I got back from Bangladesh on Thursday night, and on Friday morning, even though I was a complete mess – bronchitis, a stomach bug, hardly any food or sleep in 10 days, and jet lag – I contacted my personal trainer and booked a session for the upcoming Tuesday. I knew that it was a risk. I knew that I didn’t really want to do it. However, I also knew that at some point I was going to have to face the world again and figure out what my life now looked like.

So somehow, after days of hiding and mostly silence, I managed to leave the house this morning. I almost, almost cancelled my PT session, as my anxiety built up inside me. I thought my heart was going to burst out of my chest. Instead I managed to get dressed, get out of the house, and get behind the wheel.

I hadn’t listened to any music since my brother passed away. Music was always a source of joy for me and a passion we shared, but I lost that sense of joy and just didn’t feel the urge to press play. I still didn’t really want to listen to any music, but I knew I needed to break my trend of silence. I put on some classical music, something soothing to help me through the drive. I shed some tears but managed not to completely lose it in the car. I parked and then started to walk to the gym. I felt like I was walking in a daze and my legs felt heavy underneath me. I so didn’t want to go, but I knew that I needed to. I kept telling myself – It’s just an hour. For one hour block everything out and just focus on the workout. I knew that the first workout after a 2 week break was going to be the toughest. However, I wasn’t worried about the physical aspect of it. Rather, I knew that mentally I wasn’t fully there. Plus, I hadn’t socialized with anyone … I barely had the ability to do what I needed to do each day let alone make small talk and laugh. There was no laughter inside me. Still, I was desperately trying to find a way to push the heaviness and sadness aside. I knew I needed to find a way to cope while continuing my life.

I made it up the stairs to the gym floor and walked in. Like a zombie I got on the treadmill to warm-up, constantly telling myself, ‘keep it together; you can do this; just breathe; don’t cry; it’s ok; you can do this.’

My trainer knew what had happened, and I was worried that he would ask me how I felt or how things were. Luckily he didn’t. I felt like he was respectful of my space yet ready to make me work. He asked, ‘are you ready?’ I answered, ‘yes,’ even though I really wasn’t sure.

We started with squats. I lost count of how many sets we did – maybe 5 sets of 12 reps and then 4 sets at 8 reps. The weight didn’t feel heavy, but then, I didn’t really feel anything at all. It was worrying. I knew that I needed to engage my core and tighten my glutes, but it was hard for me to concentrate that hard without feeling frustrated. My anxiety wasn’t helping as my heart was racing and I wasn’t able to catch my breath. Still, I survived the first part of the workout.

The next exercise involved a barbell – I think it was empty, but I’m not sure; in any case, the weight would have been very light – and me dropping down to one knee and then the other and then coming back up to standing one leg at a time with the barbell on my back. I think under normal circumstances even without weights that movement would have been tough for me. This was incredibly tough. I managed 2 reps, but I was struggling. I don’t know what it was, but I just couldn’t anchor my feet into the ground solidly enough to help me get back up to standing. So there I was, in the middle of my 3rd rep, down on my knees literally unable to get back up [how symbolic] … and I burst into tears.

My trainer took the barbell off my back and let me collect myself. He didn’t panic and didn’t chide me. He just gave me some space as he set up another workout circuit for me. I took a few minutes, wiped off my tears, and stepped next to the weights. He had set up some dumbbells and a kettlebell for a workout circuit we had done before. He said, let’s do something familiar and get the work done. It helped. I knew physically I was able to do the moves – it was just a challenge for my mind … but then that’s always the challenge, isn’t it?

I somehow fumbled through the last half hour of our session. My trainer was great. Pushing me at just the right times and giving me space when I needed to. I know I’m a hard worker and I know I’m physically able … but this mental and emotional strain has been something of another level. Retraining post-surgery was nothing compared to the pain I’m feeling now. There is no visible scar to heal; there is no timeline for recovery. The pain is raw.

It was hard for me not to feel completely deflated for sucking at my workout, but to be honest, the fact that I actually left the house and showed up was a huge success for today.

I don’t know what the upcoming days look like. I don’t feel ready to face the world just yet, though I’m trying to reintegrate in small doses. I’m trying not to think too far ahead and just trying to take it one day at a time. It is important to me that despite my intense sorrow, anxiety, and depression, I made it to the gym and I tried. I know that logically that is a good thing; it’s just hard for my emotions to catch up. I guess it will take time. I feel so uncertain about so many things in my life right now … but another day has gone without him here. I miss him so much.

music doesn’t sound the same without you here

RIP my dear brother Ahmed – May 14, 1984 – June 5, 2017