This World Mental Health Day, the World Health Organisation launched a campaign on suicide prevention and awareness. Data shows that 2.2 lakh lives are lost to suicide every year in India. Most suicides occur between the ages of 15 to 39. In fact, more than 10 percent of Indians are affected by mental health issues like anxiety and depression.
To mark this day, 22-year-old Sukrit, a media professional from New Delhi, opened up to VICE about what it’s like to live with the debilitating impact of mental health issues, his encounter with suicide, and how he has learned to speak up about it.
The first time I felt that there was something not quite right with me was when I had doubts about having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). I was just 12 or 13 years old, and had just finished reading the Percy Jackson series where the titular character had ADHD. I felt the same. But it was not until I was 19 that I realised something was definitely wrong with the way I was functioning, what I was feeling.
There were moments of extreme loneliness and helplessness. Mood swings were a daily affair. I would have a very emotionally charged reaction to a lot of things that could have been managed with rational thought. I was getting frequent anxiety attacks. I was slowing down and losing interest in so many things so fast. I could not even find the will to take a bath. I mean, it has got to be more than just teenage stuff, right?
At that point, I was going for counselling for my parent’s divorce, which really messed me up. Back when they were on the brink of their marriage, for the longest time, I felt responsible for it. I was 17 when I started visiting a counselor. Not for proper psychiatric counseling or therapy, I was just talking to my school counselor. This may have made things worse because after my dad found out about it, he dismissed my trauma as a “fad.”
This was why, despite having a family around me and dating someone, I decided—like anybody in a state of mind similar to mine would—to keep it to myself.
And then it began to manifest in other ways. First, it was the erratic sleep cycle. I was sleeping all day and was awake at nights. This was the time I started substance abuse too. I took pot, alcohol, cheap painkillers, and cough medication whenever I felt like it and wherever I could find it—at my college hostel, in the market, in class, or even at the gym.
This made me extremely irritable, moody, and disoriented. I did not have the energy to do basic things like clean my room or take a bath. I lost a decent amount of weight as I would go a while without eating and then suddenly stuff myself. I would not go to school for weeks. I felt empty, numb, and so tired mentally, physically, emotionally—you name it. In one sentence: I was really fucked.
My father never noticed until shit hit the fan. Even though I had solid support from my sisters and best friend, my father trying to downplay what I was feeling exacerbated what was to come.
When I recognised that things have become worse, I started visiting a shrink, who forced my dad to let me visit a medical professional and get the help I needed. The diagnosis, at last: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, ADHD, clinical depression, and strains of Borderline Personality Disorder. I got on meds and was on home rest for about two months as advised by the doctor. She told dad that I’m super self-destructive and should not be left alone. That would have worked well, except my dad turned into a control freak and made sure that I could not be left alone.
It came to the point where every time I would go take a shit, I could not lock the door and would have someone knock on my door every five minutes. I had just broken up with my girlfriend, which I could not care less about since the meds had killed my libido by then. I did not want anymore of this “love” business, and was not in the mood to meet anybody new. My cognition was numb to the point where I would zone out the entire day. And amidst all of this madness, I could not even get some privacy on the commode.
It all happened really fast.
One day, I told my dad I was taking a bath, closed my door and cocktailed on my pills. But immediately after doing this, I changed my mind.
“Nope,” I said to myself, and quickly called my therapist to inform my dad what happened because I could not bring myself to do it. I don’t really remember much of what happened after. It was like my brain just deleted the entire sequence of events. The next thing I remember is waking up in an ICU the next day with a pipe down my nose to my stomach.
For much of the year after the incident, I followed through with therapy and learned a few tricks. Therapy sorted a lot of knots in my head, one of the most important being that I was not to blame for my dad’s second marriage, that being helpful to other people is good, and so is having healthy boundaries with them.
Whenever I feel too overwhelmed, I would distance myself from the issue, calm down however I could (sleep, exercise, cooking, etc), and approach it with a fresh and clear mind. I learned to enjoy my own company rather than needlessly seeking attention.
What may have helped my recovery was my pet dog, who is a big source of unconditional love and support. Dogs are funny that way. They always seem to know what you’re going through, even if other people don’t. Of course, I cut out toxic people, too. I drew boundaries with people and started putting myself first over many things. This was a daunting process at first but has been the most liberating one. I’m still learning, though, and it’s a long process.
One thing I remind myself is that things don’t get fixed overnight. It takes time, effort, and learning how to cope. Also, love. Instead of whining about the love I don’t get, I started cherishing the love I was getting.
I would not say that my journey is the roadmap for people to get out of a difficult situation. Everyone has their own path. In fact, I still manage to repeat mistakes. But there’s an extraordinary strength in acknowledging the “problem” and trying to get the help we deserve.
I’m 22, and more kids my age are vocal about mental health and speaking up for those who struggle with theirs. This gives me hope that in the near future, mental health issues are not hushed up behind closed doors and dismissed as “Usko mata chad gayi" or "He/she is possessed."
Looking back, I feel bittersweet. Part of me wanted to grow into what I am now without any of that happening. But then there’s this other part that believes that I would not be the way I am now without any of that stuff happening. And maybe that is how you learn: the hard way. I don’t remember much of what happened, but whatever I do remember helps me grow today.
If you are or you know someone affected by mental health issues, please connect with Roshni (4066202000), Cooj (8322252525), Sneha Foundation (4424640050), Vandrevala Foundation (18602662345), Connecting (9922001122) or Samaritans Mumbai (84229 84528). To learn more, reach out to whiteswanfoundation.org.
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