Like all laypeople, I tend to search a lot about any health issue that I have or have had, except depression. Primarily because I have always been in denial about it. But I have been through it. Many times.
My first bout came when I was 17. I was in Kota then, preparing for engineering entrance exams. I didn’t have high hopes, as I’d always known that I was not interested in engineering. But the expectations of a single mother, family and acquaintances pushed me to work hard, even for something I did not desire. As expected, I didn’t get through. My mom cried in front of me and told me that I was one of the biggest sorrows in her life. My elder sister, who has recently got married, didn’t talk to me for over a month, even though we’re the kind of siblings who would talk almost every day. For the next two months, I did not leave my house, and rarely talked to my mom. I would stare into oblivion endlessly, alone in my room. Another state level entrance exam was about to come, and again the expectations were laid in front of me as I had to ‘make up’ for my previous failure. I worked hard. I got good results and got admission in an engineering college of repute. Everyone was happy. But what about me?
I didn’t work hard to get through the entrance because I had a newfound passion for engineering or that I realised how the expectations of my family were more important than my own interests. I did it because I knew that in that critical phase of my life, the only person I could take help from was me. I was the only one who could pull myself out of depression at that time. And all factors contributing to my condition will eventually fade once I get a change. I decided to use this strategy in future too, so that I would never succumb to the grave, sometimes suicidal symptoms of depression.
When I was 20, I fell in love for the first time. But the relationship was uneven, exploitative and stressful for me. So stressful, that I seriously considered attempting suicide. This time lasted much longer than the last one. I had developed a sort of layered personality, where on the outside I seemed happy, but internally, I was starving and dying. This continued for 3 years and it took me surviving two serious, near-fatal road accidents (which left me bedridden for about 4 months) to get out of that confused, depressed state of mind. During this time, I used to be alone with nothing much to do, except introspect and weigh my decisions in life. But this experience gave me the strength to understand that all that I had gone through were roadblocks on my way to a strong, independent and successful life.
I experienced many such phases in life- some were less serious than what’s described above, while some were worse. But all along what helped me was believing in myself. I created a strong circle of trustworthy friends around me, with whom I could talk. I worked hard on my relationship with my family and so did they, because we loved each other. Family is the safest, most comforting space for anyone in this world. We just need to make sure we create an environment at home so that we can talk freely, and discuss our lives and feelings.
Spiritual well-being also helps. It doesn’t matter if you believe in God or are an atheist, the most rational thing to do is to find some activity in life (meditation, praying, reading or even dancing) to give you a break from your stressful routine. And physical health is important at the same time. It could be as simple as walking. In all of this, I understood the importance of self-appreciation, pursuing things in life that you actually want, and working hard to be successful in the field of your choice. Love-life, wealth etc. will all follow if we are happy.
I know many friends and acquaintances who have been through similar phases in life, but succumb to pressure from society or family, and continue to struggle with depression silently, instead of talking about it, which makes things much worse. But this does no good. In my opinion and experience, you could only make others happy if you are content, satisfied and at peace yourself.