Editor's note: Depression is a mental health disorder characterised by persistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in regular activities. Possible causes include a combination of biological, psychological and social sources of distress. The treatment for it is usually medication, talk therapy or a combination of the two. There are studies which suggest that yoga and meditation can help the body self-soothe and calm down the nervous system. This may benefit those with anxiety and depression. But it may not be the standalone remedy for depression. If you or anyone you know is going through a mental health battle, please seek professional help.
For four months, I was rendered jobless after my previous employer shut its doors overnight. By November 2019, I had gradually slipped into depression. What made it worse was that I did not find a single person, not even my close friends, around me. The only support I drew from was from my family who were miles away in West Bengal. Though they kept assuring me that the tough times would pass, it seemed like their assurance fatigued as it traversed from afar. It did not help much.
As everyday situations during the Coronavirus pandemic unfolds, it makes us realize how the society is teemed with people who are suffering from several mental health-related issues which is further exacerbated by the lockdown and the subsequent isolation. According to the data collated by Network18’s Moneycontrol, stress and panic attacks have increased by 35% to 40% in April alone. In fact, many professionals looked out for counsel to deal with anxiety arising due to the lockdown.
When my previous organization literally put a question mark on the prospect of my career and made me unemployed overnight, pushing me into dark abyss, I saw myself being entrapped in a web of severe mental health issues– I lost my sleep, developed eating disorder, I used to cry frequently, felt restless too often and I began to isolate myself from most of the people. There were days when I stayed awake up to 50 hours on a stretch. I blew off all the hard-earned savings aiming to heal the wounds that never manifested on my skin.
Amid this pandemic, when the companies are either announcing huge pay cuts or laying off employees en masse, adding to the god-forsaken island of unemployed, the cases of depression have started to plummet.
As per a survey carried out by Azim Premji University’s Centre for Sustainable Employment (CSE), India has seen a whopping 67 per cent people among the vulnerable sections lose their jobs and a 63 per cent dip in earnings due to COVID-19 lockdown.
When I looked out for jobs incessantly in 2019, most of the time I didn’t receive a response or was told that hiring was frozen. The situation not just pulled down my spirits but even made me question my worth and shattered my self-confidence. But one thing that I realized while going through that phase was the severity of the mental health issues depends on what kind people you are surrounded by.
I gained 14 kg due to this illness and subsequently, I was body-shamed by people whom I had loved and kept close to my heart. There were few who mocked my situation, others stopped answering my calls when I needed them to hear me out during my vulnerable times; few others distanced themselves from me.
Concerned over my deteriorating mental health situation, my parents rushed to Delhi in the month of December (2019). My father had planned a detailed travel itinerary, only aiming to pull me out of that phase. They tried all possible ways, but nothing really helped. Even during the trips, I stayed up late at night and cried my heart out in front of my parents. After having numerous conversations with me, my father laid out a plan for me: Consult a psychiatrist, start exercising or return home for a better treatment. My father tried his best to convince me that consulting a therapist is not something to be ashamed about, but somehow, I was not convinced. Finally, after another prolonged discussion, I decided to start exercising. I joined a gym, completely changed my diet and also started meditating. Things sure didn’t change overnight, but after 3 weeks into a routine workout and diet – I started being more mindful. The more I worked out, the better I felt – mentally as well as physically. I started getting better sleep at night. I could feel how slowly and steadily, my scars were healing. And 5 months later when I recall that phase again – I feel proud to have overcome the battle all by myself.
Depression, without a doubt, is a serious problem, but what’s worse is labeling depression as madness. We live in a society where people are yet to accept depression as an illness. However, I learnt that one might not be able to stop the waves, but definitely learn to surf.
Note: If you or someone you know needs help, call any of these helplines: Aasra (Mumbai) 022-27546669, Sneha (Chennai) 044-24640050, Sumaitri (Delhi) 011-23389090, Cooj (Goa) 0832- 2252525, Jeevan (Jamshedpur) 065-76453841, Pratheeksha (Kochi) 048-42448830, Maithri (Kochi) 0484-2540530, Roshni (Hyderabad) 040-66202000, Lifeline 033-64643267 (Kolkata).