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If you had asked me just 7 months ago to type out this note on how I feel, on a Thursday’s midnight, my words would quite certainly have painted a very different picture. 7 months further back from then, I was closer to how I feel today, mostly calm and peaceful, content, just happy for no reason.

When it happened, it didn’t come slowly. It didn’t come with a warning. And worse still, it didn’t come with a label and I just couldn’t figure out what was happening to me. I didn’t know if I was ever going to get out of it. I didn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. I didn’t think I could make it. Often, I didn’t want to. But here I am. Fairly bruised, but very much standing.

Like most people, I didn’t really know what it was like to struggle with severe stress and anxiety, let alone depression. My experience with all of it was probably triggered by a collection of several things, personal and professional. A suddenly turbulent and uncertain market at work. A set of uncharacteristically strained relationships at home. A personal relationship in which families didn’t get along. And a wedding date that wasn’t. It doesn’t take a lot for me to feel happy or content, but this was too much at once even for me. I knew quite clearly how I wanted each of these aspects of my life to be. And I also felt like it was in my control to make sure that they were. But suddenly, all at once, nothing – not a thing – was the way I thought I wanted it to be.

Suddenly everything was going wrong, and it made me numb to it all. I had spells, almost daily, of an overwhelming feeling that didn’t allow me to feel connected to anyone or anything. Experiences that gave me joy before, just didn’t anymore. Things that I understood before, I couldn’t understand anymore. Work that I loved before, I couldn’t get myself to do anymore. People that I looked up to before, suddenly seemed clueless and delusional themselves. I simply couldn’t relate to my surroundings. And I didn’t have even a path to any kind of solace. I mean, how was I supposed to fix a problem that I didn’t understand? It didn’t help that no one around me even knew what was going on with me. I couldn’t allow anyone to see me breaking down for no apparent reason every day, because, aside from being a man and so on, I had no answer to “What happened?” To make things worse, I had severe symptoms of acidity most nights as a physical manifestation of what I was going through. Perhaps the only upside to all this is that I can now recite every ailment related to the stomach and what tests need to be done to diagnose them. I did them all. And every single time, the results were the same – I was “normal”. Except I didn’t feel like it and the physical symptoms were very real.

My family eventually saw that I looked extremely stressed most of the day. Their advice was that I be stronger in tough times and that life will have much harder situations to come. Bless their hearts, but really? That was the last thing I needed to hear, but how could I expect them to know what was really going when I didn’t know myself?

One of the reasons I was in this place was the situation surrounding my relationship, and it was she who identified what I was going through from an NDTV interview of Dr. Bhat. With her help, and not knowing anything at all about where I was going and for what, I first visited Seraniti on the 21st of November, 2016. Dr. Annie did my first consultation and I felt somewhat relieved just being able to talk to someone who could possibly explain what was happening with me. I also appreciated that she understood my reservation with taking any kind of medication.

The next time I visited Seraniti was for my first therapy session with Tanya. Again, it was a relief to talk to someone who could explain what was happening and maybe help me manage it. For someone who doesn’t exactly spend a lot of time talking about feelings, I felt strangely comfortable sharing with her what had happened and how I felt about everything. I always entered a session wondering what we could possibly talk about for a whole hour, but somehow we were always short of time at the end. What amazed me was how she remembered every last detail of our conversations, and how with just a few sentences she could help me make sense of things with simple yet fundamentally powerful perspectives I’d never seen or realized before. It made me curious to know her perspective on things. And I felt safe sharing whatever I wanted to. Perhaps feeling that connect and being able to candidly express yourself is in itself a healing experience. And perhaps not having that enough is damaging.

Over these months, I realized that how I feel is a function of how I look at my life as much as it is a function of what has actually happened in my life. Context over content. I truly have so much to be grateful for and when I count my blessings, it’s genuinely harder to take my stress/anxiety causing problems seriously. I’ve also realized that I need to put myself first. My happiness, my wellness. My experience and emotion. Because I’m so much more valuable, to myself and to the world, when I’m the best version of myself. And being the best version of myself is surely an exciting mission, meaning.

With such an exhilarating mission in place, it’s probably only wise to plan some down time in my day. Albeit limited, some part of my day is now set aside for mindfulness. For relaxation. For reading. It gives me more from the rest of my day. And it gives me perspective. And it gives me the ability to choose calm. Today, with a far better situation personally and professionally, and with the help of therapy and mindfulness, those worst of days are behind me.

Somewhere in-between the storm, in an environment of uncertainty, as I tried to make sense of everything and find some sort of formula to live by, I wrote down my thoughts.

“There are usually no absolute right answers or decisions in life. But humans need clarity. Conflict happens when you mistake seeking clarity with trying to find the right answer or decision, which probably doesn’t exist. Knowing your priorities and your values enables you to get clarity on what answers or decisions are right for you. Take decisions that are in line with your priorities and your values, and ignore the alternates. Stick to your decisions once you have taken them and have made sure that they are in line with your principles, values, and priorities. This is your clarity. This is your conviction. This is your How. This is your strength and your calm in a storm. This is your happiness in chaos. This is your right direction and path. No one can predict the outcome of every decision, so don’t worry about trying to predict the future, because you can’t. Take the right decision for you in your present. Accept that the past has happened as it has, and that the future will happen as it will. Many things are not in our control. But our decisions are. And so is the ability to choose our values, principles, and priorities.”

Illustrated by Sambita Modak

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