One term that has stuck with me for a while now has been ‘bastardise’. Funny, you would say. But, I think it is an important idea (if not the term), to keep in mind when speaking about anything that is a trend on social media – feminism or mental health awareness. I use the term bastardise because thats what I feel bigger media houses with corporate money end up doing to ideas that mean something fundamental. Remember the ‘My Choice’ video? Yes, thats bastardising feminism and women’s empowerment with a few token women from rural India making it to the cut.
Anyway, I have been fearful of bastardising the depression and mental health for the fear of making both too trivial by writing about them. After a lot of thought and encouraged by a campaign #LetsTalk by Youth Ki Awaaz, I decided to write about it and see how it comes out. I was sure that if it was crappy, I will not share it. However, going by the numerous people suffering from anxiety, depressive tendencies, mood swings and depression, as a writer and a survivor of depression and anxiety, I felt it would be terrible to not share to maybe, bring light to an issue that I got aware of only when I found myself suffering because of it and hopefully, this would help the reader understand what they or people around them could be going through.
The original post can be found here. Sharing the same below:
I believe that the scenario of mental health awareness in India is much better than it was some seven or eight years back. Depression and mental health are finally being recognised by celebrities and public figures – Deepika Padukone, the founder of The Live Love Laugh Foundation (TLLF), being a prime example. Some of them have even opened up and provided first-person accounts of their struggles with depression. Using a first person narrative, I would like to focus on the issue of perceptions of mental health and depression through this piece.
I had first shown signs of mild depression when I was a student. Even while suffering from this, I fulfilled the roles of a daughter, friend, classmate and student. During this time, only one friend (whose boyfriend is a psychologist) expressed concern about my well being worried that there was something up. It’s not that I had stopped eating or studying. It was just that I had started suffering from a lack of concentration which was a rarity in my case. I was okay at most times but, as soon as I found myself alone, my state of mind would just dip without any certain cause. I also took to smoking regularly whenever, I would be in a dip. That also embarrassed me and made me feel ashamed and guilty as I really didn’t want to smoke but, felt that that was my only escape. Whenever I could hide from the world, I would smoke a minimum of three cigarettes.
I questioned myself and tried to understand what had changed over the year. I constantly asked myself what was happening to me and why I felt that my life was worthless, whenever I was alone. I set out to understand what was happening to me. When I googled the cause for everything I was going through, I realised that I may have been suffering from depression. Surely, I could not fall into depression, right? If I was, then how was I studying, eating and being a friend and daughter – all at the same time? Didn’t people say that being depressed meant being completely non-functional? I immediately shut my laptop and brushed the possibility aside.
Rain ☔️ Inspired by a series of artists' portrayal of what #depression looks like. I'm sure most of us have experienced depressive moods at a point in time, or known people going through it. You can check out the series on @boredpanda. Prompt for today was chosen by me. Met people who are really living with dark clouds hovering over not just their heads but, filling up their hearts. The more number of newer people I'm meeting these days, the more I feel that the national data is too, too low about the number of people suffering from this. I've seen it around in more ways than one and can only say that there's always hope, even in the bleakest of situations. Even when you're in that dark space in the recesses of your being, you will come out of it. From my personal count of people, 7 out of 10 suffer from depression or anxiety and you're not alone. Talk to someone, eat well, paint, create something or go to the therapist if you want but, know that you'll come out sooner or later. Please don't give up. #rain #mentalhealth #india #wellness #hope #art #artist #illustration #ink #sketch
Another year down the line, I got a job and moved to a city where I suddenly found myself all alone. Moreover, this experience proved to completely different from the five years I had spent away from my home and parents. I was now an adult, but I had no friends to lean on to in a city which was completely alien to me. Here, I was hit by another bout of depression and anxiety. I used to be on top of my game at work, where I used to laugh and talk with my colleagues every day. However, in the evenings, I would sit quietly in my room doing nothing.
Gradually, I lost interest in reading, writing and other activities. Cooking also became too big a chore for me. It was around this time that I also sought help for the polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) I was suffering from. Since it was homeopathic, it focused on working with the psychological causes of my hormonal imbalance and helped me get better even though I was still in denial of depression.
I was lucky to have found some beautiful friends and a life philosophy, which started pulling me out of my depression somehow making me feel that I could do it. Today, I can say that I am completely okay but, it has taken my acceptance, understanding and efforts to not succumb. Of course, there are days when I find myself in a low, but, I am now able to bounce back.
The reason why I decided to share my story is to highlight a few important things about depression and mental health. The first point concerns the demystification of depression. When one talks about depression, one usually associates it with something as blatant as madness or something akin to a disability or dysfunctionality. These are the reasons why I denied that I was suffering from depression. The taboos of societal perception of depression made me fear being looked down upon or being non-functional in society. We forget that there are degrees to depression and even if it is severe, it always has a cure – it is not a disability.
The second topic that I want to talk about concerns what is known as high-functioning depression. I came across this phrase only when I was out of the pits. In my opinion, people suffering from ‘high-functioning depression’ are more prone to danger and high in number, because of society’s lack of acceptance and their own lack of an understanding of depression. I feel this is very dangerous because it bottles up issues (which should be addressed) due to misconceptions or shame. Over time, these bottled-up issues can turn into ticking bombs!
In order to resolve a problem or to cure an illness, diagnosis is the first step. Even in cases of severe depression, the first step towards healing is recognising and accepting the reality of depression. Of course, the struggle is intense what with the small numbers of professionals understanding of the issue and even smaller number that continues to understand the reality of the person suffering from it and work with them with the conviction that depression is curable, it is just a chemical imbalance. However, I feel that there have many discussions on these topics. The reason why I chose to speak about high-functioning depression is because it is a side of depression and mental health that is rarely discussed, but is regularly affecting more Indian youth like me.
I say this because when I was going through the phase, I did not recognise and identify what I was going through. A lot of my symptoms would show in spurts on a much lower scale. Back then, I used to feel that it was just another struggle in my life, and that was all! During the days when I used to be really low, my mind would only interpret it as one of those days on which I would have to struggle through, trying to find a ray of hope.
The gravity of it all struck me when I shared a little of my past struggles with a friend and colleague of mine, over lunch. After listening to me wide-eyed, he responded with a tone of surprise, saying that he could not believe what I was going through, while being an excellent worker and interacting with my colleagues as if I had no troubles in life.
In retrospect, I think the other factor that contributes to this not being recognised is the depravity perpetrated by social media and other means of communication. I am not against technology or the amazing facilities of Skype or Twitter. However, excess of anything is harmful. This is also true in the case of social media and other means of communication.
Today, in the bigger cities, people tend to stay in offices during the week and then hang out with friends or stay in their homes during the weekend. In such a setup, face-to-face conversations are rapidly becoming a thing of the past. Friends now mainly talk over WhatsApp or Facebook. Every social outing is checked in on Facebook and then posted on Instagram.
With such a culture and the increased migration of youth to bigger cities (for work) – possibly without friends or families at close hand – social media turns out to be the sole means of communication in many cases. Psychologically, social media is linked with instant gratification and happiness, which fizzles out once the phone or app is switched off. It is no wonder therefore that people with depression isolate themselves even further when they see people posting happy-making pictures on social media. For me, it was easier to be proficient at my work, because I didn’t have to divulge my worries and emotional issues to the people around.
I think it is important to not brush off people’s worries or emotions as nothing. In fact, such an attitude only decreases the self-respect of such people. Getting brushed off by a friend or a senior can only increase the sense of isolation and self-hatred in people suffering with depression, which can spiral even further.
One also needs to be aware of issues concerning mental health to recognise people who are silently suffering from depression. I would urge all readers to read up on depression and not base your perceptions on what you see in films or hear from other people.
Generally, we tend to normalise depression in a manner that belittles the victim. On the other hand, we also portray depression as a horror that one should be excessively aware of. I think both perceptions are equally damaging. The more informed we are about depression, the more we will able to help people cope with depression, and also demystify it in the process.
Have you been home lately?
That place… do you remember?
where winter afternoons were spent
basking in the golden glow of the sun
as trees danced a shadowy dance.
Where summers were spent in the
cool recesses of the shade that home provided.
Where every time the skies poured, it felt like
the clouds too, were party to this bubble of happiness.
You have been, you say?
Isn’t it truly home? Wont you go back soon?
Wouldn’t it be lovely…
and right, to be home at last?
What? You say you’re home?
I am confused now.
Dont they say, ‘home is where the heart is’?
Isn’t your heart in the past?
Isn’t nostalgia home?
I realise that as a writer I enjoy poetry the most. It’s simple, variable in the readers’ interpretation and spontaneous. So today’s poem is a Hindi / Urdu one which came to me one morning when I just could not sleep. There were just too many thoughts whirring in my brain and I had to write.
I usually do not like explaining the thought behind a poem because I feel it takes away the possibility of differing opinions and perceptions but, this ones different. This one, is about unrequited love or infatuation. Inspired by a sticky situation that a friend has been in off late and from many stories of unrequited love / feelings (maybe, including mine!), I can safely say that love is indeed a beautiful feeling / emotion, especially romantic love. However, love isn’t forced or that, it does not chain one’s heart. From what I understand now that those Bollywood flicks or old school poems were trying to convey, love is a free emotion and can be felt by anyone for anyone or thing, something that makes you become better – though love for things is greater these days! Won’t kill the read now and will stop here. Read on!
Sketch in black Indian ink on ruled paper
Hindi / Urdu
Kaun tha tu?
Kahan hai tu?
Kaun thi woh, jo padhi tere pyaar mein?
Itni besudh hui tere ishq mein
Ki bhool gayi thi apna wajood main.
Jise ishq samjha tha
Woh to nadaani samjhi tune.
Ik pal mein mera jahan ban gaya tha tu
Arey haan! Thi to bilkul nadaan hi main.
Par tu to samajhdaar tha?
Tujhe nahi dikh raha tha?
Kyun behlaya tune mujhe fir?
Kyun nahi apna asli chehra dikhlaya?
Khair, aaj mujhe tujhse nahi hai kuch gila
Na ki thi tab bhi maine koi shiqayat.
Jis pal tune mere jazbaat ko nakara tha
Jis pal tune apne banaye sach ko jhutlaya tha
Us pal hi maine apna wajood wapis paaya tha
Shayad us samay tabhi mere muh se sivay hasi ke kuch nahi nikla tha.
Mere mann me chhayi ik ajeeb si shanti thi
Jaise bahut ghane toofan ke beech ek chuppi
Dabe paon meethe meethe sannate mein mujhe gholi ja rahi ho
Jaise ki wo sab aur kuch nahi has ek sapna tha
Aur ab main jag gayi hun.
Who were you?
Where are you?
Who was she, the one who fell for you?
Was so lost in your love
That I had lost my self.
What I thought was love
You took it to be silly infatuation.
In a moment, you had become my world.
Oh yes, I was indeed silly.
But, weren’t you wiser?
Could you not see?
Why did you lead me on then?
Why couldn’t you say the truth?
I have nothing against you anyway, now.
Nor did I complain then.
The moment you denied my feelings
The moment you broke the truth that you had built
That moment itself, I found my self again.
Maybe that’s why in that moment, all I could respond with was a smile.
There was a strange sort of peace in my heart
As if in the midst of a terrible storm, a silence had
Creeped up and stirred up sweet silence in my heart, in my being.
As if all of it was a dream
And I am awake now.
Inktober 2016 day 22’s prompt was little. Like always, an image is formed in the mind and this time it was the pinky finger, the little finger. Why I did not draw that is because not only the time spent on it would be too short but, more importantly, the intention with Inktober is to push the wheels of my brain a little to resonate within the mind, what each prompt would mean.
I started off with the traces of a discussion I had had with a friend of mine. We spoke of how the grandness of nature, Athirapally in particular here, makes one feel so insignificant, so little that all one feels is the power of nature and surrenders to it. The last time I had felt like that was when spending time in the Himalayan mountains. The image that flashed in the head was that of the grandness of the snow clad peaks where everything else seemed too small, too little to think about.
But, it has been some time that I have gone back to those places of wonder and sitting afar in this part of the country all that comes to mind when thinking about it is the LOC, the attacks, terrorism, fear, crisis and war. I had, as a kid, honestly assumed that post the second world war, there would be no war at all. I know that was naive and we can safely say that peace and harmony are far away for a LOT of our “brothers and sisters”. I remember in the innocence of childhood when we would sing the national anthem and read about Bankim Chandra Chatterjee and Tagore and Bose, I would be in awe of these figures who contributed to the nationalist movement back in time. But, the reason that I was in awe of them all was not for defending a certain bordered geography against another country. No, that was never it. I respected, honoured and treasured what I read about them, these heroes and heroines, because of their courage to stand up against inhuman treatments meted out to people of this land who were being tortured and made to feel less human owing to their colour and race. These people stood up for their people who were suffering due to racism. If you look at it objectively, like now back then too, the reason for those acts of cruelty were economic and political power and the subsequent tussle.
But, I wonder today, what is this power that still does not seem to let peace prevail in this land. I am an Indian and I see it just as a part of my identity. When I see fellow Indians walking on the streets, I do not think of them as Bengalis or South Indians or Punjabis – honestly, I am pathetic at guessing people’s “native” and also their age – but, I see them just as Indians. So, what is nationalism today? Why is it being looked at as a necessary “Hindu pride” and why is it also being looked at as “something I don’t wish to associate with” on the other hand? Isn’t Indian pride about not being divided based on principles and beliefs and just accepting the differences? When songs of Indian past and pride on it are sung, why do we forget that all nationalist movement happened to defend humanity and not anyone’s ego or greed?
I think I will leave this unfinished at this point and share the poem that I wrote for this doodle:
Little by little
I see it change, this land
that I call my home.
Little by little,
the snow melts, not into
waters gleaming but, pools of red.
Little by little,
the cracks in doors
shut in my face as I peer in to say hello.
Little by little,
the cracks in my heart
widen as smiles grow taut.
I have taken up the Inktober challenge this year. It is a first for me and I am thoroughly enjoying it. Today’s theme or prompt was wet and this is what I came up with. I call this, ‘The elixir of life’.
It was a mere bud, closed shut against the light,
As I walked past on that warm summer‘s evening.
She poured it’s entirety into each crevice
Transforming every nook of the #landscape.
But, I couldn’t see all that.
I grumbled at the dampness that the rain left in my clothes.
Then the splash of water from the puddle,
As I walked #home one evening, did not help my #spirits either.
I could not bear the #sight and #sounds of the downpour now.
I saw her.
The closed little bud had blossomed.
The incessant raindrops didn’t seem to disturb me now
‘Cause the beauty of the bloom enraptured me.
The same water drops that drove me mad were the same
Drops that had made the flower wet and transformed her.
The same drops of water now seemed like, the elixir of life.