Health

On the e-book 'Young Mental Health'

Reach out to your friends

Reach out to your friends   | Photo Credit: VSanandhakrishna

By talking about what is bothering us, we take away its power to control us. Weeks before the Supreme Court’s landmark judgement on Section 377, a young man shared his journey, now published in the e-book ‘Young Mental Health’

Trigger warning: Suicidal ideation

The first time I came out to a friend (a day after I had come out to my junior in reciprocation), we were in a class together, I scribbled on a paper that I was not straight and started crying. He told me it was okay and hugged me after the class which felt very comforting. I came out to a few close friends after that, all of them received it well and offered any support I needed. I came out to my parents in November 2015 and started coming out to more of my friends and colleagues after that. A common response from my parents and some of the friends was, ‘You could have told us what was going on much earlier instead of going through it alone all these years.’

I realised that it was true, that I could have shared this truth with someone much before and even if they had not known how to accept it, it would have at least given me space to talk about it instead of having to struggle to find strength to deal with it all alone.

And the first time I talked about my mental health was at work with a colleague (July 2015). I had severe suicidal ideation one day... I needed to distract myself and at that point I didn’t know how to lie anymore so I took a colleague out and told her what had just happened. She talked me out of it for the time being and I visited a psychiatrist after that.

In my experience, many of the times I confided in someone about my mental health, more often than not, people could relate to what I was saying and narrated their own experiences of loneliness or the feeling of hopelessness, and also expressed how lonely it feels in those times. Many of these times, people thanked me for being vulnerable around them and said it encouraged them to open up about their own struggles. How relieving it feels when you see you’re not alone! It feels like when we share our story with someone, we take on some of their strength as well to fight our battles. It’s not as tiring when we don’t have to fight alone.

That’s why if there’s anything that I can advise my younger self, it is to talk. We’re only as sick as our secrets, and by talking about what is bothering us, we take away its power to control us. Be it sexuality or mental health, I wish I had opened up sooner.

On the e-book 'Young Mental Health'

The following are words from a Netflix special called Nanette by an Australian stand-up comedian Hannah Gadsby (who is queer as well and talks about mental health):

‘Stories hold our cure. I just needed my story heard, my story felt and understood by individuals with minds of their own. Because, like it or not, your story... is my story. And my story... is your story. I just don’t have the strength to take care of my story any more. I don’t want my story defined by anger. All I can ask is just please help me take care of my story. Do you know why we have the sunflowers? It’s not because Vincent van Gogh suffered. It’s because Vincent van Gogh had a brother who loved him. Through all the pain, he had a tether, a connection to the world. And that... is the focus of the story we need.’

To sum up, I would advise anyone who’s feeling a lack of safety (including my younger self) to look out for people who value authenticity and can handle being vulnerable, and share their stories. More often than you’d think, you’re met with understanding, comfort, relief, connection, strength. Also, we can all be vulnerable about our struggles in our everyday lives, which can create a safe space for everyone.

...I’ve been going to my current therapist for three years now. We’ve identified that I have accumulated layers of trauma, my own and intergenerational — my parents’ inter-caste marriage and my mother’s family disowning her, me growing up gay in denial, the sudden death of my brother, unhealthy relationships. My therapist made me see how I didn’t give space to myself to process the grief of my brother’s death because I was worried about how my parents were handling it and that I had to be there for them. In the process, I forgot how to emote and everything became cognitive.

My therapist started with how to identify emotions and feel them in real time, we’re now working on how to change thought patterns, and how to unlearn unhealthy coping mechanisms — some of them like fight, flight, fawn (people pleasing in order to deflect from letting myself feel), freeze (dissociate, again to distract from feeling). We’re working on cultivating radical acceptance towards trauma.

When I first started going to therapy — and I notice this among a lot of other people as well — I wanted a quick fix to my ‘negative’ emotions which had started to feel overwhelming. I believed that once I stopped feeling sad or afraid or angry, everything would work out great.

Thinking we, or our emotions, need fixing feeds into a loop of believing we are broken in some way. And this not only doesn’t help in our healing but also sets us on a pattern of new maladaptive mechanisms. Especially for those of us young people who have not felt adequate sense of safety while growing up and picked up unhealthy patterns in our formative years, we may question comfort and love in our later relationships, and are prone to stay in abusive relationships. It’s imperative we hold space for ourselves and form support systems.

Anwesh Pokkuluri is an IIT graduate who took on the broader legal system, leading a group of other IITians to file a petition against Section 377 in the Supreme Court. In Young Mental Health, Pokkuluri builds on his story shared with The Health Collective, a space for conversations around mental health.

If you are in a crisis and feel suicidal, call Sneha at 044-24640050.

Excerpted from Young Mental Health by Amrita Tripathi and Meera Haran Alva (Simon and Schuster), available on Amazon.in and Healthcollective.in

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Printable version | Aug 3, 2020 8:15:35 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/health/anwesh-pokkuluri-journey-published-in-e-book-young-mental-health/article31896422.ece

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