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Disabling Stigma: The Pain We Hide Voices 

Disabling Stigma: The Pain We Hide

It’s been nearly one year since I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder. It seems as if it was yesterday when I had to be taken to the emergency room. However, when I recall all that has happened in the past year, it seems like a lifetime in itself. I used to ask myself a very interesting question, why do people commit suicide? It sounds so impractical and weird. Every problem in this world comes with a solution. So how can anyone think of killing oneself? Soon I had an answer.

As a new immigrant, I had a rough path ahead of me. I made some unrealistic goals for myself, without taking in consideration the extra burden I would have as a new immigrant; the duties I would have to perform. I slowly realized that I had no social circle at school. The fact that my mother left her job as a gynaecologist, to be here with me and my sister kept troubling me. Thus, I also had the responsibility of proving that her sacrifice did not go to waste. My mother also had her own problems. We also have very different opinions on nearly everything. I slowly discovered that the list is much longer. So I thought about seeing a therapist at school. I thought that a couple of meetings would make everything fall into place (another unrealistic expectation).

Two weeks into therapy and I started realizing that I was holding myself responsible for the issues my mother was facing. Another thing I discovered was the fact that having no one of the opposite gender to talk to was creating more anxiety in me. There seemed to be no solution. I started believing that my issues were unsolvable. “For the rest of my life I will be living with all these unbearable factors”, I told myself. That is when my issues started pushing me into depression, and when the reason why people commit suicide became crystal clear. I cannot say for everyone, but I believe that in my case, more than the problems, it was the feeling of helplessness and the idea that there is nothing that can be done that is the cause of depression. And as one progresses towards this disorder, his or her ability to focus on solutions gets constricted. The mind only comes up with one idea: suicide. This not so very innovative idea of mine took me to the emergency room at a mental health institute. I had not worked out any plan to hurt myself, probably because there was a part of me which did not want me to die. I entered a stage where my personal issues did not matter at all, because I had a bigger and a more painful problem in front of me: depression.

Depression is in itself more painful than one can imagine. It is very different from being sad. Emotions like sadness, happiness, and anger work in a cyclic form. But in depression this cycle gets interrupted. One may look like the happiest person in the world, but could be suffering from this condition. I started hating all the things I generally enjoyed. Eating food also seemed like a lot of work. Reading a page of a book was nearly impossible. My concentration level went straight to zero. I would just sit on my bed, trying to figure out what I should do to pass time and I used to come up with nothing. It is more frustrating than it sounds. I entered a stage where I would start crying and throwing things out of panic and frustration. Every night I would go through the very same phase and during the day I would be petrified, wondering if it’s going to happen this evening. So, I wanted to come out of depression as soon as possible. Also, I never wanted my mother to know about this. Not that she was suspicious, I just did not want her to know about this condition of mine. I presumed that she would freak out and hold herself responsible. I did tell my dad though, who is much more easygoing.

A week after my visit to the emergency room I received a call from the hospital. I was given an appointment with a nurse. “Finally, it’s all going to be over. I will be much better after this meeting.” After the evaluation, the nurse gave me two options for my treatment and it was on me to select one of them or none; seeing a psychiatrist at their office or going to a research group. Here is the catch, I could get into the research group in a matter of 10-12 days while it would take me nearly a month to see a doctor at their office.

“A research group!” I thought, “those a**holes are going to make a rat out of me and throw me out after the experiment, and there is no way on earth that I wait for one next month. How the hell am I going to live my life like this for another month?”

That is when a short term solution came into my mind: suicide. There is a slight difference here. The first time I was serious about suicide because I could not see any solution to my personal issues, and now I was suicidal because I could not see any solution for my health condition. As I was exiting the hospital building I, for the first time, started making a plan to kill myself. Well, I will not share that plan for obvious reasons. At the same time I was asking myself not to go ahead with this idea. I was debating with myself, looking for ways to stop this from happening. The emergency room was 50 feet ahead of me, but the last thing I wanted to do was sit there for hours before a psychiatrist would see me and admit me. Luckily I had a brochure for a nearby crisis centre which to my luck also provided 24/7 telephonic assistance. The only thing I clearly remember saying was “I don’t want to die, but I see no other option”.

Then I started receiving regular follow ups at the centre. When I was doing a little better, I started volunteering at a food bank. I met people from all walks of life. There I realized that there are a ton of people suffering from mental health disorders, some at a more serious level. The other thing I realized was that I have to be patient. Things will fall back into place, but it is going to take some time. Slowly I started working on my issues and also learned that there are some problems I cannot solve. “Learn to choose your war”, my counsellor told me. I did get into some more trouble like an anxiety disorder, but that’s a different story. Depression taught me a lot about life. I, at times, feel happy that I went through all this. As they say, “The worst moments of your life define your future”. One of the major turning point for me, was the moment when my dad and I told my mom about me being depressed. She smiled and gave a little laugh. “I knew it from day one. I am a doctor. Your face was screaming to me about your condition. I just wanted to see when you were going to let me know”, she said. That helped me reduce the communication gap between us.

There were some ups and downs during my recovery from depression. A whole lot of things happened when I was getting better. The fact that today I am making realistic decisions, getting involved in the community, and being more patient is because of what I went through. To those who know someone who is suffering from such a disorder, I would say that your role in their life is as important as any other mental health service. And yes, it is of utmost importance to contact the associated health services, as they will be your best lifeline.

Your disorders will not destroy you, but rebuild you.

Written By: Shubhanker Joshi

Originally Published: March 2016

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