Deepika Padukone’s story is so many of ours
[Trigger warning] I stared at the PG-ceiling, blankly, for hours, till the tears trickled down. And before long, I would be in the throes of an out-and-out emotional breakdown.
- Total Shares
It was exactly this time of the year in 2011, give or take a few days, when one evening I received a call from my father. On the other end, for a while, there was just silence, and then there was the sound of a hastily-muffled sniff. When he began speaking, he just said my name and broke down over the phone. Never having been at the receiving end of such a phone call from dad, I lost all sense and cried my lungs out over the line. That night, it felt extremely cathartic; to have let the day's pent up tears out. But that was just one night, out of the year-long struggle.
For five months, I had been "acting strange"; crying at the drop of a hat and not talking to parents for more than a few minutes a day. All other phone calls, text messages were unattended to. I stared at the PG-ceiling, blankly, for hours, till the tears trickled down. And before long, I would be in the throes of an out-and-out emotional breakdown. So much so that one night my roommate had to leave the room and sleep over at a friend's place. I would stay in bed for days, weeks, months, till time stopped making sense.
The hours seemed immaterial; the days inconsequential.
I had left my MA, stopped going to classes, and even took up a job just for being able to survive in the city. When I was watching Deepika Padukone talking about her own battle with depression, in the beginning, it was a bit difficult to come to terms with the fact that someone like her could be that broken inside. There's this point where she says that she was battling depression at a time when she had everything else going for her.
Her story had turned loose a memory-tap inside me. And the darkness, the feelings of emptiness - are all still so near in the past that they seem like yesterday. The time that I consider the worst of my life - till date - came right after I was out of college; with good grades, the college all-rounder award, numerous other awards to my name, teachers fawning over me, asking about my plans for the future and what not. Once back to the PG, there were days when I would just wonder about ways to commit suicide. I would google "easy methods to commit suicide", "household items which can be used to kill oneself" and other variations of the same; you get the drift. There was a night when, after the rest of the girls in my PG had gone to sleep, I had actually climbed on to the railing of the fourth-floor balcony and tried to jump off. Dad's face had flashed in front of me that moment, and I got back to my senses, and got down.
This wasn't a one-off occurrence. It had become the norm. My daily routine comprised dragging myself out of bed sometime in the afternoon, crying in the shower, getting back to bed and resume crying. I used to stay up all night, wondering why I was behaving so strangely, and would get no answer, apart from a fresh flood of tears. I was in a three-seater back then. My state scared the ones around me so much that a roommate shifted to a different PG altogether. The other one continued to tolerate all of it, and asked me to go back home. A best friend would come visit once or twice a week, on her way to her classes, and hug me, and just hear me talk. She would pester me to talk till I could no longer stay silent, and would finally give in.
The relief that came from those moments of release were extremely short-lived. All the while, my parents, sitting just more than a thousand miles away, could do nothing but sigh. I would hardly share anything with them; never weep over the phone, I somehow always managed to fake a happy voice when I had to talk to someone from home. But then, parents have an uncanny way of finding out - of knowing that their children are in a mess when they are in one.
My parents came visiting, and those four days were the toughest to pass. Faking a smile over the phone was something, and being around people and keeping up a facade of happiness was something else altogether. I buried my face in the pillow and cried silently those nights, but never said anything to them. In the morning, for those few days, I would go to the washroom before mom or dad could, to wash the tear-stains from the previous night. But the dark circles remained. And the wall never quite managed to fool my parents. They went back after a few days, and I went back into my abyss.
Till that phone call, which I began this piece with. After talking to dad, I took a flight back home the next morning itself. It was a different feeling altogether, just to be among family, at home, in the surroundings that I had grown up in.
The initial joy, there too, didn't last long. I would lock myself up in my room for hours, paying absolutely no heed to my parents calling me; emerging out of the hole for meals, after being pleaded with for hours at times. Two weeks passed by in this manner. I had left the job too, by then.
Finally, one evening, my father took me to a psychologist without informing me. Once at the doctor's waiting area, I clenched my fists and asked dad why I had been taken to a psychologist. That was just the tip of the iceberg, as far as my anger and frustration were concerned. I went inside the chamber and maintained a facade for the entire duration. I told the doctor that I was absolutely fine, and that I didn't have any clue why my father had taken me to her. I made her believe a cock-and-bull tale while dad waited outside. The doctor looked sceptical initially, but fell for my story after a while. Once we were back home, I made my dad go through hell. I screamed at him, told my parents that I didn't want to stay there because they thought I needed medical help, that they didn't trust me when I said that I could handle things on my own. I got myself a ticket back to Delhi, after a few days.
My parents helplessly, reluctantly agreed to let me go - on the condition that I wouldn't hesitate to talk to them if I ever felt the need for it. But then, that was easier said than done. Back on my own in Delhi, things appeared somewhat clearer. The trip back home was therapeutic, in certain ways.
I did feel empty at times, but the strong will to harm myself physically had dampened by then. Once my friends and sister realised that I was no longer as hell-bent on not talking to anyone as I earlier was, they began frequenting my place. I slowly began talking to them about things that I wasn't able to articulate earlier.
In the process of getting out of the depression - of getting my mind back in control - I realised that an entire year had passed by. And I had done nothing worthwhile; I had just hopped from one thing to another, leaving them unfinished. Once that realisation struck, things were easier to deal with. I know I had run away from clinical counselling back then, but maybe I would have dealt with it in a different manner, had it ailed me at some other point in life.
There's a rope of sorts that one needs in order to have oneself pulled out of the depths of depression. While for some people, medication helps; for me, it was a few people. And time.