Few weeks back, Ma sent a photo of the two of us and wished me ‘Happy Daughters’ Day’. I grinned and immediately responded with a cheeky ‘Every day is daughters’ day Ma’. And we moved on from there. It is a daily struggle for me to remember such days. Birthdays, anniversaries, mothers’ day, fathers’ day. The struggle is real. And this world has seen to it that there is no dearth of such days and the drill that follows on social media (which I fall prey to, many a times as well). Few days back I started seeing posts on National Mental Health day and that has stuck around in my head. It is comforting to finally see people talk about it. Yet, do we really talk about it?
I learned to talk about my own mental health very late. Took me over a decade and I still struggle. And I still don’t have a good answer to why is it difficult to talk about it. Maybe because if I talk about it, I acknowledge that there is a problem. Someone very wise had once told me that acknowledging the problem is the biggest step in course correction. Maybe that’s what it is. If I admit, then the bubble of ‘everything is alright’ bursts and there is no immediate concrete solution. No paracetamol to this fever.
I am not asking for your stories. But, I could tell you bits and pieces of mine. With the hope that you realise that it is okay to talk about mental health. Whether you talk to your closest friend, your therapist, your partner or anyone else for that matter. That’s your choice to make. But, the fact remains that mental health issues are rampant, undiagnosed and usually on an escalated path, thanks to months and years of closeted silence.
As far as I am concerned, today I stand healthy and calm. A state of mind which probably is the driving force behind my ability to post this. But let it not trick you into thinking I always had it easy. Honestly, I don’t think anyone has it easy. We learn, we lean for support and we adjust. Sometimes we come out stronger and sometimes weaker. I left home almost two decades back. Scarred by a town which treated women like shit. I have very fond memories of my growing up years. Yet, I also have some of my darkest memories growing up there. That changes you. Makes you pull your guards up very high. The two decades that followed were spent learning independence. Learning how your own decisions impact you. Learning to have your own back. And in that entire process, I slowly stopped leaning on friends and family for support. I told everyone that I am doing good and everything is okay.
Yet, everything can’t be okay all the time. Hearts were broken, friendships were lost, poor choices were made. And the hurt stayed in. I slept over it all, waking up to a new day with a new resolve. It was hard getting out of bed on tough days, but I told myself that time heals everything. That’s what I had heard. So, that’s what I chose to believe and moved on. The problem is that our bodies pay the price of bottling in hurt. Like it does, when you eat too much sugar through your life, and your blood report one fine day lets you know that your body didn’t quite enjoy the onslaught. And so it was with me. Not talking about my mental health led to an increase in anxiety, unprecedented panic attacks and many a nights of sleeplessness and anguish. If you are wondering about all my travels and warm times with friends and family, well that was real too. That happiness was real, but so was the anxiety. The highs and the lows. And then I learned to talk about it. Slowly and surely. I remember this time in New Zealand when we were crossing a mountain in the night; Shomu on the wheels. It was a dark night with mountains on both side. Just us on the road. And my anxiety and claustrophobia kicked in. The night felt darker, the mountains vicious and the car seemed to close in on me. Shomu knew what was happening. We rolled down the windows on a freezing night and he quietly drove me to safety. I cried when we reached open roads. We did the same drive in daylight on our way back, and I could not believe I was scared of this. The mountains weren’t that tall and the roads weren’t that narrow. But in my head, it was the Everest. Well, that’s how it is. You will never truly understand the plight of a person going through a mental health issue. Because it is not tangible or logical. But, it is very real.
I have come a long way. I recognise my triggers and I choose to avoid them, when I can. The highs and the lows continue, but I have learned few workarounds and self care rituals. And I am still learning. When Ma heard of my anxiety and depression, her only question was ‘Why didn’t you tell me earlier?’. And I didn’t have a good answer. So, I have decided to talk about it. To my loved ones and to you. It doesn’t make me a lesser person. And I hope it gives you the strength to speak too. Time doesn’t heal; love and empathy does.
Happy National Mental Health Day | October 2019.