Six months back, I was trying to write a novel, about depression. The irony was that I wanted to end it on a happy note. I was even invited to share my fantastic idea with a hall full of strangers. As I entered, I saw the spotlight on the stage and imagined hundreds of faces looking at me. The next moment, I was in washroom, crying incessantly and rocking my body sitting on the floor. Thank God, there was no one else there. After another 15 minutes, I was on stage- calmer than usual. I delivered my presentation, took some questions and almost fell on my chair. It was exhausting, as tiring as a 1-hour gym session. That day, I almost gave up on my idea of writing a happy story.
If one day I find myself in a confession box, this would be my admission. I still cannot accept that this happened to me. I would have written another 1000 words about my suffering as a patient of anxiety and depression, but words fail me. I cannot explain what my loved ones and I went through in those 10-12 months. But this post is not about being in depression. It is about the life after recovery. It is about that silver lining I was promised in every session with my psychiatrist.
One fine day, I declared it was over. It did get over, for people around me but never for me. It was like chicken pox that left me with some scars. I remember how my mother followed a routine of applying coconut water and neem leaves on them. With time they did go away. But depression was no chicken pox. The scar on my mind never leaves me alone.
For months, I applauded myself, gave myself medals for being a proud survivor coz no one else did. People around me were just relieved that my laziness was over, that someone knocked some sense in me, that the shameful condition is a thing of the past. They carried on with their plans with me- pushing me for a job, asking about having kids, inviting me for parties. But no one ever asked me, “how do you feel?”. Everyone behaved like an ostrich, buried their head under the ground and hoped that it was a bad dream.
For me, it was like getting out of a dingy cell of a jail and being trapped in the jail compound. For first few months, I was proud and thankful. I shared many happy and hopeful accounts of my recovery hoping that it would give some positivity to others. But as soon as I resumed my normal life, I realised it wasn’t the same.
- I wasn’t able to feel the same enthusiasm and love towards life.
- Being in party or social gathering made me nervous and anxious.
- Stress at work often triggered panic.
- I felt a distance from other people. Those who were already there in my life were part of my system. But making new friends seemed to be impossible.
- With every episode of anxiety, panic and disenchantment, for a brief period I felt nothing changed. I would just helplessly wait for this to get over, crossing my fingers that its just a temporary phase and my depression has not relapsed.
If you think this paragraph would contain details about how I turned around my life, you would be disappointed. Nothing changed really. Even after a year I feel the same. I still live under the same fear. Depression is not like a fever which goes away with all its symptoms. It is like diabetes. It has to be managed. But the social stigma and ignorance around depression makes it all the way so difficult.
People say common sense is not so common. But I think the rarest of all is empathy. I wonder there are so many guides to responsibly spend, drink, drive etc but hardly anyone emphasizes on talking responsibly. The most common question I have encountered on Quora is “how do I behave around a person with depression?”. My answer would be- just be kind. I know you want your friend or spouse to attend that party, to be a part of your family gathering. But there might be a reason that the person doesn’t want to go. Stop pushing them. They already feel guilty. Don’t overburden them with another load.
Since all posts should end on a positive note, I would confess one more thing. If there is only one thing that depression taught me, it’s the importance of self-love. It gave me formula to decide my limits, to know where to say no. I do feel guilty for disappointing people, but I also hope that one day they would understand, the place where I am. And till that time, I would fake it in the real world and rant about it in the blogging world. Hope my readers are kind to me. 🙂
PS: Found this very powerful short movie by Aasra. This is exactly how I felt two years back.