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How Buddhism Helped Me Cope With My BPD Diagnosis

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Trigger warning: Suicidal ideation

This account is based on the author’s personal experience, and not in any way meant to dissuade those who want to seek professional mental health help.

Mind is a choice; it can make you a ‘beautiful servant’ or else a ‘dangerous master’. There is a ‘middle way’ if you come to the stage of illumination that the mind lacks the identity of self. Contextually, I learned that the mind ‘lacks intrinsic identity’ and it’s shaped by interdependent factors.

This may sound technical, but the mind can be emptied of itself. It can make you ‘mindless’ if you are not healing. Healing does not mean the damage never existed. It means the damage no longer controls your life.

In July 2020, when I realized my borderline issues, I resorted to chakra healing and also anxiety pills (under medical supervision). Both turned out to be expensive, with time. I ratiocinated that ending my own life would be a better panacea.

Mental health as a topic is not only a stigma in India but its solutions are affordable only to the privileged class. On par with the ‘per capita income’ of Indians, not more than 10% of the total population (130 crores) can afford mental health assistance. When the annual health expenditure of India’s GDP is 1.15%, despite the staggering rate of suicide rates in the world, Indians are respectively eligible for .33 paisa (less than one dollar) in the space of mental health assistance.

The amount spent on mental health assistance is comparable with what Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani makes in just 3 hours, or a day’s expense of a trip abroad by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

To add woes, in this lockdown period since March 2020, there’s an increment of 20% sufferers (other than the cases of domestic violence, sexual abuse and suicidal rates. However, the predicament has always been persisting before the COVID-19 outbreak.

Out of nowhere, and this time on a more sincere note, I realized that I should revive my behaviour through the teachings of Buddhism because psycho-therapy sessions in my view are more structural and materialist oriented. This is not to dissuade the ones who are pursuing the therapy or professional-help sessions but, in my opinion, it’s important to seek a balance between structural and functional ways of battling mental health issues.

Eventually, while working from home, I ended up reading 200+ books on Buddha (majorly focused on meditation, compassion, kindness, wisdom, koans, discourses, etc.) and thereafter using my learnings or energies in helping my friends as well as strangers around. With this, I subtly enhanced myself too.

I started a WhatsApp group on mental health and it gradually led to the admission of more members whom I have never known/met before. On every Friday evening for 120 mins via google-meet, for a year, I have been doing guided meditation like Anapana (focusing on breathing and bringing our mind to the present moment), Mettabhavana meditation (focusing on forgiving, healing and developing self-love) and Qigong meditation (focusing on aligning the mind with bodily functions).

A screengrab of one of the G-meet meditation sessions of the author.

Then, on every Saturday evening, using google-meet, I moderate mental health solidarity sessions wherein known and unknown members from WhatsApp and Twitter anonymously share their experiences, tears, joys, stories, etc. We continue to respect each other’s privacy and identity.

This made me realize that we’re not alone in our own respective struggles. Hearing people has helped me deeply understand that our world may have many ‘successful people’ but we’re really in the deficit of ’empathetic’ listeners.

I am not a professional therapist, neither did a course, but as a lecturer of psychology too and also a Buddhist practitioner, I understand the intersectional dynamics of mind, action and collective solidarities. Whatever I continue to do, with regards to listening, meditating and healing, are free and voluntary by nature. This whole exercise since the pandemic (last year) has healed me too, as I often think more interdependently now.

Buddha’s “give, even if little” has toned down my self-obsession and other flaws and replaced the space with kindness. Earlier, I used to hide my anxieties and other weaknesses, but now I thankfully embrace and also accept them. It’s important that we don’t control our thoughts but instead channelize them as a dam does to the flow of river streams. With this, our thoughts do not control us back.

I continue to give free eBooks on solution-oriented subjects like mindfulness meditation, mental health, etc. The ones by author Thich Naht Hanh are a must. Only if we can have this extended to our schools, it’d be great. As we already know how toxic our families are, I learned the importance of a ‘safe space’. A safe space is frequently lacking in our social lives, professional lives, etc. if you were to look around. I doubt many would even know the existential significance of it.

A ‘safe space’ is a place where people come together and feel safe, without bullying each other and having zero tolerance towards hate, judgments, etc. Members in this zone, irrespective of their class, caste, gender, sexuality, creed, individuality, body shape, etc. are welcomed and made comfortable to express themselves and interact. Especially for the marginalized communities (such as Dalits), mental health sessions are not just out of reach and advocacy but also deprived of safe spaces.

In these Saturday evening sessions, I am learning that our society has culturally taught us to take mental health for granted. Like sex, amid the land of Kamasutra, mental health is still considered a taboo. People’s general understanding of anxiety or depression or stress is very half-baked and ill-informed, and on revelation, they take the confessors in a wrong way. This further stigmatizes the mental health of the abused.

Education alone can’t do magic. What we need is an increment in social consciousness too, for destigmatizing mental health, followed by financial subsidization of mental health sessions so that the gap can be bridged well. It’s very vital that we fix the sick society before the sickness of this society fixes us for once and all because we would not have time to say sorry once we eventually lose many individuals.

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