Have you sat on your couch and listened to the silence around you? It’s almost 8pm where I am, I look out the window and the leaves are dancing after a rain. I don’t hear birds, I don’t hear the wind chime. It’s absolutely quiet. Pin drop silence. The only noise in my head is the search for the next word I need to type. the sky is a blue-grey. If I hit the letters on the screen of my phone, I can hear a faint tap. Other than that, it’s silence, outside and inside.

It’s my zen state. There is no place I need to be, there is no task I need to be doing, there is no expectation of me. In this moment I am transported to the pool in Mexico where I am floating aimlessly, my face towards the sun. All the noises around me are hushed and all I hear is silence.

Last night, as the movie “96” ended, I started crying. In the past when I have watched this movie, I have cried, because the story has similarities to my life. Yesterday, that wasn’t the case. As the closing credits rolled, I cried like my chest was about to burst. I wanted to scream, “Appa died”. It’s been 7 months since he left, and yesterday it hit me. Not sure why. But in those tears I let go, of him and of all the men and women who failed me. I let go of all the unhappiness of forty four years. Is that even possible, you ask? I don’t know, I am just finding out. This morning it was raining when I went to drop my son to school. On my way back, the skies cleared up and as I turned onto my street, I saw a ray of the sun, shining brightly. As I searched the skies, there it was, a beautiful rainbow. I felt cleansed.

I can still hear the silence. It’s a kind of peace I have never known. The world is just as it should be and my world is just perfect.

Health that no one talks about..

When you catch a fever or some body part aches, you take a pill to bring down the fever or relieve the pain. If symptoms get worse you see a doctor who prescribes medicines. There is no second thought when you want to share this with others. WIth all the advances we have made as humans, it is extremely unfortunate that mental health is a taboo in 2021. Nobody wants to know if you have emotional symptoms. It is a topic uncomfortable for many to talk about or share. Everyone know how a fever feels, so the listener can relate to your condition. But not everyone knows how depression feels, so it like talking about an alien on Mars, who you’ve heard about, but have your doubts on whether they exist. If you have a doctor appointment, you can tell your co-workers or your supervisor that you have a doctor appointment. Unfortunately, if you have a therapist appointment, you can only say personal appointment. I have not heard anyone say I have a therapist appointment, except my close friends. It is a taboo. I am not sure where the taboo lies, in the mind of the person who has the appointment, or is it a fear of judgement by the listener.

Understanding mental health was difficult prior to the pandemic we are all stuck in, but now, I guess more people are opening up the idea of the existence of mental health. The pandemic has affected everyone; either by infecting the person with the virus or with the fear that one may catch the bug. Many people have been stuck inside their houses finding alternatives to their “normal” way of living, or trying to establish a new normal. This has taken a toll on everyone’s emotional health. My one year old nephew puts his hands across his mouth and shows us what a mask is. It makes me so sad. My children have been indoors since March 2020, not meeting friends, not going to school and it has taken a toll on their mental health. It is an even more cumbersome task of parenting where it is my primary responsibility to ensure they don’t break down; to keep things as lively as possible. Nothing is normal, but creating a sense of normal is so essential to keep everyone sane.

I am tired of reading about the pandemic so I am going to spare you and let’s get back to emotional health or mental health and therapy. Therapy is the art of healing the mind and I cannot stress enough how important it is to ensure one’s mind is healthy. Everything stems from your mind, your happiness, happiness and love that you share with people around you. When the mind is not well, you are sad, making everyone around you sad. You have no enthusiasm to do anything, and just want to lock yourself up in a room. There are other extreme issues which I am not going to talk about. You are on your journey of healing when you realize or someone tells you to see a therapist. Unlike the other physical illness doctor who has tools to check the issue and prescribe medicines, therapy takes time. Nothing happens in one session or even ten sessions. It may take years, but be assured you are on the path of recovery. You have to dive deep into yourself and peel the layers you have unknowingly built around you, one by one. As you expose each layer underneath and talk about your situation, experience, feelings, you are able to reflect on the situation in a different light with the help of the therapist. The blurriness fades and you start to see things clearly.

As my therapist says the answers are within you, you just need to find them. One of the best gifts I have given myself is therapy. Even as I type this I have some part of me thinking everyone is going to know that I am seeing a therapist. But that’s okay; because this is important to me and is for my well-being. And it just means that I am giving as much importance to my mind as my body. I know that not everyone understands the reason or the result of therapy. It is a very personal process, where you chalk out your path but you have someone who will help you to stay afloat and keep the balance.

When a movie star like Deepika Padukone comes out in support of mental health, we read about it and think wonder why she needs it or talk about it. But we almost always miss to acknowledge ourselves or people in our house who are going through depression. It is real for you and me as it is for Deepika Padukone. We all have a mind and we need to protect it for our own sanity. I sincerely hope there comes a day in the near future when we can openly acknowledge that ‘I am fighting depression and taking care of my mind to emerge stronger’ and that people around us don’t judge us, instead listen to us when we need to talk to someone..

Its real

Depression is real but it’s not sadness. Sadness is more mentally or lasts a finite time but depression manifests itself in different layers and stays a longer time. It is difficult to explain how depression feels and and that is why it is left untreated for longer periods of time. Depression and normalcy are so similar that it takes you time to realize that you possibly could be in depression. You could be fooling yourself that everything happening around you is the way it is so you convince yourself that nothing is wrong, and you need to adapt to your surroundings. If you think someone else can tell you that you are in depression then know that it will never happen. You need to assess yourself or get a person with a medical degree to assess it for you. 

You have probably read that it is difficult to explain how depression feels, like labour pains. It comes in cycles, the labour pain and depression. There are periods of self-confidence followed by  a phase of self-doubt. During the high wave, you are up for any challenge, you want to overcome the obstacles, you want to move ahead. It is a false sense of optimism, because it is short-lived. A truly confident person will stay confident for a longer period of time and have fewer bouts of self-doubt. So I feel, it is an act, or a way your mind plays tricks with you. Very soon, usually there is a trigger, that this false persona falls. You withdraw into yourself and stop yourself from doing anything. Yes, getting up from bed every morning is a Herculean task. All you want to do is curl up somewhere, not talk to anyone and sit in your hiding spot. It is very easy to go from a high wave to a low wave, a small trigger questioning you and you will fall flat. But that’s not true about moving from a low to a high. It takes a lot of effort and support to get back up there. It is a state where you are waddling in the water supported by a few hands around you, most definitely your therapist.

There is no answer to what depression feels like, but there is an answer to how one feels when going through depression. Life goes about between these bouts of high and low waves. There is rarely a middle layer. Even if you find the middle ground, it is hard to establish yourself there because you are used to being at the high or low wave. This middle ground is new. However, starting to find the middle ground is like starting to discover yourself, the real you, not the one clouded by judgement all the time. So how does one feel? Not very happy, not very sad, not content, its a blank state of the mind. It is easy to not react instinctively to something or anything. You will seem calmer on the outside, but inside there is a constant churning. It is confusing, yes, very much. Your focus is elsewhere. You are sitting with your friend listening to his/her story, but you are not registering anything. You will not be able to ask a follow-up question tomorrow, because almost everything they said did not register in your mind. You are in your own world, a world you cannot define for yourself. 

When depression occupies most of the space in your mind, focus is what you lose first. Focus on yourself, your job, your friends, your family, your children. There is a basic functioning, you live from moment to moment, however, you are absent from the moment. You may seem very normal on the exterior, but you know there is a storm inside you. You want to burst into tears, you want to sit and cry for hours, in the hope that maybe then, this turmoil will leave you. Unfortunately, you cannot cry. Your mind knows you want to cry, but every cell of yours does not support it. You want to laugh continuously for hours, but the most hilarious joke doesn’t seem funny anymore. At the most you will let out a smile. You want to sleep for hours, and this is probably you will be able to do, for hours and hours, because this is an escape from your otherwise turbulent mind. Watch television for hours and hours, because you are in an alternate world away from the mess inside your head.

I have thought hard about does one incident start depression? And my conclusion is no. Every experience in life manifests onto itself and leaves behind a memory. Either a strong one or a weak one, but it exists. Some are good and some are bad. When the bad memories accumulate and if you have a lot of these, over time your mind weakens over this accumulation and makes you vulnerable. Your mind is prone to attacks easily. So when a person comes by who stays in your life for a long time and punches you in your soft spot, your mind caves. It could be anybody. A friend, a spouse, a parent, a sibling. The hard part is you don’t realize while the bad memory is accumulating until much later when you have become completely vulnerable. Actually most people don’t realize when they have become vulnerable, but much later when they feel trapped. Some get help, seek out therapy, swallow a concoction of chemicals to balance the mess up in your brain. It is unfortunate that most people live their life in this vulnerability because either they don’t know they need help or are too scared to seek help. What will everyone think. This is the year 2020 and even today mental health is a taboo. It should be given equal or more importance than physical health. It is easy to heal someone physically and extremely difficult to heal someone emotionally. 

Employees cannot speak freely of therapist appointments with their employer. Spouses cannot talk about it in their family. The immediate reaction is that there is something wrong with you. Yes, there is something wrong, but it is not with me, it’s with my environment. And the counseling I am seeking is to help me cope with my environment. My environment has become so toxic that it is impossible for me to navigate through the toxicity without an alteration of chemicals in my body or without being able to talk to someone about how I feel. Nobody in my environment wants to listen to me or understands my position or wants to understand my state of mind. They are biased by their own opinion of the situation. In this situation the only person who can help is a therapist who is outside this environment and can see clearly and provide a neutral perspective. A therapist primarily allows you to feel how you want to feel and tells you its okay. That you can get through this. You will not be here all the time. That the sun will rise tomorrow and it will be a new day. Rejuvenate your hope.

There are extreme cases who try to take their life. Either they are successful or end up in a psychiatric evaluation center with others who are either in the same situation as yours or worse. I have thought about what makes them take that extreme step and I believe its their lack of faith in anything or anyone. They don’t believe they can come out of their situation or environment and there is no one to lend them a hand and pull them up. It is sad, in this world of billions of people there is not one person who can extend their hand. So it becomes all the more important to seek help early on. The only person you need to listen to in this situation is you. Depression is real and it is not sadness.