Over to Anant
Inspiration: The Great Wave off Kanagawa – Hokusai
“Utrecht, The Netherlands, 2014
It’s 5 in the morning and the sky is a deep blue mixed with black. I am dressed in a heavy jacket and boxer shorts. My boots are preventing me from the ankle deep snow on the terrace.
I am on my second beer and third cigarette of that morning. It is freezing but I don’t seem to care.
Smriti is crying softly by the door as she watches me drink and smoke. I turn around to face her and I see the small shoe prints I’ve left in the snow – from the door to where I am – connecting her and me.
This is 3 years after I’ve been diagnosed with depression. All this while I’ve refused to be medicated. Alcohol is an easy alternative. It calms me down and works as a quick fix for dealing with all the voices in my head. I’ve been a social drinker for the longest time but the first signs of trouble were when I started stocking up and drinking by myself to sleep well. Before I knew, I was drinking in the morning, at work and almost every waking moment – my friends call me the ‘most fun person to be around’. I hardly have any solid food in my diet.
Last night I promised Smriti that I was not going to drink anymore.
I’m visiting her from Bonn, Germany for the weekend. She is a dear friend and she forced me to come – even bought my tickets – because she knows I can use some company.
She continues crying and walks towards me. She takes the half burnt cigarette from my hand and throws it in the snow. Then she hugs me.
Both of us cry.
This was the first time I understood the importance of a human connection. Especially for people who are suffering from mental illness. Depression leads to detachment and everything becomes about ‘you’. The guilt that comes with ‘opening up’ in front of someone is paramount because we’ve been told to ‘be strong’ since forever. This incident makes me realise it is OK to talk about mental illness and seek help. If that help comes from a single hug from an old friend – then that is that.
I came back to India and sought medical help. Close tracking of medication and talking to friends and family about my illness helped me. Whenever I felt suicidal, I asked for help. I still call my friends and ask them to come over when I’m down – they don’t tell me anything. They listen and share a cup of tea or we listen to music. Talking to my family/friends and telling them about mental health is important because these are the people who are going to help you come out of the worst. At the expense of jinxing it, I would still say – I am now in the most stable and happy period of my entire adult life.
If you are reading this, and feel like you can’t manage things on your own – seek help – medical or personal. Reach out to people on the web – the mental health community is strong and eager to help.
If you are reading this, and know someone who is struggling with a mental condition – give them a hug.”