“If I can impact one life in this entire process of speaking up and letting people know that it's something I have been through and something that I could deal with because I had a fantastic support system."
…said Deepika Padukone breaking the silence, shame and stigma around depression and anxiety some months ago. According to WHO statistics, India is the most depressed country in the world. At 36% this is the highest rate of depression anywhere in the world. However, mental health is not thought of or given importance as much as physical health is.
The shame, the embarrassment, the humiliation people attach to mental illness such as depression and anxiety especially in India, is phenomenal. No one wants you to talk about it, you are not allowed to take medication, what will people say or think, you are going to lose your job, are only some of the things that go through your mind or your family’s when you or they encounter the word “depression or anxiety”.
Most of us also take it very lightly and so did I in the beginning. My constant feelings of anxiety, worry and sadness were only me feeling blue, I consoled myself. I was stressed at work (trying to hold onto two jobs), taking on more than I should, jobs which only took everything out of me, giving nothing in return. I was stressed with some of my relationships, going the extra mile for people who treated me frivolously while I put my heart and soul into the relationship. All this at the cost of those who actually needed me, cared for me and supported me.
And then it all went berserk, I was feeling more and anxious, directionless, empty, with a very dirty pittish feeling in my tummy which would just not go away. I tried keeping myself busy at work, but all I did was go there and do nothing. At home my body was present but I wasn’t really there. I overthought things, worried too much, got irritated at the smallest of things and burst into tears at every possible moment. In a matter of months I had isolated myself from my family and my little world. I had stopped reading (I couldn’t live without books), my passions of cooking, baking and decorating the house had all been forgotten, I was off social media completely and had cut myself off from whatever small social life I had had.
My whole family was getting affected and they decided to finally take things into their own hands. Psychotherapy was the next step. Once the therapy began everyone realised this was the correct way to go. The therapist made me face some hard hitting truths about myself which then helped me recover and become a stronger person. In all this my greatest support was my husband without whom I wouldn’t have come out of it at all.
However, I have also realised that anxiety and depression is an illness that affects the whole family. In the midst of an episode, I had a lot of conflict in my closest relationships and tried to isolate myself from the people who needed me the most. The damage hasn’t disappeared overnight after I have started feeling better. There are long-term wounds that take time to heal.
Anxiety and Depression did and will also affect the way others think about and behave towards me. Everyone is quick to judge. They may regard me as unstable or unreliable and be reluctant to talk to or interact with me like before. I saw it first hand when my “best friend” decided it was time to cut off and never speak to me again. It led me more into depression but then what can you do. I made mistakes, colossal ones and I paid a price. I only wish I get the opportunity to rectify them.
With my family’s support I have recovered and I believe come out a stronger and tougher person. It has been a process of self-awareness and self-discovery. It has helped me to emotionally manage myself, though not completely, I am still getting there. My naivety and vulnerability led me to a space where I was absolutely alone surrounded by people who loved and needed me. But knowing and understanding that I needed help was the first step to getting better and I am glad I took it. Adapting my life style to stay as healthy as possible are wise and necessary strategies that I am following.
I am glad I am myself again, (slowly but steadily indulging in my passions again, working again) albeit a stronger, braver and more resilient me. After all "happiness they say is an inside job". And like Deepika if I can be of help to even one person by having shared my experience, I would be thankful and grateful to God for giving me the opportunity to do so.