Out of the Closet
Day rating: 7.5
No I will not pressure myself to write a masterpiece; an article that moves, inspires, empowers, encourages people to speak up. I will just try to be brutally honest, write what feels right, what ought to be expressed, what I have unnecessarily hidden from many people for far too long. If it also achieves the above outcomes, I’d be very happy, but no pressure.
I was first diagnosed with clinical depression in late 2003. It was Dr Harish Shetty, supposedly the most famous shrink in Mumbai, and one that was recommended to be both by my counsellor at Jai Hind College, and my father who first went to him a couple of years earlier. I thought I was special, gifted, extraordinary, with the potential to conquer the world — at the age of 16. Turns out I was diseased, deluded, depressed.
Over the next 13 years, I have seen 4 shrinks, 5 counsellors, and never spent more than a month away from medication — antidepressants of one form or another. Sometimes one tablet once a day, sometimes 7 tablets 3 times a day. I’ve tried psychotherapy, CBT (face-to-face and online), existential therapy. The shrinks told me I have dysthymia, mild schizophrenia, major depression and most recently bipolar. To complicate matters, I got hooked to cannabis, which messed up my hormonal balance even further, made me lose my waning motivation to live. I have come close to quitting life, both literally and effectively (going away into the remote himalayas, or doing nothing at all — like a cow).
On 15th November 2016, I seriously contemplated suicide; I found dying a more enticing prospect than living. But that day something shifted internally. I realised the true impermanence of life, the lightness of being. I realised each day could be the last day of my life, whether through choice or external circumstance. Hence, I started to live each day as my last, and stop leaving things for later. Live my best day today, do what I always wanted to do today, express my love for loved ones today, contribute my bit to a better world today. Cause if today is not worth living, may as well pack up and leave. But if today is worth living, it’s my responsibility to make it meaningful, to make it the best day of my life, to do anything and everything I desire to do in this limited life… today. Now.
I started getting out of my shell, ending years of self-induced isolation. I started eating better, looking after my body, my appearence. I started reconnecting with old friends and making new, worthwhile connections. I started sharing the truth — why I am really in India, for recovery and rehab, and thereby received plenty of genuine advice to help me get back (and stay) on track. I started sharing my passion and vision for existentialism, participating in and creating meaningful conversations, discovered like minded people — many of them! I started doing what I’ve always wanted to do — empower others in need of timely help, offering a friendly ear and heartfelt advice. I cut out all the bullshit from life, all superficiality that always bogged me down, and committed to being 100% honest, 100% authentic; true to myself and others.
I feel much better now; in fact I feel fantastic. But it’s only been 23 days. Only time will tell if this is a phase or a new beginning. Thank you for your concern, sympathy and compassion. But please, don’t pity me, there is no need for it. My melancholy is an intrinsic part of who I am, it makes me, me. I have learnt and experienced a lot, gained valuable insight about myself and the nature of reality, all without leaving my room! I have become braver, more resilient, more authentic; perhaps evolved as a human being. In my moments of hitting rock bottom, I have felt the fabric of the rock, experienced the magic of being alive, just being, experienced silence and nothingness — beautiful and priceless. In the end it is what it is, it could not have been any other way, and there’s no point of discussing what if I was never depressed. Time and entropy flow unidirectionally, and the best one can do is flow with it.
But that’s not all folks. You probably know the statistic: 1 in 4 suffer or have suffered from mental illness. Maybe it was you, your best friend, your mother/father, your partner, one of your employees, your CEO, your favourite actor/actress, your country’s president.
Why is it that I had to hide my depression for so long? Why is there still a stigma about mental illness in this modern, open world? Why must hundreds of millions of people still suffer in silence, afraid of being judged, ridiculed, looked down upon, left out from consideration if they were to openly speak about their mental illness, their vulnerability? Why is it such a social taboo to be openly vulnerable? Why would you not ask your friend “How are you, really?” for a second time? In this busy, competitive, material driven world, have we forgotten that being happy is ultimately the most important thing? What can you do to help someone open up, to ease their suffering just a little bit? How long before we truly open our minds and hearts (in corporate and social settings) to the seemingly ‘odd’ ones — LGBTIQ, Blacks and Browns, the disabled, aboriginal minorities, sufferers of mental illness? When will we become a planet for human beings, unconditional? It’s #timetotalk