“I have an appointment with the dentist today.”
“I need to get my diabetes checked.”
“I need to see my therapist again to discuss some things.”
The last line is something you will seldom or never hear. Because although it’s fine to casually mention that you’re going to the doctor for a health check-up, you never know what sort of a reaction you will get when mentioning a visit to the psychologist or psychiatrist.
“I think in India it’s an issue because 1) there’s a great deal of shame regarding it, and 2) we feel that mental depression or illness occurs when you are weak, we have a stoic kind of streak in our society that equates depression with weakness. And somehow we seem to have become great believers in positive thinking and it really bothers me because it’s like telling a diabetic, ‘Yaar, insulin banao,’” says Dr Shyam Bhat, psychiatrist and integrative medicine specialist who is on the board of The Live Love Laugh Foundation, which was started by Deepika Padukone.
In order to get people talking about mental health more openly, we spoke to three individuals who open up about their experiences with depression, bipolar disorder and having to see a therapist.
This is what they had to say. Some talk about a certain solution they found, others about how the people around them address these issues and how their mental health journey is a process.
Ramanuj Mukherjee, co-founder, iPleaders, India’s largest online legal education provider, Delhi
I have repeatedly faced depression in my life. The first time was when I was a law student. I didn’t even know what to call it. But I did not feel like stepping out of my room. I stopped taking care of myself entirely for months. Social interaction was completely cut off. People also made fun of me and ridiculed me due to my lack of social grace and appropriate behaviour. I just thought I am a weirdo.
The way I got out of it was when I started going for long runs. After every run, I would get a runner’s high. Good hormones. Felt amazing. Next time it happened when I was in a law firm working as a junior associate. I couldn’t connect to the work culture or the environment of a law firm. I made wrong turns on every junction. I remember being happy one day when my teacher visited me and told me I am good and I am meant to do greater things in life. Next morning, I woke up with a smile. I saw a therapist, but it wasn’t fruitful for me. I started running again, and it worked. I was out of depression. That was the last time.
Since then I have taken the prevention is better than cure approach. Whenever I feel the onset of depression, which happened even recently, I start taking actions to prevent it, which could include seeing a therapist, confiding in friends, coming clean on any hidden guilt etc. So far this has worked well for me.
Jeisen Seif, writer, Dhaka, Bangladesh
“That’s a white person disease” is the general consensus about mental illness in South-East Asia. It’s one of those things like being ‘first world poor.’
Mental illness is a matter of faith for South-East Asian communities; they either have no faith that it is, in fact, real. Or tell you to have faith in God who will take care of it. The above can clearly be attributed to the generation that raised us, but what about our peers?
I am referring to anyone who has penned a tweet about Kanye West or Pete Davidson. I am referring to the allegedly educated; the thoughts and prayers generation.
Being diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the ripe age of 16, my social media posts oscillate between irreverent dark humour and pitiful self-loathing or vice versa. It depends on the reader really.
On my feed I once saw the marketing head of a wildly popular ride-sharing app talk about the unfortunate suicide of a University student; everything was fine until I read the last line: “Thoughts and prayers.”
Disha Doshi, marketing professional, Kolkata
Catharsis usually involves an epiphany, a transformative insight that breaks through your status quo consciousness. Being a product of child abuse and a queen of bottling up emotions, I believe I had spurs of bipolarity at a very early age.
By the time I entered college, I almost found catharsis in reading about women in Taliban, Iran, America, India- everywhere basically, realizing that we all were woven in the same fabric.
People feel we are overthinking and pampering ourselves. Our fathers and mothers grew up bottling up emotions, for them this vulnerability is unreasonable. If you go and really find out in reality – Depressed teens have atleast one of their parents or both suffering from depression.
The thing about depression is that sadly it’s being treated like a fad. People need to understand the point here is we are not educated enough about mental illness. Either it is treated as a severe stigma or mann ka vehem. People don’t want to believe that we can look at ourselves with vulnerability.