Embrace Yourself — Depression and it’s Continuous Struggle

Having struggled with depression for half of my lifetime, I identify so much with what Rich Larson said recently on Chris Cornell’s suicide.

In my journey to win over depression I have lived through some extremely dark times. Depression sucked me into some very dark pits but my belief in myself and the Universe (yes faith has a very important place in my life, perhaps it is the axis my life revolves on) brought me out into the light, each time.

Continue reading “Embrace Yourself — Depression and it’s Continuous Struggle”

Button — A poem by Jhilmil Breckenridge

Persuaded to try medication,

“very few side effects, no problem,”

the smiling Dr Atul says to my husband.

You are just another possession, a car

to be serviced, a house to maintain.

He proudly leads you home, 10 mg

of this and that, and a brand new wife,

whose buttons can be pressed and chosen

like a favourite television show. Your voice

does not matter, the thickening tongue,

the diminishing libido is minor to him.

Your body is not your own any more,

it’s limbs feel like you are swimming

in treacle, your mind anaesthetised,

your smile pasted. The new, improved

Wife, Model 101 — will last without

complaining. You just have to press the

button.

Anxiety — **What it feels like**

Imagine this.

After spending the whole day aimlessly roaming around in the city, and tonnes of selfies and hundreds of jokes later, with empty stomachs you and your friends find yourself inside a pizza parlor, laughing your guts out and enjoying yourself to the brim. Seems perfect, doesn’t it?

Well, picture this. A friend is recalling some random moment from the day and everyone is interrupting him with their own recollections and passing comments at each other and none of you is caring about how loud you are being, and you take a bite of your third slice of pizza, and just like that something inside you dies. You don’t know what it is, but it is overwhelming, confusing, and saddening. Time slows down, your friends are oblivious to what just happened, you feel your heart beating against your chest and it seems like it’s trying to break out, your body temperature rises, your palms get sweaty, you feel like crying; but there you are, munching your food down, looking at your phone even though it didn’t ring, smiling, and definitely not crying. You try to shake it off but that feeling holds on to you. You get silent, your appetite dies, your friends ask what’s up, and you just say you’re getting late and leave.

Back at home, when you’re finally done with the day and you’re on your bed, getting inside the covers, it suddenly hits you. Your eyes are closed but you try to picturise that moment once again, you put your mind on rewind and play the tape real slow trying to figure out what happened. Nothing did. You don’t understand, you were having a perfect day, you felt happy after a long time.

“Hmmm… maybe you shouldn’t have gone out and enjoyed yourself, maybe you shouldn’t have been happy and uncaring, because you don’t deserve it.”

You spring right up. “Hey! Wait a second! What? Why did you say that to yourself!? You certainly deserve being happy! You’re not a perfect human being, but you’re a perfect you! You shouldn’t think like that!”

“But, what if you’re right? I’m not saying you are, but what if? There’s loads of stuff you have to do, things are not going the way you want them to, you are still so far away from your dreams, you’re not really making a difference, you’re nowhere close to being the person you want to be, and you’re definitely not the person you should be. So… should you really be happy and enjoying yourself?”

“Maybe, you’re right! But then, what should I do? I certainly am not making a difference even when I’m trying my best, so why not take a much deserved a break. Won’t make difference anyway, would it?”

“It won’t. But you shouldn’t do that. You need to be ashamed of yourself. People expect so much from you. And if you don’t care about them, then what about you? You had so many dreams, didn’t you? Are you really not gonna try and be the person you should be. I don’t see any reason why you should be happy. There’s so much to worry about!”

“But.. I want to be happy. I’m trying to be happy, aren’t I? That’s the big picture. And since I feel good in these little moments, I fail to see what’s the harm.”

“You’re wasting your time. I told you, you don’t deserve to be happy because you’re stupid and worthless. You’re pathethic. Have you ever looked around yourself? People your age, people younger than you, are doing so much more to make this a better place and you, like a selfish little prick who doesn’t do anything other than fantasizing about how amazing the future is going to be, do nothing! Why are you even alive? You’re nothing but dead weight.”

“Stop saying this again and again! You’re not helping me!”

“I’m not here to help you! I’m here to remind of all the things you aren’t and couldn’t be.”

“But it’s not my fault!”

“Hahaha! Keep telling yourself that. It is your fault. Everything is your fault. Had you been a bit wiser, things wouldn’t have turned out this way. But no, you can’t keep your mouth shut. You always mess things up, and you always mess up bad. How are you not ashamed of yourself!?”

“I don’t know. I don’t understand what’s happening. Shut up. Leave me alone.”

“Oh, please! Now you’re backing off because you know I’m right. You disgust me. You don’t even deserve to be alive. You should just stay at home and keep yourself locked up inside a room, because everytime you’re out there things are bound to go wrong. You could’ve been such a better person, but no, you only care about yourself. No one can be more narcissistic than you. You’re useless, you’re……”

And without even realizing that tears are streaming down your face, you give up the fight. With a heavy heart you listen to your banter, agreeing. And you fall asleep.

The next morning you wake up with no remembrance of last night. But just when you’re getting up from your bed, last night’s encounter hits you like a speeding train, and suddenly you go numb. You stare at the chair infront of you, trying to remember happy moments(because people say it works, right?), but your mind draws up a blank. Boom! You’re dead again. You look at the clock, you don’t have time. You pretend it’s like any other day. And you get ready and you’re standing in front of the mirror, you look at your swollen eyes just for a second, and shift your gaze to your hair. You adjust your clothes, you touch-up your make-up, but you don’t look at yourself, afraid that the horrors of yesterday might catch up with you again.

As you’re stepping out of the house, you silently promise yourself that today you won’t smile.

Today, you won’t be happy.

But guess what? Hours later, just when the sun is going down, you find yourself at a coffee shop laughing with your friends and by now, you already know how your day is gonna end.

 — -

Pratigya Esther Ram

Pratigya Esther Ram is a 19-year-old undergrad commerce student in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh in India. When she got in touch with me, I published this here on Bhor and here on Medium.

Art: Yuriy Ibragimov; Pastel, 2012, Source: Pinterest

A Talk For Sunny Siders—A Bipolar Support Group

anhad

On Wednesday, 8 February, Namarita Kathait and I were invited to address a group called Sunny Siders, a group that meets every Wednesday at Anhad. Made up of a motley group of survivors and sufferers of bipolar disorder across ages, professions, and backgrounds, they have an interesting format. They start with checking in, just a few minutes to tell the group how their week was, and then choose a theme from any of the issues that came up, and then discuss it, as a group, come up with options and then each meeting ends with holding hands and a show of solidarity.

This meeting was different. They had asked me to share my experiences of bipolar disorder, how I live (and thrive) on no medication, and introduce the NGO I run with Namarita, Bhor Foundation, that does advocacy in the field of mental health and has started introducing poetry as therapy intro asylums and other spaces. Namarita also taught a small module on poetry and the ten attendees each wrote a poem in two ways, one, just by thinking of words, and two, using an image to see what ekphrastic verses flew. The results were startlingly good, and here is what Swati Agrawal, a Delhi based lawyer, wrote:

2016
I came out so many times
from so many shadows
as a patient, as a survivor
as mentally ill physically sick
as someone abused mentally
physically sexually emotionally
as queer, as depressed
I gave so many words to
the storms inside me
So many labels
But I still don’t fit anywhere

I shared with them my own journey of an abusive marriage, sexual trauma and being labeled since 2002. What I initially thought was bipolar disorder was not, and as the marriage ended and the sexual trauma stopped, I came back to my utterly charming self! But to stop being facetious, those years of ill-health forced me to focus on my health, read about mental health and well-being, and I was always open about my said condition, gave interviews in magazines like India Today and more, and always had words of support for others suffering with bipolar disorder. I was never on medication and in 2007, I was forcibly and illegally incarcerated in Vimhans for 46 days. This was repeated in 2012 and I spent a week in IBHAS in a general ward.

Unfortunately, this practice of families colluding and having people locked up without proper checks with psychiatrists is all too common even though the new Mental Health Law claims to have advance directives and checks and balances in place. My story along with the stories of three other women who have faced being in mental hospitals in India is captured in a 2013 documentary made by Anjali Mental Health Rights in Kolkata and is titled Come With Me and is now on YouTube.

I shared with the group my strategy of self care, exercise, fitness, mindfulness and my opinion of Big Pharma and medication. I believe strongly that medication should be used as SOS for short durations and most other chronic illnesses and conditions like bipolar disorder can be managed through exercise, sleep, and more. But more importantly than this belief is my conviction in the right to be able to choose how you want to treat your own health condition, and if some people choose medication, great, if others choose therapy, perfect, and so on.

The meeting ended with a few of us strolling to the nearby Nizammudin Dargah area for a delicious dinner and over roomali roti and paalak goshtand kababs, new friendships were forged.

nizamuddin-dinner
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Treatment

puberty-munch_edward_5

Art: Puberty by Edvard Munch, 1894

 

 

that was treatment
those hands crawling on your body
the poison injected
as you are stripped
dragged along the corridor,
the faint smell of formaldehyde
and phenyl

 

that was treatment
the laughing of nurses
the condescension of doctors
the asking of the same questions
everyday
until you utter the words they want to hear

 

that was treatment
that was treatment
that was treatment

 

in a hospital with walled windows
in a hospital with more guards
than doctors
that was treatment

 

the waking up
to odours of stale food
the laughter of guards
the ringing of their cellphones
in your cell
that was treatment

 

befriending of rajan, tour guide from ajmer
who spoke of love, loss and longing,
drooling, his feet in shackles,
his eyes telling me a hundred stories
that was treatment

 

taking a mother from her sons,
that was treatment

 

and when they strip every last bit of human dignity
along with your clothes, the skin on your bones,
the laughter in your eyes, and the sun upon your tongue
they walk with their heads held high
they are doctors, you see
treatment is the name of the game
and that was treatment

 

–© Jhilmil Breckenridge, October 10, 2016

Jhilmil is a poet, writer and activist who was incarcerated twice in India, in 2007 and 2012.

‘Psychiatric prejudice’- a new way of silencing criticism

‘Psychiatric prejudice’ is a term being bandied about these days, mainly by aggrieved psychiatrists who feel that psychiatry is not being given equal status with other medical specialities. Ordinary people, other doctors and medical students are all prejudiced because they do not appreciate that psychiatry is a proper medical activity, and critics of psychiatry are prejudiced because their analyses undermine this medical point of view (1).

Obviously,no one can afford to be labelled as prejudiced, so whether it is conscious or not, this looks like an attempt to silence criticism and shut down debate . If successful it will deny people access to many valid criticisms of psychiatric diagnoses and treatments and to hearing other views about how to respond to mental health problems.

Some of the recent accusations of psychiatric prejudice were made in response to articles in the British press by Danish doctor, Peter Gøtzsche, a leading member of the highly respected organisation for analysing medical evidence, the Cochrane Collaboration (2). Gøtzsche argued that evidence for the benefits of psychiatric drugs, like antidepressants, was so weak and flawed, and adverse effects so often under-rated or ignored, that the widespread use of these drugs was likely to be doing more harm than good. Other people have made similar claims, including Peter Breggin, Irving Kirsch and Robert Whitaker, but coming from the heart of medicine itself, this attack may have been more painful than others.

Continue reading “‘Psychiatric prejudice’- a new way of silencing criticism”

A SPIRITUAL VIEW OF DEPRESSION

SUMMARY:
Although an understanding of brain chemistry and of neuro-transmitters are among the more popular views today concerning the origin of depression, the energy of our spiritual self influences the way in which neuro-transmitters work or do not work.
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There are many views today regarding the source of depression, those that involve an understanding of brain chemistry and of neuro-transmitters being among the more popular. Yet, there remains a vast gap between the current way of treating depression as an entity – clinically, chemically, and in terms of the body – and the way of treating depression as an energy related to consciousness. This energy moves from the energy bodies that each human being contains into the physical layer of our being, thus affecting our brain chemistry. The energy of our larger, spiritual self significantly influences the way in which brain chemistry and neuro-transmitters work, and when changes are made to the flow or current, these can selectively improve the situation so that a new balance within the brain is achieved.

Continue reading “A SPIRITUAL VIEW OF DEPRESSION”