My mind matters Health

My experiments with depression

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After an anxiety attack at work, the writer learns how medication, in tandem with lifestyle changes, helps him cope with the problem

Waking up with clinical depression is not easy. But trying to sleep with it is a struggle few people who live it have bested. Trying to shut my weary eyelids when a storm of thoughts is brewing in my restless mind is one of the many symptoms of depression I suffer from. After tossing and turning in bed until five in the morning, I fall unconscious, rather than asleep, because of the constant fatigue.

My name is Abhishek Pandeyar, and I am not crazy. I wish it sounded as cool as the famous Shah Rukh Khan dialogue, but that’s the best I can do.

Two years ago, when I was diagnosed with clinical depression and generalised anxiety disorder, it hardly came as a surprise. Since my elder brother Vishal died of an accident 10 years ago (I am now 27), I changed overnight from a carefree and ‘notorious’ younger brother into a serious and responsible person. I may have fooled my parents and even myself into thinking that I was up for the task, but the tension I ignored seeped in deeper.

My experiments with depression

Eight years later, it burst out from the volcano of my troubled mind in front of my colleagues in the form of a full-fledged anxiety attack. I only got to know later what it is called, because at the time I was too busy freaking out. The responses in the office were of the realisation that a seemingly normal person whom they knew, had suddenly turned abnormal. Till date, I don’t blame them, because even the people closest to me made the same mistake and still do sometimes.

The only positive thing the anxiety attack did was to force me to confront my mental health. At the time, I had just passed out of IIM Calcutta and had joined IBM as a Senior Consultant. Hence, my friends and parents were puzzled, as was I, for our society judges a person’s health by the large stack of money he might or might not have. And that is the bubble I want to burst.

In a ruthless and ultra-competitive devolving country, we Indians are taught to bury our worries and anxieties in the same grave we do our desires. I did the same. When I was selected for my MBA degree, right out of college, my parents and friends were ecstatic; I was not.

After four months of the gruelling MBA life, I stopped reading and listening to music, two of my favourite pastimes. The walls were closing in, and I continued to ignore my instincts. Even at the worst of times, I did not consider going to a psychiatrist because of the fear society had drilled into my mind. So, when placement day came, I got a good job, but my mental health took a turn for the worse.

When people close to me realised I had depression, they gave the stereotypical answers ranging from ‘Don’t overthink it’ and ‘It’s just in your mind’ to ‘You will go mad if you keep taking pills’ and ‘Psychiatrists are for crazy people.’ Now imagine saying that to a person who has tuberculosis.

Coming out of the shadows of people’s misinformed opinions took time, but I did it with perseverance and my family’s unrelenting support. I wanted to get better again and to understand the disease inside out, so I did a lot of research on my own and spoke to people who were either experts in the mental health field or had experienced something similar.

In the end, I realised only taking medication would not be enough and began searching for happiness in the smallest of things. Watching cartoons, reading comics, listening to soothing music, and writing; I did it all and more. I poured my dread out into a blog, and every time I felt the hands of depression trying to suck me back in, I wrote down all that I was feeling.

Two years of taking antidepressants have taught me that the gradual decline of mental health I faced in those eight years can only be undone through a similar long-term approach. Lifestyle changes like exercise, positive social interactions, healthy eating habits, and indulging in activities which make me happy, began working only when I took the medication that tilted the mental balance in my favour. Until then, for me, trying to help myself with just lifestyle changes was like trying to run a car without changing the tyre that was punctured.

In this series, we feature first-person accounts of people who have accepted, acknowledged and sought help for their mental health challenges

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2019 8:18:01 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/health/my-mind-matters-what-it-takes-to-cope-with-clinical-depression/article29557151.ece

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