better with my parents and I felt like I was given a second chance at life. Then, I was officially diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
I was broken.
I asked the doctor what it means to be bipolar, for which the response was, “When a patient has one or more manic
episodes, they are considered bipolar”. I left Brampton Civic at the end of June 2019. All I wanted to do was to travel, but I decided to take part in the 8-week outpatient therapy program at the same hospital that the doctor recommended. It was 25 hours of therapy a week, exhausting and challenging but extremely helpful. I can’t specifically name one thing that has helped me, but that it was my will power that allowed me to evolve the way I have.
I chose to want better for myself and figure out why things were so bad.
As for my treatment plan, I was originally prescribed antidepressants post hospital, which I did take for a while until I decided it wasn’t for me. I have had the privilege to explore many forms of medicine, some of which include, specific aromatherapy, Chinese herbs and acupuncture, yoga, and much more. I want to showcase that there are many options and paths of healing and exploring them is your right.
With mental, emotional and spiritual health it is very important to be guided by your own voice and what you feel is best for you — not what others tell you. This process transformed me in every way. It made me learn how powerful I am and that I can truly do anything I want to. I devoted myself to my Sikhi and practiced being connected. I left the hospital, to start a very different life. It wasn’t easy returning to the home that I had pretty much died in.
Yet, every single day since June 11th , 2019 has been the best day of life, because I made it so.
I have been given a second chance to wake up, to love myself. I stopped being my worst enemy, and recognized that I have everything I need. I’ve realized that I love what I’m doing and that I don’t want to become a medical doctor or force myself to fit into boxes. I am meant for so much more. I lost the closest people in my life, my lover, my best friends, people who I thought would always be there weren’t and for that I am thankful, because this allowed me to meet better people, the ones that truly belong in my life.
And most importantly I found myself. This process made me value who I truly am and surfaced what I deserve. I am not just a student or an employee, I am not defined by a diagnosis or label or bio-medicine or any form of whiteness. I’m not my grades, I am not the trauma and assault, sexual or physical, and I am not my physical appearance. I am so much more, my highest self each and every day.
I am me, unapologetically.
Mental issues and sufferings are extremely common in the South Asian community, and this is something we can heal and solve as a group. This incident shook up my entire life and everyone in it. If you are struggling you don’t have to suffer in silence, your future doesn’t have to be hazy and sad, there is a lot of love and light in life. Needing help takes a lot of courage and is not a sign of weakness, rather it represents strength and evolution. And most importantly you have to decide that you want to help yourself.
What I needed to hear a year ago should’ve been something like “It is possible to be happy, and you truly deserve it”. Which I did not. I want to emphasize that being a woman of color, seeking any sort of help, treatment or enhancement in life brings a lot of guilt because we are made to live our lives like we have something to prove.
But, despite what others might tell you, we all deserve to be healthy and happy in ourselves.
We all carry with us traumas, pain, and unresolved issues that affect each part of our being. My breakdown was needed for me to cope with everything I had repressed within myself for so many years. I have returned to University for my final semester, and am completing everything online as of the pandemic. Facing my old life was terrifying but seeing my transformation was powerful and necessary. I have many plans. I choose to live each day in the moment and make it the best I can, for now. You are all very special in your own way. Create, do whatever it is that brings your heart joy. All of your answers are inside of you. Thank you for taking the time to read my story, I hope it brings you what you need.