If you were to ask me how I am doing today, I'd say: I'm doing good and feeling blessed for everything that I have! However, this would not have been my answer a few years ago, because neither I was doing 'good' back then and nor I felt grateful for anything. In fact, precisely four years ago, everything seemed like a burden and even waking up in the morning felt like the most painful task to me. I was tired of everything, completely numb, and felt a sense of hopelessness all the time. In other words, I was battling depression.
Over the years, some really amazing people, a bunch of therapists, meditation, medication, and a lot of things in between helped me get better. Today, I'm grateful that I have the will to perceive life in different lights but TBH, the journey was not easy, and there's still a long way to go.
However, apart from all the things that I learned in the last four years, there were definitely things that I still wish I had never come across. Case in point: Some of the worst suggestions I received to 'help' me overcome my 'situation'--yep, that's what it was to most of the people. Read on to know what they were:
I'm not qualified to be a therapist, but if there's one suggestion that I can give people battling any type of mental illness, it would be to seek professional help. And, to definitely not listen to some of the advice that people give while believing themselves to be an expert on the matter. Moreover, to all the people giving such advice, please read on to understand how you're not helping at all.
Before I start to explain, let me just say that sometimes, what you're trying to convey can be completely ruined with the way you choose to put across your message.
Having said that, yes, it's true that mental illness is prevalent, and last year alone saw 43% of India's population suffering from depression. However, I'll confess the data did not mean anything to me because I was fighting my own battles. I'm sorry, but how does "sab thik ho jayega because it happens to so many people" supposed to make me feel better?
It's more like saying, oh, you will like apples one day because so many people do. Guess what? I don't care what others like because my taste buds are different just like MY struggles are different!
And, my heart goes out to them and their pain but then again, how will their problems make me feel better about mine?
Interestingly enough, this conversation happened with one of my therapists. By the end of the session, my therapist just went ahead and said that my problems were not really that big in comparison to other underprivileged people. Honestly, I had no idea how to react.
I'm aware of my privilege, but does that mean I don't have the right to feel pain? It took me a while to realise that I do and today I accept all my feelings--good or bad--and focus on my individual journey and don't compare it with others.
I did, however, get a new therapist after that comment.
There were times when I tried to seek help from my close friends. Sadly, this was one of the worst advice I got. A friend told me that she felt depressed as well and hence, it was no big deal, quite normal actually, and would 'go away' on its own. What was even sadder was that I took that piece of advice and didn't seek the professional help that I should have sooner. Biggest mistake ever.
While it is okay to not be okay, it is definitely not okay to dismiss depression as something normal and to not treat it seriously. It is a form of mental illness that needs medical help just like any other illness.
That was the most common question that I faced. People assumed that my mental illness was a repercussion of some breakup and it was just a phase where I was crying over a boy. Nope, it wasn't over a boy or just a breakup. There was more to my mental illness than that, which included loss of self-confidence, hope, trust, along with many other things.
Don't reduce mental health to one instance or person--it's never as simple as that.
P.S. Finding a 'new boy' to get over a breakup is also the worst advice ever.
Maybe I did. But while I was in my dark phase, neither did I have the ability to socialise nor any will to have further fake conversations wherein I pretended to be fine. Needless to say, this suggestion did not work in the slightest for me.
I just have three words for this--worst advice ever.
I don't know what movies try to prove by showing otherwise, but staying in an inebriated state is not going to take away our pain. Indulging in self-destructive patterns might seem like the easiest way to escape reality, but the consequences can be dire. And I realised soon enough that people motivating me to do the same didn't really care about me at all. It might seem like a good idea in the beginning, but it's the worst of them all.
Nobody: Hey, control your mind and you'll be fine.
Me: Really, how do I do that?
Nobody: By becoming mentally strong.
Me: Wow, sounds interesting. How do I do that?
Nobody: IDK man, Yoga maybe?
Me: How about I just find a battery-operated mind controller...
If I had a penny for every time someone gave me this advice, I would give the richest man of the world a run for his money. Even my therapist asked me to become mentally strong and I was baffled with the suggestion. Because guess what? I didn't choose to be depressed. A lot of my friends even said that depression would never affect them because they were mentally strong.
I would, however, like to add that when I get physically ill, my body sometimes refuses to function properly because it is extremely sick. Even though my body and the immune system are not weak in general, it can fall prey to diseases.
I'd leave this right here and if you know, you know.
This was one of the most popular pieces of advice I got back then.
Oh, you're just dwelling on the bad stuff; stop thinking about it; it's all in your head; there are so many other things to do so what are you depressed about?
Here's my advice: SHUT UP.
Take mental illness seriously and stop giving such ridiculous suggestions. Period.
And, your name is not Karen, it's Sharon. Wait what, it's not? Then I'm sorry but whatever gave you the right to give a verdict to my mental health?
I know the basic difference between sadness and depression because I AM going through it. While I never had the patience to educate my friends but it always made me sad to think that people could be so oblivious.
It's truly sad that there are a lot of people who have to hear utterly dumb and absurd advice on their lowest days. Here's hoping that people would give up with their obsession of providing free ka gyaan and actually invest some time in educating themselves about empathy and mental health.
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