This is a post about mental health. I don’t claim to be an expert on the topic, the only experience I have with mental health or the lack of it is having been a sufferer for as long as I can remember. I do not use the word “depression” henceforth in this post for I am told it’s a clinical term, like diabetes, and I haven’t been diagnosed with it ever. Formally.
So here is what I find works and doesn’t work for me.
1. Sharing on social media: I am moderately open on social media about my failures and insecurities. I do this not because it helps me a lot (perhaps a bit) but because I find the insincerity of happiness projection on social media stiflingly oppressive (I am not saying I don’t do this myself, this projection). I have been advised against griping on Facebook because it gives me enemies satisfaction, and it’s true it does, but I still think it’s worth it, if only to let those that don’t share their failed dreams so openly know that they are not alone.
Here’s the thing. The unending collage of success that is your friend feed is made up of people giving you only a curated slice of their life. If they were more honest about their checkins, for instance into the waiting room at Sealdah station as they were about their checkin into Emirates first class lounge, social media might end up cooling us down rather than inflaming us further.
Is sharing your failures attention seeking? Maybe it is, but isn’t that true for all social media behavior?
2. Talking to friends doesn’t work for me. What usually happens to me is that I am told things that make me feel even worse, and since I sought that person out, I need to stay silent and bear it. Either that or I wind up listening to that person’s problems all the while thinking “which turn did I take to reach here?”
Yes it’s obvious I don’t have many friends.
3. Getting professional help. In other words, you pay so that they don’t tell you their problems.
My own experience. This has been an unmitigated disaster. Part of it has been my terrible experience with psychiatrists in Calcutta when I was in college and was in therapy for let’s just say years. Not one, but with two (one made house calls) psychiatrists. Besides the medication, which made me sleepy and made me put on weight and made me lose my metabolic balance for good but did nothing to give any sort of peace, I would sit and get shouted at by them. Yes you heard that right. Shouted at.
What will happen to my parents, what a terrible person I am for thinking like this (it should be obvious by now why I was there) and that I should “man” up. Yeah that bad. Overall these two succeeded in making me feel terrible and miserable, even more that I was, which when you think about it, was quite the achievement. And so it went on till either I cried (“man” up) or I sat stone faced and waited for the session to end. I was 21 then. For those who have read Yatrik, that story about the teacher and the boy who paints was told to me to by a person in the waiting room of the psychiatrist. The one that didn’t make house calls. The one that was the worst. There is a bit of this in Mahabharata Murders too.
4. What works for me is going to sleep. Nothing is better than rebooting the threads in your brain.
5. Maybe it’s me but I don’t think talking per se solves problems. For me reading does. I read a lot about philosophy, analytically trying to deconstruct why I feel what I feel and what I can do. I mean what can someone tell me that I haven’t already thought about myself?
6. Some toxicity in life you can’t walk away from, you own it. But some, surprisingly more than you think, you can. I walked away from Indian publishers and agents because it was pushing me to a place I knew I won’t be able to come back from. Do I miss writing? Yes I do. But it’s definitely worth what I have gained. Being sane.
And yes someday when reading habits change I will be back. Terminator style.
7. Just because you really want something the world won’t conspire to make it happen. It did for Paulo Coelho though because people bought into that shit. Just because you put your phone number in the comments of Disha Patani’s Insta account every day without fail and with full sincerity does not mean she will call you back. Recognize the boats that have sailed. And raise your hat and wave goodbye.
8. No matter how terrible you may think life is, there will be good moments, and they will come to you unannounced, the laughter of your daughter, a humming bird on a flower, a good movie, a rerun of Gunda, a great book, a perfect bite of a kabab, a kind word, being mistaken for Arnab Goswami on Twitter, and when they do happen, out of the blue, remember that moment.
Life is surprising, in bad ways of course but good too. Even if you are 9 wickets down, bat out the overs. There will be some wides, the world will overstep in your favor and who knows, it just might rain.
9. Take care of yourself, and be thankful, even if you sometimes forget what for.