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  >  Latest   >  [Chapter 5] My Story of Moving to Canada: The Present

If you’ve made it this far in the story, you know I live in Toronto. Switching from the past to the present, because I’ve been in Delhi the past 3 months and Instagram friends are curious if I’ve moved back. Short answer – I haven’t. 

In October 2022, I returned home to Delhi to be with my family. I had a rocky start in Canada (If you’re new here, my Moving to Canada series has the entire back story, where I continue to share my experience and tell personal stories). 

My big, inspirational takeaway from 2022 is that “keep calm and carry on” can be garbage advice. Specially if that’s the advice you’re giving yourself in order to keep moving when you don’t feel okay.

Everything I had suppressed caught up with me this year when I was living alone in my very beloved apartment. I’ve learnt that our body absorbs everything we’re feeling. Grief and stress are the two that show up in the most visible of ways – through sleep deprivation, messed up eating habits, body aches, weight gain or loss. But what I didn’t see coming was a plethora of other physical manifestations of illnesses – stuff that I don’t yet feel comfortable sharing (I’ll get there eventually). 

I had created a life I loved, in a neighbourhood I loved (you must’ve heard this one at some point and I’m pretty sure I am at least partially responsible for the rent increase in liberty village) but somehow it wasn’t making me happy. I couldn’t figure out why, because on paper everything was GREAT. So when I continued feeling unhappy and lost, I couldn’t figure out why I felt that way. I kept feeling guilty about it because I SHOULD have been happy. I SHOULD have been living my best life. Maybe I was living it already, but my best life wasn’t making me happy either (except the Backstreet Boys concert I went to last year – that made me v happy). 

This year was a culmination of everything I had worked for, for years. I had kept pushing when I was too emotionally drained to go on – because I felt I had something to prove. To whom? I have no idea.

The lovely life I was living was amazing on paper. I could do everything I wanted, afford to travel as much as my heart desired and pursue all my hobbies/interests/passions. But I did none of that. My personality changed, I went from being an over-energetic extrovert to an always-tired introvert. I don’t make that statement lightly – I was always tired. I woke up tired and by lunch I had lost the will to do anything at all – finally by dinner, I was opening up boxes of frozen food and popping them in the oven. Sometimes forgetting to take them out at all and falling asleep with the oven still running. If you’re curious, the food didn’t catch fire but I found it completely charred the next morning. The science behind that fails me. 

I started forgetting entire conversations. I didn’t text people back. I struggled to speak to people on the phone – including my parents. I made to-do lists all day and scratched nothing off. Routines went for a toss, closely followed by my health, enthusiasm and willingness to be around people. I slept SO MUCH and other days not at all. I didn’t want to dress up or wear good clothes. I suddenly stopped being in front of a camera, stopped dancing, stopped leaving my apartment (sometimes for weeks). 

What was crazy though, was that I was totally okay around my close friends and family – I was my usual self, completely happy. Dancing, being stupid, being funny and – as is typical of me when I’m happy – I was also loud, sarcastic and generally causing harmless trouble (some will disagree about the harmless part). It was the most bizarre thing – because I was happy sometimes, sad mostly and had NOT ONE REASON to be unhappy. And yet, I was miserable. I was really getting irritated with myself at that point. I had tried everything – candles, flowers, home decor, painting, reading, relaxation techniques.  Even the Calm app, of which I am a big fan btw (please sponsor me). And yes, the small things I did every day made a huge difference to my day. My Nespresso machine (please sponsor me), the fresh flowers that I bought from a local flower shop nearby (grocery store flowers had the opposite effect), the cocktail and board game nights with my friends and my everlasting Mala candles (sponsors.. you get the drift by now). In these moments I was perfectly okay. I would do this strange thing where, when people were over I was suddenly so full of energy that I would start folding my laundry, cleaning my house and doing all those tasks that I had put off for days. 

This is called atypical depression, I recently learnt. Where I was oversleeping, tired, deeply unhappy, unable to focus on anything – but totally fine when I’m around my close circle. Before this was diagnosed, I had struggled. Because not knowing what’s going on with you is a terrifying feeling. It feels like this is how life will go on and this is what adulthood feels like. How underwhelming, I thought. 

Part of me felt like something needed medical attention, so I sought therapy. I quickly realized the problem went deeper than CBT. After months of struggling to figure out “what was wrong with me” I was finally able to get the right help. That too came after months of trying meditation, journaling, yoga and every possible self care exercise you can think of. 

I saw many doctors. Someone said it’s stress, another said it’s anxiety, yet another said it’s grief, and one said it’s trauma. That’s when I lost faith in the Canadian medical system – because they all met me so briefly and were so willing to put me on random medication, that no one bothered to really get to the root of the problem. 

Until I finally came home and started seeing my current doctor, who after meeting me several times, diagnosed me with inflammation in the brain and atypical depression.

Coming home turned out to be the best decision for me. I now know that the root cause is inflammation. Inflammation in the brain and body, that I am already genetically predisposed to – but that often gets triggered due to “stressors” such as the loss of loved ones, in my case (or related issues). This has further caused physical illnesses, burnout and exhaustion.

I am still figuring out what my next steps should be – whether I should be here or in Canada, but have been advised to remain in India a little while longer. But as these things unfolded, I learnt a very important lesson. 

We are so “by the book” sometimes about our approach to life. I would have stayed in Canada and continued to suffer. Because I thought I had chosen to move, so going back home would be like moving backward in life. But boy, did life teach me otherwise.  My best life lessons have also come from Bollywood, and we know SRK is never wrong – so as he puts it in Dear Zindagi, we sometimes choose the tougher option thinking we NEED to go through it or we SHOULD go through it, because that’s the only way to reach our goals. But we can also take the easier option. 

For me that option was coming home and realizing I didn’t care about proving anything to anyone if it was going to cost me my happiness. Taking a break from work to focus on health, even as early as at 30 years of age, is not “unthinkable” to me anymore. 

I miss my friends and my apartment in Toronto. But I also know it’s okay to regroup at any point and do the unconventional thing, because it’s not “backtracking” if it’s helping you move forward.

Nikita Butalia is a solo 20-something traveler who documents her experiences around India and the rest of the world in witty narratives and travel tales that are best read curling up on the couch with a cup of hot chocolate on a winter evening.

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