Let’s start with giving you an insight on how I was growing up. I was a complete tomboy, always on the roads, troubling our neighbours, talking to whoever would listen to me. My mom started bribing to keep quiet, which didn’t work too long. Though talkative, I was a teacher’s pet and a straight A student all through my school years. I loved outdoor games and there was never a time when I didn’t have bruises, sprains, muscle-pulls etc.
However, it wasn’t as if my childhood was an entirely happy dream. I have been subjected to physical, verbal and emotional abuse at the hands of an alcoholic father. But somehow, I remained a chirpy girl.
As years went on, the abuse got worse. I also started getting diagnosed with various chronic illnesses including Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, and they continue even to this day. My condition at that point required me to undergo extensive treatments including chemotherapy, steroids, neurontins etc. Becoming fat from the medications and the prolonged absences from school due to my health, led me to being bullied by my classmates. I also faced sexual harassment and my self-esteem and self confidence took a plunge.
Having all of this happen to me at the same period of time got too overwhelming and I didn’t know how to cope. I was then diagnosed with major depression I became a self-injurer. I was taken to various psychiatrists, psychologists and counsellors and was given different anti-depressants but my downward spiral continued to a point where I hit rock bottom. I then attempted suicide a few times and obviously, failed each time. I eventually got tired of failing and stopped trying.
I went into that hole probably because I couldn’t find something worth fighting for. I started to realize how I had changed as a person. I had become very weak and easily manipulated. I was affected by each word everyone said – including complete strangers. People started to define who I was.
One day, when I looked at myself, I hated what I saw. That’s the day things started to turn around. And slowly, very slowly, I got out of that hole and found the strength to fight the negative energies trying to drag me down.
Even today, there are times, moments, when I feel like I am being pulled down into that black hole. It’s a constant battle to stay out. The first step to being emotionally healthy is to know what you are feeling. What you say and do should be in sync with how you feel. It is okay, even normal to feel sad at times. As humans, it is important to feel all emotions as long as we channel and express each of them the right way.
We need to be able to differentiate between feeling sad and feeling depressed. All of us have surely felt sad at some point but after maybe having some cake or listening to music, or an hour with the playstation, we got out of the blues.
When depressed, we start to become anti-social, and our hobbies aren’t as appealing as they used to be. We stop experiencing life and merely exist.
The most common reactions I got when in depression were:
- It’s all in your head
- Snap out of it
- Get out more and make new friends
- Get over it and stop thinking about it. Etc.
And every time I heard any of these phrases, it gave me the impression that I was to blame.
We need to understand that depression is not a switch you can turn on and off. It isn’t a choice any of us make and is usually the darkest period of our life.
It’s comments like these that drive a person to find another outlet for their emotions which result in self-injury. My personal experience and all the people I have talked to over the years have had one thing in common. We self-injure in a state of sub-consciousness. It’s only a few hours later that we realise what we had done and the extreme physical pain sets in. I was made to feel guilty about the cutting and later on about the scars. I was told to cover my scars. I was told I should be embarrassed by my scars. Why? Because depression and scars have a social stigma attached to it.
We are forced to suppress our feelings because “people will talk”. We are made to feel guilty because of societal judgments. We are made to believe we need to be perfect and flawless. Anything against stereotype is perceived as wrong.
I refuse to cover my scars. I wear them with pride. These scars remind me of the strength I have. These scars keep me fighting. These scars make me realise we are bigger than any situation.
Talking about these rapidly increasing issues creates awareness. Awareness is the first step to being more accepting and understanding, and in the long run, bringing about a change in the mindset of people and removing the stigma attached to it.
Today, I define myself.
For anyone going through depression, at the first sign of it, reach out. Talk about how you feel. Don’t bottle up your emotions, it will only get worse. And it’s not a pleasant place to be in. Talk to a person who makes you feel safe and secure.
It is scary but take that leap of faith and ask for help. A lot of us can relate. You do not have to fight this battle alone.
To end, I would like to remind everyone, every person we come across is fighting a battle. Treat people with kindness. Reach out to them with compassion. Compassion has the power to heal.
This blog first appeared here and has been reproduced with permission. The author tweets @The_Karishma
Seeing kids face the same things I did from the society made me realize just how important it was to speak out.
— Karishma (@The_Karishma) September 5, 2016
To any of you who have faced this, speak up. Seek help. I promise, for every person trying to shut you up, there is someone like me.
— Karishma (@The_Karishma) September 5, 2016