Shedding a taboo isn’t easy. But it can be done, one day at a time
Sick or "sick"?
Let us try a small exercise.
Close your eyes and imagine the last person you spoke with for more than 15 minutes on the phone (talked about anything apart from work)
Now, imagine them telling you they are suffering from a cold and sore throat.
What would you do?
You would probably suggest them some tried-and-tested remedy or offer to take them to the doctor, wouldn’t you?
On the other hand, what would you do if the same person tells you they are suffering from depression, or they had a terrible panic attack last night?
Would you suddenly get awkward?
Or would you sigh, then tell them, “It’s okay, this happens” — because you know the situation demands you to be understanding and supportive. Because you aren’t sure what is meant by support, and you do whatever feels the easiest — offer them hollow words like “It’s okay” or “It will be alright”.
Or maybe, to make them feel comfortable, you share an experience of your own you believe is similar to what they just talked about.
A person with depression isn't weak
Did you know, when a mentally unwell person opens up about their mental health, they walk to talk to you. Here “talk” means “listen”, and not “offer advice”?
How would you feel if you are suffering from a severe stomach ache and your closest friend comes and tells you — “It’s okay. Everyone suffers from stomach aches. I had a severe one after I had too much ice-cream at Sharma Uncle’s daughter’s wedding.”
It sounds absurd, doesn’t it?
Can you imagine how absurd it is, if a person tells you they are suffering from panic attacks, and you tell them — “It’s okay”?
People say talking about mental health is cliched because everyone talks about it. But, if it is no longer a taboo in India, why don’t people advise people with depression or anxiety to see a doctor?
Most people still think of people with mental illnesses as “not having enough will-power” or “weak”. In truth, people with mental illnesses aren’t weak, they are “sick”.
And just like any sickness of the body, sickness of the mind needs professional medical help to recover.
A person can have life goals they are actively working towards, supportive family and friends, a healthy lifestyle — and still be clinically depressed.
Depression is not about “having a reason to be sad”, it is a mental illness that needs professional treatment.
Only when each and every person in the country understand this, will mental health no longer be taboo.
Till then, keep writing about it. Keep sharing memes and Instagram posts that talk about it. Keep watching those YouTube videos that discuss depression, and keep sharing them with your friends.
Many Indians are not aware of mental health. Let’s change it — one post at a time.
This is my attempt to bring down those walls for today. What’s yours?
My journey with mental health
Do you know how I around to writing this article?
I posted this picture on Instagram a few days back-
I am smiling, yes.
But here’s the story behind this picture — I was having a terrible day. Crippling self-doubt, episodes of self-pity, and dark mood swings I had no way of deciphering. Throughout it all, there was only one question in my head — everything is going alright in my life. Why am I sad?
Maybe there is something wrong with me.
Maybe I need to go out and do something that makes me feel happy.
So, I took my scooter and went on a ride around the campus. I clicked pictures of buildings reflected in lakes of clear water and captured the crazy riot of colours in the sky as the setting sun bade the world goodbye.
Spending time with nature made me feel lighter.
I also put the camera on self-timer and captured a few self-portraits.
When I got back, I was exhausted. My mind was buzzing with ideas and I didn’t feel the need to feel sorry for myself any more.
So, I sat down on my computer and wrote a caption for the picture-
Not all days are perfect. Not all moments are spent laughing. Not all relationships are flawless. Not all excuses make sense.
That isn’t a problem. The problem is that we constantly keep craving for all things to make sense. If they don’t, we get upset.
That’s life. There’s always pain when there’s happiness. The trick to having some peace is to STOP CRAVING — to not crave all happy moments to last forever. And to not crave all sad moments to go away immediately.
Once we reach that state of mind, it will be easier to embrace life as it is.
This got me thinking, how many people are aware that it is normal to feel this way? I know several friends and colleagues who “push away” feelings of sadness because they think such feelings have no space in their life.
They don’t embrace their emotions and try to bury them under a mask of happiness.
The least I could do in such a situation is, I thought to myself, write something about it to shed the taboo surrounding mental health issues, especially in a country like India.
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