“Why do you sound so dull?”

“Are you not sleeping enough?”

“Where is your focus these days?”

“Have you lost it?”

And a lot of these questions surfaced every single day when I was battling something that went on inside me. I did not want to answer any of them, not because I wanted to keep that all to myself, but because I had no idea what was wrong with me. That is when my father came to my rescue and said, “Soumya you need help”. Trust me, I had no idea what I even wanted, perhaps some peace of mind. I was suffering, mentally, without my own awareness. Somewhere, it was important for me to know what had gone wrong with me.

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While 1 in 5 women and 1 in 10 men in the world undergo mental depressive disorders, 25% of them do not take any help and suffer silently. It is quite appalling to see that there is still  immense social stigma associated with mental illnesses, despite a lot being said and done for its awareness. Thereby, social stigma and lack of awareness become the two biggest challenges in addressing depression. Recently, Indian Actress Deepika Padukone was lauded for having spoken about the ‘D’ word (Depression of course). She had openly acknowledged the fact that she had also faced some kind of a dip in her life. ‘I woke up directionless, had an empty pittish feeling in my stomach and would cry at the drop of the hat’ she said. This was what I had felt for straight two months, before I was approached by my family to discuss my state of mind. Perhaps those were the signs that my mind and body were giving, that it was time to take some action.

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The Live Love Laugh Foundation (supported by Deepika Padukone herself) has listed the following as the most common signs and symptoms of depression:

  • Severe distraction, trouble in recalling details and making decisions

  • Insomnia or excessive sleeping

  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness

  • Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism

  • Overeating or appetite loss

  • Fatigue and decreased energy

  • Loss of interest in once pleasurable activities or hobbies, including sex

  • Irritability and restlessness

  • Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems

  • Persistent sad, anxious or “empty” feelings

  • Thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts

I had been through most of these symptoms, however it was the people around me who observed the changes in me and brought them to my notice. But why was it the way it was?

Whenever a mentally disturbed person is approached, the first question asked is why? What has gone wrong? What could be the reason for such kinds of mood swings, gloominess and mental trauma? Well, science says it could be due to psychological, social, biological, genetic, stress-related, age/gender related, traumatic reasons etc. However, it takes a while for the person to actually reach out to the root cause of her mental state, just like it happened in my case.

It was somewhere in the end of April this year, when this all started for me. My life, which seemed very much in my control was slowly losing grip from my hands. Restlessness and dissatisfaction were slowly creeping in, like a stranger who was entering my life clandestinely without my permission. This was the time when anybody else who would look at my life, would think that I had the most perfect life ever – a stable job at an MNC, an admit into one of the Best Bschools of Asia ( ISB, deferred for 2018) and a life partner (let’s name him X) that I had chosen happily. But behind all this, there were some unknown background processes running in my head, which were slowly poisoning my mental state. I admit that I had overlooked this change assuming that it was some kind of imagination and it was all in my head. Days flew and a few more things changed – my partner had to relocate for a span of 2 years for his post graduation, I was extremely dissatisfied with my current job and I planned to prepare hard and apply to the IIMs (Because ISB, no matter how great a Bschool, is still somewhat expensive). I believe I wasn’t really ready for these changes, especially for a long-distance relationship. And the daily displeasure with my current job was taking a toll on me. I did try to work towards changing my job, but seemed like nothing fell in place and for once I felt like a complete loser after facing a good number of rejections. With this, I tried to also dabble with other responsibilities like my sales role at the start-up I worked for in parallel and hit a new fitness regimen. I did find some solace in them, but it was temporary. I started getting vexed up at these new found activities as well and always felt exhausted.

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I then took to sleep as a medication to heal my woes but that too was ephemeral. All of a sudden, I found myself in the middle of nowhere. With so many thoughts running in my mind, coupled with the fear of failure and ending mediocre, I was totally blank. I had nobody to talk to, to tell my feelings to or express the pain I had within me. I assumed that X was quite busy with his new life and had no time for me, although he did all that he could.

Within a span of 40 days, I was totally a different person. My earlier persona of a bubbly, cheerful, gregarious and extrovert person had transformed into a silent, introvert and a passive girl who was gullible and ever ready to shed tears. Slowly, I had begun to develop insecurity and inferiority complex. I felt like doing nothing but lie in the bed and cry all day long. My appetite went so low that I slowly forgot that we ate to live. People around me tried hard to get things out of me, so that I would get normal. That was the first time my parents had cried for me, for my wellbeing. And it was clear that they really wanted me to get normal. I felt their helplessness and decided to open up.

That is when I slowly started telling them how miserable I felt with my life. My father suggested that we go to a psychiatrist, and I was quite comfortable with that idea. My sister, who is a doctor herself, fixed an appointment with one. My mother was honestly very skeptical about this step as she wondered what the others would think of me. My father was the one who convinced her that nothing was more important than my mental recovery. And that was when my father and sister decided to counsel me for one last time. Both of them heard me out. I cried really hard, trying to express the helplessness that I had been through. I just let out all that I had ever felt in the past few months. I expressed all my restlessness, anxiousness and pain. I still remember my dad sitting next to me, holding my hand and listening to my part of the story with all his calm. He offered me all possible solutions to my problems and helped me get over. On the same day, I even spoke to X and told him my expectations and my previous disappointments. He had been extremely supportive of me. He very much empathized with my situation and offered complete support. He also made sure that he spoke to me on a regular basis and tried to keep me in the loop. I think this exercise of helping me gain awareness of my situation by my family was the real game changer. It not just helped me change gradually into a more balanced person, but also let me take a better control over my emotions and situations. Today, while I write this, I feel very fortunate and relieved to have been able to get myself out of the black hole that I was pushed into unknowingly. And guess what did the magic? The fact that I shared my suffering and I was actually heard out.

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But I wonder what if:

  • I had failed to acknowledge my condition?

  • My family had not been supportive?

  • My partner hadn’t understood my changed mannerisms?

  • I had nobody to share with and open up to?

  • My parents had the social stigma for depression?

  • My parents had not seen me change over time?

  • I was just left to myself in this time of pain?

  • I was judged, taunted and belittled for what I felt?

  • I was misunderstood and thought of as someone who was irritating and too negative?

And a lot more what ifs could be there.

Some of these what ifs, if not dealt with care and sensitivity – could lead us to the phase that any depressed soul would be going through. What would it actually take for somebody to get out of that dip? Just some empathy and acceptance from the loved ones, and trust me that would be the biggest step to help them dip out of that puddle of negativity and untold sorrow.And when I could dip in and out, so can you. All you need is a little care and consideration. After all, depression is just a phase, hold yourself strong and conquer it.

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PS: I remember my dad always compared me to Deepika Padukone (because she is my favorite) and said – “she did it, so can you. She made it big, and so will you.”

       Cheers!
       By

Soumya Joshi
      Soumya Joshi

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