I have studied psychology during my college days, so I was very clear about the fact that mental illnesses are not just in your ‘head’. These diseases are as real as cancer that plagues your body and leaves you eroding from within.
Using my knowledge about mental illnesses, I used to actively talk them. I watched out for the signs and symptoms of any mental health-related issues in my friends and family members and helped them process what they were going through.
I’ve always been vocal about the importance of seeking therapy when the situation called for it.
But sadly, I did not extend the same courtesy to myself when I felt depression was suffocating me. I had started struggling to sleep. There were days when I was so tired but I kept staring at the wall as sleep completely evaded me.
Depression…is confusing, to say the least. At first, you are so overwhelmed by the sadness you are feeling that you fail to understand the source and try desperately to claw your way out of it. But it does not help, nothing helps.
My thoughts became increasingly negative. I used to wake up feeling like there was nothing to do and go back to bed. I felt nothing was worth living for any more. My ambitions and dreams did not make any sense and everything around me felt too much to take, too overwhelming to process.
I did not understand what was happening to me, even after being so vocal about mental illnesses. While I had the strength to deal with what was happening to friends and encourage them to seek counselling, I could not put a finger on how I was feeling. I felt everything slowly slipping away from my grasp, bit by bit.
I put on a mask…
When things became so worse that I did not want to get up for work, I thought maybe putting on a facade might help. I became irritated by constantly feeling ‘nothing’ and wanted to concentrate on better things in life.
So, even when I did not feel like getting out of the bed, I woke up early and went to work anyway. I started interacting with more people than usual, making more plans than usual, just so I could ‘control’ whatever that was pulling me down.
But obviously, there was no control over what was happening so things started spiralling out of control. It all sounds so filmy, but I felt extremely alone, even while sitting in a room full of people. Slowly, my mask started slipping…
I could not believe that I was depressed…
I used to think studying psychology had made me immune to depression and various other mental illnesses, just because I knew how they worked and messed up with the human brain. Sadly, this was not the case here. As much as I knew about the symptoms, not having the power to control them was frustrating beyond imagination.
I was losing everyone…
It became harder and harder to get out of bed, so much so my parents started noticing it and started calling me out. I started taking sick leaves but it was not long that my excuses were being considered implausible by my colleagues, after all, mental illness was not really considered a disease. I started cancelling plans with my friends because I did not have the energy for any interactions or to answer any question about my whereabouts. I was not only losing myself to depression but also distancing everyone around me.
The tell-tale sign that something was incredibly wrong with me, was that I had stopped reading novels altogether, something which I could not do without earlier. I could not concentrate on the pages and stories did not interest me anymore.
My brother confronted me…
I had stopped binge-watching Netflix with my brother, which was my absolute favourite thing to do in the world. My younger brother who had been constantly after my life, asking me about my newly adopted habit of not getting out of the bed was alarmed by my lack of interest in watching reruns of ‘The Office’. It was only when I broke down crying in front of him that I realised the severity of the situation. I explained to him that I did not have it in me to go on. He listened to me calmly and made me realise that I needed to see a therapist. He made me realise that knowing about depression, did not make me immune to it.
Therapy healed me…
According to the World Health Organisation, around 50 million people suffer from mental illnesses in India. I did not know what was holding me back but certainly, I was not brave enough to face depression alone. Talking to the therapist and venting out my darkest thoughts, made me feel like some weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
The road to recovery…
After a few sessions, I was advised to see a psychiatrist, because I was diagnosed with clinical depression which required medication. I grabbed the pills like it was a lifeboat, like it was my opportunity to live and breathe again. The pills made me really sleepy and dizzy to the extent that I wanted to stop taking them. I would wake up every day, hoping that somehow, miraculously I would want to get out of the bed and get back to my routine. But, it did not happen that way.
Changes came slowly but were visible enough for me to take notice, ironically exactly like how depression had tiptoed in my life. Slowly, I could get out of my bed again. I resumed my work and slowly yet steadily my life started changing for the better. I started relearning how to smile again and go out with my friends. I could feel my internal parts realigning themselves and I felt better.
The bottom line
I realised that my obstinate attitude did more damage than the depression itself. I needed to accept the reality sooner rather than being stubborn in accepting the negativity brewing inside me. I have always believed that I am a strong person and I could take anything that life threw my way.
This resistance coupled with confusion made it extremely difficult for me to seek help. If there is anything that you should learn from my ordeal is that it is very important to reach out to people to understand what you are going through. Not everyone will have the patience or time to ask what is happening to you.
Most of all, you need to love yourself enough to take the first step towards your recovery. The moment you take charge of your own mental health, be assured that you have won half the battle already.