I’ve never given less than my best in my entire life of 26 years. I got into one of the best colleges in Delhi University. I was studying Psychology honours, a course of my choice. However, I wasn’t happy. One night I took a blade and made small cuts on my wrist. I couldn’t cope up.
I had my first panic attack at the metro station near Connaught Place. I sat in the middle of the station, crying and palpitating. I couldn’t find my way. I fought to catch up in class and on the field. I was a national level archer with a bronze medal to my name. I couldn’t talk to anyone at home.
Things got worse. I stopped going to college and eventually dropped out of the course. The rest of the year went by in a haze. The following year, I applied to an easier course and a smaller college. I dropped out in three months. I couldn’t sleep, eat or do basic things like bathing and brushing my teeth. Living took too much effort. I developed severe anxiety. I avoided everyone I could. Then I moved back home and I stayed in bed for days.
Eventually, my sister, who is a psychologist, spoke to me. I went to see our family doctor and told her about my crying spells, aggression, anxiety and suicidal ideation. She spoke to my parents and referred me to a psychiatrist. He diagnosed me with clinical depression, which I knew he would.
All this while I tried to visit counsellors and psychologists but to no avail. In a small town, we don’t have the privilege of mental health care. Consumption of alcohol and smoking were getting out of my control. I would either get drunk and party or get drunk and sleep. My parents were having a hard time accepting that the situation was this bad but they supported me the way they could. I lost touch with most of my friends. Those who were in touch continued to support me.
I was on medication for depression for five years before I had an experience. I became over active, reckless, went on shopping sprees and had a burst of creativity. I couldn’t sleep or eat. I was on the go. This lasted for two months and then my life’s worst low came. I wouldn’t put the lights on in my bedroom. Later that year, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. That brought in a whole lot of trial and error with medication. There’s no one answer. We had to find the best fit. Highs and lows became my new reality.
I tried everything. Homoeopathy, therapy, other doctors in different cities and alternate healing techniques. Everything helped for some time. Six golden years of my life went by. This depression did not start six years ago. Instead, I went through phases during school as well. Festivals and birthdays were especially difficult. There have been several times when I’ve obsessed over killing myself because the pain is not worth it.
I would like to share a passage from my journal for the readers to have a closer look at my struggles:
“Every night is a struggle. After a great day with friends, accomplishing daily tasks, spending time with family and maybe an extra credit here or there and you’d feel like it’s for a good night’s sleep. You get in bed, take your pills and light a smoke. You start to replay your entire day and maybe smile a little.”
“Then the heart starts pounding. Loneliness gives out a deep throaty laugh and creeps in like cold sewage water into your veins. Head starts to feel light. Panic sets in. The day? The day was a joke. This is your reality, smirks depression.”
“You finish your smoke with images of the hospital and a stench that fills up your nostrils. Lay down. Close your eyes. No. Too dark. Sit up. Swallow. Loneliness rubs its hands together.”
“Psychiatrist, medicine, meditation, money, paintings, hospital, stomach aches, thyroid, future, cold steel in the veins. Thoughts. Watch them. Let them pass by. Wish for a warm embrace. Self-esteem. Who’d love me? Travel. Alone. Acceptance. Alone. Parents, old age, my responsibilities, money. Self-esteem hits rock bottom. Alone. Six am.”
Mental illnesses are difficult to accept because they are invisible. Nobody can see what you’re going through but they are real. It’s not all bad. I’ve been stable for a couple of months now. My relationships are better. I live one day at a time. Sometimes one moment at a time. I know lots of people love me with all my baggage. This is my personal battle and I will not give up. I talk about my illness openly and to anyone who is available.
It makes some people very uncomfortable but there are people who have reached out to me for help. They said that they found a safe space and then together, we chalked out a way to get professional help. The stigma affects all of us.
Let’s push past it and not get beaten down by something that can happen to anyone and anytime. Something that is preventable and manageable. Talk and listen. Don’t let the cry for help and attention go by unnoticed.