Wednesday, 28 May 2014

How crochet saved my life and other stories of mental health

Crochet is as feminine as you can get. It uses thread and a hook to create extremely beautiful things, a skill that's been handed down from one generation of nimble fingers to another. Folks ask me, sometimes, how I started to crochet. It was a bored summer vacation, we hadn't gone anywhere that year. I was in class eight or nine, or in between and possibly getting on my mother's nerves. A neighbour offered to teach me crochet and my mum jumped at it. I was a non-indoors kid. I wasn't interested in sewing, cooking, working with hands (or any of the other things that were thought generally "girly" or non-cerebral) but I am also extremely polite and couldn't say no even though I wanted to. I made some really ugly pen-holder covers and coasters in bright red and yellow acrylic yarn. Safe to say I was nowhere close to being hooked. I let it go after that summer and didn't pick it up again till I was 27. From then on, I crocheted intermittently till last year where I launched into it rather feverishly. It saved my life, and not just literally.

Recently, a flight attendant had a job offer withdrawn by Emirates when they found out she had once been treated for depression. I was angry, saddened and outraged by this in equal measure. People with mental illnesses have it tough as it is, without them being at the mercy of unemployment. In light of that, the following post is about mental illness, two of which I live with. If you'd like to stop now, you should. Because, I know, one story of mental illness sounds like another story of mental illness. And it might be exactly the same thing. Because illnesses are a great leveller. But every time a story is told, two things happen.
1. The person who tells the story feels, I think, better, in varying degrees.
2. Some lonely old soul, ill herself, might find hope in the fact that there is another one like her, and that help is possible. 

In the summer of 2012, I was diagnosed with one mental illness. I remember the diagnosis making me laugh. Such an inappropriate reaction, I thought to myself even as I laughed and I couldn't understand it. But apparently, that's how most of us react to news we don't understand. Since forever, I'd been told I was mature far beyond my age, I'd been told how strong I was, how even my grandmother felt stronger because I was around, how my female friends felt the same. My bane, funnily enough, is that I'd never been told I can't do something.

I sat in the doctor's office hearing her say, "I wish it was bipolar, (as suspected) it would have been easier to treat." (A little lacking in her bedside manner, I thought, fleetingly.) I laughed, sought to understand the condition a little more ("I urge you to read online about it.") and asked her what I must do next. I was diagnosed with borderline personality disordera not very well understood disorder, and fairly new in terms of research and ideal treatment. I now knew why I was screwing up so badly for the few years before that. My life, almost literally, was unravelling. If you don't mind a little personal information, read on. I was underperfoming at my job, made worse by the fear I'd get the boot. I was living in a (second) ruined marriage, I was angry all the time, or sad. I had been sleeping for perhaps two hours a night, or not at all, for about three years. I was yelling at my kids, I was overcompensating for it by stretching beyond my means to give them things and experiences. I spent money badly. I was alienating everyone in my family, parents and brother who genuinely love and care for me (although in their own definition of it) and I gradually stopped reaching out to close friends. I kept new friendships superficial, albeit genuine. Nothing, in short, was going right and I came to a point where I felt everything was spinning way out of my control. 

If you've ever played the fun game of imagining what it is like to be in the middle of a whirlpool trying to gather loose pages of your 800-page manuscript, while wanting to save a couple of somersaulting kids, and your favourite shoes, tying up your hair, drinking your last glass of wine, then you probably know what it felt like to be me then. I'd fix one thing and another would fall apart, I just couldn't keep up. I ran and ran, I struggled to keep it together but somewhere a leak sprung, then another, and another. I was tired of it and in October of that year, even though I had started on anti-depressants, I tried to end my life (obviously unsuccessfully). You'd think after drinking a solution of finely-powdered coal mixed with water (what they gave me in the hospital to clean my stomach) and being made to solemnly promise to the police (yes) that I would never do such a thing, I'd have better sense than to try it again. You'd be wrong. Because about eight months later I did it again.

My self-worth, my sense of how dispensable I was, sense of having done nothing right was so deep that even the presence of my kids didn't stop me from wanting to end it all. So when the nurse asked me why I did it and hadn't the thought of kids stopped me, I found myself saying I was convinced that anyone who took charge of them after I was gone -- their father, my parents, my brother -- would do a better job than I did or would do. It was after my second episode, when my medication and the therapy was going r.e.a.l.l.y slow, that I was diagnosed with bipolar-disorder as well. While the borderline personality disorder explained the intensity of joys and sadnesses, when I felt them, my inability to maintain 'normal', peaceful relationships, my constantly-slipping world and my irrational anger, this one explained better my erratic swinging between great highs and great lows. The latter was easier to treat, I was told, because it had more to do with chemicals in my brain than with my very personality. 

The first time I tried to commit suicide, my folks were around and enlisted the help of their friends who were also their neighbours, for moral support I guess. In hushed tones, this lady told me consolingly that their daughter too had gone through a rough patch some time ago and needed help, though they mostly keep it quiet. I was too spaced out to ask why, and grateful that they were there for my parents, but I remember thinking why. Moving on from there, I remember thinking, if more people knew about mental illnesses, panicky, desperate cases like me would be easier to spot. 

It would be safe to say mental illness is as debilitating to your life as cancer is to your body. It isn't easy to spot, in yourself or in someone else, because we all have different ideas of what is normal. Perhaps there is no normal, but I am sure there is happy, there is peace, there is love, there is gratitude and there is contentment. If you find none of these in your life for long periods, then you need some level of help.

I belong to a Facebook group that has women as members. It's all kinds of things from a place for networking to seeking support, apart from being a place to meet other like-minded women. The number of difficult, sad, painful stories on that group astounds me. For each real story of pain and depression, I want to reach out and hold that woman and tell her there's no guarantee that things will be any better, and all we can do is try. Their posts, strength, dilemmas all make me cry. Many others, within and outside that group, don't have the kind of support I do. I don't even want to imagine what their challenges are like. 

Today, I live completely broken. I say this as a matter of fact and admission. It is not an attempt at pity, from myself or anyone else. I say it as a matter of truth: I live with the generous financial support of my parents, the support of my counsellor, the deep, miraculous kindness of my friends and the everyday reminder that I have kids touched by the best of the universe. I am thankful for it every day but the truth is nothing works in my life, right now, in the way that will make me independent and secure. I struggle for companionship. I struggle to live a life that is fulfilling because many times, I can't do the things I want to -- either for mental or emotional reasons, or financial ones. I struggle to do everyday things on some days: be civil to my kids, bathe, eat, answer calls, meet deadlines. I do more things in one day that I hate myself for than a whole month-ful of things for which I like myself. I am terrified to join the work-force again because I feel I might get in my own way of success, or even functioning. I still cry a lot, I am still deeply sad, I still fly into terrifying rages, I still feel the strong clutches of hopelessness and despair and I continue to have suicidal thoughts. 

But the counselling has brought back a modicum of self-awareness and preservation. I am able to keep the suicidal tendencies and thoughts at bay, but with great, great difficulty. I fight hard when I fight back against the desire to end it all, but it's usually touch and go, like a really close, really equal arm-wrestling match that you don't know which way it is going to go. I can't stress enough the importance of getting help, of sticking to your counsellor till he or she tells you, no matter how much better you're feeling. 

One of the things I discovered through the most difficult phases in the last couple of years is that depression, a huge part of many mental illnesses, is deeply seductive. It loves holding you in its cold, lonely womb and you feel safe there, because you can continue to beat yourself up over all the things that you think you did wrong. Why is beating yourself up so comforting? I don't know, because it is natural, I guess. As kids, we aren't taught to feel good about ourselves, we aren't taught to feel proud of our achievements. Our small triumphs are always compared with the bigger ones of others, and so the natural thing for us to do is to self-flagellate, to berate ourselves till we can shed responsibility for what we do. 

The other thing I discovered was not everyone will believe you, understand you or try to understand you. Family members will be in denial (my father and brother still are, constantly challenging my explanations of why I am the way I am or blaming me directly for my "failures".) Friends will say, "oh, that's the latest fad, everyone seems to have it". (I don't blame them for thinking that, though, India has very very large numbers of depressed people alone, so I can't imagine the numbers for other mental health issues.) Others will quietly listen to you and make sure they don't get in touch often. But then there are others who will put every bit of kindness and gentleness their soul can summon and shower it on you. In my estimation, none of this is their fault. We talk too little about mental health issues in India and the reason I write this fractured, and possible uninteresting post, is to contribute to the small number of voices that talks about mental health issues to bring it out into a less shameful, more supportive space. (In fact, even as I write this I hesitate to post a link on my Facebook because, you know, how will it affect my family. I don't even know if this is worth sharing, in fact.)

And this is where I will come back to my crochet. The mindless hours I spend doing the work of crochet, of repetitively using my hook, of constantly being surrounded by my yarn, helped me see some things. First of which was to see how working with your hands gives you some level of focus and clarity. I found out making beautiful things that people like is deeply gratifying, but there also lies the trap of validation and seeking approval. Doing hours of crochet allowed me sit at home, be asocial and yet be productive. I understood why many, many treatment systems use occupational therapy. Seeing all the colours of my yarn, envisioning a product, designing it and finally finishing it all give me varying levels of satisfaction, and joy. It's a great tool to shut my mind down and not think about the bad things, and by the time I am done fighting the darkness in my head, I've created something that's beautiful and usable. 

I don't know where I am headed. I do hope, though, that I'll live to see my kids grow up into happy adults, that I'll find companionship again, someone I can fall in love with and someone who might feel the same way about me. I hope I'll ease the pain that I cause my family. I hope I'll leave a mark in this world in some small way, find my own place in the sun. I have a long way to go, I am nowhere close to taking complete control of my own life, and at 34, that makes me feel all kinds of terrible things. On good days, I have great hope and optimism. On bad days, like today, I can't even write a decent blog post. All I can do is continue to focus on my one reason to not crash the car the next time I drive. A photograph of my kids on my phone's lock-screen helps me do that.

*****

If you think you might be suffering from depression or any other mental illness, here are a few things that I hope will help. 

1. Go to a good counsellor any way. You could come away with an all-clear. My suggestion would be to go to a counsellor instead of heading to a psychiatrist first. I find the latter, in India, are all too eager to prescribe medication, and have generally found them less willing to listen, and use alternate therapies. A good psychiatrist or psychologist will usually suggest a combination of medication and what is informally called talk-therapy. I was lucky enough to find it at NIMHANS.

2. I regularly told two people in my life that I think something is wrong with me and that I need help. They were in denial and didn't make much of it. (I don't blame them, I was a fully functioning individual.) Don't be afraid to tell someone you love and/or trust that you want to seek help, and badger them over it. Enlisting support to go to a counsellor is a good idea, the diagnosis can be a bit sudden and quite possibly, a shock to take.

3. Don't overread or take pop-quizzes and self-diagnose. We all have traits of most "disorders" in us. Only when they start affecting the smooth functioning of your life can it be considered a problem.

4. You don't have to be ashamed, afraid, cynical. You might be extremely intelligent, extremely self-aware and you might think no counsellor can help you. I did. I was wrong.

5. Find a hobby. 

51 comments:

Clueless said...

One big tight hug, Sandhya! All my love and prayers to you. It was just a couple days back that i was searching the internet for answers to why my brain is wracked with so much sadness that i cant get away from. And my heart hurts when i read of others who might feel the same anguish. Your strength gives me hope. Bless you and I hope we all make it to the end.

The Visitor said...

*Hugs* TRQ. We are all there.

Vinodini Iyer said...

Your candidness in coming out openly with your problems is quite touching. Although it is clear from your post that you've been through lots, I somehow get a feeling that there's a fighter within you who will see you through this and bring you better days.
My best wishes to you for future. Thanks for sharing. I'm sure a lot of us will benefit from this post.

Saai said...

Sandhya I relate so much to ur story... crochet hs been therapeutic fr me too... n secondly listening to Brahmakumaris. ...
Lots of love to u

srinidhi said...

Thank you for writing this. Beautiful! Love and strength. :)

Shel© said...

Sandy, it takes a lot to share something as personal as this. Just want you to know that you are loved for who you are, and will always be. Praying for you. -Shel

haathitime.com said...

As someone who is such a fan of your writing, and someone who has been following your wonderful crochet creations on instagram, I am amazed that the contents of this post and the beautiful things you make come from the same place :) I think what your hands and heart can do, has the power to fight what goes on in your head sometimes.

I dont want to say anything more by way of support, because I wonder what random words from a blog reader can really mean at the end of the day. But I do want to say this: you repeatedly say this post is incoherent, but as I read it I was amazed at the clarity and courage to talk about what you experienced, that comes through in this post. More people need to see this. Lots of love and strength to you.

Sumi Thomas said...

I'm sitting here, reading your post and crying. I just want to reach out and hug you, for your courage in not giving up and for the sheer guts it took to blog about your life. There's such a stigma attached to mental illness in our society that it's often, like you note, difficult to search for and find help. I hope your blog will reach out and touch the lives of those who are looking for help as well as those who are in a position to help.
Will keep you in my prayers, Sandhya. Lots of hugs.

Akhilesh Chandra Bhatt said...

Beautiful piece of writing.. Next time when u feel low, read this post again n u will get to know, How Brave n Beautiful Soul you have. :)
Take care :)

Journomuse said...

We aren't even told or trained to react to such situations, are we? What is the right measure of 'I understand, but haven't lived through it', 'I wish I could be there, but is FB/social media support hypocritical' and more importantly, 'is sharing the story with someone else I know is suffering bipolar disorder without it being named that, a way of voyeuristically sharing your life without your permission?' Multiple questions and the need to not be intrusive or overtly curious makes it worse. But I so hope that your little ones get to see you and the immensely talented and brave woman that you are. A mother with all her faults and shortcomings is still a mother every child needs.. But I'm sure when they grow up they will realise they had an extraordinary one. Hugggs and take it one day at a time.. But isn't that what all of us have to do? :)

Randomness said...
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Randomness said...
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Randomness said...

Sandhya I can't tell you how much this post means to me. 3 years back I found myself living alone with my 1 year old boy while his dad was doing his mba in pune. I was working, trying to run my home, taking care of my kid and was sending my husband money. And then I realized he was having an affair there. What's worst is after having confronted him with this I went on to say "okay, what's happened has happened. Can we please put this behind us and move forward" and was told that he's not sure he wanted to. As if that wasn't bad enough, I very shamelessly proceeded to wait for the next year and a half for HIM to decide if he wants us back. Something people who are close to me still can't believe of me cos as you've mentioned, I was always seen as the strong one who would never take something like that lying down.
That year and a half I stopped being human. I realized I'd given up on my life, on any hopes of happiness or love. I'd resigned myself to simply mechanically functioning for the rest of my life, for at least until my son needed me. I simply put up a face, functioned, played with my son but couldn't wait for him to sleep so I could cry my frustration and resignation and hopelessness out. Night after night.


At 28 I'd decided that I don't matter. Except as my kid's mother, I have no other existence. I was sad and angry all the time about the fact that my life was over but still, I ad decided it was.


And the truth is I didn't realize that's what I was doing. I went on to alienate all my close ones locking them out, rather, protecting them from any knowledge of this mess. Thankfully, I was discovered by some strangers in this situation, from Twitter if you'd believe me because strangers were okay. They went on to become my security net, my sanity and at times a slap on my face where needed. (I was asked to stop being mother India and I love this person for that.)


3 years down today, I am divorced, a confident single mother. Two months back I left the job I wasn't enjoying but was working at for 3 years because at that point I was doing it for everyone else. My likes didn't matter.

My parents do support me right now but I am in a place where i think it's okay to take my time to consider what I want to do next with my life to keep ME happy. I have started to try and convince myself that I matter also. That there is nothing wrong in that. Something I'd given up on in those 3 years before.


The one thing I kept wanting to do was meet a counselor but somehow never did because I didn't care what became of me. There are still bad days but much fewer. And I'm glad for the people I eventually let in.

And yes I love crocheting as well.


You are one brave, inspiring soul. Always always know that. I had tears streaming down while reading this. A big tight hug to you.

P.S This is TheArchness from twitter. :)

shikha said...

This is probably one of the most intelligent posts I've read in a LONG time - by no measure is it uninteresting, and quite the opposite of fractured. I hung on to every word of your articulation and there is a lot of power in the clarity that comes from it.

It's funny how the inner demons and the slight twists of your mind, as well as years of negative conditioning can debilitate you so much that each day of living is torture. It's funny, and yet so real that it's scary. A few years ago, I came very close to questioning my own sanity while in a bad relationship. As a person who's way too "normal and stable" at times, and significantly lucky to have life align in perfect ways around me, the world of depression was a hop away... which is pretty easy when you have people around you who can drive you up the edge and push you off it - sometimes, it has nothing to do with you at all.

It helped me to have people like you who wrote about what they were dealing with. At one time, when I read an article online, I felt like I'd been hit with a ton of books - it was the weight of my own self-realization. I also turned to counselling and found just as you did, that there's no alternative cure to talking it through with people who are able to disconnect your experiences with themselves. I read a book called The Happiness Project, which pulled me out of my self-imposed-cave and did something similar to what crochet does for you - help see meaning in creating/doing little things, and keeping your mind occupied. I also thanked myself then that I didn't have kids - I don't think I could have been responsible for anyone beyond myself at the time. Crawling into a cave is your own decision, but you are also responsible for crawling out of it - and you need time for this... time that the world doesn't give you often.

Thank you for the writing this piece. The mind is an incredible instrument - so brilliant and yet so self-destructive. And yet here you are. Inching your way up. Love you :).

kaaju katli said...

Sandhya you brave girl, thank you for writing this post. You will have helped more people than you can imagine. Love! Indu

Blasphemous Aesthete said...

If I can help, I think, it would be by saying that 'I understand' that I don't understand it fully but understand it enough to see how bad it can be.
But of late, I've been trying to find out why, and it is funny that all the help in the universe comes to your disposal at the right time. Pardon me for my ignorance of over or underestimating the extent of this disorder (let us not call it an illness in the first place. It is a dis-order, let it be understood and known that way).
Here is certain validation of what you tell, and hope that we will get better. Since companionship to sufferers is what you are providing here, I offer you the companionship of another, William Styron, a prolific writer and a sufferer of deep depression himself. He corroborates your statement when he says “It thus remains nearly incomprehensible to those who have not experienced it in its extreme mode, although the gloom, ‘the blues’ which people go through occasionally and dissociate with the general hassle of everyday existence of such prevalence that they do give many individuals a hint of the illness in its catastrophic form.”
Jonathan Rottenberg, himself a sufferer of depression during his youthful life, now recovered and a professor in psychology recently wrote a book that tries to rid the impasse that various attempts at curing depression by the 'illness' model has reached. Rather than trying to mitigate the chemical wrongs that happen because the mood swings out of order, he tries to find out why low mood (which is in innate tendency of all animals when in danger) spirals out of order into depression.
That is one reason why I ask you to call it a disorder of the mood, not an illness which implies that something is broken. Something is out of control, not broken, and it is frustrating to know that you don't know what.
I pray that you get rid of the anti-depressants gradually but surely, since they are addictive and their withdrawal symptoms are even worse. How do I know? And why do I care? I know somebody close who has been suffering silently for more than 35 years, even before I was born and yet no one else seems to care what havoc it can wreak on them. It also has some genetic likability and hence awareness is prime, for a self-correcting trajectory which doesn't spiral down.
General unawareness, as I’ve noticed is a cause of much misery for people and partly (I think) the unappealing name of this debilitating malaise is the reason of this general unawareness. So when someone tells you that they’ve been diagnosed with, say Parkinson’s disease, you immediately open up all the medical resources at your disposal (Wikipedia being one of the most frequented resource for autodidacts of medicine), and find how the disease takes its course. But when someone tells you that they’re suffering from depression, you think it is a common thing. I’ve heard many of my friends say, when they’re sad, that they are suffering from depression, and earlier I used to not take it seriously, thinking that they have no idea what depression might be like. We shoot down the claim as ‘we all go through it, we all have bad days’. It is insulting, apathetic, humiliating.
You are quite right, a hobby, a sense of purpose is what helps most people out of this well, but also pay attention to your physical wellbeing, since it is the 'Executive function' of the brain which has it worst (which also accounts for your loss of appetite in seeking social company, even though you know you need it and other forms of novelty.) It is this Executive function that controls the carnal functions by sending out signals of 'being in control' under normal conditions and also triggers the alarms of 'fight or flight' in case of danger. So, if it takes a hit, you know what ensues and that is why, you must force yourself for physical wellbeing, even when your brain tells you to stay in bed.

Bless you,
Blasphemous Aesthete

Blasphemous Aesthete said...

In case you want to audit the books from where I've gathered this little half-wisdom, here are a few starting points (two of them are my own reviews, one is a discussion on what I felt and the 'Brainpickings Article' is the one which set this entire ball rolling). Please note, if you decide to read them (the books), don't read them as a sufferer, but as a surgeon who is looking for possible answers. I read them and derived hope from them, while the sufferer who read them only noted the dark points, like suicidal tendencies and that there is not one shot cure.
Brainpicking Article on Depression
William Styron - 'Darkness Visible Book Review'
William Styron: Book Discussion and Excerpts
Johnathan Rottenberg: The Evolutionary Origins of the Depression Epidemic

Regards,
Blasphemous Aesthete

Gesu Aftab said...

Sandhya,

I have known you in SIMC days. There is one particular incident apart from our brief friendship that did not allow me to forget you all these years. And trust me it comes to me every time I see a happy child. During our study tour to Karvar (or wherever we were taken) we all were busy in a very shitty and pathetic procedure of presentations. you, me and Shekhar use to quietly exchange poetry. One of these days it started to rain and wow!!!! you jumped up from this class of 120 plus idiots in making including me, paying through our nose to suppress our originality and be cloned into an idiot who was leading us. you jumped up and ran out into the rain. you danced till you were drenched. you had a broad smile on your face.
I loved you in that moment. you were the only real person there.
This is who you are! You are neither in depression nor fighting a mental illness. you are just shying away from the luminescence of your being. the day you learn to accept it without judgment and excuses, you will switch from fighting depression or bipolarity to the dance that you are made of.
Geniuses like you often hide behind such shabby excuses.
when you are ready to show up as the awesome being that you are, life will work accordingly.
love and hugs until then ;-)

Sreedevi said...

Colours are a probably a great way to fight and overcome the grey & black in life. What do I feel after reading this? For one, I have wet eyes. And what instantly connected with is this line " because we all have different ideas of what is normal. Perhaps there is no normal...". A big big hug simply for saying it as is it. It's often a relief to know you aren't the only one, and to know there is hope of help. Your words do that. It did to me :) Keep that bright, brave, beautiful you going. It inspires a lot of others. Hugs.

yamini vijayan said...

I bet this post will bring comfort to a lot of people. We need more honest writers like you.

Nuzhat Aziz said...

Sandhya, a tight hug from my side. we met in DNA After Hrs.. and since then we have been in touch... but have not been very regular. Just wanted you to know that I always thought you are extremely talented and a rockstar! Remember that and be happy... today and always... reach out to me in you ever ever ever need anything. God Bless!

Kiran Manral said...

Big hugs. And some more.

The Impending me! said...

Thanks for sharing your story. You certainly are not alone.

Fooodie said...

Thanks for writing this. My wife has this disorder. It has been difficult for me to deal with her but now I know that i just need to love her more.

TheComment said...

I'm stuck between offering you yet another hug on Twitter and writing a comment longer than your own blogpost. But I won't do both. I just want to say thank you. You've opened the floodgates. And it is for my good. I've been in denial for the past I-don't-know-how-many years. I've done all the wrong things. I've diagnosed myself through Google and bullied the pharmacy to give me medicines, names I picked up from online forums. Then when I started feeling better, I was so scared and couldn't handle the 'normalcy' (which I think could have also been a side effect) and so stopped. Messed myself up some more and now I'm back to denial mode again.
You've given me that much needed kick. And some sense. I hope I can get my act together soon.
This blogpost must have been catharitic for you, but you can't imagine the number of people that it has touched in so many different ways today.
I'm not offering you those hugs. You've got enough today. Continue to be awesome.

Whiterays said...

You are one brave woman. BRAVE. Please don't ever think of quitting.

Swetha

Siva said...

You had put all your thoughts in an Intelligent and smart way which many of us are in a position to do and whatever you had written will help a lot of people who are undergoing this silently. Kudos to you! I feel that you are much smarter and better than any of us. Take care.

Nikhil Ramankutty said...

Thank you for writing this. It takes great courage to open up to the extent that you have in this post. I can't tell you how much admiration I have for the way you have put yourself out there to help advance the cause of better and more meaningful conversations about mental illnesses in our society.

Arnold Brame said...

In present days the cases of suicide is increasing. The main problem is people suffers from mental problems. If you are facing from mental related problems and wants to get rid of it, the best option is mental health assessment. Many people have been cured from this assessment and really satisfied.

Regard
Arnold Brame
Health and Safety Training UK.

MJ said...

Dear Sandhya,

So so much respect for your stance on awareness. To share your story with such vulnerability is a gift. Your words brought me to tears.

"The Wound is the place where the Light enters" as Rumi said. So much brightness and creation and joy comes through life's toughest experiences. I know that you are climbing a steep uphill mountain, but I truly believe that you will be able to look back on this time as a time of new learning and discovery about this amazing person that is ALL of you - both light and dark.

You claim to be broken, but I see you being so whole in integrating and accepting parts of you that are taboo, that are not as comfortable and people pleasing.
You cannot be defined or boxed in a mental illness box, and I hope you realize you have so much to share and give to this world - which you do in your unique way by just being you. Having a "job" is hardly a measure of value. And you're so valuable to this world with your powerful voice.

Just know that we're all out here, sending you the most positive of energy to find your peace with this journey.

- Monisha

WorkWise said...

Hey Sandhya, so rpoud of you for the very unIndian talking about vulnerability so ... well eloquently. YOu write so so well. Please keep writing. Have been through depression myself. What helped me most: 1) Advice from my dad - depression means that your mind needs to think through something. Give it the space and time to do so. 2) Advice from a dear friend - just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Choose action, any action. 3) My own expreince: take an early morning walk and pray. Prayer helps hugely. It allows you to shrug and rest your troubles for a bit and feel loved and safe ... thanks for writing this again, Richa

Akrishnan said...

I really admire your courage and your perseverance for fighting back and tackling your internal battles . And I truly believe you are a woman of substance, no one can come up so openly to talk about mental illness the way you just did it! Believe me, your kids will love you for your courage and will always be proud of you! Just the way I love my mom and her bipolar :)

Being a daughter of a bipolar mother, I have had been through a lot since my childhood. My mother was treated more like a child in our house ( my dad pampered her to the core - he is her strength, the one who helped her fight back the shitty bipolar). Back then, I had no clue of her ups and downs, her eccentric behavior, her irritable moods, her ignorance, her depression etc. I sometimes used to hate her for not being able to connect with me or being there whenever I needed her. A few years back she was diagnosed with bipolar that's when we got to know the number of relapses that she had over a period of 30 years. I guess we were ( my brother and me) too small ( rather unaware) to understand the pain & struggle she was going through. Today, when I look back I seriously regret of not being aware of the situation what so ever. I forgive her for all her mood swings, i forgive her for all her ignorance because she had always been a loving, caring, strong person, it was the freaking bipolar which created the whole nuisance in her life. Thankfully, she is doing fine now and leading a normal life. And yes, crochet is her favorite hobby too :)

I would certainly like to emphasize one point here that although it is very difficult for people to come in terms with any mental illness, the situation is stressful for both, the one who is going through and his/her immediate family. Both have the same set of vulnerabilities & worries, why this is happening, when and how long will it take, will it get better ever and so on...Being a care taker, all we can do is provide them ample trust, love, care and be patient. Being a mother/daughter/brother/dad/sister/friend if you are aware of the fact that the person is suffering from mental illness, all you could do is lend a helping hand, fill their lives with warmth and love so that they can lead a normal life.

P.S. - Every depression, every panic attack or mood swings have to be addressed and should not be ignored blaming PMSs.

Jay Menon said...

By sheer accident, I stumbled on to your blog, your post. I wasn't sure how and what I may pen as a comment. Words can be anemic especially when they need to bleed. That is the supreme paradox of what we are and what we have. I have a rather modest blog and I am just about to post a blurb on what I call the human condition a bit of which came to my mind while I was reading your post. I am not one of those compulsive optimists, there is enough in life to be brooding about, bitter about and anguished about. Aphorisms and epigrams abound, when it comes to prescriptive inspiration, when it comes to how and why we unfortunate humans should fight living's ills or fate's conspiracies. But then, if they could be taken as a capsule after dinner, we will all be placid creatures with all anxieties so readily tranquilized and fears eased. Only living through the day, day by day, taking life as it comes by is what does it. Like looking one's own demons in the face. With the steely certainty that he will blink. Sounds like a cliché, but much of life is lived through clichés. One must make a necessary premise very early that life is worth living, because it may be the most impossible of conclusions.
There may be a lot in life that does not dance to our beat, then there is a lot where we set the beat and we make things dance. By patience, by will. Cliché again. Then often life shows its own caprice and things fall into groves that we never knew existed. This is not one of those 'time will heal' routines, but it does happen inexplicably. When we are at the end of our rope, suddenly the ground under our feet shifts. No divine providence, just chance which seems to have its own design.
So whether it is creating beautiful things with your crochet or becoming the echo of your children's world or nursing the hope of finding love again, they are all devices to spring you back into what you are and what you want to be. Think that you are in the sun. And keep on writing, there is no better tonic.

hema said...

Brave post, Sandhya. Thank you for writing this. I have clawed my way out of depression and anxiety and I can relate to a large extent. You've come a long way. With this much self-awareness, it can only get better. Big hugs from a stranger. I hope you have read Allie Brosh's blog. Please do if you haven't. Love and light.

Varun said...

It takes great courage to write this but i think it takes even greater strength of character to write it so transparently and with a purpose. And you are one bloody talented writer. So much clarity of thought, such sharp observations, and solid storytelling. And that too when things around you are so shaky. Keep writing...may be a monthly update of your fight.

Shaila Faleiro said...

What a fabulous, fantastic post, Sandhya Menon. You are courageous beyond words and a fantastic writer. I hope bells are ringing in your head about what that means because they are ringing in mine. I don't know you but I love you already.

monikamanchanda said...

I read this post the day it was up and I have been sitting on it. Thinking what should I write. So many of those things resonated with me at so many levels.

I have a depressive since many years now (I think this is the first time I have ever said it in public, the forum you speak off apart), I have a sister who schizophrenia + OCD. Father in law was suspected schizophrenia though really in those days we can't be sure. Some doctors in the end said Bipolar too.

I know every feeling that you are talking about, the trying to suicide one to just being able to control the suicidal feelings at bay, to struggling each day , to staying away from the work force to finding a hobby

Like I said somewhere, more power to brave souls like you who are sharing their story in the means of supporting us all.

Big hugs and a heartfealt thanks Sandhya

You will never know how much it means to some people

Love
Mon

CrochetBlogger said...

Thanks so much for sharing your story. I have a history of depression myself, which I've shared in my book Crochet Saved My Life. I think it's so important that we share the truth about who we are - good and flawed and the things that we've found that help us be our better selves.

Hugs!
Kathryn Vercillo

Rama Kannan said...

Sandhya, Hang in there, I am sure things will turn out fine. Empty words maybe but I had to say them. Reading this post made me see how brave you are and how difficult it was for you to share but you did it because you felt you had to. And it helped. Take care, Rama

batulm said...

Very brave, Sandhya. Keep going. And thanks for sharing.

Nikita Banerjee Bhagat said...

Enjoy each day as it comes :)

Almas Kiran Shamim said...

Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us. :) I am sure it'll be a grt support for those random google searching souls... who have not yet seen a counselor.

br said...

I've just read your post. I hope you are doing alright and happy. If not, buzz in to say hello on twitter. I hope to make you smile, coz your messages to me do!
Take care

Illuminations said...

Sandhya,

Thank you for your courageous and searingly honest post. It was the most riveting thing I have read in the recent past and it was by no means fractured or meandering or incomprehensible...

This has a meant a lot to me...again - Thank You.

Ashwini

Tee said...

Thank you for openly acknowledging mental illness. I have recently developed a form of OCD and have been suffering immensely from it for the past 6 months. What helps (and I think it will help you as well) is teaching yourself to separate the real you from the voice in your head. I recommend reading The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. Hang in there.

Swapna Pillai said...

Reading it again. I read everything you write. I haven't come across anyone more articulate. And I can't wait to grab a signed copy of the book you will write. Your courage touches me in a way words cannot express. I hope to meet you some day. I love you very much already. More power to you.
Swapna

trees said...

I came to this post via a friend who posted it on FB and can't thank you enough. For the courage you have shown in talking about something so personal and for my light bulb moment of realization that I should have understood sooner similar signs in a person I love dearly. She is now in a better place, with acceptance from me and complete support from her spouse.
Sandhya, you have a powerful way with words. Don't let that light go out.

aprajita sharma said...

Shared your Story at https://plus.google.com/109637427726549449542/posts/4sFqjwo7E6R.

rekhabaala said...

Hugs! Sandhya! I don't know whether you remember me! But it does take a lot of courage to speak about it. I have also written of my experience with depression http://rekhabaala.wordpress.com/2013/09/12/the-fear-of-being-me/
Keep the faith. I know it's never easy ... hugs!

sukanyabora said...

First I read your post on shaving off your hair and I think, wow what a bold move. Then I read the one on the misogynistic mindset of Malayalee men and I go, wow, this is one heck of a distinctive piece and then I read this...all i can say, or rather end your way is.....hugs, plentiful. I come from a family with people on the other side of the fence, the counselors, social workers, psychiatrists and I have heard from them how complex and challenging the world of mental health can be. I am so glad you wrote this piece...and I hope you continue to write. I hope writing about it, reading the heartwarming comments others have left for you have helped you find the peace, strength and love you need to fight it. Take care.

harshaunni said...

A friend shared this post with me today, and I cannot be more grateful that I have read this. A person very close to me has suffered this for as long as I can remember. Although I knew the fact, I did not quite understand it, and I am ashamed to admit that I could not discuss it with anyone because I did not even know what the condition was called. Thank you Sandhya, for writing this, it has helped me understand it better. I do not know you but I want you to know that I have huge amounts of respect for you? Stay strong like this, always. God Bless