It is truly amazing how many inspiring individuals have applied to our Collaborative AI Projects. We very honored to share the story of Anam today from whom we learned a lot by just speaking and listening to her. Anam has been part of our AI challenge on building a machine learning model for PTSD assessment.
I am a Computer Science student and before that, I was actually a pre-medical student. I switched a lot of majors. The thing in Pakistan is, after studying biology, you can either become a doctor or a dentist. I wanted to do research but there weren’t many options. That is why I decided to switch to computer science and for that, we have to study mathematics before college. I took a gap year to study math so that I was eligible to apply to an engineering university.
It was very hard to convince my parents to let me study maths at first because they were convinced that being a doctor would be a better choice for me. They finally agreed and I was studying maths and then I had to complete two years of the syllabus but I had only one year. Right after I started studying my dad got appendicitis and we went to get his appendix removed but it ended up being more than that.
His intestines stopped working, and he was in the hospital for a few months after that. We were just hoping his intestines would start working so we could go home. Then the surgical wound from where they opened him up, developed an infection. In order to get support, we had to move to Lahore, where the rest of my relatives live. When we moved to Lahore, they cleaned his wound, and it got infected again. He was on bed rest for about two months. His movements were minimal, which led to pulmonary embolism (blood clots had lodged in his lung). One day, he was going to the bathroom, when all of a sudden he passed out and nobody knew what was happening.
Everybody was at the hospital and nobody could figure out what happened. The doctors thought maybe he had a heart attack. He was taken to the ICU. The doctors started giving him CPR. I think he was gone for a minute or two, but the doctors were successful at bringing him back. They put him on life support forsupportfor a couple of days and that’s when we really lost all hope.
A couple of days later he finally woke up and we found out that he had had a pulmonary embolism.
I know a lot of people go to a lot of things and this is nothing compared to most of them. when my parents were in the hospital I was looking after my siblings. I had to tell them what was happening.
At the same time, I also had to focus on my studies. Even though there were a lot of people who did support us, at these times you really find out who is actually there for you and who isn’t. And a lot of people backed out. My friends would be telling me, you should be with your dad instead of even worrying about your studies. To avoid talks like these, I would hide while I studied. So after four months of being in the hospital and staying at my relatives, we could finally come home.
We were ecstatic.
I remember my mom telling me that she wanted to go out in the streets and shout for joy.
We came back home it was all fine and I gave my math exams after covering two years worth of syllabus in about 4 months, that too under extreme stress.
I came back after my last exam, ready to prepare for my college entrance tests, and something odd happened. I fell sick out of the blue. I had nausea 24/7. I couldn’t eat or drink. I would vomit if I tried, and I started to lose weight.
My parents took me to multiple doctors thinking that my stomach was upset. Months went by but we couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Later, I was diagnosed with severe anxiety which stemmed from the incident with my dad.
I remember my mom telling me, “When your dad was in the ICU, I would sit outside it all night and every day there was a new body being taken out of the ward. So, every time I saw the doors open, I hoped it wasn’t your dad’s body.” I could understand her feelings because that was exactly how I felt every time my mom called me from the hospital. I felt my heart drop every time my phone rang.
The fear had gotten stronger and now I had severe anxiety accompanied by recurring panic attacks. The fear that I might lose my parents kept me up all night. Whenever one of them left the house I would call them repeatedly to check up on them. I never turned my phone on silent while in class, because I was always fearing a call with a bad news.
I started medication, and my anxiety slowly started getting better. Throughout the recovery, my mother was always by my side. She distracted me when I had terrible thoughts. I felt safe only in her company.
My entrance test results finally came. I was accepted into one of the top CS universities in Pakistan.
My recovery still continues but today I feel great because I have never been able to share my story publicly before. I have always been told to keep it quiet as if talking about mental health problems is some sort of taboo. From my personal experience, I have realized that talking about it is what helps us get better. I hope I encourage people to speak up and share their stories