As the vaccination drive for COVID-19 begins across India, hundreds of frontline workers and health workers are queueing outside the vaccination centres to get the shot. This pandemic was unprecedented, and I know that it has changed everyone’s life. But here I will talk about my struggle.
This struggle started with the announcement of the stringent lockdown to prevent the spread of the disease. I was suffering from a massive anxiety issue which was caused due to depression. In the terms of psychology, it is called an adjustment disorder.
Anxiety and depression have various outcomes but my main problem was regarding concentration. However, my therapist told me that its about distraction and not about concentration. I am unable to read and write because I am failing to focus. Here it is important to say that my professional work is also based on writing and I did not face problems in work-related writing.
But the issue was with my personal work or related to the articles which I wanted to write from my interest. For example this article I am writing after 7 days. During these 7 days, I had planned to start the article several times but could not.
Every time I sat down to write the article, not a single word came to my mind.
With the lockdown announced, movements got restricted and like everyone, I was trying to develop a life inside my home. From 2013, I have been away from family and for the past several years I have been staying alone. I have always loved the solitude of staying alone but I had never really encountered loneliness. This is the first time when the feeling of loneliness struck me.
The lockdown was imposed and suddenly I started realising that my world which was centred around my friends who used to stay nearby and are all now leaving for their home towns. Their offices were closed and the work-from-home structure was in place. Till today most of these people have not returned and most of them have permanently (read for the time being) left the city because the work from home in the private organisations will be continued for some time.
The city life was changing, with many privileges which we have the struggle inside me already began. I witnessed my own people leaving the city one by one. And one day came when I realised that there isn’t a single person around me whom I used to connect with daily. (here I am talking about physically meeting friends and not virtual)
My parents who are in Kolkata have been very supportive and they stood by me as usual. They are senior citizens and due to lockdown, the maids were not coming so they had to do every work back home. I was scared with their health conditions but due to my work which demands physical presence in the office, I had no way to leave Delhi.
At one side I was anxious about everything and on the other side, the social media and newspapers were flooded with negative stories. At this point, the news of the death of Sushant Singh Rajput came. I did not realise that this news not only broke my heart but also shattered my mental health. Within a week I started facing issues with reading. I was opening the books but unable to see a word. I thought that this must be due to overuse of my mobiles.
I did not realise but till then not only the struggle with reading started but also oversleeping, overeating and the series of low mood began. I was unable to talk or express my situation to my friends and parents, my sleep cycle was messed up and I started to gain weight.
Within a month I started experiencing difficulty in writing too. I used to look at the blank page or the computer screen for hours, not a line or even a headline used to come to my mind. This is a scary feeling because I have been a journalist and due to work I write every day.
The pandemic has been disastrous to everyone across the world. People have faced different kinds of mental health conditions and they are still suffering. An article published at the Wired noted, “According to data from Mental Health America (MHA), however, more people are facing deteriorating mental health. From January through September of 2020, the number of people who have taken MHA’s anxiety screenings has increased by 93 per cent over the entire previous year. The organization’s depression screening has seen a 62 per cent increase over 2019’s totals. Before the year was even over, more people were trying to find out if they were suffering from anxiety or depression than ever before.”
In India also the situation is the same. A report published in The Lancet clearly noted that the mental health condition among youth deteriorated during the pandemic. However, the awareness regarding mental health is not much in India and there are a lot of taboos related to mental health. Till today in India, people are scared to come up and discuss the mental health issues openly.
A media article noted, “In India, over 30 million people suffer from mental health problems. But only a fraction seek help. Most of those who do, belong to urban areas. In rural areas, mental health continues to remain an alien concept. According to a report by Business Standard, in rural areas, the only place for mental disorders is a district hospital. According to the 2015-16 National Mental Health Survey, there are only 0.05 psychiatrists for every 100,000 in central India. The number increases to 1.2 in southern parts of India.”
Experts say that depression has a pattern of recurrence, so while writing about my current condition I must share that I have a history of depression. During 2013-2017 I was treated for clinical depression and the treatment happened with the help of medicines. Then with time, the conditions improved and I recovered.
A research article named ‘Risk for Recurrence in Depression’ noted,
“Depression is a very common mental illness that is highly recurrent in individuals. In addition, it is a disorder with substantial personal and public health consequences. Thus, there is great interest in the development of strategies that might reduce the recurrence of depression.”
The article further noted,
“Recurrence rates are over 85% within a decade of an index depressive episode, and average approximately 50% or more within six months of apparent clinical remission if the initially-effective treatment was not continued.”
The self-acceptance of mental health issue plays the key role and I was under a very tough schedule, therefore, it took me some time to go for the treatment. This time I was willing to take counselling and not medicines because I believed that the change of lifestyle was much needed for me.
I took some days off from my office work and went to Himachal Pradesh where I sat down and wrote a few points regarding my condition. Based on those points I started talking to a therapist. After the primary discussions, I decided to go for professional help.
Immediately after coming back from the mountains, I started seeing a therapist. The therapy started over the phone and also through video conferences. After the initial discussion, my therapist suggested some of the key techniques to deal with the situation. Good lifestyle, exercise, mindfulness and good diet were prescribed by my therapist.
Changing a lifestyle is not an easy task and when you are alone amid such a pandemic situation it is tougher. However, I started focusing on the prescribed schedule and today I am happy to say that the situation is much better.
I have started reading books with some troubles which are still present and also now writing this article. I know that I am not the only one who faced such a situation during this pandemic. This story is not to inspire anyone but to say that it is absolutely okay to face mental health problems. It is important to accept the situation, talk to people, to a therapist and to fight back.