In my previous write-up, I emphasized how society shapes our mental health issues and the way we deal with it. But, the conundrum is that one has to encounter and deal with mental health issues, while also pushing for systemic changes. Depression, was in many ways an internal struggle in my mind, while I worked on building a support system around.
There are myriad ways of dealing with depression. One has to figure out the path that suits best for their situation, the problems they might be dealing with, based on the support they might be able to get. Here are the steps that I took –
Step 1 — Taking Help
“I knew ways in which I could make myself feel better — but I could not do anything.”
My mornings were the worst. I slept a lot, until I had to actually go to work. I hated coming back to reality from my dreams. I resorted to junk food, comfort food — a lot of KFC burgers with extra cheese. I cried a lot.
I knew the ways in which I could make myself feel better — talk to friends, family. Go for a run. Exercise. Meditate. A trip. Get drunk. Binge on Netflix. Read. Write. But I could not do anything. I had lost the motivation to do anything. A bleak and dark world-view coupled with demotivation became a recipe for spiraling down and down with depression. The life that I was giving meaning to by being political, reading, writing reached a dead end. I had suicidal thoughts.
The first thing I did was to take help. I didn’t care about the stigma around mental health or around psychotherapy. I called a close friend of mine and asked for help. Psychological help. I went to psychotherapy.
Step 2 — Self Reflection and Liberal Arts
“Nurturance culture helped me, to not only deal with my issues, but to also support others around me when they needed me.”
While I cried more and was saddened by effects of demonitisation, election of Drumpf, selection of Yogi Adityanath as Chief Minister, being shouted at for resisting an intrusive Supreme Court order on National Anthem, I realised that the same tools, (self-reflection and my liberal arts education) because of which I was acutely aware and affected by politics around me, could be used to find pathways of engaging with depression.
I tried to understand and be reflective about what exactly is causing my depression. I realised that I wasn’t suited for the role that I was doing at work. I realised that I felt lonely, I needed physical affection, I wanted to share my day with someone, I wanted to be political but with people’s support.
Feminist literature, which I was bogged down by since I was overwhelmed by how much privilege I exercised paved way to understand my relationships and needs. It in many ways humanized me. Nurturance culture helped me, to not only deal with my issues but to also support others around me when they needed me.
Step 3 — Rethinking Psycho-therapy
“I found a therapist who could understand my view of the world infused with politics.”
There are many myths when it comes to understanding psychotherapy (therapy). I started looking at therapy as space wherein I collaborate, grow, and understand what I am dealing with. It gave me a space to express everything that I felt and thought a non-judgemental and non-prejudicial space. I found a therapist who could understand my view of the world infused with politics.
I had realistic expectations. I understood that it takes a while for the therapist (around 6 sessions) to understand your situation and provide both immediate and long-term pathways. Therapy helped me to look at the toxic patterns that I was stuck in, in my life. The therapist enabled me to re-shift my thought patterns which in turn slowly shifted my world view. I understood the value of therapy in all our lives.
I now want to invest in therapy all my life (because I believe that therapy isn’t to always just fix your problems), like how I would want to invest in physical exercises or music classes.
Step 4 — Responding to My Environment
“ I learned how not to let the ones around me get away with stereotypical responses to either depression or psychotherapy.”
As I realised the stigma and stereotypes surrounding mental health issues, while I struggled how to talk about it, I learned how to engage with people around me. I resolved to be honest about my depression at my work place and how it affects my productivity. I spoke more about therapy and what it means to seek help to the ones around me. I tried as much as possible to express my needs and how some of my peers weren’t helping me in the ways I wanted them to.
I made sure that I explained the reason I was seeking therapy and how it helps me clearly. I learned how not to let the ones around me get away with stereotypical responses to either depression or psychotherapy. It isn’t that I had the energy to do this all the time. It isn’t that it is necessary to talk about one’s mental health issues all the time. But I realised the importance of it, I tried as much as I could.
I did have expectations, as one should have. Expectations of those who want to help me to listen to how I want to be helped, for them to read up on mental health issues, and expectations from my workplace to value my mental health over productivity.
Step 5 — Building Pathways, Taking Decisions, Iteration
“Depression enabled me to understand what I did not want in my life, when it comes to my relationships or work.”
I quit my job which reduced half my stress levels. I became more communicative about my needs and expectations in my relationship. I built my own communities at spaces like Alternative Law Forum wherein I could be political with people who have similar thoughts and who will understand how I view the world. Depression enabled me to understand what I did not want in my life when it comes to my relationships or work.
However, this is a continuous and iterative process, to actually understand the roots of my depression. I realize that I can go into depression again at any time. But, I am trying to give depression its own space in my life. I will be reading, writing, reflecting, seeking therapy, and thus building a support system which involves my peers and me that I can rely on. It’s not easy, but it is the only way out.