I am Tannika, and I have bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, anxiety, and PTSD. My mother passed away when I was 20.
I still remember the date like it was yesterday. November 16th 2004. This is not a new story. Plenty of people lose their parents at a young age. At least that’s what I was told by my so called relatives, mother’s friends, well-wishers. And they were right, plenty of people lose their parents at a young age.
My mother left, but she left something behind for me. I’m now 32. I don’t even know if I can call myself a daughter anymore because I lost my father in December 25th 2012 to cirrhosis of the liver, which happened to him because he was depressed after my mother died. But I was too busy drowning to look after him. So I won’t say it. I’m a wife, sister, friend.
Coming to the point, what my mother left me was a lifetime of major depressive disorder and PTSD, which was diagnosed when I attempted suicide the first time by overdosing on my grandmother’s sleeping pills. When I woke up after two days in the ICU, I was guilty, dejected, regretting that I was still alive.
Of course, everyone around me was there to accuse me for what I’ve put them through. But no one tried to know what was going on in my mind, and that was just the start. I attempted suicide six times in five years. Nobody knew why, no one wanted to know why I was so sad and crazy as to take morbid steps like that. It was a shame for the family and I became the black sheep. Because nobody wants to advocate the demented. But strangely, not to my father. I never felt like a pariah around him.
Very soon I got addicted to sleeping pills. First it was one to get through the day and sleep at night. Next it escalated to two and then to three, before I even knew it, four just to get through the day. By that time, I was addicted. I was even cutting my thighs. I was so depressed that I couldn’t get out of bed and couldn’t hold a job. I was practically paralysed in my bed for days. I had no friends, no social life, no expectations of a future.
I have heard, and still get to hear things like- “You’re just lazy, get some work and your so called depression will go away,” “Your depression is coming from anger. You think too much about yourself.” “We never had these depression things when we were growing up. It’s your luxury.” “You can’t be depressed if you’re not rich.” “Snap out of it,” and so on for over a decade. But we, with mental illness, know we can’t just snap out of a chemical imbalance in our brains and no one really wants to understand that.
In 2009, I met my then partner who is my husband now. I don’t know why he decided to choose me as a partner because I was already broken. I went to therapy a lot of times, but no one paid any attention to me. They gave me pills that made me a zombie essentially. So I didn’t continue therapy.
Suddenly one fine day, I was happy, I thought my depression phase has ended and I’ll be fine again. Little did I know my brain had other plans for me.
In 2014, I went down in depression again. I went to a psychiatrist on my boyfriend’s insistence because I was sure this time I would end my life. Thankfully, my psychiatrist wasn’t like the other doctors. She gave me medicines that worked. That was also the time I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. She told me I have been in my major depressive phase for years. This was the manic phase.
I didn’t know much about my disease so I studied about it, that’s when I understood what I had. Bipolar disorder is like a roller coaster of moods; you never know what’s coming. Mania is the high that I couldn’t reach and that made me frustrated, agitated, hopeless and suicidal, when mania is gone depression takes its place and I forget to live. My disease is hereditary, it was passed on by my grandmother and I was the unlucky one to get it.
I want to talk about today, when I am writing this post. I have been on suicide watch for a week now. My doctor has sedated me so that I don’t self harm. I hallucinate my mother, with tubes coming out of her as I saw her last in the hospital. I hear she tells me to end my life. And I tried. When I am alone, I cut myself. My brother and husband are always around so maybe that’s the reason I couldn’t overdose.
As I am writing this, I can still see her, clear as a picture, in front of me. But I know now that she’s not real. She would never be real; she would never ask me to harm myself. She was beautiful and phenomenal, that’s how I want to remember her, even though I see her in her worst condition all the time.
My therapist and psychiatrist is trying hard to understand my problem. I visit them once a week. I don’t know how many more mental illnesses are feeding my brain, But I do know that I have to survive this. Not for me, but the people around me who have accepted me for who I am today – my husband, brother, and my friend.
‘Hope is Good,’ – my initiative to eradicate the stigma attached to mental illness in our society. I’ve been through hell because of my illness, and I don’t want it for anyone else.
I know I will rise up as soon as this phase passes. I know my hallucinations will stop, I know I will get better with help.
It is important that India knows more about mental illnesses, we lose lives every day because of the stigma attached to mental illness in our society. I will change that. This is my hope.
Today, I’m not okay, but I will be. I will beat my disease one day at a time and help others do the same.
I have hope, and ‘Hope is Good’.
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