suffered from occasional insomnia since my college days. I had very little understanding of how insomnia is caused. I heard people say that it is caused due to stress. Since everybody experiences day to day stress, I wondered why I could not sleep, while the others could sleep instantly even under stressful situations.
Few years back, due to a difficult relationship, I couldn’t sleep for about two to three nights. After studying about the detrimental effects of insomnia on health, I started becoming worried about my sleep patterns, resulting in sleep anxiety. Due to lack of sleep, I started becoming cranky and fatigued. Doctors were hesitant to put me on medication due to the fear of addiction. They asked me to take to meditation, which unfortunately did not help.
Due to sleep deprivation, to my horror, I entered clinical depression. Depression is not just mere sadness from which you can snap out easily. It is a very serious and traumatic illness that fills you with hopelessness, helplessness and worthlessness. There is very little awareness among people about this serious illness. While I was suffering from depression, people passed hurtful remarks like:
“You have everything, a great husband and a healthy child. How can you be depressed? You are a weak person, so you have depressione”
“Do not take antidepressants. You will become a zombie and will never lead a normal life again”
“Join gym and beat the depression”
“There is nothing wrong with you. You only need to be more responsible and focus towards your family”
Due to lack of awareness, both my family and I were not in favour of seeking medical help. The very thought of visiting a psychiatrist filled me with shame, making me hesitant to reach out for help.
Untreated depression slowly started affecting my physical health as well. I also developed back pain which made be bedridden for two years. After all the suffering, I finally decided to take medical help, which is when I understood the reason behind insomnia, and took all the necessary steps to get good sleep. My back condition took several years to heal. The psychotherapist taught me to think positively and helped me cope with my fears. The trauma of that experience brings tears to my eyes, even after so many years.
I feel if there was enough awareness about depression, my suffering could have been reduced. Abundant awareness on mental health can enable patients to seek help without hesitation. Family and friends can learn how to support their loved ones through the course of their traumatic illness. Primary care doctors would be able to diagnose and treat depression. Sometimes a physical illness may be a manifestation of mental illness. Even teachers will be able to identify the symptoms of depression in students and then guide them and their parents through this illness.
I was born and brought up in a middle class family. I have always been a self-made woman – fearless, passionate, ambitious, independent yet happy, sensitive, contented and calm.
Yet, I was suddenly engulfed with darkness, midway through my MBA. It was hard for me to comprehend my feelings since I fared well at academics and also had a content personal life.
On the 20th November, 2016, I woke up with a heavy head and sensed a strange darkness in front of my eyes. From that day onwards, I suddenly became a different person and life took a constant downhill journey. I was gradually falling apart and couldn’t hold myself together. Even the smallest of tasks, worries or arguments appeared challenging. I would constantly notice my lips turning dry and a rapid heartbeat, trying to execute daily tasks. I would also have constant outbursts for reasons I couldn’t understand. It gradually built up to a point where I isolated myself and let this condition overpower me.
It took immense courage from within to pull through a normal day but after a week or so, it would recur, growing stronger each time. I tried to share my problem with as many people as I could, but not a single solution helped me for more than a couple of hours.
The silent suffering continued for 8 months. This distress had already shattered me, the worst part being that not a single person around me understood what I was going through. The bonds I held so close to my heart broke and everyone gave up on me sooner or later. I felt like my life had reached its end.
But, there is always light at the end of the tunnel.
My friends took me to a counsellor, as a last resort. I felt a strange connection after talking to him, a feeling I thought had vanished from me. After listening patiently to my complete story over around 3 sessions, he advised me to immediately see a neuro-psychiatrist to get proper medication. After a series of tests, it was diagnosed that the female hormone estrogen had reduced to one-third of its normal amount, which in turn had stopped the production of serotonin in my brain “ the trigger of depression and anxiety“, resulting in a medical condition known as un-methylated depression. I was under strict medication and diet for the next 4 months. The struggle was difficult, but I’m happy that I coped with it, coming out stronger.
This episode taught me to empathize with millions of people like me who silently struggle for years, but can never openly talk about it due to the way our society has marked it as a taboo. People typecast you in a corner and find you unsuitable for family or career, without knowing that the next sufferer can be any of them.
I still suffer from recurring phases of depression, but I’ve become better at managing.
Unfortunately, I still find myself explaining to my dear educated friends about how depression is an illness just like diabetes or bronchitis, with just different set of difficult-to-diagnose symptoms. People still lack awareness on how feeling depressed and having clinical depression are two completely different things and how a little support and open mindedness from our side can help us fight this illness.
I have struggled with bipolar disorder, anxiety, nervousness and depression, since I was a little girl. These mental issues have been my enemy for the past 35 years or so. I always thought that I would win them over. Little did I realize that they would also end up putting up a strong fight against me. However, I have gained strength to manage and cope with it and hope to do so, for the rest of my life.
I was just about 10 when I stood cowering in the corner of my room, shaken from the beating I was subjected to. I looked at the adults in the house, for help. I failed to understand why I was being punished. I knew that I had been bothering my parents and was different from my siblings. I harboured guilt for hurting everyone around me with my unusual behaviour. But, there was a lack of awareness about mental health issues in those days.
I was nervous and used to tremble with stage fear during my performances. I was confident and an extrovert, but eventually transformed into an introvert and a reticent girl. I thought that I could win over the world, but grew up into an adult believing that I was less than ordinary. I compared myself to my classmates who I believed were talented and worthy.
I was paranoid about exploding under the impact of my emotions. Shouting and screaming without any apparent provocation was normal for me. To contain me, my parents beat me mercilessly. However, I believed that they were not in the wrong either. I considered myself as a stigma to the family who contaminated their prestige with my irrational behaviour. I was unable to comprehend as to why I behaved the way I did.
Despite getting admission in a management course from a prestigious institute, I considered myself worthless. I suffered the guilt of not being able to live up to my father’s dream of becoming a doctor.
At the age of 21, I got engaged and eventually married the guy my father chose for me. I broke down completely as I could not express the affection I harboured in my heart for a boy in college. I never considered myself worthy of his love although sometimes I observed him to be taking keen interest in me. He was curious about my unusually quiet nature. I felt undeserving of his love.
I struggled with maintaining my relationships. I failed to foresee that my mental issues are going to wreck havoc to my marriage. However, the universe ended up being kind to me. I was blessed to be married to a gentle and understanding soul, who was patient and empathetic towards me.
However, my in-laws kept constantly taunting me, which triggered the depression again. I attempted suicide three times in a span of 7 years and went through intense therapy and medication. The doctors informed me that I was suffering from depression and bipolar disorder. My husband supported me through the struggle, completely. He rushed me to the emergency ward past midnight. He stayed up all night just to make sure I was fine, in spite of several suicide attempts.
There are innumerable days in a month when I sulk in my bed refusing to wake up. I take my medicines and choose to lie in bed all day. However, I am still hopeful and I am waiting for the days that will be bright and cheerful. I have lived an incomplete life so far, but believe that everything is going to change for the better and that these dark clouds will eventually let the sun shine through.
In recent times, a lot has been spoken about mental health and depression in particular. The other day, I was having a conversation with a friend about the same, and while at it, he said that I seemed too happy for someone who had battled depression. I know for a fact that depression doesn’t differentiate between race, status, or even age groups. However, I also strongly believe that depression can be coped with.
There was a time when I constantly oscillated between emotions. One minute I would be happy and just the next minute I would feel complete darkness – like my entire world came crumbling down. I would sleep for 8 hours and still feel exhausted when I woke up, and some days I didn’t want to wake up at all. I attempted suicide twice and have also hurt myself a few times. There wasn’t a single day in 3 years when I didn’t cry before I fell asleep. I would hold myself together through the day, also support those who were dealing with problems, yet crumble and shatter, from the inside. There were days when even staying awake felt like a monumental task. I spoke to very few people about it. Most of them didn’t understand, some were even insensitive, which made me quiet about how I felt. I felt scared, hopeless and tired for many days together. But then the silver lining was that I found how far I could go with this feeling. I found the strength to overcome my madness and hopelessness. It wasn’t easy. It was the most difficult phase but it made me realize that there is a stint of hope in the darkest of times and you have to find the courage to hold on to that little piece for as long as you can, because it is your only way out.
I’m a happier person today. There are times when I feel weak and when I feel it’s recurring again, but I know I can cope with it, every single time.
If you do know someone battling depression, it is very important to be patient and affectionate. Sometimes it just takes one kind action or a small gesture to get you through an extremely difficult day.
During the third year of college, I was stuck with crucial changes, both in my personal and social life.
As a result of being raised in a conservative and traditional family, I made very few attempts to befriend kids in school. However, in college, I realized the importance of friendship and love. Due to the intense pressure of getting good grades and keeping up with my social life, I developed stress and anxiety. March 2012, marked one complete month of not able to sleep well – with a lot anxiousness and restlessness.
A cousin and a very dear friend of mine suggested that I visit a neurologist. After diagnosis, I was surprised to learn that I was suffering from insomnia, which gradually led to depression.
After a few years, my family faced a huge financial crisis, which started worrying me. At the same time, I was also tensed about my career since I was finding it tough to land a job. The guilt of not being able to justify my parents’ sacrifices took over. To make things worse, I also suffered a painful heartbreak amidst the chaos. I tried moving on and pretending like it didn’t affect me, but failed. In April, 2013, exactly after a year, I visited the same neurologist, when I found my emotions fluctuating. I would laugh hard and within the next few seconds, wail loudly. When she learnt about my symptoms, she recommended that I meet a psychiatrist.
The idea of visiting a psychiatrist stressed me out as I was paranoid about going in for therapy at such an early age. I denied getting help, making my situation worse. In the next few months, I noticed drastic weight loss, losing almost about 10 kilos. To get my mind off my previous break-up, I went in for a rebound, who forced himself upon me, leaving me shattered. At this time, I couldn’t help thinking about suicide or escaping the clutches of society. This was when I knew I desperately needed help, but didn’t have the monetary status to fund the same. I was hesitant about taking help from family and friends, to avoid troubling them. However, I decided to seek help and saved money from the little income I earned through taking tuitions. I also borrowed money from friends and went in for counselling.
In May 2013, I started meditation, which helped improve my condition. I also got a job offer from a reputed BPO. My counselling sessions coupled with medication helped me overcome my difficulties. By July 2013, I was back in a good form – happy and experiencing life at its best, again.
Today, when I look back, I don’t see the phase of depression and stress as my weakness. Instead, I feel they made me strong, level headed and independent. I am working with a reputed MNC today. My family is happy and proud and I’ve learned to manage and cope with financial difficulties. I have also been in a couple of relationships and I’m glad that I have my family and close friends, who respect and care for me, as a survivor of depression.