It was the onset of Autumn when I felt the need to see a counsellor. The past months went with the constant battle of trying to know and figure out my emotions and feelings. But in the end, there was no definite answer to the questions I had raised about my own self. There were episodes of having extreme mood swings, lost or increased appetite, disturbed sleep patterns, heightened emotions, unstable feelings and so on.
The causes were known and some unknown. The days were easier but nights were heavy and restless. There was no such definite place where I felt it coming, it appeared anywhere and everywhere, the weird feeling in the abdomen, the palpitations, sweating and feeling cold at the same time, goosebumps, shaking legs. It was indeed a horrible feeling. I would be praying for the moment to pass so that I could breathe. It was mostly very suffocating and a feeling of alienation. Almost every known person felt like a stranger and every stranger in the street, close.
The most difficult were the days when I would dress up in the best of clothes, wear the perfect makeup and bright lip tint to hide all the bags under the eyes and the teary eyes. Difficult was the time when more than wearing anything else, I had to wear a forced smile to appear normal and sane while I was breaking almost every passing second, but ironically, giving speeches about motivation and how to not give up in life.
I remember going for numerous solo coffee dates, buying unnecessary stuff, smoking a lot for no perfect reason but to seek happiness somewhere, but all went in vain. The more I was trying to run away from it the more I relapsed and collapsed. Mental illness is parasitic, it feeds on us until we are drained. What was more difficult was when the people who surrounded me came up with things like “You will be fine, it’s just a bad phase”, “You are overthinking”, “You shouldn’t give a fuck” and the worst possible thing I heard from a closed one was “Nobody has died in your family, you were not raped that you’re so depressed”. Well, that broke me more, it was never uplifting, all these suggestions and comments never even passed through my brain, let alone help. That’s exactly when I knew that most people are indifferent towards each other’s feelings and emotions.
I had some smart people with the best pieces of advice, yet I was alone. There were times when people, who laughed about me being depressed, would say “You look perfectly fine, makeup on point, you have everything that you need, a loving family, so why are you depressed?” Wish I had an answer to it and I wish I could explain that mental illness couldn’t be worn on the face or in the sleeves, it was something so internally tormenting and exhausting that putting it across the table was the most difficult job, acknowledging it was even tougher.
Many of my peers would make a joke out of the word depression at college. It was more like a subject to be taken lightly, like we had taken PT back in school. The feeling of helplessness was consistent because I could seldom find someone who could understand what I felt. With all of this also comes a feeling of withdrawal where you do not feel like socializing and when you do you thrive to get back home to your bed.
I relentlessly and religiously tried hard, went to the church seeking answers and everywhere I could, just to find solace and peace. The shining beam of light in my struggle was that I never refrained from talking about it, I was very expressive of what I felt. Waking up every morning was exhausting and some days I wished I never woke up. I would look at every stranger on the road and wanted to ask them for a hug and cry out loud, that’s how miserable one can feel. Living with mental illness is never easy, the battles we fight can only be gauged by the ones who go through it. It was much later when I finally decided to seek professional help and my doctor’s words kept ringing in my ears “You have depression and anxiety, try and slow down a bit”.
India is the most depressed country in the world, followed by China and the USA. Every sixth Indian needs some sort of mental health help. It will soon be an epidemic if we don’t address it at the right time. It is still a taboo in India to talk about mental illness which leads to people abstaining from speaking up. It is said that mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain and it surely is. There is no statement which can deny that.
300 million people are suffering from depression worldwide. The average suicide rate in India is 10.9 for every lakh people. So imagine how many people commit suicide every day across the country. The consequences of not addressing this are fatal. The reasons why people are depressed are varied and we can’t just alter the ways of living and upgrade the quality of life, all we can do is help one another come out of it. One thing I became sure of is people are not aware of mental illnesses like they should be.
It’s a subject of no importance for many. There is an urgent need to make people aware of mental illnesses. I was lucky that my parents were supportive and understanding. And my mom was with me in this throughout but not all of us receive the same support. I have come across so many people asking me about how to deal with this problem, who I had consulted, and there are so many people who are not ready to speak up about their issues and seek help and I wonder why.
People are hesitant because they fear judgements, because, in the society where we live and the culture that wraps us considers mental illness a taboo, we would rather call people with mental illnesses ‘mad’ or ‘possessed’. I am not surprised that so many people actually find it extremely hard to open up to a complete stranger. And sometimes, it’s our own families that act insensitively. Because for the supposedly wise people in our society, we haven’t faced any sort of hardships to be depressed and doomed. So please take one small step for yourself, a little bit of courage can make a huge difference. I keep saying this and I will continue to, that it’s you and only you who can help yourself. It is a battle within yourself and with yourself. Try and win it.