What Depression Feels Like

Depression is a serious mental illness that can interfere with a person’s life. It can cause long-lasting and severe feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a loss of interest in activities.

It can also cause physical symptoms of pain, appetite changes, and sleep problems.

“I was in so much pain that I really didn’t want to face the world.. I really just felt like the easy way out would be to just go away, disappear”
– Halle Berry
(The Ophrah Winfrey Show)

I think the toughest part about dealing with depression is that it has a way of making me feel really really alone. Like I’m drowning in a sea of thoughts and memories while everyone else is swimming. And because I think I’m alone, and because I think no one can see me when somebody asks me how I’m doing, you say: I’m Okay!

I might not look okay, I might not sound okay. But I still think that all I can say to them is that I’m okay. Because otherwise, it wouldn’t make sense. depression-750x3454

There are a lot of things that I don’t understand about depression, or that I wish were different. For starters, I feel drained of all vitality. Like I’m watching the color in my life evaporate. And that’s a really REALLY scary and helpless feeling. I can feel the blood drain from my cheeks and my chest tighten when demented thoughts of pain and helplessness visit me again and again. And in my mind, it’s only something I can see. So again I say, I’m okay! Thanks for asking!

I feel like fake every time I do that. It’s like I’m lying. But then again, do I really want to burden another person with my sob story? Not again.

I realized that my I’ve-got-it-together act was a facade a couple of years ago when I was in college. I realized that I felt the need to keep it together so that nobody knows how scared and empty I feel inside. This was such a contradicting thought, cause I remember for many many years all I really wanted was to have people in my life who see me for with all shortcomings and care about me anyway.

I thought they thought I was a lost cause. I thought they thought I was exhausting, and that my troubles were overbearing. Which is why I thought it best to keep my depressive thoughts to myself. And that was probably not a good idea.

After a long-standing struggle with my self, I decided to seek help.
I was a nerd in school. I loved studying my way out of everything.
And for some reason, I was convinced that I could study my way out of depression.

Many people mistakenly believe that being depressed is a choice, or that they need to have a positive attitude. Friends and loved ones often get frustrated or don’t understand why a person can’t “snap out of it.” They may even say that the person has nothing to be depressed about.

Depression is a real mental illness. Those who have depression cannot simply decide to stop feeling depressed. Unlike typical sadness or worry, depression feels all-consuming and hopeless.

Symptoms of depression include feelings of sadness that last most of the day, stretch into weeks, and interfere with daily life. Depression, which typically begins to manifest around age 18, is a serious illness that requires swift diagnosis and treatment; depression is a leading cause of suicide among adults.

Common symptoms of major depressive disorder (the most common type of depression) in adults include the following when sustained for two weeks or more:

depression-quote-hp-55-1

  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Change in appetite
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping more than usual
  • Fatigue or lack of energy
  • Agitation or irritability with co-workers and family
  • Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, guilt or inadequacy
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions at work
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
  • Unexplained aches and pains

Major depression is not a normal part of aging. It is a serious condition that, unfortunately, some adults are reluctant to discuss with their physicians. If you notice any of the following daily manifestations of depression, make an appointment with your primary care doctor right away.

[Self-Test: Depression in Adults]

Symptoms at Home

  • You notice your pants are getting very tight (or very loose), indicating a sustained change in appetite
  • Cleaning the kitchen used to take an hour; now it takes all day, indicating a serious lack of energy
  • No matter how early you go to bed, you never feel rested or eager to get up in the mornings
  • You wake up in the middle of the night, and can’t get back to sleep
  • Everything seems dull, and without vitality
  • It takes a Herculean effort to get off the couch and take care of errand

Symptoms at Work

  • You get a promotion, but still, feel unsatisfied
  • The smallest decision — like what to order for lunch — paralyzes you for hours
  • Your co-workers didn’t invite you out after work, and now you feel like an outcast
  • Even when you’re working hard, you feel like you could get in trouble at any moment
  • You feel so antsy and agitated, it’s hard to be at your desk for eight hours
  • You have broken down crying more than once this week at work

How to Treat Depression

According to studies, 80 to 90 percent of people with depression experienced significant improvement when undergoing treatment. For people with severe depression, this treatment may comprise a combination of psychotherapy and medication.

Therapy is an essential component of any treatment plan. Depression can alter the way people think, and therapy can help correct that, allow people to recognize distorted thinking patterns, and help them return to a more normal way of being.

Treating Depression with Medication

Antidepressants work slowly. Most patients see no benefit for the first 10 to 14 days. During that period, the onset of side effects like nausea, weight gain, insomnia, and other unpleasant symptoms tempt many people to stop taking the medication. But it’s important for patients to stick it out, and take a long-term view. After two weeks, irritability and daily crying spells typically fade. However, it may take another 8 to 10 weeks for a patient to realize the full benefit of an antidepressant. Therefore, medication should only be stopped under a physician’s supervision.

Treating Depression with Therapy

Two main types of therapy have proven effective in treating major depression: cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy (IPT). CBT aims to restructure negative patterns of thinking. During CBT, a psychotherapist or therapist helps patients learn to recognize and change unhealthy or faulty cognition patterns, especially in times of stress. IPT for depression emphasizes the connections between symptoms and a patient’s interpersonal relationships. It is commonly recommended for children and adolescents with depression, but many adults use it to improve social functioning and personality issues.

Treating Depression with Lifestyle Changes

Patients with mild depression may experience improved symptoms with lifestyle adjustments that include the following:

  • At least seven hours a night
  • At least 30 minutes spent outdoors daily
  • Relaxation techniques like progressive muscle relaxation
  • Regular testing of hormone levels
  • Mindfulness, yoga, and meditation designed to focus on the moment and alleviate stress
  • Daily exercise
  • Music therapy
  • Reduced carbohydrate intake
  • A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids and healthy fats
  • Reduced caffeine, which can suppress serotonin levels in the brain
  • Dietary supplement like saffron, B-vitamins, 5-HTP, L-Theanine, SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine) or St. John’s wort, taken with a physician’s approval
  • Acupuncture treatments

Journaling, or keeping a mood diary, helps some patients to highlight patterns of negative thinking, notice when good things happen, and stay motivated to make progress. Journal entries help remind some people that things do get better after a negative event. Writing once a week is a good initial goal, increasing frequency to once a day if the diary helps.

Experts in depression agree: No patient should struggle on his own with dark moods. People who surround themselves with a positive support network, who educate themselves about depression, and who seek out advice tend to respond best to treatment over the long haul.

So, I don’t think I need to reiterate it- but depression is a serious condition that a person could be suffering from a couple of months to a couple of years.

Therapy combined with exercise and medication can provide life-changing relief in a matter of weeks, months or years. But the most important thing you remember is to test yourself and seek help.

The Puppy Mill Phenomenon

Choosing to bring a new canine companion into your life is an exciting but involved decision-making process, especially when deciding where to get one. You might have concerns about “puppy mills” or “backyard breeders,” and want to know how to steer clear of them. Perhaps you don’t even know what these are and need more information.

A few months ago when I started my research on dog adoption, I was overwhelmed with this whole new world of shelters and rescues. Pet stores weren’t so much of an option then financially. I chased down a dozen pups that I really liked, online, in shelters and in rescue groups. But after a dozen rejections, I decided to walk into a pet store.

I remember feeling really, really wary about going there, cause I’d heard so much about mistreated pups in backyard shelters, preying on them for purely monetary greed. I didn’t want to support an industry like that, and I don’t think any conscientious person would if they were truly aware of it. I was fairly unaware of the gravity of the situation then. And had I not fallen head over heels in love with this little chap, I probably wouldn’t have gone ahead with it. PAWS and PETA have been trying very hard to raise awareness about puppy mills and the ugly face of this predatory industry.
As you begin your research, here are some things to consider:

Puppy mills

Puppy mills are commercial breeding facilities that mass-produce dogs (and cats in cat mills) for sale through pet stores, or directly to consumers through classified ads or the Internet. Roughly 90 percent of puppies in pet stores come from puppy mills. Many retailers who buy animals from such facilities take the wholesaler’s word that the puppy-636119096-16x9-320x180animals are happy and healthy without seeing for themselves.

In most states, these commercial breeding kennels can legally keep hundreds of dogs in cages their entire lives, for the sole purpose of continuously churning out puppies. The animals produced range from purebreds to any number of the latest “designer” mixed breeds. Cat breeding occurs under similar conditions to supply pet stores with kittens.

Animals in puppy mills are treated like cash crops

  • They are confined to squalid, overcrowded cages with minimal shelter from extreme weather and no choice but to sit and sleep in their own excrement.
  • Animals suffer from malnutrition or starvation due to inadequate or unsanitary food and water.
  • Sick or dying animals receive little or no veterinary care.
  • Adult animals are continuously bred until they can no longer produce, then destroyed or discarded.
  • Kittens and puppies are taken from their mothers at such an early age; many suffer from serious behavior problems.

Backyard breeders

Backyard breeders are also motivated by profit. Ads from these unscrupulous breeders fill the classifieds. Backyard breeders may appear to be the nice neighbor next door-in fact, even seemingly good-intentioned breeders may treat their breeding pairs as family puppy-mill-358529pets. However, continuously breeding animals for years to produce litters for a profit still jeopardize the animals’ welfare.

Some backyard breeders may only breed their family dog once in a while, but they often are not knowledgeable on how to breed responsibly, such as screening for genetic defects. Responsible, proper breeding entails much more than simply putting two dogs together.

Taking homes away

When puppy mills and backyard breeders flood the market with animals, they reduce homes available for animals from reputable establishments, shelters and rescue groups. Every year, more than 150,000 cats and dogs enter shelters in Washington State-6 to 8 million animals enter shelters nationwide. Sadly, only about 15 percent of people with pets in the U.S. adopted them from a shelter or rescue group, leaving so many deserving pets left behind.

Help stop the suffering by taking these steps:

  1. Be a responsible, informed consumer-if you do buy from a breeder, go to a reputable one who:
    • Will show you where the dogs spend their time and introduce you to the puppy’s parents.
    • Explains the puppy’s medical history, including vaccines, and gives you their veterinarian’s contact info.
    • Doesn’t have puppies available year-round, yet may keep a waiting list for interested people.
    • Asks about your family’s lifestyle, why you want a dog, and your care and training plans for the puppy.
    • Doesn’t use pressure sales tactics.
  2. Adopt from a shelter or breed-specific rescue group near you-typically 25% of the animals in shelters are purebred.
  3. Support laws that protect animals from puppy mill cruelty-tell your elected officials you support laws which cap the number of animals a person can own and breed, and establish care standards for exercise, housing, access to food and water and regular veterinary care.
  4. Urge your local pet store to support shelters-animals are often used to draw consumers into stores. Encourage pet stores to promote shelter animals for adoption instead of replenishing their supply through questionable sources.
  5. Donate pet supplies to local shelters to help those rescued from the puppy mills and many other homeless animals in need. Many of them put their wishlists on amazon. This would help provide support for their rescues with essential supplies like beds, towels, food, toys, and vaccinations.
  6. Volunteer. Many rescues are largely volunteer-based communities that run on fosters and donations from people. If you can’t donate money, then donate your time to care for these animals over the weekend or foster them, clean and train them, preparing them for their final homes.
  7. Lastly, you could sponsor a pet in a shelter or rescue by donating each month for their food, supplies, and medical bills until they find their forever home.

I would still highly encourage to explore all avenues and exhaust your options BEFORE you consider breeders. This is because even if the breeders are responsible and not over crowding the kennels, the mother dog goes through immense trauma having to give up her kids and reproduce consistently. There is also still the problem of over population that remains. Every year thousands of dogs are euthanised because they don’t have a home to stay in. I think it would be much wiser to save an animal from being euthanised and provide them a forever home.

I think that it’s really really important to spread the word because I truly believe that if they knew better, most people would choose differently.

If you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil. And that I refuse to believe. – Greta Thunberg (16, Climate Activist)

I really hope you find your loving canine companion soon.
And I know you’ll make the right choice… for that, you’ll get back way more love than you’d be able to give!

 

Letter To The Granpa I lost Too Soon

I’ve been having a writer’s block for a couple of months now – you know, life gets in the way. I thought this post was a good way to get back into it.

My grandfather was somebody now you’d describe as a ‘Highly Sensitive Person’. He had four children, my mom, and her siblings, all of whom he doted on obsessively. I was his first grandchild, and naturally the apple of his eye. He was a gorgeous person, or at least that’s what everyone used to tell me. My Grandma and him moved to Kashmir a couple of years after they had gotten married and started a family. All of their kids grew up in Srinagar, where they went to school and college. From the stories i’d hear, it sounded like they lived a very precious childhood, in a house run by love, laughter and chai, surrounded by beautiful apple orchards, lakes, and valleys.
“Rainbows and unicorns” I used to call the place.

I was very little when he passed away, and I remember I’d cried very hard. One day he was well and the next day he was being admitted in a frenzy. Him suddenly falling ill was painful for everybody. And his demise, was the first time I’d experienced someone really leaving me. I remember- I used to follow him around everywhere, jump on the couch even when he’d ask me not to, go book sniffing in his private library.

He just meant a lot to me, as any doting grandparent would feel like to a child. So when he left, I was heartbroken.
“Kati Patang”, as my mausi described it.

If I could talk to him, I’d say:

Dear Grandpaa,
I miss you terribly. Honestly, I remember how mad Grandma was at you leaving, and I kind of agree with her. You should have thought about the rest of us before you went awol like that. You left an entire family of doting children reeling in pain. I cried so hard. Harder than I must’ve ever cried in my entire childhood. You were the most kind, gentle and loving person in my life. I loved hearing stories about your progressive ideas. And it broke my heart to see you go. That’s where it all started I guess. I remember I’d sobbed in my uncle’s arms. “She’s been crying non-stop, it’s crazy”, He’d said. But I couldn’t stop.

Soon after that, my parents and I moved to Kuwait and began a lonely and troubled childhood. When other kids were angry and depressed, they would act out. I just became really really alone. I’d cry my self to sleep and would wake up crying because I didn’t feel like I belonged there. I felt so alone and unsettled. The only thing that would keep me going were these annual visits in Pune where I’d see others who were the kind of loving adults I knew then. When I look back now, I feel like I wish you were there too. Did you know Nani made Kehva and Jelly Pudding every year when we went? Did you know that your kids are still the tea-a-holics they used to be? Did you know Anhad, who was born right when you got admitted, is the softie that you always used to be?

I used to think I’m too sensitive, and I thought that’s what made me weak. But I’ve learned to accept myself better. I am loving, compassionate and sensitive, and I get all of that from you. I love everything about me that reminds me of you. And that, I think, is the best realization of all.

There are times when I’ve missed you. I wish you were there to talk about which college I wanted to go to. I wish you were there to call me whenever I felt low. I’d just wanna hang around you doing nothing, and demand for chai and hugs every now and then. I feel bad that Anhad, Rahat and Ishani will not know you for the loving doting grandfather that you are! But I’m happy that you’ve left an army of sensitive people behind to love each other and care for each other. And for that, I’m grateful.Photo on 20-04-19 at 10.37 am (1)

I just hope I find someone like you, you know?
Someone who’s warm, and gentle, and sensitive.
Someone who understands my love for P.G. Woodhouse and Chai.

I will always love you incessantly,
Shruti

My Hope For Gamora

And if you don’t love me now
You will never love me again
I can still hear you saying
You would never break the chain (Never break the chain)
– The Chain by Fleetwood Mac  (Remastered 2004)

Over the past few days I watched both parts of Guardians of The Galaxy, Vol. 1 & 2 I grew a deep fondness for the character of the mad titan Thanos’s adopted daughter Gamora.

Gamora’s backstory is that Thanos abducted her and destroyed her whole planet. He killed her family in front of her very own eyes and tortured her as a child- transforming her into a war machine.

She has never had any friends and has been surrounded by enemies her whole life. When she gets rescued from prison and joins the StarLord and his crew, she finally finds people she can call her own. She learns to sway and dance to beats as she is enchanted by the StarLord’s “pelvic sorcery”. She finds respite with these companions and finds a safe place she calls home.

*I fooled around and fell in love*
Plays music softly

I understand that she must’ve had a very difficult childhood. Even though she was terrified of Thanos and yearned to get away from him, she was forced to love him and care for him, call him Father, and do his bidding as well. The same person who loved her the most also was the most terrifying person in this galaxy.  As children, she was pit against her own sibling, Nebula, with whom she was expected to win every fight in order to save her own life. She lived in a constant state of terror and fear for her life that deprived her of the simple things in childhood.

When she sways with the StarLord, he is surprised to learn that she could dance. But she could dance all along. She probably just needed some help setting her heart free.

Her passion for stopping Ronan in the first movie, and Thanos later on, is completely understandable. She saw her whole planet destroyed in front of her own eyes and was a little girl then who couldn’t do anything. But now, she’s not that little helpless girl anymore and wants to stop Thanos from destroying the entire galaxy.
Maybe along the way, she could probably save herself and the little girl inside of her that was so terrified of him.

It’s also interesting to see how complicated her relationships or lack thereof have been because of Thanos’s tyranny. She seemed to have always had a very difficult relationship with her sibling Nebula. This is because of Thanos’s constant comparisons between Nebula and Gamora, him belittling of Nebula every time he called Gamora his favorite daughter as he pits them against each other. Every time Nebula lost, he’d replace a body part with a piece of machinery as punishment. And she lost every time. imagine what he must’ve done to her.  It’s certainly inhuman, but so is Thanos. Nebula and Gamora also called each other ‘sister’ but always in a sneering way, as if hating the bond that was enforced upon them. But of course, it begins to seem like they don’t actually hate each other as they watch out for each other just enough to not kill each other, which shows that under this cold-blooded sibling rivalry both of them are just two girls who were tortured by the likes of Thanos, and did not get a chance to be there for each other as most siblings do.

I think that Gamora’s relationship with the StarLord and the rest of the crew could heal her broken past a little bit. Like he had said in the 1st movie: They are all losers- people who have lost a lot in their own lives. But they found each other, and have been a family ever since. They certainly make a great team and complement each other. As for the favorite couple’s brewing romance, StarLord and Gamora do make an adorable fit. He is kind and sweet and gentle and loves her unconditionally. He had the chance to be a celestial god but gave it up to save the rest of humanity. He has many desirable traits of an honorable leader and a doting lover, he seems to choose to side with empathy instead of giving in to the more brutal ways of kingship like Thanos did.

As their lives go on, I think Gamora is now in good hands.

Here’s hoping they carry on with their marvelous adventures, now that Thanos is dead.

*Phew!*
I’m a Che-Che-Che-Cherry Bomb! (Like the song)

What Is Your American Dream? (The Immigrant Perspective)

In 1931, historian James Adams first publicly defined the American Dream. Adams’ often-repeated quote is, “The American Dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.”

I think that’s a truly wonderful philosophy, honestly.

But I think we, the immigrant kids, really need to sit down and think about what that means to us. Today is a day and age of opportunity and mass immigration. I understand that these ideas of happiness may not be seen as holistically as they were initially intended to be. Every individual defines their own idea of happiness. I can imagine that for some people happiness may equate to a better home environment. It may mean better mental and physical health. It may mean loving and fulfilling relationships. And an opportunity to grow as an individual, both professionally and personally. I know that I look at happiness that way. For many others, it may include expanding their economic equity. Being at the forefront of business management in the financial district. Being involved in policymaking and the ability to drive socio-economic change, yada-yada.
The list continues.

It is hard to imagine a place that offers you the opportunity to practice these things. It’s hard to find your place in the country today. With real-life restrictions such as visa status, overpopulation, mass immigration, and racial discrimination. I think some of the retaliation is justified. It’s a little eerie to watch the flawed expectations people keep while moving to a country with said opportunities. For many, they don’t feel heard in their home countries. Their living situations are direr. There is a lack of social freedom and self-care. And they taste opportunity and compassion when they move here. I don’t deny any of that. But in the process, people build a distorted lens with which they view this country and their own home town.

But is money and opportunity all we’re looking for? What about the freedom to love anybody we want? The freedom to choose to spend our lives with people who come from different walks of life? Freedom to be Queer and still be here. To find support in battles towards mental health, and destigmatization of it. Freedom to choose a better education system? Or to find passion in work and work in your passions? I know it’s all big talk, but is it though? These concerns are real right? And I refuse to apologize for demanding open-mindedness and acceptance. Because that’s what it’s all about. And that doesn’t have to be the Indian dream or the American dream, or even the Brazilian Dream for all I care. All of us need a voice, and everyone deserves acceptance. As long as that’s out in the open, it doesn’t matter how many extra dollars you make. You’ll be happy for a little bit, but at the end of the day life is about the little things isn’t it?

I have family in Satkhol, a town near Nainital which is pretty low key. Their cheese is locally produced and bread freshly baked. They also harvest rainwater their own. None of that knorr cheese and bisleri bottle nonsense. And they’re urban city upper management folks who decided to ditch the city life and move away. Does that scare you? Well, maybe you need to rethink your lifestyle a little bit. Every day I spend with them, I’m the happiest. Even without the materialistic. We manage to grill fantastic chicken, drink fine wine. We read books, cuddle up, watch movies or listen to songs and laugh like there’s no tomorrow. The ice-cold clean Himalayan air rushing down my lungs is one of the most rejuvenating feelings I’ve had in life. It feels like someone’s turned a bucket of cold water over my head and I can think again. Reprioritize.

So, I’d like to ask you, Dear Reader:

Do you REALLY need all that money and stature to do well? Is it worth pushing your selves for 60 hours a week till you burn out so that you can invest in a house a couple of years down the line and put photos on Instagram? How long do you think your neighbors would stay jealous? A week?  A month? A year at max I bet!

Is it worth it though to sell yourself like a slave so that you can buy a life that other people think is worth living?

What I’m trying to say is, DON’T GET DISTRACTED BY ALL THE SHINY THINGS.

All that glitters is not gold. 

Sure. Clearly.

As we move into this phase of young adulthood, we’re not in that space anymore where we constantly need external validation. We don’t need to woo the hottest girl in the batch to make our peers jealous. Similarly, we don’t need to buy the richest house or the most expensive car to prove anything to mom and dad or uncles and aunties. Our lives are our own, and we should be the leads in our own stories. Don’t let somebody else’s priorities define your ideals. You’d only lose yourself in the process.

So dear immigrant kids, before you make your next big career move and run over to the US or anywhere else, I’d strongly urge you to think about what you’re running towards and what you’re running away from. That’ll help you clear your mind and make a choice you’d genuinely enjoy living with. There’s always light at the end of any tunnel. Trust me, I know that.

Don’t sell yourself short.

Dream big!
Demand creativity and understanding.
Demand love.
Taste freedom.
But most important of all:
Take Control, And run after what was yours, to begin with.

The Dark Side Of Being Nice

Harry eases into his couch with a bag of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans after a long day of Quidditch practice. He opens his diary and starts to scribble to himself.

What does it mean to be nice and likable? Have you really thought about where these concepts of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ came from? “We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on” Sirius Black, told Harry once. But what does that mean really… Umbridge never thought he was any good. The Dursleys never thought he was any good. Cho probably didn’t think too much about him either. He was always too skinny, too peaky, too demanding. It can be very limiting to belong to these labels and be expected to live up to them every now time. It can make people feel very caged inside. Dykstra_20160228_5514-2

Has anybody ever thought about the dark side of being nice though? Cause nice people also lie. They tell you things about you that aren’t true because they don’t want to hurt your feelings.  They don’t say things to you that they should because they don’t want to rock the boat. Many of their actions are guided by their self-interest.  By that, I mean that their niceness has more to do with what others think about them – primarily their concern that other people like them. Not very nice though, is it? I myself have been guilty on many occasions of being nice to avoid conflict.

Let’s think long and hard here for a little while… Would you really want to be nice and miss out on the chance to have a more fulfilling experience of life? Would you really want the course of your life to be defined by other people because you were too sweet to say no to them? Would you really want to experience resentment in your relationships because you’re exhausted people-pleasing and now you have no energy left for yourself? Would you really want to forfeit your own uniqueness because you want to conform to set images, and in the process feel like you’re losing yourself?

If that’s the case then hell yes, I’m not nice! No way.

Very recently, I’ve felt my good girl mask slowly chip away. I’ve found myself saying no to people more often, setting boundaries for myself, and being a lot more respectful of my own time and energy. I was nice, but I want to be good. I want to be strong. I want to be kind and empathetic. I want to work towards my relationships and see myself grow. I want to handle fights, pain, and uncertainty instead of avoiding them. 2465f7bbde456ed134e1e5dc244aa0abI want to feel like an equal in the relationship and have my emotional needs met. And I’m starting too. It’s like tasting a flavor of ice cream you never knew existed. Like standing in your balcony, during the drizzling rain. There’s so much relief in being seen, heard, understood and loved. “It’s okay to feel sad. It’s okay to not want to listen to other people talking about themselves. It’s okay to not be there for someone if you can’t”. The first time I heard my therapist say things like that to me, I was quite spellbound. “But… nobody told me it was okay to cry or look sad… Mom and Dad would get sadder if I was sad. And then I felt like I shouldn’t be sad… So I’d just hop around and play instead” I whispered. She inhaled sharply and we both looked at each other with this fondness we’ve had.

“Good is hard,” Clark Kent said. That’s because being good means facing the harsh reality of things. It means standing up for yourself. It means sitting through difficult conversations and working towards forging stronger relationships. Being good takes strength and courage. Good people don’t say nice things for the sake of it- they mean it. They appreciate the positives in people but do not hesitate to point out the negatives. They work towards building a successful like for themselves. They assert boundaries for themselves and choose to be in healthier and more equal relationships. This involves being honest with their peers and dealing with problems head-on.

Loving yourself. Caring for yourself. Understanding yourself. These are the most underrated teachings that we’ve all had in life. People with deeper relationships have known what they need from their loved ones and have not shied away from asking for it. But the rest of us who are learning as we grow, do need to consistently invest in ourselves. It can be immensely fulfilling to be in strong, healthy relationships. People love to make others feel deeply loved. They love to make others feel cared for. They love to understand each other and support each other. As a community, that’s how we exist. And promoting healthier relationships is our moral prerogative.

Which is why, it’s OKAY to not be nice, and choose to be good instead.
It’s okay to be strong.
It’s okay to let yourself feel those uncomfortable feelings.
It’s okay to be vulnerable.
It’s okay to desire love and care.
You’re feelings don’t make you weaker.
They make you stronger instead.

kindranikole3

Just Breathe

Dear Reader,

I woke up today, howling from a nightmare that felt like reality. In my mind, I was screaming over my mom’s dead body. My mom? grandpa?? I can’t even tell anymore.  “You’re going into shock! breath slowly Shruti…” my Aunt holds my face close and whispers into it. “I can’t! I can’t stop!” I sob incessantly as she rubs my back and holds me tightly to herself. Two days ago, it was a dream about my parents fighting.
One week ago it was about my family forcing me to do things I didn’t want to do.
Last year it was about how my life was falling apart as I decide to walk out of my degree and internship.

Its been more than a year since I’ve been having these dreams. peters-5.jpg.optimalPost-trauma like symptoms, my counselor calls it. I can’t breathe. I feel like I’m suffocating. I can’t stop sobbing. Sometimes, it feels like my lungs will give out. It usually hits me anywhere at all and my entire world fills with anxiety and catastrophizing. Imagine being abandoned in a jungle, with the creepiest animals you’re scared of. You’re terrified. You run. You scream. You’re mortified. That’s what my anxiety feels like. I’m running and screaming at the top of my lungs. In my head, and often in real life. Usually, I need to call a friend and keep sobbing, until I’d calm down. My cousin, Aditi, was my sobbing buddy, who’d talk me through many of my panic break downs. “Just breathe” She’d say. “Relax. It’s not real. It’s not happening. It’ll be okay”. Other times I get dehydrated and just stop crying my self. I prefer the former of course. The latter makes me feel lonely and scared. Over time, my anxiety got worse and worse with every passing incident.

Meditation helped a little bit, counseling also helped. But it’s a long battle that I’ve set out to fight – the prioritizing and destigmatizing of mental health. I’m not a counselor nor am I a mental health professional, but my counselor says I know more than I think. And somehow I believe her because I’ve been very passionate about it. I’ve read books, followed talk shows, and made notes from my own therapeutic experiences. People have complimented me for investing in this aspect of my life so early. If only they knew, that when you have panic breakdowns that get triggered and start anywhere, you don’t have much of a choice but to learn to take care of yourself!

Most people who get into this field and become a professional or an activist, have had some sort of personal experience with anxiety. Their agenda behind helping other people is pure: Get help early. Do what you can to take care of yourself. There is a lot of empathy in caring for another human being on such a deeply emotional level. e8feb64dc7d63c18705f5bf47b9bea8d43e0c988_1100There are no bonds or strings attached. No gain or selfish agenda. Just the pledge to help alleviate human suffering for someone, as we would want the same for ourselves. Which is why I wanted to reach out and let you know Dear Reader:
If you have anxiety and you need someone to talk to about it, I’m here. I’m always here. I know what it feels like to have innocent thoughts twisted into a living nightmare. I know what it feels like to be surrounded by a danger that is construed by your mind. I know that it feels like it’ll never end. But it does, and it will. So, Dear Reader, don’t lose faith. Reach out and seek help. You’ll be surprised by the number of people that care.

Just remember to breathe…
I’m fighting this battle every day by your side,
And Everything will fall into place. The moon will be shining again.

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