In a country like India, mental health and related illnesses are often still stigmatized and ostracized greatly due to the lack of awareness and exposure. In fact, taking counseling or psychiatric help is commonly looked down upon leading to people either neglecting this much-needed therapy or doing it extremely clandestinely.
Being a person who has periodically struggled with depression, I can confirm that it indeed is an illness and a severe one at that, with a potential to cause great harm if not identified and treated soon enough.
My struggles with depression started around the age of 14.
I was just an average school kid with mediocre grades and serious insecurities and above all, I was on the threshold of adolescence.
I was insecure about my appearance and of the perception the fellow students had of me. I also come from a family of super achievers and at that time, I did not feel good enough being part of that family at all.
It was around the same time when I was also diagnosed with Attention Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder and dysgraphia which in my mind made me feel side-lined and different from the ‘conventional’ fellow students.
I am a competitive badminton player and have been one all through my life of 19 years! There came a stage at that time, where despite all the strenuous training I underwent, I was not able to win any tournaments and that fuelled the insecurities and lack of self-belief in myself.
All the above contributed to my first major struggle with depression. Looking back, these issues seem trivial, but at the time they affected me greatly; so much that at the immature age of 14-15 years, I became withdrawn and reluctant and afraid to speak about my situation to anyone - be it parents, friends and/or teachers.
Consequently, I put up a façade at home and school of “everything being normal and fine” with me but in reality, my life at the time felt like a struggle filled with unhappiness. I had become moody and this often affected the relationships with my fellow classmates as I was too busy trying to guard my own emotions without considering how my poor and erratic behaviour was affecting theirs. In fact, I became self-pitying and virtually friendless. During that period, I felt that my life was hell and at one point I also considered harming myself. Thoughts of smoking and using some substances [which were easily available] to help me cope with my sense of loneliness and worthlessness loomed over me. However, and thank God for that, in a moment of self-realisation, instead of inflicting physical pain to my body, I realised that I needed to look for solutions for my problem. I don’t quite remember what triggered that moment.
This was the first time I identified that there was indeed something wrong with me, but I was still afraid to ask for help. Therefore, I started looking for self-help measures, which included writing about my thoughts profusely in journals, as well as looking at inspirational quotes and videos, all of which over the course of that period helped me slowly get over my depression. Eventually, I mustered the courage and approached a few friends in school and sought their help. I also reached out to my mother for added support. As far as substance abuse and smoking, I vehemently remembered a promise made to my family about not smoking or taking any substances recreationally or otherwise, and hence I stopped myself from doing it, which in hindsight was the best I could do for myself.
Depression is a common phenomenon that can happen to any of us. In my journey through depression, I have realised the need to seek help and given below is a list of steps, which in my opinion are essential in overcoming depression. For only once you help yourself, will other people be in a position to help you.
The steps are,
- Identify that you have a problem
- Do not be afraid to admit to yourself that there is a problem
- That the problem is NOT the end of the World
- Seek help
- Connect with anyone you trust, be it your parents or any one of them, friends, counsellor, teachers, uncles, aunts anyone at all
- Do not inflict pain or harm to your body- this is not going to help and on the contrary it is going to cause long term damage
- Be positive
- Take up a hobby
- Remember life is beautiful
- Lastly Learn to love yourself… as no one loves you more than yourself