Mental illness is not a myth but an understated issue

Image of a person suffering from mental illness.
"Out of your vulnerabilities will come your strength." - Sigmund Freud

Are you sitting within the periphery of four walls of your room and brooding? Your cell phone, lying next to you, is going on buzzing, your news feed has flooded with notifications, but you do not care to check them. You’ve had a hard time getting up from sleep. You have somehow pushed yourself to get up because you’ve to set out for work.

So, you are sitting up on the bed, gazing at outside through the window. The weather is perfect for a day out; the sun is shining beautifully, but your mind is full of clouds; gloomy and dull. Neither do you wish to go out with your friends nor do you want to go to work. You skip your breakfast because you don’t feel like having it.

After an hour or two, much unwillingly you hit the road. You’ve boarded a bus, got a sit and soon resumed the incomplete task of gazing through the window. You’ve missed the bus stop where you were supposed to get off. You realize it after a while when the bus has crossed two or three stops ahead of it. You get off there and start walking back towards your office.

Of course you’re late. After mentioning a formal apology you take your seat. There are piles of files on your desk and you’re now all set to work. Are you? Yes, you should be. That’s what you do every day. But today you aren’t in the mood to work. At least, initially, you think you are just sulky and there is nothing to worry about it. Later on, again you don’t feel like going out for lunch and you’ve also forgotten to bring it from home. When one of your colleagues offers you some food, you politely refuse it saying ‘Thanks but I am not hungry’ and eat a few biscuits instead.

When it’s time for you to say bye to your workplace, you start for home leaving your office-desk in a mess, your day’s job; half done; half undone. After reaching home and taken a shower. You go to the kitchen and instead of making dinner, you choose to have some light snacks. Then you switch on the T.V to watch your favourite show but even it isn’t exciting to you. So having switched it off, you are now lying in bed and staring at the ceiling, trying your best to get some sleep. You left your office hoping to finish off the half-done tasks, the next day. But the next day gets even worse

And this continues for a week. You’re trapped in a cage of dejection, anxiety, and frustration. You’re unable to understand what’s going wrong with you. Recalling many past events which need no recollection at this point of time, you start blaming yourself for everything that has gone wrong in your life. The traumas that you had suppressed for long resurface now making you depressed. Or perhaps you’re down all the time for no specific reason. The more you want to avoid them the more they overwhelm you. But what can you do about it; you have no control over your thoughts! As a result your start remaining aloof from people. At this point, your disturbed mind and unusual behaviour start grabbing many eyeballs and people start talking about you, behind your back.

So, you decide to take a temporary leave from work may be for about a week and try out different ways to sort your life.  But even spending time with your family and sharing stuff with friends don’t seem to help much. In fact you feel more alone even when you are surrounded by people. You feel lost and directionless as if you are drowning in the unfathomable depths of despair and depression. Your life, your career, your goals, everything now seem meaningless to you. And, nothing gets better soon.

Suddenly someone suggests you to go to a psychologist presuming you are going through depression. You’re confused upon hearing this. So you start enlightening yourself about it. Vehemently denying having a mental health condition, you brush it off. Perhaps because you fear that if people come to know of this, they are going to look down on you. Fearing others will perceive your sickness for madness, you are reluctant to go for counselling. So you lock yourself in your room for a few more days only to realize that you can’t go on living like this.

Finally when you step ahead to go to a psychologist and eventually get diagnosed with clinical depression, your treatment starts. Again, you get back to work and struggle to cope up with your social life. At times you think you won’t be able to get over this, but then you remember your psychologist has said, “don’t think you are alone”.  You realize that there are many people going through this and it is curable, provided that one gets the right kind of support and adequate help. And, you keep moving.

This is the story of many of us who have had suffered from mental illness. Some have got cured, some have succumbed to it, some are fighting it and some are just entering its maze. It is like any other illness which needs a cure. But many patients don’t seek help because mental illness has been taboo in our society resulting in its negligence and unawareness. Consequently, the victims of mental illness are unfairly discriminated and shamed. And this stops many from opening up and they suffer in silence.

But what is most alarming is mental illness is on the rise globally. According to WHO around 350 million people in the world are affected by depression and many people are likely to be affected by mental health conditions at some point in their lives. Hence, it’s time, we start spreading awareness about it and do away with the stigma associated with mental illness. Now more than ever we need to be more kind and considerate. A little kindness does no harm but it definitely makes the world a better place to live in. Talking helps. Sharing eases suffering and listening heals.

To all those who have had gone through mental health conditions which require treatment, speak up; seek help and do not shy away from sharing your story. Your story could inspire a lot of people who might be going through similar condition and render them the hope they need. If each one of us take steps to seek help or to offer help, we can make a difference. So come on, let’s take a pledge to de-stigmatize it.