How Instagram Made Me Feel Worse

In 2013, Brandy Melville showed us that mental illness was trendy. The company’s Instagram featured models in graphic tees with sayings like “cute but psycho” and “stressed, depressed, but well dressed,” thus cementing the romanticization of being mentally ill — if you were hot and skinny, that is.

Alongside mainstream brands’ efforts to blend mental illness and sex appeal, Tumblr was full of pro-anorexia and bulimia blogs with teenagers encouraging each other to perpetuate detrimental behaviors, all to fit the “Scarlet Leithold” definition of Instagram beauty. This beauty was preferably white, tall, and skinny with a cinched waist; extra points if you have blue eyes. I was the opposite with features that weren’t Eurocentric: brown skin, black hair, and 5 foot 3 inches. However, I was skinny so my thirteen year old self’s skewed perception was spared body dysmorphia —  for a while at least. But this merging of body dysmorphia and Eurocentric Instagram beauty standards gained a captivating hold on social media, one that is still continues today.

Since my Instagram account’s conception, I have continuously deleted every photo I’ve posted. I would zoom in and look for imperfections —  with my nose, my lips, my eyes, the way my hands were positioned, my hair, my legs —  literally anything that could become a focal point. If I detected even the tiniest flaw, I’d remove the picture. 

As the Instagram models and influencers on my explore page grew, so did my odd concern with my already tiny waist, in addition to everything else. I was always skinny, and even was dubbed “skinny legend” in high school, yet I couldn’t help staring at myself in the mirror and wondering what I could do to get that hourglass shape and become beautiful.

It was bizarre. Why had I become obsessed with my figure when I had no reason to be? I was healthy and that’s all that should have mattered. I also met the unrealistic societal norm. I never got dizzy spells until I started limiting myself in terms of how much or what I could eat. My weight started fluctuating. My mother threw away the scale, but I could tell when I had lost weight because I spent an unreasonable amount of time staring at myself in the mirror. I even tried deleting Instagram for a bit, realizing that it was the core of this issue, but kept finding myself downloading it again. Not only did Instagram make me feel terrible about my body, but I couldn’t go a day without subjecting myself to endless comparisons to some girl online I didn’t even know.

In the midst of all of this, I failed to recognize the fact that social media profiles are all curated. We see what the person wants us to see. We don’t see the breakdowns, or the constant introspection that comes with being popular on a social media platform. We see models in their “cute but psycho” tees, but all we are granted is the cute; any signs of mental struggle are airbrushed away like stretch marks. We don’t see the FaceTune (if done well), and we don’t see the lives these influencers, models, and stars lead either.

The person I have deemed so perfect and want to look like may be struggling with something much more complex than I am. Therefore, it is unrealistic to hold myself to such expectations. I am not perfect, and what I think is perfect isn’t perfect at all.

I stopped comparing myself to people. I stopped zooming in and tapping delete and let myself be. I would be lying if I said I didn’t compare myself to anyone, given that we are such visual creatures, but my psyche no longer feels this incessant need to berate myself for not being a certain way.

Maybe it’s time for us to log off.


Photos by Dina Veloric. 


When Your Parents Don’t Love Each Other

The following may be triggering to those affected by domestic violence.


When my mother was my age, she was engaged to my father.

At 18 years old, she was set to marry a man twenty years her senior. Arranged marriages in the Indian community are a commodity, brought upon by circumstance — or necessity. Before getting married, my father sent sweet introductory letters to my mother, which changed after they flew to Los Angeles together from Fiji. This was the closest my parents would ever get to loving each other. All of a sudden, my mother was stripped of the right to talk to her family and go outside. He was afraid she would cheat on him or find someone else. She was oftentimes locked in a tiny, suffocating apartment, homesick with no one to turn to.

My mother was subject to his berating tantrums and his intense physicality, which often culminated in visits from police officers. By the time I was five, I had cultivated an indifference towards the hurtful occurrences in my home. Violence had become so normalized in my household, that I couldn’t even imagine home without it. The first time I saw my mother struck by him, I meekly stood there. To this day, I still do the same.

I love my father with all my heart, which hurts to say, but I have an internalized fear of him that I will never be able to shake off. The look he gets in his eyes when he raises his voice and edges closer to raising his hand at me or my mother makes me flinch every time. It’s the reason why I jolt whenever someone tries to high-five me or why I am so stiff when they lean in for a hug.

The sorrow in my mother’s eyes, the accumulation of bruises, and her hushed sobs into her pillow eventually translated into deep periods of depression and bouts of anxiety. My father undeniably became my mother’s trigger and later became mine. We found ourselves finding solace in our prescription drugs; Xanax and Ativan became crutches. Whether it was deliberately spending hours at a time at a park to avoid him, or making sure the house was spotless, there was no denying the treatment that was to come.

I’ve tried to attribute my father’s behaviors to the undermining of women perpetuated by various Bollywood films and Hindu customs. Despite having a myriad of goddesses, who portray femininity as divine, women are seen as the dregs of Indian society. Is the learned, general lack of respect for women the cause of his violence? Or is it his upbringing he never mentions? Pinpointing the root of this is hard to determine, but I realized that the patterns that entail abuse are essentially the same. The systematic dehumanization that comes with it starts slowly, beginning with controlling the person’s every move as a “protective” pretense, keeping tabs on the person, not allowing them to see certain people or do certain things, which cripples them so they’re essentially bound and limited. My mother wishes she could have left my father, but divorces in the Indian community were frowned upon then, and doing so would’ve tarnish her family’s reputation by labeling my mother as a failed housewife. She also had my little sister and me. She didn’t have the heart to leave us with him, knowing that he’d make it so she would never see us again if she did leave.

My mother can’t hold a job because of her mental illnesses, and my father uses it as a means of blackmail. He uses it to show her she has no financial security without him. What’s important to realize is that abusers diminish the meaning of individuality and independence in the process….

Surpassing abusers means recognizing the signs early on and distancing yourself.


All photos by Jess Farran. 



Pills And Fire Trucks

*The content below may be triggering those experiencing depression and/or suicidal thoughts.


Pill bottles wrapped up in a bathrobe. I found my mother lying on the bathroom floor, incoherent and whispering goodbyes to me. My one-month-old sister was asleep in her crib, and all I could do was call 911. Minutes later, there was an ambulance and a fire truck outside my house. The way I’d see those red trucks with flashing lights and ringing sirens would forever be altered by that gloomy November day. Sometimes, I’ll be walking home and I’ll see an ambulance turn onto my street, and I’ll wonder if it’ll stop in front of my home, and I’ll see my mother on a gurney again. After all, my mother would end up attempting to commit suicide numerous times.

Those days, I thought I would lose my mother. This woman caressed my hair so gently when I was a toddler, called me “PomPom” instead of pumpkin because she wanted her own variation of the name, and never let me see how much she was struggling. I was 10-years-old when my mother gave birth to my younger sister. At the time, I couldn’t comprehend why she didn’t even want to look at my younger sister, or why she was so sad and restless. How could a mother not want to look at her child? Aren’t mothers happy when they give birth? After her first suicide attempt, the doctors told my father that my mother had postpartum depression. Postpartum depression is moderate to severe depression in a woman who has given birth, which can occur anytime from the time of birth to a year later. My mother developed postpartum depression when I was a baby as well, but having a second child only exacerbated her symptoms. For five years, my mother was in and out of an institution. For a while, it felt like I didn’t even have a mother because she was either absent or too drowsy to recognize me as a result of various treatments.

I remember going bra shopping for the first time with my best friend because my mother wasn’t there, and I felt like I couldn’t even talk to my traditional Indian father, who is irked by discussing anything remotely feminine. Living in the conservative bubble that is Indian families, mental health wasn’t discussed either. In fact, my mother was shamed by my father for having a mental illness. He said he shouldn’t have married my mother because she was “crazy.” It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety years later that I found myself in the same situation.

My diagnosis was a result of my not going to school for months on end, only to fail my second semester of my sophomore year of high school. I just stopped caring about my responsibilities and myself.  Kids at school started berating me for struggling with something that is common. My father started saying that I was weak, sensitive, and “just like my mother.” I was made to feel like an outcast in both social and familial settings.

I denied myself treatment for so long not only because mental illness is stigmatized in our society, but also because I knew I’d be rebuked by my father for my condition, and dehumanized by the cruel assumptions of family members. My father even resorted to medicine men from his village to purge my mother and I of the shaitans (demons) that he believed were plaguing us, not mental illness. Seeing a therapist or psychiatrist was very “American” and riddled my father with confusion because he believed that I was cured after consulting one of his medicine men. It was then I realized that I shouldn’t deny myself treatment because I feared judgment.

My anxiety and depression don’t make me any less of a person and they don’t make my mother any less either. Sometimes a parent’s judgment, or anyone’s for that matter, is not useful. Rising above my father’s problematic rhetoric meant that I had to trust myself.




  • Adolescent Crisis Intervention & Counseling 
  • Adolescent Suicide Hotline