I have spent too much time not talking about the things that matter. Today, I want to change that. About 6 months ago, I was diagnosed with depression. I have been on medication for the same since. This has been one of my toughest journeys by far.
I can pretend that I’m writing about it today because I want to do my bit for mental health awareness or I can admit that along with convincing the world, this is also my attempt at normalising it for myself.
This is a part of my personal journey of accepting my experience and celebrating my progress.
About 6 months ago I was on my way back home from a movie when I felt something click inside me. I distinctly remember how I knew I was losing control but how I couldn’t stop it. I remember I started to weep in the middle of the traffic, sitting in the auto. I remember how I had stuffed my scarf in my mouth to stop myself from wailing loudly. It was then that I first wished for an end.
At this point I was well into depression.
For someone who has never spoken in the open about her life, this feels very new to me. I am hesitant, shy and definitely afraid to put this out in the open.
And yet, I am adamant.
I am going to talk about this past year of my life, I am going to describe it as well as I can and I’m going to hope that it makes some difference to someone somewhere.
Depression, for me was a fog like state.
For months, I didn’t have a single clear thought and so I don’t have a single clear memory.
But I will tell you what I remember.
I remember that I stopped talking. If I could avoid it, I wouldn’t say more than a few words for entire days at a stretch. I preferred being by myself and if I was forced to be social, I would choose to go watch a movie because then I wouldn’t have to make conversation. I always wanted to be alone and I made every effort to this end and yet the loneliness was eating me up inside out.
I don’t remember feeling anything. I didn’t feel anger, envy, excitement, happiness. Most of the time I would just be numb and the other times this incredible sadness would take over.
There were wonderful, happy things happening all around me – my friends were around, my family was around and yet I didn’t for the life of me feel happiness – neither for myself nor for others.
But more recently, I got into a disagreement with my mom and I remember feeling angry but at the same time being extremely surprised with myself. I realised that I hadn’t been angry for almost 6 months by then. The first time I truly laughed out loud, I wondered if my laugh always sounded this strange. When I began to feel like myself again, I wondered if I’d always been that way – hyper, funny, happy. I was surprised that I was able to make people laugh again. I couldn’t remember how I used to be before depression took over my mind.
Even today I struggle with this. I keep checking with my sister to see if I’m being fake or if I was always like this.
I don’t remember laughing out loud or truly feeling hungry or feeling passion, compassion, wonder, ambition.
Forget ambition, I felt no hope.
I was in a constant state of hopelessness, helplessness.
I remember weeping almost every night for months on end. Weeping for reasons as unknown to me as to anyone else.
I remember considering killing myself more than I should’ve, harming my body more than I should’ve.
I wouldn’t eat a full meal for days together, I would force myself to puke every other night and so I lost weight. I slept for about 14 hours a day and still woke up tired.
And all of this is just on the surface. I neither have the strength nor the ability to express in words the impact that this experience has had on me.
Here, I am not trying to gain sympathy or pity. All I wish to do is normalise depression and other mental health issues.
Over this time, I realized how many amazing friends I have, what a truly wonderful family I have – a family that encouraged me to take help, supported me through therapy and helped me in adjusting to medication.
But unfortunately, over this time, I met innumerable individuals who knew little about mental health but talked with great confidence.
I have been told that depression is a made – up issue, a figment of my imagination. I have been asked how I can be so sure that I have a problem. I have been told, by an older person nevertheless, that depression is born out of self – pity and I am depressed because I’m that self involved. I have had to listen to people say that I’m not grateful enough, that I have no regard for my family and that I need to take note of how much others are suffering.
Others have doubted if I’m even speaking the truth because I’m always so “cheerful” in college, one has told me that I’m too pampered and that I need to “get over myself”.
See the thing is that I have wished every single day that this was all a figment of my imagination, I have prayed for it to be born out of mere self-pity, for it to be in my control so I can just “get over it”. I have felt more guilty about being sad than I can express, I have spent many a night cursing myself for being sad when so much worse was happening in the world and only felt better when I was diagnosed and told that guilt is normal but so is sadness. How I wish I didn’t have to take medication to feel like myself, how I wish.
But the fact of the matter is that I didn’t choose to be depressed, I didn’t choose to be on medication. Depression is a mental health condition that often needs to be treated with medication. It is just as hard and sometimes a little harder than any of the usual physical health issues. Just as you don’t tell a person with dengue to get over themselves, you don’t tell a person with depression or anxiety or any other mental health problem to get over themselves simply because doing that will not cure them.
I am not alone in this struggle, there are millions in our own country who are struggling with mental health problems, depression being one of the most rampant. One of the most common causes behind deaths in young people is suicide resulting from depression.
There are a number of celebrities coming out in the open about their journeys. While this helps to a considerable extent, many more need to talk about it and only then will we be able to normalise it.
You and I can delude ourselves into believing that we have more control over our minds than we ever will over our bodies but in fact we don’t. It is time we accepted this and dealt with it head on. I am tired of explaining myself to people, I am tired of being scared that they will say something hurtful when I have chosen to tell them something that personal, I am tired of people making assumptions and judgements.
So you there, if you don’t know much about mental health then educate yourself or don’t if you don’t want to but either way, If somebody comes to you with their issue tomorrow, don’t dismiss it, know that the struggle is more real than you think.
And you, if you are struggling, know that you are not to blame for anything, that there are many who are struggling with you, and that reaching out for help is the only favour you need to do for yourself.
Also, know that it will get better.
Now I’m doing much better, I still have bad days but they’re easier to get through, I feel stronger but I still struggle with thinking about the future – I cannot imagine a world in which I’m truly happy. But the good part is I know I’ll get there, sooner or later.
I have been angry all this while.
I am not anymore.