Bipolar Disorder

The American Psychiatric Association describes Bipolar Disorder as “… brain disorders that cause changes in a person’s mood, energy and ability to function. People with bipolar disorders have extreme and intense emotional states that occur at distinct times, called mood episodes. These mood episodes are categorized as manic, hypomanic or depressive.”

A friend of mine suffering from Bipolar Disorder describes it like this, “If Depression is a dark tunnel, Bipolar Disorder is a rollercoaster which takes you deep inside this tunnel and out of it, over and over again.” As a bystander, it was always an enigma as to what she might be going through. Each Day was a different experience in itself.

Her diagnosis came as a surprise. It was during a low phase in her life when her father, who was a Psychiatrist by profession, broke the news to her. It was almost like it broke her. Her father was as helpless looking at his daughter’s condition as she was in her depression.

Bipolar disorder
• Formerly known as manic depression, it is a condition that affects moods, which can swing from depression to mania
• Symptoms range from overwhelming feelings of worthlessness to feeling very happy and having lots of ambitious plans and ideas
• Each extreme episode can last several weeks
• Treatment includes mood stabilisers which are to be taken every day on a long-term basis, combined with talking therapy and lifestyle changes
Source: NHS

The medicines prescribed for a condition like this are called mood stabilizers. When you’re ecstatic, they lower your mood and when you’re deep in depression, they lift you up. The latter sounds like a good idea, making you feel better when you’re in a state of depression,  but when you’re ecstatic why would you want to suppress ?

Well, it’s because if you don’t take your medicines when you’re happy, they don’t work when you’re sad. Sounds complicated right? Imagine dealing with this every single day and convincing yourself that that medication is important for you. And that’s not even the main problem. You wake up every morning not knowing how you’re going to feel. You only wish for the mania to last but all good things come to an end and so do your happy days. One day you’re on cloud nine – all smiles, extremely productive and enthusiastic and the very next day, the light seems to fade away, you lose your will to get out of bed and who once seemed like an extremely positive person turns into negative and introverted shunning everything.

I saw my friend during her highs and I saw her during her lows. It was almost like she was a different person in a matter of weeks. As well-wishers, we always encouraged her to take her medicines but a certain question of hers always intrigued me – “If I need medicines to be normal then is it truly my normal?”

Bipolar Disorder is not when your mood changes each day, it occurs in phases i.e. a gradual process where each stage seems  to be stable for a while before shifting. The two extreme phases i.e. mania and depression could last several weeks or a few months before the shift happens and when it does, you get absorbed in it. Doctors do say that between the two extremes, comes a time which can be stated to be emotionally balanced but one cannot seem to decide when that happens. By the end of the day, you are left in an emotional turmoil, indeterminate and confused.

Problems like these made me appreciate what it feels like to be mentally healthy and appreciate my mental health more. When we feel low, we might ignore it for a really long time but there comes a point where it is okay to accept that there may be something wrong and seek help. Trust me, running away from something like this is not the better option.

It is difficult to comprehend what people having Bipolar disorder go through. That is why it is important to listen to their experiences. Let us look at one such young woman diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and how she is spreading awareness about her condition through art.

Missy Douglas and Bipolar Disorder
Missy Douglas was first diagnosed as bipolar aged 19 when she was studying art history at the University of Cambridge. She said it finally joined the dots as to why she often felt withdrawn and melancholic, or precocious and arrogant.

Fed up with keeping her mental health a secret,she spent a year creating a painting each day to express her feelings. Controversially, she decided not to take her medication during this time, in the hope that paintings demonstrating her highs and lows would raise awareness of her condition. The following are some of the paintings from her collection.

Day 177 by Missy Douglas

Day 177. “I was really in a dark place here. I was completely in a depressive phase.”

Day 236 by Missy Douglas

Day 236. “I was burying feelings and my emotions were all over the place. Very turbulent.”

Day 242 - by Missy Douglas (detail)

Day 242. “I was at the height of mania here, but there was a massive wave of white depression heading towards me.”

Day 314 - by Missy Douglas (detail)

Day 314 – Mania. “I was buzzing and everything was technicolor and beautiful. I was flying and felt invincible.”

Day 359 - Christmas Day 2013 - by Missy Douglas (detail)

Day 359 – Christmas Day 2013. “I was feeling very depressed yet I completely compartmentalised and concealed it. The twinkly forced jollity hid the sadness.”

Day 5 by Missy Douglas

Day 5. “I was really anxious, angry and feeling trapped.”

In 2009 Doughlas left the UK and established her own fine art studio and art school in Brussels. Two years later she headed to New York and now spends her time immersed in the creative scenes of Long Island, Queens and further afield in Seattle.

Missy Douglas composition

Image and information source

 Shristi

What it’s like living with depression

When I tell people for the first time that I’m depressed, people ask me the one question that, to this day, stumps me, makes me feel like I just pulled my tongue out of the freezer: ‘why’.

Courtesy : TeenRehab

Now, this question is not entirely strange; depression is a product of many things-from death of a family member, to divorce, to a messy breakup in romantic relationships, perpetual negative reinforcement from parents and society to a bajillion other things- can cause it. But there’s often an expectation that you pick yourself up, dust yourself off and move the fuck on.

The real horror starts when, you don’t.

Failure is a part of life. Courtesy: osmanpek/Getty Images/iStockphoto

So I’m currently awaiting to determine how severe it is by a professional psychiatrist but I’ve come to understand that I’ve had depression for about eight months now. I can still function fairly normally and do most things expected of me. I can go to college and hold conversations, engage in a classroom and ask the teacher doubts, hold a decent CGPA and, if asked, have a ready answer about what I really want to do with my life.

Under most circumstances, there is no problem but, if you’d indulge me in a little bit of a cheesy sales pitch,

‘Would you want to wake up every day to want nothing more than to just go back to sleep for good? Would you like to feel tired for doing nothing and want nothing more to just have a sharp object so you can kill yourself?’

‘Then, boy oh boy I have the product for you its: depression!’

Depression is not just sadness. It is waking up every day with a heart full of pain for no discernible reason. It’s in the way happiness dies on our face because we are smiling to hide it from those who probably wouldn’t help anyway. It’s constantly, despite your best efforts, feeling completely and utterly useless and that, if you could die tomorrow, no one will give a shit. It’s being unable to feel anything if you can’t feel pain. No joy, no anger, no sadness just, the numb, emotional equivalent of TV static.

When nothing seems to matter. Courtesy: Elite Daily

Touching back on the pain, it’s the kind that feels like you are being eaten from the inside. That makes you a husk that simply cannot be filled. If it goes on long enough, it feels like you could go mad from it. Yet, all of this is discredited when unable to answer the simple question ‘why?’

When I quip and say I didn’t do it, throwing out how it’s possible that the death of three of my grandparents when I was in 12th affected me deeper than I ever let it, most retorts I get include ‘But they were old no?’ or ‘But that was years ago right? Why are you letting that affect you now?’ To this day, I have no idea why I have depression. It’s not something one chooses to have. As I said before, several things could trigger depression and it could manifest itself in many different ways.

To this day, I thought about killing myself several times. I looked at methods from hanging myself, to running a razor across my wrists, to starving myself; the only reason I didn’t was because I didn’t want to make my family unhappy I never attempted suicide yet. But I know I could if things go on like this.

To say that depression isn’t real is like saying one’s emotions aren’t real. Sure, many can’t see them or feel them but they are there. I’m sorry if this post makes you uncomfortable. Or reminds you of feelings that you’d rather forget about but I am telling you how I feel because I think no one deserves to suffer in silence.

 After all, silence is where the demons lie.

Courtesy: https://claudiathewolfgirl.deviantart.com/

–  Siva

The Degrees Of Depression

Cigarette buds. Substance abuse. Sleeved shirts to shut out speculations about the cause of the scars on your wrists.

Some posts have to be written from the heart. Some posts need not be perfect in  terms of grammar or structure. Some posts need not suffuse the eerie charm that it ought to have held. Some posts are essential nevertheless.

Into the void Source: Fine Art America

I spoke to a friend yesterday. Given the peculiar drop in the level of my conversations over the past six months, I must say that we had a fairly long conversation. We spoke about the bad cripples caused by depression and about the worse cripples caused by a lack of understanding about mental health.

Source: Pinterest

For those who lack awareness, depression is a feigned escape from personal responsibilities. It is a self induced state of mind where a creature is seen to be desperately craving for attention and support for problems that are apparently illusory.

 

Those who are sensible enough to understand that depression, like asthma or cancer is yet another disease plaguing human survival again seem to place themselves at the ends of multiples bifurcations within the common head titled ‘The aware lot’. Majority of the people fall under the sub-head where they visualize depression to be a mental state of mind which holds an ambience equivalent to hell. The insides are layered lavishly in a combination of darkness, sadness, helplessness, tiredness, substance abuse and suicide attempts.

 

The sufferer has been portrayed in a constant state of abuse and is seen to be self harming himself or herself endlessly. There is an abject lack of interest in waking up, doing your daily chores and survival in general.

Is depression hell on earth? Source: grahampeter.co.za/

 

This notion about depression reminds me of a post I read yesterday. The post spoke about feminism and equality. It said that most men when asked to imagine female liberation often visualized a reversal of roles where the woman holds the baton of a chauvinist in place of the male. The post went on to make an interesting observation that a man seems to have either a constraint in terms of imagination or he must be too apprehensive about the repercussions that he would be facing upon the reversal of roles.

 

An ample majority of people have the same limitation when it comes to understanding depression.Unlike the above example where it is completely erroneous to imagine equality along the lines of an inverted power structure, it isn’t completely preposterous to imagine depression as an equivalent to what we could call as the pinnacle of agony. Neither is it completely logical to compare the illness to such an extremity always. To put it simply, like fever, depression too can be measured in degrees. A severed wrist isn’t a mandate when it comes to diagnosing depression. There are less life-threatening yet painful symptoms that could be possible signs of depression.

 

The friend seated next to you with bleary eyes which you assume to be a result of a late night football match. Did you stop for a moment to ask him if he actually enjoys watching soccer? What if he went to bed at 9 pm in the night and fell asleep only at 4? What if it is a routine in his survival?

Source: Chronicles of a lumpy person

The colleague seated opposite your cubicle is unable to control his urge to masturbate. While your gang teases him for being a lecherous asshole, did any of you pause for a moment to contemplate the possibility of it being a serotonin imbalance?

 

Your girlfriend wakes up at 12 am in the night to binge on a packet of chips. She goes on to visit the restroom with two bottles full of water. A few moments later she falls back on bed content that the taste of the chips would linger just in her mouth and not as an additional layer of fat between her thighs. Master plan ain’t it? Or is it one? Have you ever read up on Bulimia ? Have you let those consequences scare you?

 

Source: Girls Gone Strong

Your next door neighbor sleeps ten hours a day. Yet at the mid-morning get together on a warm Sunday, you see him tired. This week. The week before. Two weeks back. Endless loop.  Is he just a sleepy head? A manifestation of Kumbhakarna as his father casually jokes around? Have you ever lost sleep about him? At least towards the fag end of the night when the burden of your suffering has exhausted its share of rants completely? What if maybe, it is hypersomnia? What if he actually wants to be active but isn’t able to?

 

Your own sister sleeping over your shoulder. Perfect job. Dream car. Childhood sweetheart. About to be married. You glance at her every night. A long jealous glance at her thick stock of hair. Her back facing you as she has curled up to sleep on the other side. What if despite this all, there is still a void. A void wrenching the depths of her existence. Dysthymia in medical terms. High functioning depression in layman terms. Wait. You are shocked ain’t you. You can’t believe that depression and high-functioning can be used together except with a punctuation mark separating them.

Source: DeviantArt

Have you ever tried to roll her over to your side? Maybe the tears are flowing down her eyes. Have you even contemplated giving it a single try?

 

I am not trying to say that every person we see might be suffering from mental illnesses irrespective of the magnitude. I am only trying to open your eyes to the possibility that  there is more to a mental illness than the portrait of a bearded man scoring weed endlessly with several deep cuts across his wrists. In terms of awareness, you are far ahead in the ladder when compared to truckloads of your counterparts who don’t even possess an iota of awareness about the distress. Yet, I believe that it isn’t enough and there is still a long way to go in order to shatter the stigma effectively.

 

Thank you.

 

-Maya

READING THROUGH YOUR DEPRESSION

I have seen multiple allegories being used to describe what it is like to be depressed. “An endless, dark pit of horrors, a ceaseless tunnel, and a mysterious hell where time freezes over” are some of them that have personally resonated with me in the past. Yes, depression could be a Lernean Hydra at times. One that has particularly stood out for me is a clichéd example which still holds true. An image of a deer caught in headlights could be a good description of my mental state. Just like the antlered stag in the midst of a highway, I was frightened and scared. More than that, I was confused. You weren’t sure which side to move towards. You have questions and you search for answers. “Why me? Is this the new normal? Are there others like me? Will this end at all? Does this have a purpose?”, I sought to know. I didn’t know where to go to, so I went to the place I usually go to – books. The written word holds a specific charm. It lets you not only form your philosophies, but also test them out as you move along with your depression, hoping to survive. In a rather telling fashion, I started finding everything from quick hacks and fixes to worldview changing philosophies in there. I wish to talk about five books in specific that had a remarkable impact upon me ever since I started looking out for answers.

1. Zen And The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – Robert Pirsig

It was rather a strange coincidence as to how I met this book. My former company’s CEO had suggested it multiple times. I picked this book up assuming it was a business strategy book or at the best an inspirational book. I had no clue back then on what it had to offer I terms of worldviews.

The book is a travelogue that traces the journey of a father and a son as they go on a motorcycle trip, hike through the Appalachians and cross country ride through various states. Pirsig contrasts the journey with the journey that the narrator has with his conscience/ personal self/ daemon. Phaedrus, as he called him, was quite probing. It was kind of strange to notice certain worldviews like “Objective reality is just unanimous subjective reality, therefore reasoning has a church”. This book kind of helped me confront my Phaedrus and answer him as I moved through time.

2. Man’s Search For Meaning – Viktor E Frankl
Perhaps the most poignant of the books described here, the entire book can be summed up to this Nietzsche quote that it kind of uses as a leitmotif – He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how. The author, a Holocaust survivor, talks about life at Auschwitz. Finding purpose amidst these circumstances can be cruel. To some, it could be family, to some others, it could be a better life and opportunities. But what do you do when every purpose that you have defined for yourself is brutally taken away from you despite no fault of your own? Dr. Frankl describes how to arrive at the why of your life even when you think it has just been destroyed. I loved this book for its emphasis on the quest for meaning and portraying how meaning could change from individual to individual spatially and temporally.

  1. Prozac Nation – Elizabeth Wurtzel
    This book was a suggestion from a good friend (the person who asked me to write this article). Wurtzel deals with depression in a very pragmatic manner. She seeks answers, writhes in pain and finally concludes that pain is inevitable and learns to work with it in an efficient manner. This book to me stood out because of one thing. It was a reminder that I was not the only person in the world who was in this state. And the world will reach out to you and try to help you out if you will let it to.
  2. The Last Lecture – Randy Pausch
    The other books might seem gloomy, but if you’re looking for something light to begin with initially, this is a great place to start. Funny, concise and witty, Dr. Raundy Pausch writes about achieving his childhood dreams. From playing in the NFL to floating in space, Dr. Pausch takes you through his childhood dreams in a jovial manner. His enthusiasm about life is infectious. What’s the catch, you ask? He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and he had one last lecture to deliver to his students. This book was written based on that lecture. Your spirit, Dr. Pausch, that poise with which you say, “Make me earn it” when you enter the room, makes me immensely jealous of the students who learnt from you.5.When Breath Becomes Air – Dr. Paul Kalanithi
    I saved the best, my holy grail, for the last. Maybe you’ve heard about this book before. This is a book that I’ve gushed about to every friend of mine who was patient enough to listen to me. A memoir of a neurosurgeon who was affected by cancer, I won’t call this book gloomy or indolent. It is a celebration of Dr. Paul Kalanithi’s life, his resilience, his philosophies, his striving – oh, I could go on and on. In life, rarely, do you meet people you could relate with. This book worked for me because I could see myself in Paul Kalanithi’s shoes. No, I was Paul throughout the time I read it. This book might or might not work for you like it did for me, but by all means, go for it. You would be basking in the presence of perhaps this decade’s finest writer.


The books that chronicle the experiences of depression could be moody, gloomy or even arcane. Yet, they’re worth the trouble you put yourself through for every word. Because, words help you heal. Words help you survive. Words help you resist. And most importantly, words help you answer your questions.

-NANDHA KISHORE

DO GOOD, FEEL GOOD – VOLUNTEERING AND MENTAL HEALTH

If I had to choose two words that best defined happiness for me, I would say kids and animals. I interact with school children once a week, where I teach them English and math, and that by far has been the most valuable experience I have  had in my college life.

What are the benefits of volunteering? The most common ones are usually “you make a difference in a person’s life”, or “it will look good on your resume”. However, studies have brought to light another advantage, and perhaps the most important one.  Volunteering is a proven mental health booster. According to “Doing Good is Good for You, 2013 Health and Volunteering Study”, volunteering helps people manage and lower their stress levels. 94 per cent of those surveyed reported that volunteering also improves their mood. Volunteers also scored higher than non-volunteers on emotional well-being measures including overall satisfaction with life.

I recently happened to watch the critically acclaimed Malayalam movie “Ustaad Hotel”. It follows the story of the protagonist who loves cooking, and aims to work as an executive Chef in a top restaurant abroad. Owing to disapproval from his father, he is forced to spend some time with his grandfather, working at his small yet popular hotel. What follows is a beautiful journey of self growth, where he comes to realize that serving the needy and the socially ostracized segment such as the mentally challenged, gave him much more satisfaction and joy than he would have ever received at any commercial, high end establishment.

Volunteering is also an excellent antidepressant. Social isolation is a risk factor for depression. Volunteering helps you develop relationships and support systems, both of which can help you overcome obstacles and fight depression.  Scientifically such interactions release a hormone called oxytocin, which helps us to bond and care for others and also helps us to handle stress better. Interacting with others and listening to their stories will not only take your mind off your troubles but also leave you feeling good about yourself.

On a personal note, interacting with kids, and volunteering at animal shelters has increased my self-confidence, and most importantly gives me immense satisfaction, joy and a sense of purpose.

So if you also wish you had fewer days where you just felt like curling up in a corner and feeling bad for yourself, put on those Good Samaritan shoes and volunteer for a cause that’s close to your heart!

-Ramya

A TRIBUTE TO HOLLYWOOD’S BELOVED MAGICIAN

 “You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it”.

                                                                             -Robin Williams

On August 11th, 3 years ago, the world lost its undisputed king of comedy and one of the greatest actors we had ever known, Robin Williams. Williams took his own life after a decade-long battle with depression and the onset of Lewy body dementia along with Parkinson’s disease. However, he left us with a legacy of inspiring, one of kind movies such as Mrs. DoubtfireDead Poets SocietyGood Will Hunting, and Good Morning, Vietnam, to name a few.

Every single movie of his has inspired us to try harder, given us hope when we felt like we were stuck in a bottomless pit, cheered us up when our self-confidence had hit an all new low and made us laugh till our stomachs hurt. Williams pours out his heart and soul into each and every character he has ever portrayed, leaving us with a medley of emotions.

Dead Poets Society”, was one such movie that hits you deep within your soul, leaving an everlasting impact in your life. Robin Williams delivered one of his most memorable performances in the film, playing the role of John Keating, an English teacher in the elite conservative boarding school Welton Academy.  He inspires his students to embrace their passion, and allow themselves to be consumed by poetry, love, music and art. Whenever you feel chocked by the mundane everyday grind of life, make it a point to watch this movie. Being one of my personal favorites, this movie continues to be a huge source of inspiration to all, edging us on to dream big and follow our heart.

Patch Adams”, is another noteworthy role that was received with mixed emotions. Patch Adams tells the inspirational true story of this once clinically depressed, newly invigorated caregiver on his journey through medical school and beyond. Breaking all the molds, Patch’s excessive cheer and optimism challenge conventional medical practices. Practicality or compassion? Indifference or concern? He chooses to love and respect those in pain, improving life instead of just delaying death. And the payoffs are tremendous. He believes that hospitals should personally interact with their patients and that laughter and kindness were easily the most effective medicines. Patch Adams has the potential to inspire medical professionals help prevent the alienation of patients from their caregivers. Though critics dismissed this film as a mawkish tear-jerker, it captures the human spirit at its finest.

Good Will Hunting” gave Williams the coveted Oscar for his role as Matt Damon’s therapist. This is a powerful film about Will, a working class janitor, who leaves MIT professors dumfounded with his IQ. However, his aggression and complacency leaves no room for personal growth. This is where, Williams enters, guiding Will into the path of self-discovery. This film boasts of two of Robin William’s best speeches, so juicy they look set to become actors’ audition pieces: one about the virtue of imperfection, the other a hostile lecture to Will on the difference between knowledge and experience.

 Be it a hilarious RJ who tries to bring some much needed humor into the lives of Vietnam war soldiers, the rib tickling yet honest portrayal of a father, trying to spend more time with his children under the guise of their new nanny in “Mrs. Doubtfire” or the cheerful “Teddy Roosevelt” in the “Night at the museum” series, Robin Williams was a gem of an individual, who was taken away from us too soon.

I was completely taken aback on hearing of his suicide, and that was when the magnitude of depression really hit me. Depression distorts your thoughts. It makes the world black and white. It sucks all the optimism and will out of you. Maybe there’s something that triggered it, something that was ongoing, but worsened to a point where you could not take it anymore. Sometimes there’s no reason, and that’s even worse somehow. In an interview, Robin William’s wife had said “Depression was one of let’s call it 50 symptoms, and it was a small one.”  He had been suffering with debilitating brain disease called “ Lewy body dementia” accompanied as it usually is, with paranoia and depression. Frequently misdiagnosed, it is the second most common neurodegenerative dementia after Alzheimer’s and causes fluctuations in mental status, hallucinations and impairment of motor function.

We cannot completely criticize his choice to give up his life instead of fighting his problems without personally understanding what he might have gone through. However, remember, there is always another path that leads to a happier ending. The dark tunnel will ultimately lead to light. The process of finding that might seem emotionally draining, but with the help of loved ones, you will surely get there.

Robin Williams himself had once said, “If you are that depressed, reach out to someone. And remember, suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem”.   If you feel like you are slowly falling into the waiting hands of depression, stop, think of all the happy moments in your life, the people who love you, mainly your parents, to whom you are the single most important source of happiness.

I would like to end this tribute with a quote from the “Dead Poets Society”.

“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world”.

Thank you, Robin Williams, for changing ours.

-Ramya MA

 

MEET RISHI

A 19 year old boy who hates talking to people because he’s so agitated all the time, crying himself to sleep every night. Even Gayatri and Kunal kind of avoid meeting him, his best friends from school. Now, obviously not being much of a people’s person, he’s a loner in college too, pursuing a course which he chose for himself but now loathes. So boring, right? His parents Mr. & Mrs. Agarwal running in the corporate race,making both ends meet, after coming back from their work, fight. Frustrated with their life, they shout and argue and taunt till one of them is too tired to even comprehend the present situation. But this does not make Rishi sad because this is normal in his family. On weekends when they finally have a little time, they go out for movies, with pin drop silence in their car, on the way to theater and on the way back home.

These days Mr. & Mrs. Agarwal are a little concerned about Rishi because he’s completely wasting his life. He’s sleeping all the time, doesn’t go out, has no hobby and the only type of conversation they have with him is when they end up saying “Shut up and learn to talk respectfully”, making them even more frustrated.

So, one fine day Mr. Agarwal decides to give Rishi a pep talk, he goes up to him and asks, “Now what’s wrong? This behavior of yours is completely unjustified, we provide you with everything, you have chosen the course of your interest, then what’s so upsetting? Neither you are focusing on your college nor are you trying to do anything else. Stop acting like a loser and start making something of yourself. You act as if we have been torturing you. Is someone hurting you?”, Rishi thinking to himself, “should I again try to explain or should I not”?, feeling really vulnerable Rishi decided to explain, “Dad, no one’s hurting me and I don’t know how to make you understand, but I feel sad all the time. Even I don’t understand what’s wrong with me, but I think I might have depression…”, interrupting him, Mr. Agarwal says,” Oh my god! I’ve told you before also this depression and all does not exist. All these stupid illnesses have been created by these so called counselors to steal our money, don’t believe everything you read on internet. This is all just a way of these doctors making money by stealing ours. You are not some crazy person, I’m sure of that.” Rishi getting furious, says, “ Having depression does not make a person crazy, don’t you understand!” Mr. Agarwal again interrupting, says “ Your irrelevant and obnoxious excuses to just laze all day is just making me sick. Enough is enough. From tomorrow I want all of this to stop and you’ll attend your college daily and I want to see results. You are getting all these stupid ideas because you have nothing to do. You were not like this before, Rishi. We love you but you need to get back on track. You need to be a little strong or you’ll regret this attitude in future”, his father exits the room leaving Rishi alone, making him think that he’s some kind of a loser.

Now Rishi had to take this matter in his own hands. As he was mentally too weak to do anything he was also determined to get out of it as soon as possible. So he took away some money from his parents, without them knowing, and with some of his pocket money, he consulted a renowned and a certified psychiatrist. Later, he was diagnosed with clinical depression. His psychiatrist stated that due to constant bullying in school, even though it was in a playful manner made him lose all his confidence and gradually affected his social life and his studies. This was the trigger point for his depression. He also could not confine his problems into his friends because he was too ashamed to do so.

He completed his treatment in 6 months and became a healthy adult and back to being himself again. Now, he was prepared to face any challenge coming his way with full strength and optimism because this illness called depression left him as strong as ever.

This is to let all the readers know who think the same as Mr. Agarwal, that mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and so many other illnesses do exist and people suffering from such illnesses need medical treatment just like any other illness. Having depression is as normal as having food poisoning. It’s high time we break the stigma.

– SAUMYA SINGH

LETTING DOWN YOUR EMOTIONAL GUARD -ONE POST AT A TIME

The alarm rings. You wake up groggy and tired.  Your eyes are still closed. You search for your phone. Check your news feed. Perhaps some new likes on your latest Instagram post?  Maybe wonder why your new DP got less likes than the previous one? Is this an uncanny description of your usual morning routine?

If so, congratulations! You are now part of the bandwagon of people whose lives more or less revolve around social media.

The ”#StatusOfMind” survey, published by the United Kingdom’s Royal Society for Public Health, included input from 1,479 young people (ages 14 to 24) from across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. From February through May of 2017, people answered questions about how different social media platforms impacted 14 different issues related to their mental or physical health. Social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram do have their benefits. They scored points in areas such as self-expression, spreading positive awareness, community building and emotional support.

The story of “Badra- the dog who lived” is a beautiful example of how social media helped bring the perpetrators to justice and ultimately find the abused dog a loving home.

However, they all fared badly in areas such as reduced sleep quality, bullying,depression, body shaming  and FOMO ( Fear of missing out).  Platforms like Instagram are frequented by models and actors, whose photos can set unrealistic expectations for women and men, leading to lowered self-esteem and body imaging. Australian Instagram model Essena O’Neill, 19, went viral with a video on why she quit social media calling it “fake” and saying it made her “miserable.” She brought out the fallacy and sacrifices behind every photo, and urged others to step of out this “unreal world”.

 

“Facebook depression” is a relatively new term that researchers have come up with.  According to the first HomeNet study in 1998, there was a statistically significant relationship between Internet use and depression. The study authors originally argued that Internet use actually causes depression due to replacing concrete off-line relationships with “less personal social relationships” online, something they dubbed the “Internet paradox” since social technology originally intended to make people less isolated, apparently reduced well-being.  The users start thriving on social media appreciation and directly link it to their self-worth.

 “Cyber bullying” is another common situation that often leads to depression, anxiety and insecurity in the victim.  There has been many cases where this has actually fueled suicide.

   

“Facebook envy” was another term put forth by the researchers. People going through some rough patches in their life, may further spiral into depression or get consumed with jealousy when they see their friend’s success stories. Though the triggers for Facebook envy may be different than that of Facebook depression, they can lead to users judging themselves more harshly and feeling that they have failed to accomplish anything in life.

A lot of good can be achieved using social media. Focus on that, and make sure you are wary of its ill effects. Yes. People’s opinions do matter. However, your opinion should come before theirs.  Do not thrive on compliments or comments on a post to make you feel loved. Self-appreciation should come from within. Focus on building stronger, offline relationships, and spend less time on online ones. Do not let down your emotional guard to complete strangers; instead focus on strengthening ties that matter. Love yourself, and the world will follow!

                                                                                      -M.A.Ramya

HERE’S TO TOMORROW

On 20th July this year, the world bid farewell to the lead vocalist of one of the most popular bands of this generation. Chester Bennington of Linkin Park took his own life that day and he was just 41. Linkin Park is a band that is revered by people all around the world not only for their musicality but more importantly for their relatable lyrics. Their lyrics talk about the emotional struggles that everyone goes through at different points in their lives and that it’s okay to feel that way, because they aren’t alone. Linkin Park and their music have helped so many people get through some of their darkest and loneliest days to see one more sunrise. And I belong to this generation that grew up with them, and their music has had profound impacts on me as well. Chester has left us completely shocked, confused and upset. The unique rasp of his voice and his strikingly contrast kind persona will remain unparalleled and will forever be missed. Wherever you are Chester, I hope you find your peace.

 

 We all have our demons don’t we? Voices inside our heads that don’t let us sleep at night, you might have yours too. You could now be very well going through the toughest of times where you feel like the days are never-ending and that the world is closing in on you. Life would seem to always be dealing you the wrong hand and nothing would seem to go right. Sometimes it could get hard even to think and breathe. There can be many instances, bad ones, that happen all at once leaving you swirling down the rabbit hole with nothing to hold on to. You could’ve put in a 110% of effort and hard work into that one thing you so badly wanted only for it to have gone to waste. Or people you once considered to be your world are now slowly drifting away and there’s nothing you can do about it or you could very well be in a room full of people yet feel like the loneliest person in the whole world. And most of the times, during phases like these; you’ll feel like there’s no point in doing anything, anymore. It comes and goes in waves, these emotions. And sometimes, when the waves are large and too strong, it can get very overwhelming. It is at these times when people decide that they’ve had enough, that they’ve had enough of life toying with them.

                                            

But please know that you’re not alone. And please reach out for help. Do not let one moment of weakness overpower you. It’s easy to convince yourself that you’re just another person amongst a sea of 7 billion others and that your absence here won’t make a difference. But it will. It most definitely will.

                                        

“The millisecond my hands left the rail, it was an instant regret”

Thousands of people jump off the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco every year but these very words that I’ve quoted was from a person who survived. A person who was amongst the 1% that have survived up until now.

There is always a way out of the dark tunnel you are seemingly stuck in, there is always a light. You might not see it now but it is surely there. There still is hope in this world and kindness in this world, all you have to do is just ask. Regardless of what you might think, there are people who care about you, all around you. Build yourself a strong network of support and help others build theirs. Every single person you see has or is battling his or her demons, you probably won’t be able to tell from the surface, but they are, just like you. If you need help, talk about it because it is high time we stop bottling up our feelings and thoughts. Always remember to be kind and to spread it. Sometimes, even the smallest of gestures like a gentle smile could have the biggest of impacts on a stranger who just might be having a rough day. And always remember, it takes a lot of courage to battle your demons, be proud of yourself that you do it everyday and still not let them win. Fight them, conquer them. You’re an amazing human being. A miracle. Never forget that.

I’ll leave you be with a short poem that I wrote around 4 years ago to kind of help myself whenever I was having a bad day and if you’ve had a bad day today, I hope tomorrow will be better. Because believe me when I say that most of the time, it always is.

A Ray Of Hope

A ray of hope is what I’m living on,

A silver lining to my dark clouds,

I do not seem to see it now,

But I know that my sun will rise.

Even this shall pass they said,

And a ray of hope is what I saw,

A new world just for me with a very new beginning,

Free from all that is dark.

And when my sun does rise,

It shall be so magnificent,

That it shall blind all those who see it,

And burn down all that bound me,

Till then I shall stay waiting, bracing the dark storm,

With a burning ray of hope inside of me,

So strong that no one could put it off,

That will one day set me free.

                                                                                                              –  Srivasupradha

HEALTHY BODY, HEALTHY MIND: A LOOK AT THE 2017 MEN’S HEALTH WEEK OR RATHER, THE LACK OF IT

The first time I came across something called the Men’s health Month was when I was assigned to write an article about it and I’m pretty sure this is your first time hearing about it too. Here’s why.

Let me digress for a bit. Now I am a person who spends a lot of time on the internet googling and it acts as my source of information to get to know of the various happenings around the world, be it social movements, politics, celebrity gossip, viral dank memes or even Donald Trump’s somewhat amusing tweets. So when I googled about Men’s Health Week to get to know more about it, I expected to find a lot of information on the topic for my research– various forums discussing it, amazing websites dedicated to spreading awareness about the cause, even a few celebrities endorsing it. But all I found of much significance were four pages- A website very dedicated to the cause in Australia and other active websites based in the US, New Zealand and the UK and a few blogs articles here and there.

It was shocking how little information was on the internet about this.

Now I say shockingly little because, on an estimate, Google spits out about 10 million results under a minute for a search on any given topic. But when I googled about Men’s Health week, I did get those estimated 10 million results but only very few had actual, useful information in them.

And I haven’t even gotten to the more startling part yet. When I added a little keyword next to my search called “India”, there were ZERO results of significance. “Men’s Health Week India” had ZERO useful results and all that popped up were articles from “Men’s Health magazine”. No wonder no one knew about it.

Now after digging around some more, I found the central website dedicated to this event – (www.menshealthmonth.org) and on there are some 19 countries that have taken up supporting this cause but only 9 of them have dedicated websites amongst which Australia has 2. India is not on there.

And to confirm my findings, I referred the National Health Portal which publicises of all health-related information to the public and “Men’s Health Week” did not find a place on there. India, however, celebrates Health Week observed from April 4- April 10 to mark the World Health Day on 7th April of every year.

Now that I’ve put this information up to you, let me give you my opinion on why Men’s Health Week should gain more publicity around the world and become as important an event as International Yoga Day.

Men’s Health Week was started in the United States by the US Congress in 1994 to heighten awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys. And Australia’s main theme for this year’s event was “HEALTHY BODY – HEALTHY MIND: KEEPING THE BALANCE” which explores the different ways men can manage being both physically and mentally healthy. Now, this is a crucial theme that holds great importance. Many people have started talking about health and are taking various active measures to become physically fit and lead a healthier life. But discussions are still of very few numbers when it comes to talking about the mental health of men and that is what the world needs to recognise and take measures for.

According to statistics, around 510,000 men commit suicide every year.

A study conducted in the UK in 2013 states that amongst the 6233 suicides recorded in the UK in the 15 years or older demographic, 78% were male and 22% were female. In the US on the other hand, in 2010, there were reports of 38,364 suicides out of which 79% were men. These numbers are no joke.

Men are at a higher risk of falling victim to depression and anxiety because of extreme stress. Most of the stress can be attributed to societal pressures. A lot is expected from men and although the world is progressing, a majority of the people still have an orthodox mindset with regard to familial roles. Men are still expected to be the breadwinners of the family in a lot of societies and become financially secure at an early age. They are told to be strong, courageous and to show no signs of weakness. What this does, is cause more harm than good. Men are shown to less likely get access to psychological therapies than women and only 36% of referrals to IAPT (Increasing Access to Psychological Therapies) are men. And most of these estimates do not boast a lot of accuracy because of the huge possibility of under-diagnosis.

In India, mental health related issues are still a taboo in most parts of the country and there isn’t enough awareness created amongst the common people to even identify that they’re facing a mental health related issue and should seek help for it. Most men do not properly identify their issues and tend to attribute it to fatigue, stress and assume that what they’re going through is just a phase in life that every other man goes through too. And the men who do manage to narrow down the problem forgo receiving help because of fear of being ostracised and looked down upon by the society. However, India, now, is slowly realising the importance of the mental health of its citizens and with the passing of the recent Mental Health Bill, we can expect an increase in discussions related to mental health. We need to become more open-minded and raise our boys to be strong.

But strength doesn’t lie in hiding one’s weakness, it lies in seeking help to overcome their issues. Men go through an immense amount of stress and they ought to be raised in an environment where they feel comfortable to openly talk about it and get help. Creating awareness is the need of the hour.

Even if the government does pass bills and publicise events like these to create awareness, the public must be willing to realise this issue and embrace change. The only ones who can change the minds of the masses are the masses themselves. So here’s to hoping that this same June, next year, a little more of the world and India especially, get to know about Men’s Health Week and come forward to talk about it. After all, we’re all looking for support and happiness in this changing world and maybe, we might just find it in each other.

 

Important websites to refer to –

·        http://www.menshealthmonth.org

·        http://www.menshealthweek.org.au

·        https://www.menshealthforum.org.uk

 

 – Srivasupradha R