Depression: An anonymous survivor’s tale

Depression can happen to anyone, any time. You’ve heard my story before, more than once.

Today, I share with you a story of an anonymous survivor who wanted you to hear her tale. When you listen, do it with compassion and empathy. You never know when you’ll need it in return.

Depression_Survivor_Anonymous_Moving Quill_Shailaja

An anonymous survivor writes

Waking up fatigued in the morning despite a good night’s sleep, irritable and confused is just one tiny part of the story. As my husband gets ready to go to work, I am still in bed tossing and pushing myself to wake up to make breakfast.

The man who’s seen it all, from a failed suicide attempt, to the helpless one who’s constantly trying to be ‘normal’. I wish our lives were simpler; I wish we were like any other married couple, because at times, it’s more like a care giver and a patient’s relationship.

How it began

It started one fateful morning about three years ago. I remember waking up and struggling to go to work. Not wanting to be spoken to, I wondered where the cheerful, bubbly me had disappeared. I carried on until one fine day when I sat looking blankly at the computer screen. I had to edit one paragraph to accommodate some simple feedback I’d got from my boss. I just couldn’t! I took leave and went home.

A couple of close friends who were concerned about my situation landed up at home and again, I didn’t want to open the door. These were the same set of people who I adored otherwise. Among the friends who’d landed up at home, there was one who’d been depressed with similar symptoms. Also, knowing my family history of depression, she urged me to see a psychiatrist, but I wasn’t ready to see one. I suddenly was reminded of my mother and all the hospital trips with her to the psychiatrist. How could I land up in a similar situation? The strong, independent me was just not willing to submit.

Therapy and medication

However, my friends decided to drag me to the psychiatrist. In hindsight, that probably was the best decision that my friends had made on my behalf. Then came the diagnosis of being depressed and with it came medication.

Again, I was reluctant. I didn’t want to be medicated, the moment I got a chance, I stopped taking the medication. Later that year, I took a break from work and tried trekking, meditation and yoga to get over depression. Initially, I thought it was just a phase and that depression was over.

The relapse

Depression again reared its ugly head again a year and a half later. And this time, the more aware ‘me’ decided that I would see the psychiatrist myself. I was again put on medication. It was difficult, being drugged and at work, trying hard to beat deadlines and keeping up to the expectation of my team, it was all draining me.

Around the same time, I was in a relationship with my (now) husband. He, of course was clueless initially. He’s the sort who loves to research and within no time he’d gathered a lot of information on depression from the internet and from a friend of his who’d studied mental health. Things were going smooth for us and we decided to get married. Marriage came with its own set of expectations. I had to leave my job and all my belongings and settle in a new country with him. The first month, I was practically in bed all the time. I just couldn’t wake up. In between, I had to again make a trip to India to apply for my residence permit. I landed in Bangalore one fateful morning, and decided to stay with my best friend this time.

An extreme step

I reached home and appeared normal until I had to leave home to get some work done. I just didn’t want to step out. I lay crying, in bed, at home and asked my husband to ferry me to Mumbai where my sister was residing. I reached Mumbai, again everyone at home was curious to know what had happened to the otherwise cheerful me. One fine morning, as I lay in bed with my husband next to me, I felt an extreme sense of helplessness.

20 minutes later I had popped 25 tabs of the anti-depressants I was prescribed.

My husband sensed something was wrong and rushed me to the hospital from where I was discharged post a stomach wash. I remember howling at my husband for rescuing me and him calmly telling me that he would have done the same thing had it been anyone else in my place.

Picking up the pieces

A few days later, I was granted the permit and I left India for good. Left behind were a lot of good friends who I missed each day.

As I tried to settle in the new environment, there suddenly seemed a lot of resistance from me. Also, as soon as I arrived in the new country, I was registered in a clinic with a therapist and a psychiatrist. I was also introduced to EMDR which helped me get over all childhood molestation flashbacks.

Lessons from my story

It’s now been a year of seeing the doctors with depression swaying in both directions, at times I feel normal and at times I am low enough to again overdose. Not many might understand the psychology of a depressed person. More often than not, risky behavior is a plea for help. And help too isn’t enough at times.

Going through the cycle of depression is exhausting and draining. Moreover, trying to appear normal in the presence of those who don’t understand or belittle the disease is tiring.

As I write this, I want you to understand that I don’t choose to be a depressive, given a choice I’d love to be my bubbly self again. And maybe I might someday return to being normal, I still live with that hope and I want you to ride on my hope, if not on your own.

22 thoughts on “Depression: An anonymous survivor’s tale

  1. It’s such a difficult thing and probably a very different “loneliness”to go through Shailaja, for yourself, for your family.. and just like any chronic illness which is not easily discernible by a third person, these become personal wars for such a long time.

  2. The story gave me goosebumps. Imagine if in these times close friends and family are not supportive, how terrible the patient might feel. Depression is still something many don’t understand. And it is only in recent times have people started becoming more sensitive to those in its ugly grasp. I hope she recovers soon. My best wishes to her and kudos to her husband for being so understanding. thank you for sharing this story.

  3. This is such a brave story. To know and to accept is perhaps the first step towards getting better. And the first step is the hardest. Your story may be helping and inspiring many more to come forward and begin healing. It’s a long journey and I’m glad you’ve started yours. The very best of luck.

  4. Such a touching tale! Kudos to her and her family. I have seen depression from close quarters. When my mother suffered, some friends and relatives too. Taking them to the psychiatrist is the biggest hurdle. Glad you carried her story here, Shy. Hope it dispels myths and gives strength to others who are suffering.

    1. I had no idea your mom suffered, Rachna 🙁 So sorry to hear that. Yes, getting them to a psychiatrist is really tough. Ask my parents.

  5. Thanks for sharing your story with us and Shailaja, thank you for this initiative. No one can understand what goes on in a person’s mind and if there are no outward signs, it becomes even more difficult to understand and help. Thank God for those few who listen more intently and see more keenly than the rest of us. Hope you feel better and have lots of support from your loved ones and friends, count me in too, if you ever need any assistance from me. Take care and be strong.

  6. People need more awareness and they need to understand that depression cannot be brushed under the carpet and it shouldn’t because it is not something to be ashamed of. I’m writing something on this about someone in S’s side of the family. It breaks my heart to see that the one who is depressed keeps suffering and the immediate family doesn’t even understand the gravity of the situation

    1. I would like to read that when it is ready, Naba! Yes we need more voices and we need more people speaking up. I hope this gets the due it deserves and without scorn or stigma.

  7. Thank You Shailaja, for bringing this story to us. Thank you Ma’am for sharing your story. It takes a lot of courage and guts to do it. Depression is hard, difficult and still the least understood. The more people share, the more people will know. I know in my heart that you will be who you want to be.

  8. Everytime I read this, I feel so bad. Having met people with similar symptoms, I have attributed it to laziness. How ignorant are we!

    1. I’ve always maintained that change can begin with the smallest step, Lata. So if it means that this will help more people understand and help them to empathise, then the job is done. And don’t blame yourself. We’ve all been there.

  9. I can imagine what you must have gone through; what you must be going through, day after day. I have had mental illness patients in the family. And I know that it is one gruelling journey which one needs to pull oneself through. .loads of love and hugs to you. I hope that a day comes – in fact, I am sure it will – when you will be your old bubbly self again!

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