It’s time to talk about the darkness

Depression

Last year in August, one of my long cherished dreams came true. My debut novel was released. And it came with a lot more blessings than I could have asked for. Dream launch events attended by celebrities, promising reviews that a debut author would sell her soul for, invites to various literary and book club events. As can be imagined, I was on cloud nine.

And then, barely two months after that beautiful journey started, without any apparent trigger or at least not a big enough one, I found myself back there again. In the same dark abyss, I have come to know only too well.

The next few months after that were like being on a roller coaster ride. I had already signed up for events, talks, guest lectures. Flights had been booked. Commitments had been made. I had no time to power down and restore my sense of balance. Fortunately, my husband was aware of my condition. He did his best to be the scaffolding I very much needed. But on days, still, my foundations would be too weak to keep standing even with all the support. Sleeping for twenty hours straight, eating disorders, hysteria and catatonia once again became the things that defined my days. Thankfully none of that showed up on the perfectly-timed and well-shot event pictures and media coverage. But no matter where I traveled for my book launches, no matter how many fabulous people I met, no matter how many wonderful messages I received from readers who loved the book, and even an award of a lifetime couldn’t keep that darkness at bay for long. It kept resurfacing, like on a schedule of its own.

A few months later I had a miscarriage, and that’s when all hell broke loose. I hurtled down the abyss, way further down that I had been in the recent past. Perhaps my depression could have been the reason for the miscarriage. I would never know. All I know is climbing out of it over the last few months is one of the hardest things I have done in a while.

This anguish isn’t new though. It has been the pattern of my life for over twenty years now. When I felt the first stings of this affliction, depression wasn’t a word one could use in reference to a teenager and going to a psychiatrist was a taboo for a middle-class family like mine. Even for my rather liberal father, it was a bitter pill to swallow, I can imagine. But when his daughter decided to slice her wrists one fine day, I guess I didn’t leave him much choice. A very rushed and almost cursory meeting with a psychiatrist in a government hospital followed, which, as I can surmise in retrospect, did more damage than good. He was condescending and dismissive. The only good that came out of that experience was my firm understanding that if I were to win over this darkness, I would have to do it on my own. So I steeled up. Became even more reserved than I already was or rather stuck to only the friends who I was sure would be able to understand. Read up, extensively. Which, as you can imagine, wasn’t easy in a pre-Google world. School libraries (the only ones I had access to) back then didn’t quite bother to stock up on this subject because like I said earlier, teenagers weren’t supposed to get depressed. Any such children were just attention-seeking trouble makers, was the common consensus.

Anyway, with reading and researching came the first whiff of relief. That it is not something I do, as I had always been told. It is something that happens to me. And I cannot control getting afflicted with it any more than I can control getting bit by a mosquito in the malaria season. Even with the best of the precautions, it would happen. And I would have to deal with it, in my own ways which I would constantly keep experimenting with and improvising on.

That has been the last twenty years of my life.

Why am I talking about it now? Because this is a new step I am trying as a part of my constantly evolving strategy of dealing with my depression. Accepting it. Owning it up publicly. Not that I have ever been ashamed of doing that before. But I never did speak about it so openly. Because in my experience, it is rare to come across people who really care about your condition or even make an effort to understand it. And I don’t blame them.

This particular darkness is a shade of black which one can comprehend only if they have felt it inside. If they haven’t, it is like explaining the colors of the rainbow to a dog. Even with the best of the compassion on their part, their spectrum of understanding just doesn’t cover it.

I am talking about it now because another woman, an actress apparently at the peak of her career committed suicide a few days ago. And as always, the same hackneyed, ill-informed and insensitive chatter has started on social media. According to some people she had so much going for her, a cheating husband notwithstanding. She was beautiful and successful. A small little domestic issue making her take her own life means that she was ‘weak’. She should have tried to be stronger. Was she depressed? Then she should have tried to just snap out of it. So many people are dealing with so much more than that. Why couldn’t she?

What as always these people fail to understand is – it’s not that simple. No one ‘wants’ to die. Suicide is not a sport one enjoys engaging in, the way some people make it sound like in reference to Bidisha Bezbaruah and many victims before her. It takes far more courage than anything one has ever done in their life, and so, calling them weak is as disconnected from reality as one can be. And depression isn’t something one can just snap out of at will. More often than not, it’s like the quicksand that pulls you in even faster if you try to wriggle your way out of it.

People who seem like they ‘have it all together’ but who suddenly collapse one day, on seemingly the smallest of triggers are suffering with what has now come to be called as ‘High-functioning depression’. It goes by many names – Dysthymia, Persistent Depressive Disorder or maybe some other terms too. The terminology isn’t what I am focusing on here. The more important thing is that its victims are far more difficult to spot, because of what seems to be a rather unruffled facade of its victims.

I’ve decided to talk about it now because I have to. Because I need other people like me to know that they aren’t alone. And if they want someone to talk to, someone who may not be able to help them much because she herself is struggling to find the answers, she will at least lend a compassionate patient ear.

And sometimes that is all one needs.

PS – In order to create some awareness and maybe also as an act of closure for me, I would be writing in detail about this particular kind of depression in my next post.

 

 

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15 thoughts on “It’s time to talk about the darkness

  1. Hi Radhika,
    I understand everything you have written here only too well, having been on a similar journey! I admire your courage for coming out and speaking about it openly and also for creating the awareness. I hope you continue to find the strength you need to carry on the amazing work you do!
    Best,
    Rashmi

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Radhika,
    My depression started as Post-partum when my son was born 33 years ago. You won’t believe it but it became chronic after my daughter was born five years later. Neither I or anyone around me even knew about Post-partum depression. I was like a mad bull. After years I started taking medication and I have been taking since 25 years.There is no counselling in India and you have to fight the battle alone. 15 years ago my Bookworms group had a 2-day workshop of Heal your life by Louise Hay. I came out with my illness and it was as if a load was lifted. It was like coming out of the closet!But then as you said it comes on its own and you just have no clue what to do. 12 years ago I lost my husband and my kids were still studying. I was a homemaker and I had to step out of the house at the age of 40 and look for a job to keep the home fires burning.It was the most hellish time for me balancing everything. My psychiatrist said that I need a support group!! A group?? When as you very well know that everyone avoids you shuns you and behaves as you don’t exist when you are going through an episode.I live alone and I was almost going to kill myself when an online friend of mine from Mumbai asked me to come to Mumbai. She took me to alternate therapy.It is called Axis Bars, She took me the first day and within 4 sessions I was feeling better.I was back home after 10 sessions. Please take medicines that you have to take lifelong like I do and please try out Axis Bars Therapy too. I am not saying that you will be cured but I am just saying that you will learn to fight it and the episode would be shorter.I live alone even now and I am much more in control than I ever was. Every episode is sheer hell and I only feel bad that people do not even try to understand.Like your body has a headache or a fever, the enzymes in your brain act weird when you hormones are acting crazy.It is an illness like any other and needs some TLC only.When will people wake up and treat us like just another patient who is seeking some empathy?
    If you need to know more about Axis Bars do gimme a shout and I will surely be listening. God bless you.Pardon me if it is a really long comment but I just couldn’t help it.
    Harjeet

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I cannot thank you enough for opening up to my like this. This is the power of pain it connects people like nothing else can. I draw so much inspiration from stories like yours. And will most certainly look up Axis Bars Therapy. Thanks for that. Love and hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Leigh Thornton

    Very honestly written , a powerful insight into an insidious disease. What courage you must have to be able to place these emotions in print. I hope that in doing so, you achieve some respite from the bleak, hopelessness of depression. I also hooe others will take heart , reading your journey through this hell! Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank You Leigh. It wasn’t easy, yes. But all the love and support coming my way since I did this, has made it totally worth it. I do hope others come out and talk about their affliction too. It is nothing to be ashamed of. I can’t promise them a world that would understand, but I do promise I will be there to listen and send a prayer. Always.

      Like

  4. Namesake! And fellow author 🙂

    First a hug to you. You are not alone! There are many of us in the same boat. I have been fighting the black dog too for quite some time (though not as long as yours), and I too subscribe to your philosophy – no one will empathise or even understand us, only we can help ourselves. On the good days, I feel terrific. On the bad days… phew, less said the better. Well, self love seems to be the key here, a difficult thing to achieve I know, given the fact that some days I just even want to get off the bed. Little pleasures like spa, aromatherapy, cat love, playing with kids, etc calm me down and remind me that it’s not always about the big picture and my failure to fit in it. I read a lot of good stuff to keep myself off reality (words are my weed!). Non-clinical counselling was and is a life saver… the mere ability to vent and talk freely to a person who does not have any personal connection to you, is bliss. Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way also helped immensely, I recommend it highly if you have not heard of it before. But of course we each have our own way of coping… all the best, stay strong and God bless.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Radhika. So glad to know you’re dealing with your demons in so many different ways. I am always in favor of non-clinical, pill-free healing. And will certainly look at the book as well. Thank you so much for connecting. Sending love and prayers your way.

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  5. Thank you for writing this Radhika, it needed to be said. It needs to be said over and over again till people understand depression is a disease, not just 1-2 days here or there when you’re feeling low. It is precisely that people tumble into that abyss when they have everything going for them that makes it so – if they were depressed because something crappy happened it would be an easy fix wouldn’t it? It is much more complicated than many think.

    I have never struggled with depression (with the exception of a brief period last year but that was situational), but I have struggled with anxiety and self-harm. In situations where I’ve been honest about it, many just give me strange looks or tell me I shouldn’t talk about it. These are real things that affect real people who are strong and do fight back. I admire your courage to be able to research your issues pre-google, and understand without all these social media movements we have today, that what you had was not your fault. That is amazing, and I think every day that you fight against that darkness, you get stronger, even if you lose your foothold for a few days here and there. Keep fighting girl – much love!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Can you hear the monster coming? – Radhika Maira Tabrez

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