Friday, June 24, 2016

The Monster Of Maladies

 “Her sad eyes tore my heart apart
I told her to be strong
Don’t give up, bounce back
Fight it back
She was broken and shattered
She cried like a baby
She cried “please help me.”
I saw her falling apart
But I could do nothing
I simply looked at the mirror.”
For a change let’s talk about things that we shouldn’t be talking about, conversations that we avoid at dinner tables. I want you to talk to me, about me. I am sure you wouldn’t want to. Nobody does. I don’t blame them because I am not that loveable. But I believe you should talk about me because I am important. Sadly you realize my importance after it is too late. I am depression and today I am going to tell you a story.  I am not something to be scared of or something to be ashamed of. I am a disease just like fever and flu. Though I am not an easy disease because you never really realize my presence at the beginning and by the time you do, you don’t realize your own presence. I destroy you in every possible way while you helplessly give up on yourself. Mostly I win because I am powerful and you fail to find a way to defeat me. Let me tell you about a prey of mine. This is her story and mine.

I first started stalking her. I was near her all the time but she never noticed me. I can happen to anyone. When I say anyone, I mean it. She had a mechanical life. Her days started with office and ended with classes. Everything was fine in her life till I entered. I can creep in through closed doors.  All of a sudden she felt something was wrong, maybe with her or her life. She became gloomy and sad. She didn’t realize what it was. She didn’t even try knowing. She ignored me and her sadness. She focussed on her office and studies. She thought it was just the pressure that’s taking a toll on her. But the girl didn’t even try to find a solution to that. How could she ignore me? Sometimes after her Saturday office meetings she went out with her office friends to watch the sunset. It was just another Saturday evening she was out sitting with her friend looking at the sky. She didn’t even realize she was crying. I was happy that I had succeeded in finally screwing her up. Her friend asked her “Are you okay? You are crying.” My poor prey looked helpless. She even didn’t know why she was crying. She just nodded and again tried ignoring me. She again thought it was just work and studies pressure and I was ignored. Few weeks later I made her feel helpless again. She reached her class late after a not so good day at work. The first two hours of the class went fine. And all of a sudden she broke down. I made her break down and she didn’t realize that either. She simply couldn’t control her tears and she packed up her bag and left. Back home she called up a friend and cried again. I saw the fear in her eyes and I loved it. She was scared that something was wrong with her. She even told her friend maybe she should see a doctor. The foolish friend consoled her that she was over thinking and that she is perfectly fine. She was just a bit stressed out. She didn’t have people to talk to about how she felt. And from my past experiences I knew nobody would even understand her plight. Unless I destroy you, you wouldn’t understand the other person’s destruction.  I am not to be blamed for everything.  You can blame the circumstances which made her become an easy prey.  Her work life had not been easy during those times or at least she felt so. She didn’t really have a social life. She was a bit hard on herself. She barely went out.  And to make things worse she herself hid a broken heart within her. No don’t get me wrong... she didn’t have a break up and nobody really broke her heart but she had a heart break. As I said earlier this girl seemed to be a bit harsh on her own self. She liked a guy and let him go. She never bothered confessing her feelings. Why? Well she has had priorities in her life and they were more important than this. Love can wait, career cannot. And if it is meant to happen it will happen. The guy vanished into thin air. She never bothered. So it wasn’t the kind of heartbreak where you sit and cry for days. Something was hurting her within but she had no clue that it was her heart. There were important things to focus on. She never talked about it with anybody. These events helped me to gradually destroy her. She struggled through the void that I had created in her life. Months passed and she started to shut herself down. As it is she never really had many friends to talk to. She lived in a room with books all around her. That was her world. They were not the easy books though. She was struggling and fighting and I enjoyed seeing her helplessness. I was eagerly waiting for the moment when I would break her down completely and possess her. But it wasn’t supposed to be this fast. She ignored me. She kept herself busy with her books. There were days she was tired and frustrated with her life and I enjoyed those moments dearly. And to make things worse for her she flunked her exams. It was a treat for me. She had nightmares and she could barely sleep. She was scared of sleeping. Every other night she would wake up and cry. Nobody knew what she was going through except for the two of us. I enjoyed every moment of it and she hated every moment of it. The sadness, the frustration and the emptiness got accumulated within her and gave me the power to enter her mind.

 I preferred staying away from everything and everyone. Despite trying hard I didn’t get through. When I saw my results I thought it was a mistake, either with the system or with my eyes. I was sort of stoned. I went inside the class took my seat; the faculty was busy consoling another girl who did not make it. You know that feeling when you don’t even need water to drown; yes that’s how I felt somewhere I was sinking, I was drowning. But I needed water I bent down to open my bag and seems I did not really need my water bottle; my eyes did the job.  “Mam are you okay? You okay?” Perhaps this was repeated some 3 times and finally I looked up and said yes but my tears also have a mind of their own they couldn’t control their flow. And the faculty asked “so you also didn’t make it?” I just nodded and said I am fine. He talked about some success failure theory that my ears or mind couldn’t receive. Somebody hugged me and whispered “it’s okay it’s always not your fault I did it in my 7th attempt I know how it feels.”  I just excused myself and walked out of the class. There were just few questions that haunted me “what went wrong? Is something wrong with me? Now what? How do I start all over again? Do I have it in me? Am I really dumb? What more can I do?” My confidence level had gone down by sixty percent. I sat, I cried and the questions haunted me even more. Now what? From where do I start again? I told myself “hold yourself together, you have to be strong.” Within an hour I was back in class after gulping down a pill for my headache. But the medicine couldn’t defeat the pain I was going through. I was drowning and sinking from within yet I spent a whole five hours laughing. The first thing I did the next day was applying for a rechecking of the answers sheets. My boss (my mentor) had asked me to get the answer sheets and find out what went wrong. I found it very difficult to study all over again. It’s easy for people to say that “It’s okay study and write.” Unless you yourself undergo the shit you never understand the pain. I didn’t have the exact words to express how exactly I felt, what exactly I was going through. One moment I was in an unknown world away from everything, the pain, the hopelessness and the helplessness and the next moment I was back with an empty soul and a heavy heart. I didn’t have control on my emotions and thoughts. An unknown fear had crumpled me. I was scared of every damn thing in the world, every damn person. I was constantly struggling with something invisible and indeed very much powerful. There was a constant urge to run away from everything and everyone.

 If you had asked me how I felt I guess I wouldn’t have been able to answer because even I didn’t know how I felt. Maybe I would have simply looked down to hide my tears. I realized I couldn’t continue that way I had to fight it whatever it was. And I mustered the courage to dial an online counsellor’s number. I had mailed him two months back he had sent me a number to call and talk. And I never felt like giving it a try. I wouldn’t say it helped. There was an unknown person on the other side and I just told him whatever shit I was going through. I don’t know if he understood. But he told me a list of things I should try. The most important part was self motivation and fighting negative thoughts. Basically you have to keep trying. And I didn’t really have an option. Did I? I had to hold myself together and fight again. And I was back studying and fighting. To make things worse I got my answer sheets and I couldn’t understand where I went wrong. I read that one sentence “Institute can revise a student’s mark to maintain its standards”.  Sometimes you can just try because that is the only option you have. 

The sad part about online counsellors is that they mostly tell you what to do but they never tell you how to do it. Fight your negative thoughts.. How? It is not about fighting your negative thoughts anymore; it is about fighting with yourself. You become what I make you. And most of the time we become one and the same. You never realize I posses you and make you destroy yourself. I make sure you can never feel happy. You can never laugh. Initially you would be lost. Then an unknown fear would suffocate you and you will be plunged into darkness, and gradually you will give up on yourself and your life. And the world and the people around will just see you being the reason behind your own destruction. They can never see me. I hide inside you, within your soul. I become your mind; I control your every feeling and every thought.

I had heard from people that they become blank in exams; though they know all the answers they go blank. I never understood what they meant. How can someone possibly just go blank? Yes people can go blank like totally blank. I faced it. I saw the question paper and I was blank. I couldn’t understand what was happening. I had never felt so helpless before. Imagine you have studied and just at the right moment you are clueless. That day I lost whatever confidence I had. I didn’t know how to push myself, how to motivate myself. I wasn’t supposed to give up. But how?  I needed help. The two months after exams were nightmares. I had forgotten the meaning of “think positive.” Positivity seemed like an alien word to me. I have been told by many “if you think positive then positive things will happen.” But what if I am not capable of doing that? I couldn’t think of any possible good thing happening to me. My thoughts were beyond my control. And I was clueless how to get a hold of them. I didn’t know how to master them. A feeling of worthlessness and hopelessness crept in and possessed me no matter how much I tried to kick it away. My throat choked with words unuttered, my mind and heart had become constant aching things. A constant feeling of gloom and loneliness had engulfed me. There were just long sleepless nights and long hours of crying. Crying to sleep was a daily affair. Depression was a monster that had grown larger and my desire to live had become fainter. I felt unspeakably lonely and drained out. I often questioned myself who I was, what exactly was I doing. But I got no answers. Sometimes I would sit and imagine how I could simply end this pain, end my life. Giving up seemed an easier option, a less painful option. You would die just once and you are done. Living or rather existing and trying to fight it and battling with your own thoughts was a herculean task. I needed help. And there was none to help me. I was tired of crying and shouting under the shower. I didn’t want to get up in the morning. I was scared to get up. I was scared of that invisible monster that was killing me within. Everything was scary. I just wanted to leave everything and simply get away from everyone. I would just get up, sit on my bed and cry. I didn’t know what was happening. And people never really understood. The reality is it is tough for people to accept you at your worst. People prefer staying away from me. It’s not like they had a clue about what I was going through but the even the little bit of what I told them wasn’t taken in a good way. I didn’t even enjoy talking about it. Sometimes I would sit all alone late at night either on bed or on bathroom floor and cry, and sometimes I would even cry out for help. But I could see no light or hope.

I called up the online counsellor again. That day I realized I can any day make a better counsellor than him. Talking to him was wastage of time, energy and money. His suggestions were bookish not practical. Join dance classes and sit on a sea beach every evening. I said there’s no beach nearby. It’s a one and half hours drive to the beach and I can’t go that far. His reply was you need to find a beach. Really? Sure I would love to run away and discover a lonely beach and live there all alone. And what if I don’t want to dance? You have to dance. Go out and make new friends. Where? How? On facebook?  No you have to go out and make friends, like just go around in a mall or movie and force strangers to be my friends?  Finally for a change I went on a trip. Again there was a question “so ab toh you are no more frustrated? You were so frustrated and desperate for this trip. Ab khus?“ Well firstly I never cried or was desperate for a trip. I was desperate for a change. I was desperate to live and not merely exist. I just thought the trip could help maybe. But it was a bit too late in my case. The monster had already started living in me. It didn’t help much but maybe it did.

There are ways to fight me but it is not easy. When they asked her to dance or go out and make friends they didn’t realize I would not let her do that. I had shattered her. She was scared of people. She didn’t want to dance; she didn’t want to do anything. She didn’t even feel like getting up from bed. She had to struggle with me every moment. She went on a trip but sadly I accompanied her. It was late. I had already possessed her. She still had trouble sleeping at night. The nightmares were a common thing. But she wasn’t sure which was worse; the nightmare that she was living, or the one that haunted her when she was asleep. The trip didn’t defeat me but sadly it was a good change for her.

Back home I had flunked again. Maybe it was the trip because of which my mind was a bit stable. I thought I wouldn’t be able to handle it. I thought I would break down. Nothing of that sort happened. I had not fallen apart. I kept telling myself every time you hit the ground you need to bounce back with a greater force because that’s how you rise and you are not dead yet. It wasn’t easy. But I had to fight. I never thought I could try again. I don’t know how and from where I got that strength. I ordered motivational posters online and pasted them everywhere on my wall. I wasn’t sure if they would work. But I needed motivation, my lost confidence, support and hope. And most importantly I needed someone to tell me you can do it. I had to tell that to myself because I knew nobody else would. No matter how tough it was, I did all I could. If I was sleepy I would sit on the floor and study, I would keep drinking chilled water so that I would rush to the washroom every half an hour and I wouldn’t sleep off.  Just a week before exams I talked to a friend of mine. He was pretty upset. I found out he had applied for his answer sheets and even he couldn’t understand why he failed. There was random deduction of marks for no reason. And since he was in Delhi he directly went to our Board of studies with the guidance answers and his answer sheets. He was told not to waste his time and prepare for the next attempt. This is how it happens and he was shown a regulation that says they can revise our marks. There was another guy whose 82 had become 35. Even that kind of revision was possible. He was depressed. I remembered when I had told my friends about this regulation none of them believed me. I was sure people wouldn’t even believe him. That’s the thing about people. For them something is definitely wrong with you, you didn’t try hard, you did something wrong, you are dumb, it always has to be you. Depression makes sure you lose your confidence and your interest in life and the people around surely make it worse. After talking to him I never thought about results even once, I knew I did all I could. It’s always not in our hands.

She wasn’t ready to give up on herself no matter how much I tried. She was constantly struggling. That made things more difficult for her. Because she was fighting with herself, she was the monster. She was her own enemy. I was her. I had possessed her. For months she was in a state of denial. But finally she acknowledged me. She had accepted the fact that she was under my control. She was helpless. She would break down and cry out for help. Nothing was falling into place. She was beginning to give up on herself. Some days she didn’t care about anything. And other days she did and that made it worse. Some days she simply wished to sleep and never get up. She was scared of everything and everyone. Her emotional dependency decreased. Everything got accumulated and suddenly there would be an outburst of emotions; anger, frustration, irritation and sadness would all emerge together. She didn’t have a control on anything. Pain had consumed her and there was no escape. The only momentary saviour was novels. She would escape reality and ignore me. But gradually she lost interest in everything, even in things that made her happy. She even got panic and anxiety attacks. She would be breathless and nervous. Yes I can make that happen to you as well.

It all seemed like slow death. I was my own poison. Something inside me was gradually dying. I was giving up. I was tired of the constant fight. We don’t know how much strength someone has, how much pain one can bear. Sometimes giving up was an easier option.  Nobody really understood. Maybe in those weak moments we need help; we need someone to tell us our existence isn’t namesake. We need someone to appreciate us, accept us the way we are, to ignore our faults for some time, to hold us, to remind us that we are not unwanted, to make us feel loved, to tell us it is okay to fail, it is okay to fall down and to make mistakes, it is okay to be sad, it is okay to cry, but it is not okay to give up. We want somebody to tell us we can get up again, we can fight, and we can do it, someone who would support us, be the strength that we lack, someone who wouldn’t judge us but answer our call for help and most importantly understand us. People hear our stories and judge us but they never understand. Then who gave them the right to judge us? You don’t study, you are dumb hence you flunked, you are sad for no reason blah blah.. But who likes being sad and depressed? Who enjoys flunking exams? Who likes being grounded for like years? But we don’t really have a control on certain things, they just happen. I wasn’t enjoying whatever I was going through I was constantly struggling. I needed help. I couldn’t continue that way. I wanted to end the pain. I wanted to live. But the most difficult part is making your family understand your state, convincing them the need of a shrink or counsellor. Making them understand that you are not mad you are a bit sick and you will be fine someday because you want to recover and you just need their help. It is never easy making your family understand this. Even I didn’t know if these counsellors and shrinks actually work. But I needed a way out. I couldn’t focus on anything. Depression had taken a toll over me. I lived in a constant fear, a fear that was crumpling me.  It was the kind of fear that confined me to my shell, a fear that convinced me that I can never do it. I am a failure. It had shattered my self confidence. A fear that made me feel weak at my knees. I would get restless all of a sudden and restlessness would continue for days. Sometimes I went blank, I would study something remember it and next moment when I would sit and try writing it down I would be blank. I felt helpless. I was tired of faking a smile. I was tired of pretending that I was fine while my life had turned into a game of hide and seek. I wasn’t comfortable with my own feelings and thoughts. There was darkness and nothing else.

As I had mentioned earlier people don’t like me. She went and told her parents one day that she was depressed, she was in tears and asked them for help. As expected I am something people prefer to ssshhh away. They don’t like talking about me. If you are into depression and you ask for clinical help that means you have mental disability according to many. Then there is society, what will the society think? You are seeing a psychiatrist? Nothing really worked out the way she expected. But it worked out the way I had expected. She had an emotional outburst. She told how she exactly felt. She was asked not to behave or talk like abnormal people. The hot tears flew down her cheeks and she said “maybe I am abnormal; if that is the way you want to understand.” But she was told there was no reason for depression. She was faking the whole thing for no reason. It was just post exams syndrome. She does nothing and behaves weird absolutely out of boredom. Had I been some other disease they would have bothered. But the name depression isn’t liked by them. They let me win. They don’t bother to take me seriously. The poor victim is termed as miserable, pathetic, depressed, and lastly weak. This is what I can do to you. She was scared of seeing a counsellor alone. She needed someone to be with her, to tell her it is okay we will get you through this.

Why is it so difficult to love and understand people at their worst? Why is it so tough to stand by them when they need us the most? When we say “we will always support you, stand by you” do we talk only about the good times? I didn’t want sympathy. I simply wanted and needed help. I was tired of struggling alone. Nothing worked out. I read many online blogs on depression, I read about people who fought it. But the thing is depression doesn’t let you do anything. You don’t even feel like doing anything. No matter how much you try to push yourself to fight it; it still pulls you down. I read this somewhere “If you know someone who is depressed, please resolve to never ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather. Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and the loneliness they are going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It is hard to be a friend to someone who is depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest and best things you will ever do.”

A friend sent me a video and article of Deepika Padukone talking about depression. Then she said she was going through the same, every emotion, and every word that Deepika spoke she had felt it. She said she was in tears when she saw the video. I asked her if she was into depression. She said “I am not Deepika Padukone I can’t just tell people I am into depression; the society won’t accept it and I would lose friends and people won’t like me.”  Few months back I even met a friend after years and we started talking about how things have been in our lives. He is one of those people who have a perfect awesome life. But I was shocked to hear that he was under medication for few days. He was into depression and he saw a shrink. He told me that he was forced to take medication for a week and that the shrink told him to fight it out on a daily basis. Every morning he would drag himself out and push and motivate himself. He said it wasn’t easy. He is the coolest guy I have ever known. He didn’t like talking about it and hence I didn’t ask further. There are many who don’t want to talk about it because they are scared that they would be judged in a negative manner. They are not comfortable talking about it. Even the listeners whether friends or family are not comfortable talking about this. Is this something to be ashamed of? Is it really that bad that we are not supposed to talk about it? I believe it is very much important to talk about things that matter and yes this matters a lot. There is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. It is a disease, a monster that attacks you. It can attack anyone. And you have the power to fight it. Why should you be ashamed of feeling depressed or sad? It is an emotion and you are human. You are capable of feeling it. Is the rain ever ashamed of falling? Or is the sun ever ashamed of shining bright? Then why we as humans are ashamed of feeling something that is beyond our control?

The mind is a dangerous and powerful thing. You have to protect it from this beast called depression. Do not ignore the very first symptoms of depression. Take a break from whatever you are doing and travel, do something new. Don’t wait for it to screw you up completely and then take a break, because it would be travelling with you then. Even if people misunderstand you it is okay. Maybe if you hadn’t been through this you wouldn’t have understood it either. People will judge you. Let them judge you. But please don’t let this screw you up out of the fear of being judged or being misunderstood. At the end it is your life and nobody else’s, you have to fight for it. But I am sure there will be atleast one person who would just listen to you and trust me even that would help. Even if there is none to listen to you, still don’t let that poison get accumulated inside you. Write down whatever you are going through. People might come up with weird theories about your condition. Try not to get affected. You have to fight it and keep fighting. If you have written a suicide note to self, if you have cried yourself to sleep, if you have felt useless and worthless, if you have felt alone in a room full of people, if you have needed help; relax, you are human. You need not be ashamed of it. If after all this you are still breathing and reading this you have made it this far and you will be fine. Depression is a disease which can be fought. If you need counselling or clinical help go ahead. Never forget that your mind is the most dangerous and powerful part of your whole system.

I was once dining with two friends; one of them was going through a similar condition. The other one said “you people have simply lost the fire and passion to study and write exams hence you are depressed.”  We told him “well walk in our shoes and then we will talk about fire and passion. We haven’t given up yet and that matters to us.” Try not to give up on life or on yourself. It will be the toughest thing to do. Giving up will always is easy and less painful. Even if nothing works out, hold on with a hope that it will work out someday. But it might be tough to be hopeful about anything. Even if you stop hoping, try not to think about all the worse things that might happen. If you are a God believing person maybe just leave it to Him. And lastly the harsh truth is nobody would really bother about your journey or your struggle. They don’t walk in your shoes or live in your mind. Many times the suffocation within you would kill you and nobody will see that either. You have to be your own strength. You have to protect and love yourself.

She is tired of everything. And I am tired of her. She doesn’t stop fighting, even if it means fighting alone. She falls down and sometimes she gets up at once, other days she takes time but somehow she doesn’t give up fighting. She knows me well. She is aware of my presence. She knows what I have done to her. I made her a monster. She was her own enemy. I made her strip her own confidence. But she isn’t ashamed of me. She doesn’t mind talking about me. She realizes my importance. I asked her if isn’t scared of talking about me? Wouldn’t people judge her in a wrong way? She said “I would never ever want anybody to go through what I went through. People should know about the haunting beast called depression.”

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