With 36% of Indians facing depression, mental health needs to be addressed like any other ailment.
Depression is illogical and it can stand in the way of what you want or who you want to be.
I’m suffering from chronic depression. Well, at least I think I am.
Last year when I was telling my sister about this, she suggested maybe I’m not actually depressed. I might just be reading a lot about it and convinced myself that I am. For a long time I believed her because there’s no reason for me to be depressed. I have a decent - and some might even say - wonderful life. I’ve been lucky when it comes to friends or family or career (what’s left of it). I’ve been so fortunate and privileged, I have very little to complain about, really.
The reason I’m writing this is because I just smoked six cigarettes in a row, hiding in a toilet at my parents’ house (where I’m typing this on a toilet seat). In addition to two I already smoked earlier today. Now that might not be a huge number to smokers out there, but I’m not one. Well, not yet at least. I smoke mostly because I can’t drink here. It’s Kerala, so you can’t really go to a store or a bar nearby to get some alcohol. You have to stand in a pretty long queue in front of the beverages corporation outlet like someone waiting in line for food at a refugee camp. (No offense to refugees anywhere, who, unlike me, have real problems.)
So yes, I’m looking for an escape.
All in my head, and that’s precisely the problem. Image source: paper4pc.com
Four months ago I moved to Mumbai, saying goodbye to Bangalore where I did my college and spent four years on my first job. I made a pretty huge change in my career and became a freelance writer. Mumbai was my decision to become independent and live alone. To start over (I don’t know why I needed a start-over, though). And it went much, much better than I hoped. Work was fun, colleagues were fun, new friends were fun, place to stay was fun. I started going out a lot more, to a point where I couldn’t imagine staying home on a Saturday night, which is usually where I’d be (and wanted to be) otherwise. I thought, maybe, this was exactly what I needed. The depression or the pseudo-depression is over. I don’t need to feel ‘special’ anymore.
But boy, was I wrong. It became so confusing and nonsensical that whenever I take a break from my new-found, exciting, happening life in a new wonderful city, riding around in random local trains going nowhere in particular, and I’m alone in my room, all I could think of was killing myself. It made no sense whatsoever and I was mad at myself for even entertaining that thought.
But I did. More and more as days went by. Though interesting things were happening in life but they had little, or no effect on how I was feeling when I was alone. I started fearing my own company, which I never did before. I had thought about suicide when I was in high school and even before that. But as I grew up, it went away and no matter how depressed I got, I rarely thought about ending my life. Being a proud unapologetic introvert, I was happy with my own company. I loved spending time with myself. In fact, I craved it and got irritated and grumpy when I couldn’t.
That’s when I decided to leave - just pack up and leave Mumbai. I didn’t even say goodbye to the wonderful people I met there. I came back to my parents. My mother was about to retire after 28 years as a banker. It was a scary future. As the son of the family, I was supposed to provide for them now.
Some scary stats. Image source: muslimmatters.org
As an escape, I buried myself with mindless distractions. I watched episode after episode of trashy American TV shows on Netflix. Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, Keeping Up With The Kardashians. I even watched Kellyanne Conway conning her way into the fucked up American political system through her TV interviews, and Trump’s press secretary making a fool of himself on YouTube. Because I didn’t want anything remotely heavy or emotionally draining. I didn’t even want to entertain myself. I just wanted to escape. My sister makes fun of me for watching them. But the truth is, I haven’t thought about killing myself, not even once, since leaving Mumbai. In some weird way, the American garbage is keeping me sane (no offense to Americans).
But what makes me so sad is the fact that I had to leave a city that could have given me so much. A city I started to fall in love with. A city where I could have made a life for myself. But I didn’t. I just packed up and left after 3 months. And it’s not even because I missed my life or friends in Bangalore or my family in Kerala. It’s just because I was scared of the person I was becoming when I allowed myself to make it on my own. It’s almost like a part of me doesn’t want me to.
Anxiety becomes a familiar friend you want to nurture. Image source: brainpickings.org
Going forward, I plan to start seeing a therapist and hopefully get a new job. I realise maybe the real reason I’m writing this is because I want to make sure I do all this. It’s like making a determination. I want to give myself another chance to take off and be on my own. In Mumbai or somewhere far away, and start enjoying my own company again.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of 101India.com.
By Arjun Raj
Cover photo credit: Kiran S Manjady