Story by Shrutee Choudhary
It has been 3 years since my diagnosis. Yet, people still find it hard to believe that I have depression. Mental health does not have a face. And so, my later chirpy, confident self made it hard for people to accept my mental state.
I have been anxious all my life, I don’t know why; I just was. In school, I was the “nervous child”. My daily routine of puking was never suspected and was later normalised as part of my trait. I was not aware of mental health issues then and had stereotypical notions of how a person facing it should be.
Little did I know that, I was also sinking in depression. My mental health attained its visibility during a car ride; I felt as if I was going to die as my chest started to hurt badly. Shivering, crying and shaking, I could not even pick up a phone call. I admitted myself in the hospital knowing that something was definitely wrong with me. I continued to shiver despite being covered in 3 blankets and even started yelling at the medical staffs in the room. I didn’t know that it was a panic attack!
Later, I found myself having panic attacks everyday at the same time. Being in a car triggered me and crowded places became scary. Suddenly, it was difficult to exist. I didn’t know what was wrong with me.
I was then taken to a psychiatrist; an embarrassing event for my family.
Despite being diagnosed with anxiety disorder and depression, I completely eluded the fact that I had depression. It was hard to accept. Taking medication for anxiety helped; things seemed to get better and worse. However, many things went wrong at that point in my life, and whatever improvement I had made distilled in those problems. I had panic attacks back to back. A lot of events became triggering. I was not in a state to work, let alone leave my bed. My confidence suffered and I lost all sense of self worth. I felt nothing, yet refused to take anti-depressants due to the stigma attached to it.
My final push for taking medication was the day I went to the cardiologist. I realised I had lost count of my panic attacks when the doctor asked for a number. He told me I had arrhythmia. And I realised that my mental condition had taken a toll on my physical state. Because it was a physical ailment, my parents also felt that I should take medication and I did.
I started getting better and worked on accepting and understanding about my mental health. It was not an easy journey. Since “I was too hard to be around”, friends walked out of my life leaving me vulnerable. It became a struggle to open up to people and I even refused going for therapy until last year.
There, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, the very reason for my anxiety and depression. I felt as if my 2 years of understanding and learning had gone to waste. I had to start from square 1 again. Between the manic and depressive swings as experienced, I had to work and complete my tasks before hitting the lows. It was a new journey.
I am on mood stabilizers now. It is helping me a lot; the combination of medicines and therapy. I have been getting better and better.
Today, I can’t even relate to my past self. I have learned to do things step by step, instead of bombarding myself with worries and lists.
I just hope that our society also grows in a way that is understanding and supportive of mental health and the issues related to it.