It took me 5 days to tell my parents, and 2 weeks to convince them and myself that it wasn’t my fault. Just a day before my medical exam, I was a victim of sexual assault. It all started, when a classmate whom I considered my closest friend would make raunchy comments about me that made me feel uncomfortable. Whenever I confronted him, he’d pass them off as ‘jokes’ until one day his jokes turned into a full-blown sexual assault.
I couldn’t believe what had happened. How could this happen to me? Why me? I started second-guessing myself. I didn’t allow myself to process my trauma. Already under great academic stress, I brushed this incident under the carpet and appeared for my exam.
I kept feeling like I had let a criminal on loose. Constantly woken up by that guilt and horrendous nightmares, I finally mustered the courage to speak up. I was immediately supported by my classmates, many of whom shared their own assault survival stories. It was heart-wrenching. I also stood up and informed the abusers' parents and girlfriends about what had happened. They pleaded and begged me not to file a police complaint.
I have been diagnosed with PTSD, major depression, and panic disorder and I'm on treatment for the same. Now, during my internship, due to overwhelming work, my anxiety and panic attacks shot off the roof and I was advised 1 month's mental health leave to allow myself to get stable only to later hear by people- “Oh, so you are chilling only, no?”
Had I taken leave for, say, a fracture, I’m sure their reactions would be different. Just because there is no physical deformity or a visible scar, does not mean that my pain can be invalidated. It's as real as it can get. The stigma around mental health in India, even among doctors, was a shock to me. When medical professionals themselves fail to empathies with their fellow doctors, what can I really expect from anyone else?
These incidents make me feel as though being a doctor, I’m expected to be devoid of any feelings or personal struggles.
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