I remember the first time I spoke to my therapist a little more than a year back, I was very nervous. I knew she was my only hope now. The session went well but the end of it she asked me why I wasn’t breathing. And I started crying.
I have been on medication for around 3 years for depression and anxiety. My first year was the worst! I’d hold my medicines as my most valuable possession, diligently taking them every night hoping I’ll get up next morning with clearer mind. Mornings only ended up getting increasingly painful and hopeless. I would drag myself to work hoping to find some distraction. But it wasn’t easy at all. I’d find it excruciatingly difficult to stay awake due to the heavy medicines. I had no control over my sleep. It was difficult for someone in my position to have a job that required constant movement and quick thinking. I would daily fall asleep during meetings. My colleagues would look down upon me, they’d think I was lazy and incompetent. I would be called by the HOD because my co teacher would complain that I didn’t do anything in class. My mind would be so foggy I’d take a minute to comprehend and another to respond. My hands would shake and it’be very difficult for me to write properly on the board. Add clinical anxiety and you get a concoction for an awful teacher of the year.
This was my professional life. My personal life was another predicament. I didn’t have friends because I’d pushed everyone away. I would ignore calls and messages (a habit Im still trying to get rid of) on purpose. I didn’t have anything to talk to them about. Even if I did, I’d pity myself too much to think they’d care. In the end, no one wanted to be around a volatile, sensitive, silent person. My parents would never talk about my mental health issues. I don’t blame them, this must have been too much for them. My sleepiness, sudden mood changes and teary outbursts at EVERYTHING were brushed under the carpet at the pretense of me being a ‘difficult child’. They could never accept that their child had a problem, that her problems were different from other. They’d ask me to hide my psychiatrist file so no one could see because they didn’t want anyone to know about my illness. This confused me. Was something so shamefully wrong with me that even my parents could not wrap their heads around it? What am I doing wrong? What am I like this? Each spiraling question would lead to to the dark abyss.
I stayed in the bottomless pit for 3 years. I’d find myself crying in the bathroom because I didn’t want to be like that. I’d pray reverently to every deity of every religion and faith and ask for a way out. I was desperate for my sadness to end. So much that once I took matters in my own hand. But after all this, one day, while doing the most mundane job, everything changed. At the end of all the crippling anxiety attacks and never ending gloom I saw hope, I saw my way out. It’s still new, this feeling. I can compare it to the act of touching a butterfly. You just want to feel the smooth wings without scaring it away. How did this happen? Honestly I don’t know, but if I have to guess, I fought till the end. Isn’t that what they tell you to do everywhere? “You must fight for what you want”, “Fight your way to success”. They must know what they are talking about. There was a time when I just dropped everything and let the desolation wash over me. But I took my time and got up. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, still is some days. But what matters is that you push yourself and show up. Falling is not the problem. Having bad days is not the problem. Crying yourself to sleep is not the problem. Take your time. It’s important. Experience all the feelings that come your way. But give it an ultimatum. You are only going to let it bend you for a specific time, after that you are going to get up and dust yourself.
You are going to breathe.
By Neha Bhagania