I had my first episode in 2004. From college until my first job, I thought it was just a phase of depression. For the first few years, I could not even understand what happened to me in 2004…And why my family took me to a psychiatrist. I quit my high profile job. I kept asking my buddy several years later -– what happened to me in 2004?
A 60 year old man who was the only friend I chose to have -– he was part of my inner circle. (Someone) with whom I used to correspond and exchange daily emails. He was my only source of finding the Truth. He knew I had Schizophrenia, based on family history and symptoms — I heard voices. He tried to make me understand but all logic and reasoning failed. I wasn’t in my senses to comprehend anything.
2004 was the first episode. It was maddening. All the voices inside your head ripping you apart, paranoid feelings, insecurity that you and your family members are at risk, someone is out there to get you, people are plotting against you, your life is projected on TV, people are trying to communicate with you in cryptic messages, your telephone calls are recorded, TV tower signals, remote control, you are part of the FBI or some secret intelligence agency, you are a celebrity, VVIP and on a top-secret mission, bizarre thoughts, blurting out a word salad which doesn’t make any sense. Sleeping nonstop for 24 hours or more. These symptoms lasted for 3 months. The situation improved. I joined another job and found my way to the corporate world.
It was in 2007, that I watched A Beautiful Mind.
Oh my God. That wasn’t real. I lost touch with reality in 2004. That’s what happened to me.
I consulted a Psychiatrist and started my treatment…taking medicines in 2007. I googled every Mental Health Awareness website, WebMD, and read every research article on Schizophrenia to understand my condition better. For the next 3 years, I studied every minute detail of my condition and tried to develop heightened self-awareness. That hard work paid dividends.
I connected the dots.
Every story of my Life made sense in 2010.
I discovered my Truth. I am different & special, gifted and talented.
There was no looking back. Basis my track record and experience, I was offered a high profile job in 2010 in an Asia-Pacific role. I delivered business results, found my calling and reached an envious position in the corporate world with a reputable MNC. I started indulging in professional give-back and mentoring young women.
I became a Subject Matter Expert and a reputed Leader in my chosen field of work. I realised my dream of going to an Ivy League (school) and completed an Executive Program in Management from a top B School – IIM.
In 2013, I had a relapse. Perhaps, I became overconfident and stopped taking medication. This time again, symptoms lasted for 3 -4 months. I refused to go to the doctor or take medicines. This episode was severe than previous one.
Better sense prevailed, after 3 months of suffering and embarrassment, I started regular doctor visits and medication again. Call it resilience and inner strength to bring my life back to original track.
Fast forward to 2016, I am doing well and stable on medication and live a high-functioning life with a highly demanding job. I tweet about mental health awareness, the need for an open society, dialogue… I host conversations with experts.
We have a long way to go before the corporate world becomes sensitive, open to Mental Health issues. According to Assocham, 40% of Corporate employees suffer from depression. That’s a huge cost to families, organisations, society.
I have met people who are kind and an equal number of people who have a biased mind, who are quick to jump to conclusions and who discriminate. I am determined to do my bit to raise awareness (whatever it takes) and hope for a better society where we do not attach a stigma to mental disorders. I have come to understand that we are more than our jobs, work, or mental disorders. Our stories of collective and shared humanity make us feel human.
I can only hope that another relapse never happens. And I never have to be a secret FBI agent ever again! (I laugh about the symptoms and episodes now, but man, you can’t distinguish unreal thoughts from reality — that’s schizophrenia for you!)
Now… I’m living Life to the fullest till I can!
Coming soon: More of your stories, more on schizophrenia, and where to get help (updated on a rolling basis)