During our lives, we are advised to stay strong, healthy, motivated and encourage others to grow. How do we do that? Those are just comments. What do we do when we stumble? How do we not fall back into the same pit of despair? Filled with our vulnerabilities, our wounds and the demons of depression. In our steadily evolving Indian culture. It is still frowned upon to talk about one’s mental health. Often termed as absurd, silly, immature, unconfident, and so on.. By the people who don’t get it. Usually, by choice, lack of knowledge or just sheer ignorance. Some are anxious & afraid to admit it. “Log kya kahenge?” They fear being judged, disowned by the ones they love, getting consumed by fear so much that they result in stocking up on that toxicity. Most of us are forced into settling down, letting things go, put on a smile to show that you’re happy, all at the cost of being miserable within.
But, some brave souls exist, yes, those who break all bounds and just do whatever it takes to make a change, they fight for it, they fight so that no-one should go through a phase like that. I identify myself as one of those brave souls.
Writing this wasn’t easy, I’ll give you that. I came up with a questionnaire based on my own life experiences.
And yes, it’s gonna be a long one. Here’s my story,
- When did you feel troubled at first?
It began when I was in school at a young age. I was called names, beaten up, made a fool out of, a makeshift punching bag, used as a dummy for target practice and a whole lot of other things. I was bullied throughout, I was considered a nobody, made to feel worthless, maybe some of you can relate. I was treated in ways I so wish that no child should ever experience in their lifetime. I’m sure there are worse things that could’ve happened, but that isn’t any form of consolation. I was a child, and a child shouldn’t be traumatised at such a young age. If not cared for, then his/her mental growth would be affected. The child would end up being stigmatised.
*Some of you might say that “what a guy, you should’ve stood up for yourself”, “I let them treat me like that.” You weren’t there, our upbringing was different. Change the way you think.*
- How long did it last in the beginning?
I can’t say for sure, I didn’t realise that feeling low was something to be dealt with or that I had insecurities until the age of 24. We don’t understand what we’re going through or that dealing with the after-effects of trauma. It is only until we are triggered to respond by something completely unrelated, reminding us of our scarred past, eventually leading up to a breaking point.
I rose to my first breaking point at the age of 21, I was depressed & miserable. I had destroyed and thrown away close connections due to my own insecurities and mistakes. May 2014 was when I tried getting professional help, but I couldn’t, my parents didn’t understand what I was going through. I went on to punish myself to starvation and emotionally numbing distractions. I ended up eventually repressing everything until I entered college, It felt like a fresh start, new faces, new friends, new memories. But I fell back after a year, I caught on to the habit of smoking marijuana and consuming alcohol so often just to numb the emotions I was afraid to confront. It was addicting, and I was addicted.
I made an attempt to quit in 2018, but I relapsed. I eventually got clean in May 2019, and I’m still going strong! I am proud of myself.
But, to answer the question, I don’t remember the beginning.
*Our upbringing is such that we are taught to live & grow with our insecurities. Just to seem normal, to be accepted & respected in society. Pretending to be perfect according to the so-called “Indian Society Standards”. Some of us live in fear & just give up, but a few break free and thrive. It’s never too late to get help. Listen & change the way you think, it helps.*
- When did you realise that you needed help?
It was the last week of April 2014, my first breaking point, it was when I started losing control of my actions. I had made mistakes due to my own insecurities allowing my emotions to get the best of me. I didn’t know what I was doing, I felt lost, I just wanted to feel numb & quit. This phase of self-inflicted punishment of starvation went for days, I had become weak & felt miserable all the time. I used to stay in bed for the whole day just sleeping & doing nothing else, my only distraction was the radio. There was this show during the night on Radio Indigo where people phoned in to talk about their issues & feelings. That radio show gave me the idea of talking to a psychiatrist about how I was feeling.
It so happened that I came across this radio show, which helped me relate and create this curiosity in me. I’m sure it would’ve helped a lot of other people who were listening too but, I personally feel that not everyone would be able to do the same. There can be instances where we don’t realise that we need help when it comes to certain situations. We may even pass it off as a terrible day not realising the intensity of it.
Somewhere in May 2014, I began looking up psychiatrists nearby in hopes of getting help. I even spoke to my parents, telling them that I felt I had the need to see a psychiatrist. I had little knowledge about this, But, my parents presumed I had just quarrelled with my friends. They said, “stop this behaviour, boys don’t cry, just eat well and focus on your studies, you’ll be fine, you don’t need a psychiatrist”. Apparently only stupid people visited psychiatrists and only crazy people or as we Indians say only if you’re a “Mental Case” you go to NIMHANS “the Mental Hospital”.
(I don’t blame my parents, it’s not their fault, it’s just their upbringing. They weren’t aware of the importance of mental health. Even as I’m writing this, they show little to no interest in understanding the importance of it. Still, they’re supportive in everything that I do).
*We are told that therapy is for the mentally retarded, those who are unfit for the society, for the psychos. Anything & everything in connection with therapy is considered a taboo, “Oh, you go to a shrink?” You are stigmatised & looked down upon, your parents will say the family name is tarnished, we can’t show our faces, what will people think? “Log kya kahenge?” If it’s a guy, he’s not manly enough, if it’s a girl she’s being dramatic & craves attention. It’s always the victim who is blamed, why? Listen, change the way you think & stop judging, no-one cares about opinions, you never know when it’s too late, and suddenly realise that you could’ve helped.*
- How did you make yourself feel better?
As I grew older, I resorted to various interests to make myself feel better. It began in 2010, where I got my first phone with a keypad. I used to type out small paragraphs of poetry in text lingo, which I would then post on Facebook and send it out to the people I knew. It was emotions in words, and it made me happy. I wanted to make the people around me happy; the happiness of others made me happy (I still have the whole archive of them). But I didn’t know I was feeling things. I just knew that happiness made me feel better. There were days when I just used to cry in silence, laying in bed, not sleeping. As the years progressed, I barely wrote anymore. In 2012 my attention shifted towards photography. I knew I could still write; I combined both creatives. I often wrote creative descriptions to the photographs I captured, narrating the picture through words.
In 2015, I moved on to emotionally numbing distractions of marijuana & alcohol, which only made it worse. I was too afraid to face my emotions, I didn’t want to confront them. I chose to be silent & repress them. It was only until I reached the age of 24 when I began having panic attacks at work. I realised that I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to face my own emotions. After I quit my job, I took some time off to recuperate and began reading books on self-help, but they didn’t work in the beginning.
They didn’t work because my mind wasn’t at peace. I would get distracted easily and lose focus. But once I became more aware of my emotions and actions, I was able to implement & practice the different ideologies I had learnt from those books. As I progressed, I shifted to books on psychology. I wanted to understand myself & the subject of mental health. I wanted to know why I felt what I felt. I was soon able to understand myself better. There were times when I kept falling back, that’s when I began writing down my emotions again, it helped. Once I wrote about the current state of my mind or the thoughts in my head or the way I felt, I crushed the paper & threw it away. It worked, I ended up throwing away a lot of paper. But I felt better.
Writing was my go-to therapy.
*Each one of us develops a skill or an interest to distract ourselves, to express our emotions, and to feel better. We find a means to express ourselves by writing poetry, composing music, singing ours heart out, dancing like there’s no tomorrow, painting our vision, cooking our favourite cuisine or even riding a motorcycle on a racetrack. Anything can be therapeutic. Our inner passion is at its peak because we want to forget the world around us and be present in the world that we create, where we can be ourselves with no-one to judge. Everyone should be encouraged to pursue whatever they’re passionate about, and one can never know if it’s their way of dealing with emotions.*
Because, Through Art, Our Souls Speak.
- Who did you seek help from and how?
In 2014, after my parent’s unforeseen reaction, I never made an attempt to seek professional help from a healthcare professional. But there was a time when I came across a small leaflet in the newspaper. It was for telephonic prayer services, with a line which supposedly said, “Do you feel scared? Need a sign of hope? Or want to pray for someone? Then call now”. It was an anonymous helpline. I gave it a go for a night or two, I used to take a walk after dinner as it was calm and peaceful, and I could gaze at the stars. It was a ‘sister’ who gave an ear to my troubles, she gave me strength & hope that things will get better & I will feel better. She did so by saying a prayer at the end of the call. I faintly remember much, but in a way, it did help.
I felt better for a short period, but then, I don’t know what happened next. I just remember the emotional numbness & the feeling of being dazed. It was all I felt until I reached a point of realisation in April 2018, I made an attempt to get clean, but I relapsed. Then tried again in 2019 when I was 24 and have kept going ever since. I decided to put a stop to everything. But even then, I didn’t want to go to a therapist, I feared judgment from my friends, wondering what my parents would say? I also thought to myself that I couldn’t afford it. Somewhere along the way, I had decided that I’ll fix things on my own because if I’ve come so far, I can definitely keep going. With the right mindset & self-motivation, the self-help books worked. I just had to be patient and make it a habit. I discovered that self-love during a journey such as this is essential. It somehow made things more comfortable.
To be more specific to the question, I choose not to get help from a mental healthcare professional, I decided to handle it on my own. Because I believed I could.
*A lot of us don’t get the help we need, because of the stigma that comes with after beginning any form of treatment, be it medication or therapy. In our heads, we can’t handle the judgement, we feel that we’ll be an outcast and be deemed unfit for society. We are overwhelmed by the sense of hopelessness, that we’ll never recover. At times we feel we can’t afford professional help. I felt it. But mostly, it’s just the stigma that surrounds it. If you think you need support, get it! Please! It could be from a trusted medical professional, family or even friends. If you don’t know if you need help or not? Then talk it out, talk to someone who can relate & understand, sharing always helps. Always be communicative about everything. If you feel you can do it on your own, that’s amazing, you will find a way, Just like I did, but remember, always be more vocal about it*
- Did you inflict self-harm or make an attempt to take your own life?
*All of us have a time in life where we do something to ourselves when we’re alone, frustrated, depressed and overwhelmed by the sense of hopelessness, just lost in emotional pain. We just want everything to stop. At that moment, we feel the only way to do that is to stop ourselves from existing, by just erasing ourself from this world of pain where we’re misunderstood. But, it’s a thought which only shows itself, influenced by some external factor. We must not let ourselves be dictated by the words of others, Our life, the life we’ve been given has a meaning & a purpose, don’t destroy it in a flash. Hope is never lost, there is always someone who feels the same way you do, just don’t give up on yourself, It’s not worth it. It is hard when no-one understands you or doesn’t want to listen to you. But trust me, there will come a time in your life when you’ll be content just with yourself, Just love yourself, your body is your temple. Live every day to the fullest as if it’s last your day on earth, let go of the past & cherish the present.*
If you’re reading this right now, think about the emotional pain that’s going to unfold. Don’t do it, Just don’t. Please.
- How would you define depression & its causes based on your experiences?
“The definition by the book is that it’s a mental condition characterised by feelings of severe despondency and dejection, typically also with feelings of inadequacy and guilt, often accompanied by lack of energy and disturbance of appetite and sleep.”
It’s a condition caused by numerous factors, which have been explained through the studies of psychology. Seems a little complicated to understand right? A few scenarios might help with a clearer picture. To define it from what I’ve experienced, depression is an emotional state of mind you spiral into when you go to a restaurant to celebrate your 23rd birthday with your friends. It seems like you’re having fun – to your friends and the onlookers around you, but then everything seems still & slow from your perspective. You’re sitting alone by yourself in a crowded restaurant and just quietly pondering on with thoughts running in your head. All this while your friends interact with each other, they notice that you are quiet and casually ask if everything is okay? And you say that you’re fine, but you aren’t. They continue talking & interacting with each other, while you sit and hope that someone asks you. “How are you really doing?” But then you go to the restroom and lock yourself in a cubicle and just cry, no-one can hear you because the music drowns everything out. No-one notices your absence. Depression is having a breakdown at a party.
Your own party.
It is that feeling of loneliness even when you are surrounded by people. The feeling of not being loved or feeling unworthy of love & affection, you just hate yourself. It’s the feeling of not wanting to go outside and indulge in any activity with your friends, you wish to be left alone because they make fun of your teeth, your skin tone, your hair and the clothes you wear. It is the feeling of not being able to cherish the things you once did.
Depression is one of those nights you spend lying in bed awake throughout the night, feeling lost, lonely and questioning your existence “Why am I like this?”, “What is wrong with me” and then telling yourself.
“I just want it to end.”
Depression is the moment you’re caught laughing at a bad joke because you want to seem like you understood it, even when it wasn’t funny. You tried to look happy and normal. It is the emotion that you feel when you don’t wish to eat your favourite dish your mom made for lunch and instead just want to lay in bed and sleep for the rest of the day. Some days you eat in abundance and the others you choose not to eat at all. Depression is the feeling of being tired emotionally and physically, but mostly it is just mentally. It is the feeling of not wanting to live, not being able to focus or make a decision, even the smallest one, the thought that you can’t do anything right.
Depression can appear as though you’re tired or weak. It can look like you’re angry or agitated for no reason, it feels like you just aren’t good enough. It can also look like everything is normal, you seem healthy and fully functional on the outside, and those around you, but on a deeper level, you feel empty, worthless and weak. Depression is just those nights of crying and not being able to understand what’s wrong with you.
Depression is an unexplained phenomenon that we all can relate to in some way or the other.
But why does it happen? What are the reasons for an individual to become depressed?
The often stereotyped terms are “love failure”, “attention seeker”, or just that “he/she is just a moody person”, We’ve heard it all.
But, if you actually paid attention, whether it’s someone you know or someone around you, you’d know that some of the common causes are anxiety, (a result of fear). Which again is a result of self-doubt caused by insecurity.
What we need to hear is that it’s okay to feel what you feel.
Still, society says otherwise. We are frowned upon & judged for accepting our vulnerabilities. Why do we have these insecurities?
It is because of “log kya kahenge?”.
It apparently makes you less of a man and an attention seeker if you’re a woman. It’s something we have all grown up listening, “don’t cry like a girl”, “don’t speak loudly, girls don’t do that”.
*Depression is what one calls a ‘mood disorder’ a feeling of emotional pain, unlike any other. It happens to everyone, you could be young, old, successful, struggling in your career, rich, poor, or at about any phase of your life. What the common factor is that it is often felt due to trauma. (Trauma can affect a person’s normal brain functionality resulting in an imbalance of thoughts, often leading to overwhelming emotions) It could be a traumatic event during childhood or even at an older age. But sometimes certain factors can’t be explained because you don’t know what hit you when it hits. It can happen to anyone at any time. If not paid attention to at the early stages it could be quite dangerous as one moves forward. We often tend to ignore or overlook certain situations by just brushing it off as nothing. But it would’ve meant something for someone. Even if you feel that you can’t do much and you feel like you can lend an ear and listen to someone, please do, you might just end up saving their life.*
- What pushed you to recovery?
- What are your thoughts on self-help?
- Would you get professional help in the future?
“The best way to predict the future is to create it.”
This is a quote by Abraham Lincoln.
I can’t predict the future, but I can create it. Since May 2019, I have learned a lot about myself. I am aware of my thoughts, actions and emotions. I have been able to take care of myself through the process of self-help. And I know that I will continue to be able to help myself. But situations could change, circumstances may arise. It is only then I can decide if I need professional help. If the need arises, I will get help.
*To everyone, When it comes to recovery through self-help or even with the help of a medical professional. The things that are always crucial during this journey is will power and motivation—the burning desire to feel better. A mental healthcare professional would help you by teaching you to help yourself by implementing various therapeutic techniques. If you think you can help yourself, that is amazing! It is a very empowering feeling. You will find your way through the process, just like I did. But, if you think that you need help from a medical professional, please do no think twice. Reach out to someone willing to listen and understand. Do not shut yourself out. It’s okay to feel what you feel. Don’t ever lose hope, there is always a solution to every problem, even if it seems unfixable. Don’t Give Up. You can do it.*
- What is your opinion on medication for a Mental illness?
When it comes down to taking medication for Mental illnesses, the stereotype is “happy pills“, or “look at him/her, taking pills to be normal“, or just calling the individual a “pill popper.” Why? Because they take medication for depression. The world is under the impression that if one takes medication, they become “normal” again. Which makes them overdo it too. It doesn’t work like that. Please educate yourself more on Mental Health. First, by understanding that the medication is known as an anti-depressant or a prescription drug.
One doesn’t finish therapy after he/she is prescribed medication. Medication is one piece of the puzzle.
Did you know that there exists a wide range of therapeutic techniques just in connection with medication? The summary of it is called Bio-Medical Therapy.
Under that, there’s Pharmacotherapy where the individual is prescribed various classes of medication based on the diagnosis. The others are Electroconvulsive Therapy or ECT, Deep Brain Stimilous or DBS and Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. I’m sure these terms don’t make sense and sound scary to you. I would urge you to read up on them.
You may never know how your knowledge can help someone close to you.
Studies show that lifestyle changes can make a significant impact on our Mental Health. It is also said that “30 to 60 minutes of daily exercise is as effective as an anti-depressant medication.” But do keep in mind that this is based on research for Mild Depression.
To now answer the question, medication works differently for multiple individuals. Medicine, in general, is not healthy and is less desirable for Mental Health illnesses. I personally would prefer natural techniques. But certain illnesses do require medication.
*When it comes to any kind of medication be an ordinary ailment, a heart disease or a Mental illness, DO NOT SELF-DIAGNOSE. You will end up harming yourself more. Please consult a Medical Professional first.
And please remember, always be more vocal about what you’re feeling*