A parent and an educator of young people, but also a victim of clinical depression, Saguna Shahhas been battling the challenges posed by depression that has plagued her for a year and half.
Mental wellbeing,like physical wellbeing is crucial to leading a healthy life, and an issue that needs timely intervention and care. If untreated, it can lead to harmful and unfathomable consequences. We all go through troughs and crests and yet survive, believing that we can be down but not out, and we need to dust ourselves and rise up again. But things don’t always work out quite that way; it’s easy said than done.
Over time, I’ve realized that most of the problems we face in life remain problems because we do nothing about them. We dwell in despair and play the victim without actually trying to step out of it which can be the solution. Sometimes, these problems can be a figment of our imagination because of thinking too hard and getting stressed over something that hasn’t evenhappened at all. At such times or even when one is actually feeling down and dealing with traumatic experiences, people casually tell you,“It’s all in your head. You should not be bothered by it. It happened to me too, and that’s how I dealt with it. Try meditation?” What peopledon’t realize is that we all have our own way of dealing with problems and offering solutions that suit you may not necessarily be of help to others.Whatis needed is a bit of empathy, someone who can listen without being judgmental and ideally, professional help.
I was not surprisedwhen the doctor’s diagnosis said 'clinical depression' on my first visit and he prescribed medicines for it. When I talked about having visited a psychiatrist or having been to counseling sessions,people raised their eyebrows and asked, ' “How could you say that so easily?” Why couldn't I? What is there to hide? If I have a problem with my nose I'd go to an ENTspecialist, for a problem with my eyesight- an ophthalmologist, heart problem-I’d go to a cardiologist and so on. So why not go to a psychologist or a psychiatrist when you are battling with mental problemsand you feel you need professional help? Our societal taboos are such that we are afraid ofbeing seen waiting for our turn outside a psychiatrist's office.
Boundaries that you create when under pressure and stress do not keep others at bay; they instead fence you within the confines from where it becomes difficult to reach out to others. It is your choice to draw the lines around you or to step out of it. During the denial phase I was in, I hated the very idea of having to prove myself to the person I valued the most, especially when I stood before the piercing gaze like a convict in a court room. I was most often clueless, blamed for every other thing that went wrong, being ignored so as to teach me a lesson, being shouted at, having to compromise on my dignity and self respect and to concede my worth.And I realize I had leaned on them when I am actually someone who is not afraid of falling from heights. Perhaps, I too needed an anchor.
But when I eventually reached the tipping point, unable to handle the pressure any more, I thankfully decided to seek help. My body had started reacting with shivers and palpitations uncountable times a day and I was filled with anxiety. I would look perfectly normal but only I knew what was going on inside. What was I becoming, a recluse? I knew my friends and family would stand by me as always. I wanted to see someone who didn't know me at all. And only that person could diagnose, so I sought medical helpfrom a psychiatrist. And what I got during my counseling sessions is what saved me. I am stillunder medication and have not recovered fully. Perhaps the scars are too deep, but I do find myself overcoming them with verve and vigor.
Engaging in positive thoughts, hanging around with happy people and doing things that you love is the path to recovery. Substance abuse might take pain away momentarily but they don’t actually help you.Life has become so fast paced it’s hard to cope with it. There is fierce competition, deadlines and expectations to meet, outstanding grades to achieve, shuttling between college and jobs, home and work, maintaining a balanced relationship, longing for freedom and space,wanting to go abroad because the grass seems greener on the other side, shouldering responsibilities; the platter looks crammed up. And we have so little choices that at times you can no longer be who you are and do what you want. Instead you are expected to fit into societal stereotypes, live your parents’unfulfilled dreams and desires, be successful and happy. You are constantly pressuredto beextraordinary as though being ordinary is not good enough. If you aren’t thriving, successful and happy, you consider yourself a failure. Young people today are constantly battling with such issues that stem from the root causes mentioned above apart from relationships, faith and trust issues.
Feeling low and stressed out because of the fast paced life is very different from being depressed. Depression has deeper levels of trauma; there are phases of denial, acceptance and coming to terms and helping yourself. It could stem from various unexpected incidents that one might not even have given a thought to. One needs to identify the suffering. Just because you feel low or stressed doesn’t mean you are depressed. There is nothing wrong in feeling vulnerable and weak, breaking down and crying, having failed or made mistakes. We need not pretend to be happy and say everything is alright. It’s perfectly okay to not be alright. We are humans not robots. If you feel you need help, you have to reach out. Very few children can talk to their parents openly about the troubles they might be facing. In some cases the anxiety and depression might not even be noticeable. Parents and teachers need to be observant of children’s behavior. Just be kind, compassionate, embracing and loving to people who suffer any form of depression or disorder. This will help themimmensely to come out to some extent.It is extremely important to seek counseling or psychiatric help because that can actually bring out a patient from the illness which is both self and circumstance imposed. Psychological issues should not be taboo anymore.