For the past two years, I have been facing difficulties in articulating my thoughts and feelings. I know something doesn’t feel right but sharing what it is, becomes the most difficult task in the world. I constantly feel the need to justify myself. The feeling of insecurity and anxiety have clouded my brain and weakened my decision-making ability.
I became aware of these symptoms long ago, but I ignored them because I was functioning normally. I assumed these feelings were by-products of my hectic college schedule and fellowship work, that I was managing together. Months passed by, but I kept denying that something was wrong.
I became so engrossed with the wrongs that were happening around me that I never took clear notice of how and when it had started to impact me and change me. I turned cynical and slowly started withdrawing from social life.
I knew I was depressed. I had cried everywhere; at home, on the metro, on a bike, in the shower. But I never let anyone see me. I didn’t want to explain anything to anyone because whenever I did, I was told things like, “You are thinking way too much,” or “You are making up your own problems,” or “You’re strong. I know you’ll be okay.” I knew I wasn’t okay and pretending to be strong had only exacerbated my problems.
Though I felt guilty for my decisions on the inside, I couldn’t stand my loved ones pointing out my mistakes. I snapped at them easily and simultaneously developed a feeling of shame for my frustration (and I compensated by being extra nice to the ones who weren’t close to me).
After receiving the above responses from the people I had shared my feelings with, I started to believe that being vulnerable was not an option because if my expectations that came with being vulnerable were not met, then I would be left feeling more hurt.
It took me many days and long nights to decide that I have to make things better for myself. High costs of professional help constrained me from seeking therapy and bigger family issues demotivated me from sharing anything with my family members.
During these days when I tried to figure out what to do, I felt extremely heavy and sometimes decided to give everything up and lock myself in my room.
I slowly gathered strength and decided to work on it on my own. I started reading about depression and ways to deal with it. This took willpower. On some days, this willpower feels shaky but I manage to look for small or big reasons to make it work.
Initially, I tried to give meaning to what I was feeling and understand why I was feeling so. How from being an extremely positive and social person, I had turned into an individual who wanted to run away from people.
I traced three to four years of my life to understand the major events which had impacted me – my beliefs, my perception and my attitude.
I analysed my failures, my choices and decisions and realised how a very bad experience with a fellowship programme had shattered my faith in all the people who were working in the field of development.
I became aware of the social factors that had made me believe that I was not capable enough – or that I was stupid – and had made me more anxious about my future.
I started reading more books, papers and articles. It kept me engaged and interested in something. I made it a habit to read the newspaper every day. It encouraged me to look at my problems from a smaller lens. I started playing badminton again which I had left long back after school.
I took out time to learn some new skills like painting and encouraged myself to work on small ideas that I have had since forever. I invested these months in myself; learnt more by reading than doing things for a change and took out time for self- reflection. I started setting very small goals for myself and completing them filled me with a sense of achievement. Moreover, I initiated more physical interactions with people and decreased virtual interactions after realising the adverse impact of social media on my mental health.
Though all these efforts have borne some fruits, I still feel anxious many times. I try to calm myself down by writing something in my diary or taking a nap which helps. I still have many issues to work on like my lack of confidence to fearlessly share my ideas and constructing healthy relationships without snapping every time I feel like I am being attacked or let down.
I have realised how important it is to be self-empathetic and it is the only thing that has given me the strength to keep going.