Mard ko dard nahin hota

Over the past few decades there has been a lot of research into mental illnesses. One such group of mental illnesses that has been understood better with time are eating disorders. An eating disorder, primarily, is a person’s disordered eating behaviour, and the unhealthy practices around it. The three major categories (although there are other ‘unspecified’ ones) under eating disorders are Anorexia, Bulimia, and Binge Eating, each with their own varied set of symptoms.

Imagine having a disorder that has for the longest time been stigmatised as weakness, a stigma that infests the collective societal mind and shoves you into a corner until you get better miraculously instead of trying to understand and help you through it.

Imagine belonging to a minority even within this minority, of having a disorder considered to only affect females, one that ‘rarely-if-ever’ affects males. Place this in the context of our culture, where males are the dominant, “strong” gender, and females are the submissive, “weak” gender. What this results in is a pigeon-holing of eating disorders as gender specific, and creates a bias against an entire gender.

Women, for decades, have been under the lens of society and pop-culture as helpless victims of an invisible illness that affects their eating patterns, their body image, and of course, their self-esteem. But as it turns out, these women are neither helpless nor alone. Studies on eating disorders from the start have focused on women in general, and teenage girls in particular, hence the criteria to diagnose for eating disorders has been based on female behaviours. This resulted in an unfortunate systematic exclusion of males from most of the criteria of eating disorders. What this meant was, for decades, we have been trying to diagnose eating disorders in males using the criteria for females .

Expecting males to show the same symptoms as females is misguided, as our socio-cultural history has clearly defined gender-roles for both the sexes. Men were hunters, women were child-rearers. Throughout history men have been rewarded for having a muscular physique and a strong frame to protect their family. The Greeks and Romans in their art and sculpture have personified the distinction between males and females – the latter was all about beauty, and the former was all about strength. It’s not hard to imagine the extent negative body images and ideals have festered in this modern age, and not hard to believe the fantastic growth of such numbers over the decades. Even in men.

Another reason for the under-diagnosis of eating disorders in males is the stigma associated with it. It is not enough that eating disorders are stigmatised as mental illness already, but there is a greater stigma attached to male eating disorders, as they are characterised at “women’s problems”. This results in a so-called “double stigma”, for seeking psychological help in the first place, and for an illness characterised as feminine or even “gay”. What’s more, 99% of the books on eating disorders have a feminine bias . For these two reasons, for so long, men have been under-diagnosed, and the little research in this area has been misleading.

Recent studies have suggested that eating disorders in men show a prevailing misconception in their notions about their weight and physique, especially around their muscularity. Most men prefer to be lean and muscular, mirroring the ideal male body type. This leads to body dissatisfaction, and even body dysmorphia – a mental illness involving obsessive focus on a perceived flaw in appearance. A study conducted in 2014 revealed that nearly 18% of boys are highly concerned about their weight and physique, and are at increased risk of depression, and engaging in high-risk behaviours such as binge drinking and drug use . An article published by The Guardian as late as October stated that the number of adult men in the UK that have been hospitalised with an eating disorder, between 2010 and 2016, increased by 70%! Moreover, the charity Beat has estimated that 10-25% of people with eating disorders are male, a number much higher than has been previously suggested.

What these past few years have shown us is the dire need to spread awareness. Lack of awareness about mental health in society has created stigma, while the lack of awareness in professional, clinical settings, has created a mishap. Had there been greater awareness at the time when eating disorders were just coming to the fore, maybe we would have had a better understanding of male eating disorders, leading to better treatment procedures and more males accessing treatment. So far, they have been lost in the haze worked up around female eating disorders, but a change is coming. Only through raising awareness can people understand that eating disorders don’t discriminate between genders, race, age, or even socio-economic backgrounds. And only through awareness can men understand that it is OK to ask for help, and that the old Hindi saying doesn’t apply – mard ko bhi dard hota hain.

Depression and Anxiety Lets Break the Shackles

Depression is probably the disorder of the new millennia. The statistics are alarming whatever the source of data may be. The India picture is grim with 5% of Indians suffering from depression and another 4% suffering from anxiety.

More alarming than these statistics are the studies on the views held by people about the cause, treatment and about the patient. Almost every article on this topic will mention that people at large are unaware of the cause and treatment. Beliefs like it is a disorder affecting the weak-willed, not able to face the challenges of life, often prevail. Another common misnomer is that will power, getting up and facing the world, can get you out of depression.

These wrong notions have led to many people not even trying to get treatment. The social stigma that ‘the person suffering from depression is not completely there’ does not help its cause.

I am not a doctor so I will not go into the biology of this disorder but I can confidently say that like many other diseases or disorders, it is treatable and its symptoms are controllable with medicine. It can affect anyone, any age group, any socio-economic group, like diabetes or blood pressure, and requires medical help and a support system.

I know this, not because it has appeared in articles and I can Google it, but because I have suffered from depression and anxiety for seven years. I know it can be tough to diagnose, tough to accept, and tougher to live with it. But I also know it’s curable.

Hi I am Jyoti and I am a depression and anxiety survivor and this is my story. Yes, like any person afflicted with severe clinical depression and anxiety disorder, I have gone to hell and back.

With the help of my absolutely amazing psychiatrist and my highly empathetic yet tough therapist, I am absolutely fine today. What also helped was my decision to take it like any other disorder. This helped me find the best doctors and the best therapist.

My life was exactly as I wanted it to be. I had a great job at one of the best foreign banks. Professionally, I was getting all the respect and accolades I deserved. Yes, it came along with long hours and a bit of extra effort, and as a woman I felt I was always under the microscope. I am married to my senior from MBA institute and we are blessed with a child. Physical, mental, and emotional pressures were part of the deal. At least that is what I always told myself.

With this being my worldview, I did not hesitate when my husband was offered a fantastic job in another city and I was offered my dream job in Mumbai. I was sure we could manage. My husband is my best friend and we had managed running the house and looking after our child together so far.

We decided that we would keep our home base in Mumbai and that my husband would visit us on weekends. With the help of our trusted household help and our parents visiting us, we would be able to manage this change without any problem.

What followed were two and half years of extremely demanding professional and personal life. I was working 14 hours on average and dealing with being one of the few women in a man’s world. Apart from the pressure of senior level jobs, there was the added stress of meetings at 7 in the evening, managing last minute information, multiple stake holders in different part of the world, and other such grueling challenges.

I was a single mother during the week. Not being around at bedtime, dinnertime, or working during weekends was beginning to take a toll. In an effort to be perfect in each role, I needed more time. I didn’t realize when I began skipping meals or sleeping for only 3-4 hours a day.

I found that my best friend had died through an obituary in the paper. I hadn’t spoken to her for months because I had no time. My in-laws were visiting me when during dinner my father-in-law felt uneasy. I gave him antacids. The next morning at work, I got a call that he had collapsed.

At the hospital I was told that he had suffered a massive heart attack and his chances of survival were very low. By the time my husband and sister-in-law arrived, doctors had tried their best and had given up. The next day I lost a man who had been like my father for 15 years.

My husband moved back to Mumbai. During the next few months, I continued to lose people - a young member of the team, a friend, an uncle. The office was going through its own upheaval. My old boss was moving out and there was a new one coming in. We had to work very hard to prove ourselves in order to survive the restructuring which would take place.

I had been ignoring symptoms of weight loss and insomnia. My hands would shake. I would have dizzy spells.

One night I woke up drenched in cold sweat, my entire left side was paining and I was unable to move. I was rushed to the ER. Though ECG cleared me, I had all the symptoms of a heart attack, which is why I spent the night at the hospital. Thankfully, the reports were all clear.

During the next few months I would wake up at 3 am almost paralyzed. My heart would be beating so fast that I felt I could hear it. I was petrified of the phone ringing and more bad news coming my way.

I was exhausted all the time. I took a leave of absence and went to meet my doctor. Based on my general run-down condition, he advised a few weeks’ leave and full battery of tests to be conducted.

I got all the tests done during my leave, and nothing significant came to light, but I could not go back to work. The thought of stepping out of my room, my bed, meeting people, handling pressure was extremely overwhelming. The only place, which gave me some solace, was my room where all the curtains had been pulled to make it dark. I hated going out and getting ready was almost physically painful.

I went back to work. On the first day, it was clear that I just couldn’t cope. The work, which had fulfilled my professional, intellectual, creative and significance needs petrified me. I quit my job citing undiagnosed medical reasons.

I was at home now, feeling as if my life had ended. There were days when I didn’t feel like getting out of the bed or even comb my hair. My doctors were at a loss about what was wrong with me. Explanations like you are burnt out, have worked too hard and need some time off and everything will be fine were given.
I couldn’t understand this, I had been a voracious reader and now I couldn’t concentrate enough to read a page, I didn’t even like meeting people when they came home.

One of the visitors was a friend who is a gynecologist and she asked me if I had met a psychiatrist. It was at her insistence that I met my first psychiatrist and the diagnosis was clear clinical depression and anxiety disorder. I actually felt a sense of relief that I had a diagnosis and that there were medicines available to help me.

The journey from there to now has not been easy. The initial side effects of the medications were tough to take. Depression along with side effects made me feel worse but my doctor had warned me that this would happen so I stuck on. I changed doctors twice, until I met my present doctor who recommended a therapist along with medicines. This combination was a godsend and my recovery became much faster. With a therapist I could voice out my deepest, darkest fears and secrets. We discovered my unresolved emotional issues and I learnt how to deal with them. I could discuss anything, without any judgment or any fear.

I don’t know why I never hid the fact that I was suffering from depression and anxiety from my friends and family. For me it was a disorder like any other. Only it doesn’t have a blood test or an x-ray to help doctors diagnose it.

My doctor and therapist also helped me deal with all the well-intended advice I got. I have been told that that I should use my will power to fight this disorder, I will be addicted to medicines, I should force myself to go out and meet people.

I didn’t get addicted to medication, my doctor knew how to taper it off. I needed medication before will power kicked in. I needed medicine before I could gradually start meeting people.

Today I can laugh, go out meet people, and sleep without nightmares. I have not gone back to work and that is not because I can’t but because I choose not to. I want to do something new. I have a new passion and one I am very excited about. So depression does not end your chance at normal life.

Everyone has their own journey, their own learning but the things I have learnt are:

1. Depression is curable and even during the treatment, medicines help in controlling the symptoms.
2. Depression is not sadness; sadness is a symptom of depression.
3. Like any disorder such as flu, that has high fever and body ache as symptoms, this disorder has its own symptoms. You are not weak-willed.
4. There is no scientific way of knowing what causes depression, no test to identify the level. Being honest with your doctor is the best way.
5. It’s great if you can confide in family and friends. In my case my husband, parents and my sister have stood by me, supported me, and loved me.
6. In case of severe depression, if you have to give up your job please don’t let that define your self-worth. Your self-worth is not how much you earn, but is a function of who you are.
7. If you have a loved one suffering from depression then please remember they need your empathy and love. It is important to be sensitive; to stay connected, as the social behavior may have changed because of the disorder. Don’t let go.

You are brave and strong because you chose to get treated. You chose not to let myths and stigma get in your way. You are NOT WEAK–WILLED.

MPower Invites You to Be a #EverydayHero

Welcome to the Mpower Everyday Heroes Blog! We are so delighted to have you be a part of the #EverydayHeroes campaign.

Our experience shows that the Mental Health problem we face is twofold - one, the lack of awareness and understanding of mental health concerns and two, the hesitation to speak about mental health issues.

We believe that it is time to battle this problem head-on. We believe it is time for people to Speak Up & to Stamp Out Stigma. And this can be done, we believe, by sharing stories. Stories have the power to put things in perspective, to shed light on an awkward/embarrassing topic, and to get the conversation rolling. Stories lend themselves as a beautiful outlet to express your inner emotions and thoughts, in turn providing a sense of catharsis.

In the recent past, through active campaigning, and ample media spotlight on the issues of mental disorders, famous individuals have willingly come forward to share stories of their battles with depression, anxiety and emotional well-being. Be it international stars like Bruce Springsteen and Selena Gomez or our very own Karan Johar & Deepika Padukone, the conversation around Mental Health is gaining momentum for the better.

Hrithik Roshan, who kick-started our #EverydayHeroes campaign urges you, our everyday heroes, to share your story and make a difference. Watch the video here: https://youtu.be/8g8529SctYw

With this campaign, we want to empower and encourage you, our everyday heroes to come forth and talk about mental health concerns. We want you to be agents of change, to inspire and instill a sense of hope in those who are struggling in their day to day life. Share your story and use this powerful tool to bring about a change in your life, and in the lives of those around you.

If you have a story to share, write to us on info@mpowerminds.com

Let's get the word out there. Let's get the conversation going. Let's Stamp Out Stigma.

The silence inside me makes me scream

Why are we brought up like this? We understand that we are going through pain but we do not understand how to express pain in the right way. The silence of your heart will only shed tears while the scream of your voice will create a taboo against you. The hateful eyes will make you feel more hurt. But you can't stop it. You don't wish to live in pain but you suffer, seldom a few loved ones trying to calm you. But how long will someone stand beside a person in such a state? Everyone has their own set of problems to deal with. So try writing...try recording yourself when you are calm and replaying it later. Try to feel the tension and vibrations when you are upset. Try to increase positive energy around you with chanting mantras when you sense a trigger. Try not to put yourself into extreme situations. Try not to judge and jump to assumptions and conclusions. I have tried all of this. I strive to help myself. Not for others, but for me. I want my healthy self back. I want to be happy. When I can't take it, I ask for help. Don't be shy to save yourself. Just take a hand when you know it's difficult to sail alone. Love yourself and also try to understand what happens to others when you go through your anxiety attacks. It's ok to apologise if you feel you have pushed certain levels. Hang on. You are not alone in it. You still have people who are willing to take your tantrums. Love them more when your wave has passed so they know that you appreciate them. Don't seek pity for yourself. It's a situation and only you can help yourself out of it.

An Introduction to Anxiety

Silence. The tap-tap of a keyboard.The title is in place. I stare at the blank space, the large, looming empty page beneath it. There's nothing there. It's been months since the long road to recovery began. Diagnosis changed me in a way nothing else had because it finally gave me something that I never had before: True understanding. An understanding of my mind, an understanding of what was really going on during all those months of anger, confusion, disarray and dismay. I felt more free in some ways than before.But epiphanies don't beat hard work. They don't beat the struggle you face every day, but you still carry on. I'm trying. I'm trying to write. A sense of uneasiness begins to nag at me. I shake my head. I need to focus on this. It's important for my future. But is it, though? Is this really going to make any sort of a difference in a life filled with tragedy and setbacks? My skin begins to crawl and my whole body is tense, uneasy. It's starting, but no, no, I can't let it start, not now. I have to focus, I have to. But I can't, I can't. My heart has started, and it's the worst. My heart is supposed to make me love, make me soar, but all my heart does is beat faster and faster. I can actually feel it in my chest, pounding against my ribs. Can you imagine being aware of the blood pumping in your veins, of this big thing in your chest that feels ready to burst on the inside? My breathing is ragged. It's catching, I'm choking, but how can that be? How can I be choking, how can my heart be closing up when my heart is going faster, faster, FASTER? How can it be that I'm actually getting less air when my brain is saying more, more, give me MORE! I'm fine, I'm fine. I need to fine. But what is the cause? What triggered this? What caused it? Did I not have a good day? Am I secretly unhappy with someone, with something? What can I do about it? How do I solve it? I need to calm down. I need to breathe. I need to tell myself that it'll be okay. But will it? Will I ever be successful? Will I ever be happy?Will I have a good day at work tomorrow? Will this feeling ever leave? What if I fight it but it comes back? Will this food make me sick? Are all these people really my friends? What if the universe isn't real? What if I'm not real? I will be fine. I'll calm myself down. I'll fight. I'll take a pill. I'll distract myself. But these problems won't stop. Because life is full of these problems, but not everybody breaks into cold sweats and becomes paralysed because of them. I'll get help. I'll work on it. But mostly I'll run. I run from one thing to another to escape that feeling, to leave that feeling behind at any cost because I know the truth. I know what I'm really scared of; nothing. I can solve my problems and work through them, but even if I work through all of them, this feeling will still exist, will adapt to whatever my current fear is. Because there is a void, there is nothing at the heart of anxiety, which terrifies and insidiously incorporates itself into every fear.So how do you beat nothing? You go to therapy. You take medication. But there's also an important companion to that. You fill up that emptiness; that void, even if there is a huge hole in your heart. Every day you pick up the spade and deposit a small bit of love, joy, and friendship, that fills the hole faster than you breathe during an attack. It is the fear of being scared all the time that makes us more scared and continues the cycle. Don't be scared. The simplest advice, the hardest action. But that one action can change everything. You'll fill up that hole. After all, in the beginning, there was nothing. Now that space is being filled up.

Everyday Heroes Blog

Whether you're currently living with a mental illness or have overcome one, your story can help inspire others. Share your experience with us and help make a change.

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