By Yamini Rana
Twenty months ago, I was diagnosed with clinical depression.
It was the beginning of June 2018. I was on a family road trip. At that time, it had been five months since I had moved away from home, to a well-known center for those preparing for prestigious high-end government exams…
This was India—a tremendously overpopulated country where there exists cut-throat academic competition with approximately 5 million people attempting to take government exams. I was twenty-two years old at the time, doing my postgraduate teaching…and I was a part of this rat-race. At my new place, there were hundreds of people—mainly unemployed, 20 to 35 years of age, from low socioeconomic backgrounds—all away from their families and hometowns. Together, we were all burning the candle at not two…but at ten ends. The atmosphere of that place was tense…to say the least. And there were similar such ‘hubs’ all over the country.
Below is a photo depicting a typical crowd at a coaching class. To give you an idea of the enormity: these classes usually take place ten at a time, with 4 two-hour daily sessions, with approximately fifty institutions at one hub, up to four such hubs in one city…in a country that had twenty-eight states.
Everything…All At Once
Initially, all this was tremendously motivating—the fact that so many people were pressing forward in such adverse conditions—that it made me want to work harder so I could succeed and move back home. But after a few months, it all started to overwhelm. No family. No friends. Just my academic peers…and tons of pressure on all of us.
Not only that, but at that time, it had only been six months since I ended a relationship of four years. It was a messy breakup to say the least, and it took a lot out of me to let go of him. And it was extremely difficult, but I had to bear it alone…because I couldn’t tell anyone about my relationship.
See, here in India, middle class families—in general—are not open to their children having romantic relationships. At one extreme, there are those who would go to point of carrying out ‘honor killings’ of couples who dare go against their families’ wishes (mine is not one of those). In 2018, the Indian Supreme Court finally took action on this issue with a landmark ruling against such violence; in reality, it is still occurring, but just hidden from the law. Of course, this is just a very small, extreme aspect of Indian culture that does not represent my country as a whole, and some families even allow such relationships. My family sort of was in the middle; while they would never hurt me, it was very clear that having a boyfriend or being in love was out of the question. Because of this, both my relationship and my subsequent breakup was in secret. This was actually the main reason that I moved away—I needed some time and space.
Going back to my story, that family road trip ended up being so chaotic that at the end of the day, I could not regain my sanity. I couldn’t sleep. Up until this point I had already been sleeping very poorly. I had no appetite. I couldn’t study. Rather, I just cried all the time. Even though I was with my family, everybody was so busy that I had no chance to tell anyone that I was not okay. Instead, they promptly sent me back to my new place as they didn’t want me to waste time not studying.
The next day, I decided to text my mother to tell her how I was feeling. She told me to relax and to just take a break—which I tried, but I only ended up feeling worse. Soon, the panic attacks started. As the exam date slowly approached, I felt completely miserable, and I still couldn’t study. And the suicidal thoughts—which I had been already experiencing for many months—worsened.
Here I was…someone who—despite leading a tough life—was always able to get through and sort out any problem…no matter how big. But this time, I could not make myself get better.
It was then that I realized that it was getting dangerously out of hand.
So I went to see a therapist.
A Journey to Self-Discovery
Therapy, here in India, is taboo. So again, I couldn’t tell anyone. But I did contact my ex-boyfriend and asked him to help me. And there he was…no questions asked. After two sessions of therapy, I was put on medication. They helped me realize that there were a lot of factors at play: my neglected overachieving childhood, my relationship failure, my sense of hopelessness, and my fear—fear of failing, fear of disappointing, fear of trusting.
But I eventually left therapy, as I was asked to bring my parents in—something I just could not do at that point (knowing them, I felt they would only end up hurt and disappointed). But through this experience, I realized a lot about myself…that I had been unwell for a while now, and that those years of suffering had been the main contributing factor in my 60-pound weight gain.
And during this whole time, my love was there. Through this experience, he also changed and became the best version of himself. And because of that I also wanted to be better…to not want to die…to feel happy, so that I could be with him and laugh with my parents. So I packed my things and returned home…for good. I knew all along that my parents were an important factor in my happiness, and I knew they were going to be an important factor in my recovery.
– My Recovery Process –
- I returned home to my family.
- I spent time with my loved ones.
- I read as much as I could about my condition.
- I practiced meditation.
- I used apps that provided me with positive, encouraging quotes.
- I allowed time to heal. A LOT of time.
- I stopped stressing about my exam and just took a break (I still ended up doing great!).
- I started to address my issues, including my constant disappointment regarding who I was before and who I had become.
- And finally, I gathered up the courage to live for myself just a little, started saying “no” to the things I didn’t want to do, and started being more honest with my parents about my vision and philosophy regarding how I wanted to live my life.
A New Day Ahead
Even today, I still struggle with getting my parents on the same page of my life with me, but I’m confident it will eventually work out. You see, I am confident. This is what I wanted. Not solutions to my problems, but this faith in myself, which was lost for so long. What I knew was that only I—and no one else in the world—could give myself the time to heal and to strengthen and to love. And I wanted to get better.
Sure, I still have fears of again feeling how I felt before. Sometimes I even have nightmares about it. And I’m aware that I’m not perfect, but I am a lot better now. My problems in life are still there, the ups and downs will always be there; they are what life is. But—what has changed is me. I’ve become better. And I’m proud of myself. You see, it was not an instant revelation that made me realize I wanted to be happier; it took a lot of time and a lot of work within myself. But I did it, because I simply didn’t want to continue feeling what I was feeling—the misery, the hopelessness. And it took months to stop crying, to get better at controlling the sad moods.
Yes…the journey is still going on, but I like where I have reached now.
Yamini, a simple Indian girl in her mid-twenties, trying hard to change the lives of as many underprivileged children as she can. She is a teacher, a learner, a struggler, a survivor. She likes to write, and is new at blogging.
You can find her blog at lekhikaablog.wordpress.com.
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