The Way Forward

I remember spending my days curled up on the couch, sobbing. Through my teary eyes, I would watch my 3 year old son jump around and play. He would try to talk to me in his adorable language and I wouldn’t hear a thing. I wanted to. I wanted to get up. Hug him, play with him, go to work, even eat! But, it was like my body was weighed down. Like I was sinking to the bottom and there was no one coming to help. All I could feel was this pain, this immense sense of loss.

I knew no one could help me if I refused to help myself. I owed it to my child. I had chosen to bring him in the world and now I couldn’t just give up. I owed it to myself. I was a good person. I was loving, strong, positive and a confident woman and I had to just go find that part of myself again. And now, I was unrecognizable. Physically and mentally. I was just bones at 40 KGs and the warrior within me, a characteristic that I was associated with had disappeared somewhere.  It was time to love and respect myself again.

This pushed me to take a decision, a decision that changed my life forever. I chose to go into therapy. I was very lucky to find a wonderful therapist who I felt comfortable with and who patiently guided me for the next 6 years. Through personal and professional decisions, through career changes, through emotional upheavals, through physical injuries, through loss, through heartbreaks, through anger and through pain. The life that seemed unbearable became cherished again.

I battled through depression and anxiety. I still do. I am often asked, “What does it mean to have it?”. Am I always sad? Does nothing bring me joy? Is my day about one panic attack to another?  It isn’t. I am intrinsically a very happy and positive person. A quality my therapist noticed in the first few weeks and later confessed that, it’s the reason why she was very confident of my recovery. I understand why she didn’t share it with me in the initial years. It would have felt like this unwanted pressure to act differently than how I was feeling.

The thing is, therapy isn’t a magic pill. You walk in, you pop it and you are transformed. It involves a lot of work. Your therapist can guide you, but the brunt of the work has to be done by you. You have to use the tools, the coping mechanisms to not just deal with difficult moments but also to grow and change as a person, a person that is a much better version of what they were before. Not that, you aren’t good enough right now. But evolving, learning and discovering oneself is a journey that we all must take. Not just for ourselves but for those who are in our life and love us, cherish us and are invested in our happiness.

I wish that I could say, I did all of it and my life was nothing but a bed of roses after it. I didn’t. I sometimes slagged, chose to wallow in self-pity, make absolutely wrong choices, self-sabotage multiple times. Despite being explicitly shown and told what was harmful for me, I chose to focus on instant gratification (read wrong friends, lifestyle and choices) than look at what’s good for me in the long run. And I did suffer because of it. I went through a severely painful stretch again, years after I had thought, that I had it in control. And this time, it wasn’t the chemicals in my brain or external factors that I couldn’t manage. It was me. I did it to myself and I had to accept it.

Yes, I was hurt and torn apart by other’s actions. My faith and trust was shattered and I was back at a destructive place. I felt hurt, abused, manipulated and discarded. Who was responsible? The people who did it or me? While they made their choices, I also had made my own. I had decided to stick around for years despite seeing the warning signs and the red flags. I had conditioned and enabled them to treat me the way, I suddenly couldn’t bear anymore. Because it was easy to stay than to accept that I had made a mistake. That I had made a huge error of judgement.

I went back into therapy, focused on myself, on the people around me who had chosen me and my well being and let go of all that added nothing positive to my life. This didn’t happen overnight. It was again a process of several months stretching onto years. Talking to those who were open to listening, connecting with others with similar stories on mental health forums and remembering that I have a great life, helped me through.

I would be a big, fat liar if I said that I did it all on my own. Apart from my therapist, I had and have a wonderful and supportive family. While they might not always get what I am going through, they make an effort to understand and help me in any way that I would like. Sometimes by just giving me my space. A bunch of absolutely wonderful friends scattered through the world, who have sat through my texts that are sometimes pages long. Held my hand, took me out, let me cry and even let me curse. Best part, the tough love that I sometimes needed, a mirror to show that I was being stupid and I am glad each one of the people mentioned here, came through for me.

So back to the question. Have a completely recovered? No I haven’t. While I don’t sob my days away anymore, I still have triggers, set of bad days, anxiety attacks, sleepless nights. But, I also know that that’s not something that rules or defines my life. I have my coping mechanisms and tools. I know that it’s not permanent. It’s going to pass. And I am going to feel better in a few minutes, hours or days, no matter how long it takes but I will feel better. Mainly, it’s in my control, and it’s not going to be about tomorrow or the next Monday. I am going to be working on myself from this very moment on. Because nothing else demands my attention more than my own well-being which in turn affects the happiness of the people in my life. People who deserve to be happy themselves.

This path of battling a chronic mental illness has made me lose a lot but also gain so much more. I might have overcome old triggers, but sadly developed a few new ones. There are new challenges, but I don’t ignore them. I love the person I have become and continue to evolve. I am happy, I know who are the ones I can depend on, I know what really brings joy. Mostly, I am in awe of the Badass I have become.

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