I have had a hard life. Not that I chose it.
I don’t believe people who have hard lives, choose it. It’s just thrust upon them. You know, people say that ‘you are strong’ to people who appear mentally strong. What they don’t know about those people who are mentally strong is that they didn’t choose that.
Think about a 10 year old kid who loses his parents in a bomb attack? He would have to become an adult pretty soon. Does he choose it?
In this essay, I am going to tell you about a personal story from my life- a story about depression and recovery. A story about re-entry.
I was a shy kid. A kid who hardly spoke throughout his school life, perhaps though undergraduate life as well. I don’t know at what point I really started speaking, and opening up to life.
I guess when your childhood goes away in suppression, there is a lot of pain that gets accumulated, that never got an opportunity to be vented out. That pain doesn’t go away. It does come out at some stage of life, in some way or the other.
That’s why, when you ask people why they got depressed, I don’t think anybody would be able to give a clear, and comprehensive answer. The answers sounds vague, because they are.
How I got depressed
When I was 27, I got depressed, in Singapore, in a year which should have been one of the best times of my life.
John Milton, said, in Paradise Lost, “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven…”
I had prepared to be in a business school for years. I had taken a test exam that one needs to take to be in a business school, for several years. It wasn’t happening, and then it happened. I got admission in a top business school and moved from India to Singapore for MBA. It was supposed to be a one year program. It started all well, and I seemed happy to have finally made it.
However, right in a few weeks I started feeling uneasy. I started comparing myself with the rest of the batch, and having delusions about how everyone was better than me in some aspect or the other.
I had friends, they liked me, and I liked them. They were nice people. However, when I started feeling miserable, I started losing friends, not because of their fault, but that of mine.
I had a single room to myself on the campus. I started missing classes, and there started murmurs about me in the batch that I was irresponsible. I was being irresponsible as I had stopped going to classes, attending group lessons, and everything that comes along in an MBA course. It was nobody’s fault to perceive what they did. That was the case. I was under severe mental stress. Depression is a horrible thing. When someone is depressed, they find it hard to see anything positive about their lives, and that’s what was happening with me.
I was in touch with my family, who were at a loss to understand what had gone wrong. They had started getting a gnawing feeling that I might die, if I stayed there any longer, because my mental situation had deteriorated, and continued to do so. I had started thinking suicide, and weird things about my life.
I hated my decisions from the past, although they had led me to a top B-School in a beautiful location of the world, but I didn’t care. The course didn’t matter anymore, and nothing else did. The point was to save my life. I don’t know who had a chat with my then dean about my mental health and hence, one day, I packed my bag and returned back to India, as a depression patient.
It was weird, because it was supposed to be the happiest time of my life, and then it wasn’t.
The return back home
I left the MBA program I had spent so many years trying to get into, and got back home. That period of my life taught me everything I need to know about depression, as a disease. In many ways, I am happy, it happened early in my life. It gets harder on people dependent on you if depression strikes late in life.
Once I got back, my family started a mission to get me back to reality. I feel sorry for them. It was not directly their fault, but then parenting has a lot to do with how people turn out as adults. My mother is religious. When I got back home, she set me up on a plan of going to a gurudwara (A Sikh temple) for 40 something days. My father believes in anti-depressants. So, he fixed me a few appointments with a few psychiatrists and finally selected one, who put me on an anti-depression program, for, approximately, forever.
That’s the thing about what I now call the depression industry- they thrive on pain created by a horrible society hell bent on creating robots out of people. The more people get depressed, the more the depression industry thrives.
Anyhow, my life was out of control. My parents were doing what they could to fix me, and I was wondering what the hell went wrong.
This is something that helps, getting out of the situation, which makes you depressed, get the hell out of it. So, getting out of the B-school at that point helped me, to take a mental break.
I had some time to think and I realized that one of the reasons I got depressed is because I was comparing myself with other people, and there was no reason to do so. We are all unique human beings with unique strengths and weaknesses, and there is no reason we should try to imitate others. But, that’s how we are brought up- parents constantly comparing us to other kids, society comparing us to other adults, the miserable society runs on constant comparison.
With the realization that I had been needlessly comparing myself with others, I started recovering, and made my mind to get back and get my MBA. A few months’ medication had been on by then, and I had been advised long term medication. However, even in that state, I didn’t believe in anti-depressants.
Medicines can’t solve your life problems
The anti-depressants medicines are a placebo. The only impact that they really make is to sedate your mind so that you stop thinking about your problems. The medicines make you sleep so that you get a break from the negative avalanche facing your mind.
That’s what depression is — an avalanche of negativity that you are just not able to control anymore. That’s when it is called clinical depression and needs medication. The idea is to nip the negativity in the bud before it becomes an avalanche.
The Re-entry to life
So, I went back to Singapore to restart my MBA program, after a few months of recovery and rest. I took the pack of anti-depressants I had, and threw them into the dustbin, and restarted life.
Ever since I did, I stopped comparing my life to those of others. So much so, that I have become a completely different person than a lot of my peers, people I grew up with or studied with. It is not easy to carve out a distinct identity for yourself. However, I don’t compare. If you are reading this, and there is one lesson that you want to take away from this essay- stop comparing your life to that of others. This is as critical to finding happiness, as anything else is.
Ever since I recovered from clinical depression, I have suffered even more devastating events in my life, like a job loss, horrendous professional periods, loss of people to diseases like cancer and COVID lately, which has affected my life in several ways. However, amidst all this, I have not allowed myself to get depressed, not again.
I don’t compare my life to other people at all. Nature made me a different person, and so I have a unique life story. Why should I compare it to that of others? There is no reason to want to be an exact replica of millions of other people.
That was my story of my return from clinical depression. However, depression could happen because of several other reasons, like a job loss, death of a loved one, a painful relationship among other reasons.
In order to come out of depression, besides taking the aid of medication, you will have to solve those problems. Give up the consistently painful job. Take a divorce, if you must, and restart your life. I know it sounds scary to go into the void, but then the possibility of happiness is way better than the familiarity of pain.
Thank you for reading. Please comment in, if you liked the story. Since it is a personal story from my life and not fiction, I won’t be able to edit it :)