Watch Why OCD Is A Much More Real And Serious Disorder Than You Think

By Varun Gwalani:

For most of my life, I have been mentally ill.

That simple statement evokes such a wide range of reactions – from camaraderie to laughing at me to utter disgust – that it is quite frankly shocking. It’s as if I told them I support Donald Trump or something. Now that the requisite Donald Trump joke is over, let me tell you an even funnier and somehow more tragic joke: The state of mental healthcare in India.

In a country of 1.3 billion people, we have only about 3,500 registered psychiatrists operating. To really grasp the enormity of that number, consider that incidents of rape, whose survivors often need continued psychiatric care because of the severity and brutality of the crime, were close to 2000 in 2014 in Delhi alone.

The reason for this abysmal state of mental healthcare is pretty obvious to anyone who has lived in India: we simply don’t take mental illness seriously. The reaction to it is either scorn or fear, culminating with jokes about how the person with the disorder needs to “toughen up” and “just forget about it” or threats from parents about how they’ll “put us in a mental hospital” (which is actually really hard to do, considering we have less than fifty of them!).

It would be easy to be cynical about this, or say that it’s none of your concern. But there’s a high likelihood that it will affect you or someone you know and love at some point in your life. When that happens, you might not know what to do about it, for the very same reason that there is so much stigma attached to mental health: No one talks about it.

I’d like to believe that people are more misguided or ill-informed by the systems they grew up with, and as a result have so much disdain only because they haven’t had a chance to know anything else. So, we have to tell them. We need to inform, educate, to tell them that mental disorders aren’t some scary, unknowable entity that makes people violent, but rather a disease like any other physical disease, with identifiable causes, treatments, and ways with which to deal and live with them.

But, till that happens, and it will take some time, I think we should tell our stories to support those who are still suffering in silence, and to remind them that they are not alone.

My story is that I was suffering from OCD for most of my life, a disease which most people associate with quirky and annoying traits like hand-washing or excessive cleaning. In my case, it was more visions of violence and death, depression, anxiety attacks, unrelenting obsessions and a complete sense of isolation and distance from the world around me. I was unable to connect with anyone, unable to function at a very basic level most of the time because of the fact that my own brain was lying to me, my own brain told me that I had to be terrified of everyone and everything, that I could never be safe.

I talk about this in more detail in my TED talk, and also the fact that medication and therapy do help. But right now I would like to share something very personal and important to me. While I was in my last, horrific year of OCD, a year that I honestly did not think I would live through, I wrote a book which I called ‘The First Storyteller’.

I did not write it with any expectation or particular audience in mind, simply because I did not expect to be there to see anyone see it. It was all I had, an honest expression of my truth, my struggle through the pain in my head that I went through every day. It’s a story of turmoil, of struggle and hope; but ultimately, it was a story of resilience. About the ability to move forward and keep moving forward. The fact that I am here alive writing about that is a testament to the ability of the human spirit to move forward. I hope that whoever is out there struggling with this disorder remembers that and keeps fighting, because one day there will be a day that you too will get through.

Featured image for representation only.

 

Website Thumbnail: Manpreet Romana/AFP/Getty Images
.
Featured Image: Pietromassimo Pasqui | Flickr
Similar Posts

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below