I’ve touched the topic over the years but I’ll come out and just say it. The following is very personal, and as much as I regret to say it – I have a great deal of anxiety sharing this openly even though I know I shouldn’t. Anxiety not because I am ashamed, but because I know how the world pretends to care but actually perceives mental health.
I am someone who has struggled with mental health – depression, anxiety, and PTSD (all diagnosed) over the better part of the past decade. To some degree it was inbuilt, and worsened by various experiences. And yes. It got to the point where I now need to take a daily medication to be okay. Just like diabetics do. Just like high BP folks do. Hypo/hyperthyroid. List could go on. And just like their medications control their disease. Mine controls mine. And it’s made a world of a difference. It’s not a forever thing, and likely temporary… for now… but I know a lot of people, especially older Indian folks will hee and haw about this. Am I putting my families to shame by being so vocal about this? If you think yes… Why?
The truth is I don’t think a lot of people realize just how real mental illness is. They’ll talk about it, especially when someone dies due to suicide, but they’ll also turn right around and gossip about someone’s illness when it’s someone they know. If that’s you, I am talking about you. Shame on you.
Yesterday a Bollywood actor sadly died of suicide. Now there are a lot of people mourning, and saying “speak up! I’d rather hear your story than attend your funeral”. Yes, that’s a really important message to spread. The problem is that when someone is actually struggling, most people are SO DAMN UNAPPROACHABLE. They spew insensitive comments. Gossip. A complete lack of desire to actually understand and be there. I think our generation is a little better and more accepting than our parent’s… but I want to actually call attention to that fact.
Truth is a LOT of people struggle with mental health. Especially anxiety and depression. A lot more than you realize. But they’re too scared to do anything about it. I’ve had so many people reach out to me and say they were struggling but too scared to tell their parents. A lot of people reaching out for help to their parents and their parents getting mad and blowing them off as if their child is overreacting, being a drama queen. Spouses angry at their spouses for struggling instead of being there for them. (I’m one of the few lucky ones who has an amazingly supportive spouse!) People with mental health, who have its taboos so engrained into their own heads that they refuse to accept they are struggling! This is so toxic. On the other hand we also have a lot of people actively signaling for help but those signs just go unnoticed.
And then someone hurts themselves and people say “oh we didn’t know, we wish you would have spoken up”. In a lot of cases people who struggle do a really good job of pretending to be ok. They fool the public very well. That was me for a good 3-4 years. But a lot of times, people who struggle also say speak up only to be blown off. Or have some sort of silly remark made, “you’ll be fine!”, “just don’t think about it!”, “it’s all just in your head!”. Lol. I’ve been there. And it sucked to have everyone from family to friends saying these things. Telling me indirectly that my feelings didn’t matter.
As I said above, news has been making its rounds of a Bollywood star who sadly died of suicide. People are mourning. They’ll spend 2-3 days writing “please speak up if you’re suffering!” And then forgetting all about it. And that’s okay, I don’t expect everyone to be a mental health activist 24/7. But I think the most we can ask in that case is that once in a while when a situation arises in your personal life, someone you know, don’t be that person who just gossips and shames a person for having mental illness. Educate yourself on what you need to do to actually be there for them.
Truth is I’m writing this blog without asking for permission first. I’m scared but I think I need to post it. I’ve had at least 3 people in the past week ask me about my struggle and if medications have actually helped. Thinking they need help too, but too scared to get it because of the taboos associated with it. Shame. I’m speaking up because this tells me that there are a lot of people out there silently suffering. Struggling.
So whether you know me well, or don’t know me at all, I would like to open myself up as a resource, and a listening ear to anyone who needs to talk to someone who not only has struggled herself, but also as someone who is a healthcare provider, educated in psych medical therapy. Please speak up if you’re struggling. This is a safe space.