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Editor’s Note: This month, that is October 2019, FII’s #MoodOfTheMonth is Mental Health And Well-Being, observing mental health day, where we invite various articles narrating people’s experiences of living or living with someone with mental health issues (anxiety, depression). If you’d like to share your story, email us at pragya@feminisminindia.com. 


In the last couple of days, I had trouble breathing. I had to take a pause and struggled a bit. I tried to figure out the trigger, but couldn’t. Eventually, I realised that I was just eating too much. It wasn’t really a panic attack. I laughed about it. A few months ago, the situation was very different. After a long period of struggle and a hell lot of effort, I learnt to deal with it. Today, I could even, probably, avert a panic attack.

Yes, mental health day has passed, so why am I talking about anxiety? Because, every day is a mental health day. If you hurt yourself physically, almost always, there is a probable time period for the injury to heal. But in case of a mental injury, it is unpredictable. Also, FII is sensitive enough to discuss the matter for an entire month for mental health day.

Yes, mental health day has passed, so why am I talking about anxiety? Because, every day is a mental health day.

My first conscious encounter with a mental illness was when my father, the rock in my life, was affected. I was 22. We couldn’t figure out the triggers, mainly because I was in shock. It was impossible to see the strongest person, (after my mother of course) unable to hold things together. He healed, with very less help from a doctor who said I had to assure him that once I am married, everything will be fine. In his ‘exemplar’ diagnosis, he mentioned that my dad was worried because I was the only child, a girl and I needed to settle down. We rolled eyes at each other outside the doctor’s cabin and went home.

Eventually, but after much struggle, my dad healed. And then we got on with our business.
This was only the first time and I already had no faith in the medical system. Then, a similar case happened with a close friend. It has been close to 10 years and she is on the path of healing. After spending a lot of money and time, she figured her way, entirely on her own. Sometime between all this, it happened to me too. I will not talk much about what I went through, because reliving that is traumatic. It was a mighty trap, a huge maze and it seemed like I will never find an exit. However, I am keen on sharing bits and pieces of healing with the hope that at least one person who is suffering and reading this might benefit from it.

Let me start with my experience with the most common treatment offered – talk therapy. Any person who goes to a doctor with mood swings and anxiety will be prescribed with talk therapy, along with medicines. Oh, the medicines are such a bliss. The mind is always a paradise. And then all the talking with the therapist. It is essential, yes, so that the doctor can understand what your mind is playing at. However, I have friends who have been going to therapy and have been on medicines for at least two years now.

The talk therapy is on the weekly agenda. This I find unacceptable, despite being a talker, because I see myself saying the same things repeatedly. I decided to talk about that session with someone else. That and the reaction that came from a friend was carried on to another. And it went on. The therapist could not point out that I was stuck in a particular reaction pattern. When I delved deeper, I realised that I would end up in a similar situation and then react the same way. It’s a spiral. After a point, these reaction patterns became the comfort zone.

It was a mighty trap, a huge maze and it seemed like I will never find an exit. However, I am keen on sharing bits and pieces of healing with the hope that at least one person who is suffering and reading this might benefit from it.

A therapist has to make those suffering with a mental illness become independent in sensing triggers and breaking patterns. It is extremely difficult, but it is necessary. Unfortunately, my therapist did not do this. Same has been the case with a lot of my friends. I know people who have a therapist on call, like a cab driver or someone who delivers milk when needed. But, if we are always dependent on another individual to reassure us and tell that that things will be fine, then we are not healing. It is neither fancy, nor helpful for your mental health to have a therapist on call.

So talk therapy, for me, is a fail.

But I continued on my battle with my mental health, because I could’t afford to pay for therapy which was making me miserable. I sought comfort among people who told me they know exactly what I was going through. Did it help? No. I made it worse for myself.

Later, I started to learn that understanding why we feel a certain way is crucial, when we are diagnosed with a mental illness. It is often assumed that a situation or a particular instance led to the illness. In my case, it was different. When I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, the time in my life was chaotic. At this point, you will hear this – “Ah, everyone has anxiety. Everyone is depressed at some point in life.” No child, how you feel when you are depressed is very different. No amount of sunshine, dancing, music, playing sports or listening to people empathising with you, helps, because you don’t want to do these things in the first place. There is no will or strength in any part of your body.
But, it changes. It does.

Almost two years later, when my actual healing process began, I did not, at any point think about, discuss or work on that particular situation. The problem was deeper and the situation that led me to the illness was only the tipping point. My therapist helped me address the real, much deeper problems I had suppressed for years. I had inherited some of them. Some, I embraced blindly from my surroundings. Like watching my mother who has the most dynamic and powerful personality put herself last on the list of things she needs to care about.

Also read: What Has Depression Got To Do With Your Gender?

What are the alternatives?

I don’t have the one perfect solution and I am also not sure if my solution will work for your condition. I also know, treatment, at least in India is unaffordable and inaccessible. All the more reason for us to place our money in the right place, no?

If there is no money to spend, then there are some people on the internet who are working to make lives of people with mental illnesses better. This is not going to treat your condition, but it could help you understand how psychology works. No, I am not talking about those commercials, where you see a therapist diligently taking notes, sitting by your side in a pool, or on your kitchen counter. No one works like that and therapists are not supposed to work like that.

I don’t have the one perfect solution and I am also not sure if my solution will work for your condition. I also know, treatment, at least in India is unaffordable and inaccessible. All the more reason for us to place our money in the right place, no?

Through friends I learnt that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is one of the best treatments. I understand how it works, but I would recommend you find out about this from those who have taken it. I, on the other hand worked with Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), which uses communication—in the form that suits you best and helps you breaks deep-set psychological patterns. It works on the simple principle that the mind is dynamic and you can stop it from creating comfort zones, based on situations, especially the unhealthy ones. I worked this with writing. If you want to learn more about this, I can put you in touch with a therapist I trust.

I also learnt ways, where I can sense that there might be a trigger and I can consciously work through my reaction. It is possible. It was through this therapy that I discovered that many of the triggers you feel are not from recent events, but could be generational. It has helped.

I was also at a great advantage when I was taking NLP. I was in a place, away from mental suffocation and noise. On a whim, I moved to Bhutan, a country that I was fascinated with when I learned where a childhood friend is from. I made the decision to move and actually did it in just 15 days. I was alone, in a new place, surrounded by people who didn’t know my story. All the time I spent alone was helpful. It was also refreshing to see smiley, calm and soothing faces. And then, I worked with my therapist. Now, I can safely say, I am doing well. I am feeling human – sad sometimes, happy most times, ecstatic a lot of times.

Then, mindless scrolling on the internet has become the norm. But, in all that chaos and noise on the internet, there are some people who are stressing on the need for mental health care. ‘The Holistic Psychologist‘ on Instagram is one who reasons why we fall in the patterns we do, and why we feel the way we feel. Then she gives us ways to get out of those troubles. This is a global, online community and people often share how they have benefited from identifying why they are suffering with the help of ‘Holistic Psychologist’.

These are my two cents, literally, on discovering things about your mental health and ways that can help you heal. I would like to think that this will make you hopeful and might want to look at alternatives to talk therapy and mind-numbing medicines.

Also read: My Experience Of Discussing Childhood Trauma With Family


Disclaimer: All views expressed here are derived out of personal, lived experiences of the author and written with the sole intention to help anyone suffering from a mental illness. They are not subject to argument of any kind.

Featured Image Source: Resources for Human Development

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