LonePack Conversations – Discussing the ‘Meh’ with Bhairavi Prakash

When you don’t have words to describe the feeling of emptiness, anger, frustration, you just go ‘Meh’. It’s an emotion that says a lot without saying much.

In this episode of LonePack Conversations, we discuss this feeling and how to tackle it, among other initiatives from Mithra Trust with its founder Bhairavi Prakash, psychologist and public speaker.


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Karthik: Good morning, Good afternoon, Good night, whatever time it is, wherever you are listening to this episode of our podcast, LonePack Conversations, where we shine the light on mental health experts and organizations and give a voice to connect with all the impactful work they have been doing.

My name is Karthik and in this edition of LonePack Conversations, we are joined by Bhairavi Prakash, a Bangalore based psychologist, founder of the Mithra Trust and public speaker. Hello Bhairavi!

 

Bhairavi: Hi Karthik! And, I am from Chennai and Bangalore based by the way. Lockdown in Chennai but I am not in Lockdown in Bangalore.

 

Karthik: That’s interesting!

Alright, Can you give a brief introduction of yourself and the work that Mithra Trust does?

 

Bhairavi: Sure, I’m a psychologist as you said. I studied in Chennai. I went to Women’s Christian College here and I have been in this field for about ten years now. I have worked on everything from corporate mental health, setting up school mental health programs, to working on artificial intelligence in mental health and things like that. Then, I ended up founding Mithra as an NGO. 

The idea of Mithra is to give mental health information and tools and spread awareness in a way that a friend would. I found that everything around mental health was very scientific or it was very medical. It didn’t have that personal connection or personal impact. 

A lot of the work that I do is based on my own stories. So, mental health issues that I have faced myself or having lost a friend to suicide or just things that happen in life that impact you but you don’t realize at that time that it has impacted you.

 

Karthik: Wow! That is quite impactful to know.

So, I find that there are a lot of parallels and synergies between what LonePack does and also what Mithra Trust does. So, what was your inspiration to founding this organization? and, how is the work that Mithra Trust does unique?

 

Bhairavi: I’d done so much in mental health but Mithra is the first area that looks at it in a very friendly way. So, I am not talking as a psychologist to people. The tools that we provide are actually tools that I need for myself. So, Mithra just began as a way of looking at what are the things that I needed at different points in my life and making that accessible. 

One of the first things that we did when we launched Mithra was this series called ‘What to say’. It is such a simple concept. How many times have you been on the phone where somebody is crying or someone is really upset and you don’t know what to say to them? So, my whole thing was, How can I help you be a better friend and How can I help you be a better support system and that’s how ‘What to Say’ started.

We launched, ‘What to Say’ for somebody who wants to take their own life and we have done series covering so many things, anxiety, depression, grief, over-thinking, heart-break, how to apologize, all the way to abortion, miscarriage and sexual assault. I keep asking the Mithra community on Instagram, “What do you want help with?” and based on that we come up with a lot of the content.

Mithra is an organization that I have created basically to help me and is helping a lot of other people… So, I think, in that way, it is very unique.

 

Karthik: Yeah… What you say about, when you’re in a situation, you always misinterpret things or you have the right intentions in mind but you come out and say something that is hurtful to others. So, that series is really quite useful.

So, one of the signature initiatives of the Mithra Trust is The Meh Kit and it has been featured in The Hindu. For people who haven’t heard about this, What is the ‘Meh’ and how does this kit help people tackle this feeling?

 

Bhairavi: The Meh, again is so personal. The Meh, is what I used to say when I didn’t have words and somebody asks you, “How are you doing?” and I’d be in the middle of a depressive episode and I couldn’t explain what I was going through. For them, the Meh could have been anything from feeling overwhelmed to feeling bored, disinterested or very sad but at the end of it, you just know that the Meh means “Not Okay”. So, the minute says ‘Meh’ you know that they are not okay. The Meh is just that overall feeling of being not okay and you say it with a shrug and you feel it with your whole body and you are, ‘Meh’. So, that’s where the Meh came from. 

The Meh Kit, the first one that we have done is called “Riding out Depression” and the idea was how do you help somebody have the tools to understand their own lows and the tools to help them ride it out themselves, the tools to help somebody help themselves. It came from a friend of mine who wrote to me saying, he was a very very dark period and he wasn’t okay and he didn’t want to go to a therapist.

So, I told him that I can’t replace therapy and I am not going to do that but what I can do is that  get you ready if at all you decide to go to a therapist, to make you feel a little bit better and understand what you are going through. It was a series of conversations and all of this was through email. The minute I saw how well he did with that, I was, like, “How can I make this accessible to other people?”. So, basically the idea of the Meh Kit is to unpack different types of emotions that you go through different thoughts that you have and to understand that. 

So, the idea is to, one, give people information of what it really feels like and two, give them the space to understand it on their own time and three, give them the tools to deal with it when they are ready. It has everything, from the ‘What to Say’ statements to explaining this whole depressive episode through a series of comics. We used really warm colors, because when you are in that state of not feeling okay, you feel like you don’t deserve any kind of love, affection or warmth. So, the minute you see this kit, in itself is overwhelming love. Lot’s of people have written saying it’s like a hug for me.

 

Karthik: It is true that lot of us when we phase through this feeling of being stuck and not able to process our own thoughts, we get bombarded on Instagram with plain messages of happy, positive thoughts. There’s always this precise and surgical way of analyzing your thoughts and how to move forward in a very rational fashion, and this kit really does a good job of putting you through those steps and clearly explaining to yourself and moving yourself forward through this entire process. So, that’s great!

Let’s diverge for a bit and try to address the current situation with the Corona Virus, the quarantining and the lockdown. So, how do you think this feeling of ‘Meh’ exhibits itself in a person during this time and as a psychologist, what do you think will help people to get out this feeling.

 

Bhairavi: I’ll give you the answer to this question based on the conversations that I have been having with people.

People come in because they are feeling anxious, overwhelmed and they are really worried and dealing with uncertainty. There’s just a lot of fear. They are very tired. They want to be productive. Some of them are very grateful that they still have jobs but they are not able to do it. Others are very worried about parents and family being away from home, still others are very irritated about the fact that everybody is together all the time and they don’t get their own space. So, there’s all of this that is happening within one virtual space that we are holding.

What I saw is, four distinct phases, which kind of merge together. First, people kind of feel, at the start of the lockdown especially, they felt like, “What’s the big deal? They feel almost comfortable with it, almost like a summer holiday. Second, any small uncertainty gives you massive frustration. Any small thing that happens, you find yourself reacting in a very big way and not able to understand why. The third is when you feel that you are getting things back on track. You seem to have a plan. You’ve started working out and doing Yoga, have mindfulness and things seem to be a little bit in control. These three things people go through during hours or days. This constant cycle of “I’m not okay.”, “I don’t know what to do.”, “Oh my god! I am getting better.” and then again. That’s something that I saw very clearly.

The overarching thing in all of this was just feelings of guilt. “Why should I be feeling so bad when, the migrant workers, how much they are walking, how much they are being bullied by the police. They have it so much worse than me.” So, I am feeling bad that I am not feeling okay. So, this level of not allowing ourselves to feel. These are people who know it and have been doing the work, who’ve been part of therapy. Even they had trouble doing this.

We need to recognize that all of us are going to be impacted and we need to give ourselves the space to recognize that. But, understanding that it has an impact on us doesn’t take away from the very real pain that somebody else is going through. So, it is not about comparing pain. When you compare it to a physical pain, like a stubbed toe, it doesn’t make sense, “Please cry out. Of course, your toe is in pain. Is it bleeding? Does it need ice? You need to rest.”, you automatically figure out so much ways to support. 

 

Karthik: When something is right there in front of our eyes, we give it more attention whereas when it is something in our mind, we do not express it. We are not giving ourselves the permission to feel bad or take a moment and heal.

 

Bhairavi: So, for me as a psychologist, the only thing to everyone in this world right now is think of your own mental and emotional pain that you are going through, like that stubbed toe, try to identify what it is and give yourself that feeling and the permission to feel that pain. That’s the biggest thing you can do for yourself.

 

Karthik: It’s also the biggest step you can take towards healing.

On your website, there are so many useful resources, you can head to mithratrust.com for accessing those resources, I saw there were the ‘Virtual well-being’ sessions, the ‘What to Say’ series and the ‘Meh and me’ series. The last one, ‘Meh and me’ series, I was particularly intrigued by that because it talks about mental health issues in men which is scarcely addressed. Why do you think that is the case and what can men do, who are undergoing mental health issues or who just want to help, to get out of this cage of not being allowed to feel, not being allowed to have mental health issues?

 

Bhairavi: ‘The Meh and Me’ series started off in November. In November, you have health month for men, Movember, where men grow mustaches and that is what it’s known for. We thought, Let’s try to bring in an interesting concept, where we ask men to submit stories and keep it anonymous. We posted them on Instagram and a number of people said, “If you hadn’t told me this was a man, I would have just assumed it was a woman.” 

One, men don’t talk about it and you don’t acknowledge or associate men with having feelings like that, expressing them and going through pain. That is a huge part of our society, just the way that boys and girls are brought up. That is what you see right? You don’t see someone who is in tune with themselves. You don’t see someone questioning and understanding what’s happening, or even talking about it.

So, The whole point of the ‘Meh and Me’ series is to, (have a platform where you ask), “Tell us about a time where you weren’t feeling okay and were ‘Meh’. What did that feel like? And then what happened?” It’s just to show people that this is a simple format and we have men and boys of all ages to submit what they are going through. So, people started feeling so good about it that we extended it. It’s no longer for that month, November, but become a regular series that we do now.

 

Karthik: The stories were quite moving. I went through a few of them. To see that it is not only me, me in my four walls, We’re all in this together and the sense of community is quite liberating. 

Mithra Trust has done some great work in bringing awareness to mental health. So, what are some initiatives that we can expect to see in the future that you guys might do?

 

Bhairavi: Right now, with the lockdown, we did the whole thing about ‘Connect Within’ where we sent messages to people everyday on Instagram saying ‘Take a few moments to pause, to breathe and to think thoughts of kindness, hope, compassion and gratitude.’ We have taken it a step further now. This entire week is part of Mental Health Awareness week. The theme was kindness within you. So, we have been doing these activities around kindness. 

Going forward, we are doing a lot of work on building something for young people, something specifically (for them), because I think, school students, they have so much of uncertainty. Everything that they worked towards, all of their dreams, or they have gotten into college, and now, they don’t know what’s happening.

That feeling of how you deal with all these things, the things that you have been working towards and now don’t mean anything. To bring a framework and a sense around that, we are doing work on resilience, and within resilience engaging in this concept of gratitude, kindness and compassion. That is a series that we’ll be launching in June. It’s gonna be a webinar-discussion series. 

‘Let’s discuss the meh’, is primarily a discussion series. ‘Doodles for the meh’, is a series where you sit and you are provided a tool, you are taught how to doodle while you observe your thoughts, emotions, while you connect to your breathing and you kind of let out the emotions through the doodle and bringing in resilience for the meh, next.

 

Karthik: The second example, doodling is quite a favorite of mine and lot of us try to bring it out in a creative form of all our issues, we try to express them, and it’s important to have a platform to have that exposure and getting it out of your system.

It’s been a pleasure to have you in this edition of LonePack Conversations and as we close out this episode, what would be your message to leave our listeners with and where can they head to find more about the Mithra Trust.

 

Bhairavi: My message to everybody is to acknowledge the Meh, acknowledge when you are not feeling okay. There are so many great resources, the fact that they are listening to the LonePack Conversations, it means they are giving themselves the permission, the time and space to engage with these conversations. I think you guys have been doing an incredible job with this. Even with the letters of positivity, it is something nice to look forward to.

If you want to find out more about Mithra Trust, just jump on Instagram, @mithratrust. 

 

Karthik: Alright! Let’s close out this edition. Thank you for joining us and have a good day!

 

Bhairavi: Thank you so much Karthik!

 

International Day of Happiness

It is an odd time to celebrate the ‘International Day of Happiness’. Coronavirus, global warming, social and political issues, to name a few reasons why. The future seems bleak and preaching hope sounds distant and impractical. So, should we just skip celebrating this time then?

Happiness feels like a fantasy in today’s world. While happiness seems more like a utopian ideal today, one cannot deny that we need to believe in the idea of happiness to move forward. Hope is central to happiness; it is what drives us from the past to tomorrow. But is there hope at happiness at all? My views on happiness are skeptical to say the least. When someone does present themselves to be happy, more specifically, social media happy, it feels artificial and manufactured. 

If writing for mental health awareness is not a dead giveaway that I too have gone (going) through mental health issues, I am not sure what is. When hope was given to me, it felt like a lie and the person I was talking to felt more distant. I never would wrap my head around the fact that things would get better. But as the years went by, I found that just as much as the circumstances made it difficult for me to heal, my attitude was just as big a hurdle to happiness. Yes, things are bad and against me, but after taking a few blows, I began to realize that not even I was on my side. If the world was against me (it was so, in my head), I was right there with them, upholding their views, beating myself up more than they ever could and turning down help. I realized that my thoughts of never being happy… I was the one making them a reality.

While it takes very little to be a critique, a debby-downer or a sad boy confined to the prison of his mind, it takes great courage and tenacity, to stand up to the challenge and do something about it. Now, not every cheery message might get to you or is it possible to suddenly wake up to be grateful and happy everyday. But if we keep an open mind to change and to happiness, it can do wonders. I am forever in awe of people who live their truth, who are hopeful in the face of struggles and who put others happiness before their own. There is a story there far greater than I could perceive, of one much deeper than the one of struggle, it is rarer, for it is one of hope and overcoming adversity.

Cliched as it may sound, if I can change my attitude towards happiness, so can you. Some things that have enabled me to embark on the road to happiness are patience, practicality and pity. I have never been patient, not even with my recovery, and I tend to get ‘distracted’ by all the awful news out there. It helps me to stick to a program, keeping a schedule to adhere to. Here’s a coping calendar that helps you do one thing a day for a month to deal with the current crisis. 

Keeping your cool and taking wise decisions that are good for your mental health has been far more difficult than I presumed. For even taking a mental health day off or cutting toxic people, I have had to justify my actions repeatedly to myself. Ironically, being practical and not letting emotions cloud my judgement has been the best tool to take care of my emotional well-being. Finally, compassion may be the single most unexplainable and yet crucial quality in an individual seeking happiness. I can attest to the fact that we indeed become happier as we help and provide for others. So, as the slogan for International Day of Happiness goes, ‘Keep Calm, Stay Wise, Be Kind’, we too can become happier by being patient, practical and pitying.

LonePack Conversations—Rand Fishkin & fighting depression through an entrepreneurial journey

Putting one’s efforts, money, time, and passion into building a company is easier said than done. Not only does it give one the fame and glory of establishing big in the business world, but also drive them crazy over various step-stones in the process to stardom. 


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Aishwarya: Welcome to LonePack Conversations. I’m Aishwarya, your host, and today we’re speaking to Rand Fishkin, an established entrepreneur and leader in the start-up space. 

Hi Rand! Welcome to LonePack Conversations. It’s great to speak to you. 

Rand: Great to speak to you, as well! Thanks for having me.  

Aishwarya: Sure. Let’s begin with a little bit of a background. 

So, you’re just about to kickstart your second entrepreneurial venture. How is life and how are things? 

Rand: Exciting, yeah. I’ve been working on this new venture for a couple of years now; almost 2 years, exactly, and have a co-founder, we have raised a little bit of money, we’re just getting ready to launch our paid product, and so it’s busy, but in a good way. 

Aishwarya: That sounds exciting! So, as the founder of ‘Moz’ and currently ‘SparkToro’, if you had to pick a challenging and mentally exhausting moment in your life, what would it be? 

Rand: I have had many. Probably too many. I would say one of the most mentally taxing and frustrating parts of my career during my tenure as CEO of ‘Moz’, after we raised our $18 million funding round. And of course, you know lots of requirements around growth and exits come with that.  We had a team of about 50 people at the time, which was a wonderful size, I really enjoyed it, but we had to grow, right? We had to get much bigger, much faster, be able to do a lot more, produce a lot more software, delight a lot more customers. And so, over the next 18 months, we tripled the team size to nearly 150 people including contractors, and that process, those 18 months, from 2012 into 2013, those were one of the hardest, most difficult of my career. 

I think that building a team from the ground up is a hard thing, but scaling at a rapid rate, right; adding more people you have in a company is really really exhausting for the team , for the leadership, it’s really hard on your value and your culture; it’s hard on all the people who are there. That stands out in my mind as being a crazy difficult time. 

Aishwarya: Definitely, I think I’m able to imagine, the way you are describing, how it would be for somebody who has bigger aspirations and goals. At the same time, those 18 months would’ve been really taxing for you. And, I actually read about the fact that when Sarah came in as the CEO after you, how things were able to, you know, bring back into the picture; how there was a sort of unity in the team, and I really love that portion. 

Rand: I found it tremendously challenging to just maintain a culture; a company culture that I wanted to exist. I think that was a huge part of the problem. 

Another part of the problem, too, is this; the expectations that come from your existing team, right, from the people who’ve been there, and who’ve helped you along the way, and what they expect from a growing company, right, a lot of people who are individual contributors want to become managers. A lot of people who are managers expect their teams to grow, and their budgets to grow, and I think as a CEO, especially a first-time CEO, it’s really hard to say no. 

Aishwarya: True, yeah. 

Rand: You’re just not used to it; you don’t expect it, you know, you have all this money; people know you have all this money; expectations, and they say, ‘Hey, I want more budget, I want more people on my team, I wanna hire three more people. You’re expected to say yes, and it’s hard to say no. 

Aishwarya: Absolutely. Each company has its set of goals and expectations, and the people who make up the company again will have their expectations, and it’s important to sort of align these together, because everybody is definitely looking out for growth map and likewise with the company, and I think as the CEO, an important task, and the most contingent task for you would’ve been to align these two together. I can definitely understand that. 

Rand: Yeah, I think there’s this big challenge where people have multiple goals in mind, so obviously, the people who were working at ‘Moz’; they wanted the company to do well, but they also wanted their personal careers to do well. They wanted their personal careers to show growth. They want their title to get bigger, they want their pay to get more, they want more people reporting to them, because that looks more impressive to future employers. These are often at odds with what you should do as a CEO. The right thing to do as a CEO; your obligation to the shareholders, and your Board, and the company’s growth, is to say no to almost everything, except a few things. 

But the pressure in the moment feels the opposite.  When someone comes to you and says ‘Hey, I’ve done a loyal, great job over the last three or four years; I expect these things from my career; this is what I’m looking for,’ and you want to say “Yes, you deserve that, I want to give it to you.” But in fact what you’ve got to say is, “It’s not the right thing for the company, and if that’s not enough to keep you here, then good luck; let’s find you a new role somewhere else; I’m happy to make  introductions, or give a nice testimonial about you.” And if that’s not enough, here’s what you can expect from your career here over the next few years, and here’s how it gets changed. It gets really hard, right.  

Startups…startups are one thing, and as they get to middling stages of growth, they become another thing. People are really bad at change; people hate change. 

Aishwarya: Certainly, certainly. I think for people, as you grow, as you start up, as you try to grow that company big, the most important and most difficult task would be to prioritize and say ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to things that really matter. Especially in this case, when an employee walks up to you and asks for, say, a pay raise or a change in role, and you know that he/she is still deserving, but at that point, you might have to say no because you have certain aspirations; certain paths for the company to go through. So that’s totally acceptable, and it’s time that people start thinking about this; how to say no, because that’s one of the most difficult tasks. 

Rand: Yeah, absolutely. Saying no and saying yes; these are the hard things. 

Aishwarya: So, did depression have an effect on your physical health? If so, how did you realize it and what were the measures you took to overcome that? 

Rand: Yeah, the bad news for me is, it did have a significant effect on my health and wellbeing, I think both physically and mentally. Over the course of my…I was in my late 20s and my early-mid 30s and I had degenerative disk disease, which affects your spine and made it very uncomfortable and difficult for me to sit for long stretches, which is very hard when you have to get on a lot of planes and travel overseas for conferences and events and those sort of things. 

And it also had a significant negative impact on my sleep. Which, of course, you know, sleep and stress are very well-coordinated, and I think that that cycle of having stress, compounding physical pain which made it hard to sleep, which made every day even more stressful; that cycle, that loop, was really really difficult to break through. 

And eventually, I think the answer for me ended up being pulling back from the quantity of work I was doing; I invested in physical therapy, and mental health therapy, right—seeing a counsellor, a therapist, and a coach, and I also stepped down from the CEO role, and took another role inside the company, although I think that probably did not have a great impact on my mental health and physical health for at least a number of years. 

And it wasn’t really until I left ‘Moz’ and started my new company, ‘SparkToro’, that I think I got to a really healthy place. And so nowadays, arguably the best shape of my life, both physically and mentally; but it is… it can be really hard, and I think that people have to choose. They have to choose what’s right for them, and whether they can prioritize their health over their company. I think what’s wrong is that it’s often a false dichotomy, where you think you need to be working all hours when, in fact, a few very productive hours are probably far better than 60 or 80 hours in a work week. 

But that’s just not the general belief. I think that the culture of tech is to overwork people and we need to end that. 

Aishwarya: Sure. I think that’s quite some stress and physical toll on you, and kudos to you because you’ve managed it really well. And, you know what, you’ve set an example to a lot of listeners today because I’m sure most of them have thoughts today about starting up or they are in the process of running a company, and they are handling a lot of pressure on a day-to-day basis. 

So, I guess what you told actually gives them a good idea to reflect upon, especially when you said ‘Choose’ because, you know, as Jeff Bezos says, at the end of the day, you’re made up of your choices. And you have to make those choices in a right way; good, bad, whatever it is, you just have to analyze and try to come over it. So I think that’s a very strong point that I, along with the listeners, are picking up today for our own lives, as well. 

Rand: Yeah, yeah, I mean, my hope is that in the future, more people choose to prioritize their health first, and I believe that it will actually lead; that will lead to more successful business outcomes. 

I think there’s a mythology that by sacrificing health, and making that choice, if you will, to devote yourself entirely to your work and your business, that somehow you’re going to benefit from that; that your business is going to benefit from that…I think that’s not true. 

I think that the CEOs’ job, fundamentally the CEO’s job is to make great decisions. And every piece of research we have shows that when you’re sleep-deprived, and when you’re in pain, and when you’re not taking care of your body, your decision-making is worse. 

So I would argue that you should work less, you should sleep more, you should exercise and eat and enjoy your social life so that you are mentally in a good place, to make great decisions. Because that is your core job. 

And I know I made a lot of bad decisions when I wasn’t sleeping, when I was working 60-80 hours a week; I know I did. 

Aishwarya: Spot on! I think it’s straight from a founder’s life, and you know, these are some gold points, and I’m sure that the listeners are just going to pick this up and try to relate this with their lives, and start practising them already. 

Rand: Yeah. 

Aishwarya: From a workplace front, do you think workers and peers can be supportive about your mental wellness at the times that you need? 

Rand: Yeah, absolutely! I think that you, as a founder, can craft a culture that reinforces and supports the idea that it’s results and quality of work that matter, and not the amount of work that matters, or hard work or the number of hours in the office or number of hours online; I think those are useless matrices. I would instead reward work that is high quality, and work that gets results. And I would recognise and reward people investing in their health. 

I think that if you do those two things, craft that type of a culture, you can do that from the bottom-up or the top-down, both, and you will get a workplace that delivers really good quality results. 

Aishwarya: Wonderful! I think a little bit of a praise and appreciative behaviour of one another would definitely help in succeeding. Not just sticking on what the results are, and how much time it took for the results to come in, but actually the quality work that comes in after somebody works on it; just a small appreciation would go a long way in building team spirit. 

Rand: Yeah, yeah, and I think recognising; I mean, somebody puts two hours into a project, and the results are high-quality; I think recognising and rewarding that, more so than if somebody puts 20 or 30 hours into the same project and gets the same quality of results; I think that’s an excellent thing. 

One of the things that’s definitely true, especially in most high-tech work, is that when you are well-rested, and well-fed and in a good place mentally, you tend to contribute far better quality work in much shorter amounts of time. 

A lot of times you get back from vacation, and you’ll find that, “Wow! I got so much done in one day after vacation, compared to a whole week when I’m in the middle of a slog.” 

Aishwarya: True that! I think these are some gestures that most of us should keep in mind, and a contribution of this kind can actually boost the morale of the team. 

You would’ve met a lot of C-suite leaders, venture capitalists and startup founders. Do you see a common pattern of depression or mental trauma among these leaders, simply because all of these roles demand much energy and pressure to deliver the best? 

Rand: Yeah, yeah, I’ve definitely seen many, many entrepreneurs, founders, executives;  folks tell that they are struggling, mentally and emotionally and often physically. And I hope that’s a culture we can change. 

Aishwarya: Mm-hmm. Definitely, I think the struggle is real, and it’s important that…Actually, I have discovered that somebody has to first recognize that there is a struggle and that there are these mental traumas that are happening because I feel at this time, most of us don’t recognize that. That is the first problem, rather than the mental issues being there as a problem. The major problem, I feel, is not accepting, or refusing to recognize that there is even a problem like this. 

So, what are your thoughts on this? What do you think about people who have to recognize that something is happening, which most of them don’t do?

Rand: Yeah, I would agree. I don’t think you can solve a problem until you recognize it’s there and come to consensus about the fact that it is a problem. It is only after that recognition that you can address it. And this is why I think a lot of this has to do with regards to representation. If you don’t have leaders in these companies talking about these issues, saying that they faced it, talking about how they fixed it, I think you will continue to get a culture that frankly, rewards sacrificing life for work instead of balancing. 

Aishwarya: Definitely. So have you invested and secured in the mental health benefits for your employees and company leaders, now that we’re talking about team benefits, and how we should be mindful of each other in the team?

Rand: Yeah, I think we did a number of things at ‘Moz’ while I was still there and I think the company is still continuing to invest in that. So I think that includes paying for counsellors and mental health, making sure it’s a part of the company’s healthcare packages and benefits, it includes wellness rooms, it includes being more flexible with time off for mental and emotional health days, it also includes trying to nudge people more towards taking their vacation.

For SparkToro, it’s just Cassy and I; there’s only the two of us, we’re founders. We have a very very healthy work-life balance, so I think we’re sort of in a lucky position to be able to invest upto what we can and want to do and in some weeks and yeah, that’s a ton of time put into business. And, some weeks, it’s like “Hey, Cassy has kids and is busy with the family one week and I have relatives that I’m responsible for and taking care of and sometimes that all overtakes the some of the work that I wish I could get done in a week, and that’s okay!” We allow ourselves the freedom and flexibility to do that and we know that every other hour of every day is not important; what’s important is doing quality work when we’re at the peak of our performance.

Aishwarya: Awesome. I love the fact that you mentioned work-life balance, and you and Casey set the right path for people who joined SparkToro. I’m sure they would look up to the founders to see what kind of goals, or what kind of objectives you’d have, and most of them get inspired from that.

So you and Casey setting that example of having a good work-life balance, taking some time off for some personal duties is important, and I’m glad that you guys are doing it, so congrats on that. 

Rand: Oh, thank you. Yeah, we really hope so. I expect to keep the company relatively small and remote only, which I think allows people to work from wherever is most comfortable for them.

Aishwarya: Oh, that’s nice.

Rand: Yeah, and work when it’s comfortable for them and I think that’s honestly the future of work. Yeah, I think the future of work is doing from wherever is most comfortable for you.

Aishwarya: Definitely, and I think that’s the first step on the path to being mindful. I’m sure if people are given that little freedom to do work at the time that they are intended to do, when they can actually contribute much to the team; I think that paves the way for better work to be done.

Rand: I agree 100 percent. 

Aishwarya: So, in your book ‘Lost and Founder’ which, I’d like to document, is one of my recent favourites, you’ve spoken about the ways to invest in behaviour, without trying to focus on the outcomes. Beautiful thought, I should say. Could you elaborate a bit on that and tell us how this act helped your mental wellness?

Rand: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So this comes from the idea of personal investment, and this works really well in the business world, as well. So this is essentially saying, “My focus is going to be on contributing the highest quality work that I can, rather than focusing on whether I immediately got the outcome that I was seeking.” 

And what happens in a lot of business practices is—marketing, for example; let’s say that I’m working on building up a great content marketing channel. And so, when you put up your first, say, blog posts, or articles, or newsletters, or content pieces of any kind, and when you see that they don’t perform the way that you want them to; when they don’t attract enough traffic, or the traffic that they do attract doesn’t convert, it’s not doing well on certain channels that you hoped it would; there’s a temptation to either give up, and stop making that investment, or to try and change the way that you’re doing things. 

And I think that you can, in fact, learn from your past experiences, and use that to form the future, but I think it’s a mistake to exclusively track results, as opposed to tracking high-quality work. If you put out a great post; great content piece, you’re proud of it, you know that the people who consumed it, it resonated with them; the answer could be that you need to keep doing that more, over time; you need to give it time to have serendipitous outcomes in the future. And a lot of the time, it’s about taking the shots and missing until one hits. I think unfortunately luck and timing are downplayed in the business world, when they probably shouldn’t be. And this is why I tell folks to invest in quality work rather than exclusively investing in results and outcome.

Aishwarya: Certainly. It comes down to enjoying the whole process of doing something because the journey is more important, and it’s important to stay connected to this journey. In fact, when you talked about how to use past references and how to tailor your future, that really made sense, both in professional and personal self; to constantly analyze the things that you’ve done, things that have really helped you achieve something, and sort of replicate that, or use some references from there in your future work. That doesn’t mean you’re dwelling in the past, but at the same time it also means you’re taking control of where you want to go in the future. 

So to invest in potentials is a very very good thought that you had put forth today. 

Rand: Oh, thanks, yeah. And I would also say that you have to be careful of small sample sizes. So one of the things I see people struggle with a lot is that they make a small number of investments, right. “Hey, we tried content marketing, we invested in ten content pieces, but they didn’t work for us, therefore we think that content marketing is not right for our audience.” And in fact, the problem is, ten is too small a sample. You might need a hundred pieces, before you can truly say how effective content can be. 

Alternatively, you may be making the investment, but not putting out quality work, and instead thinking like a check-list item, just to be published and pushed out. And that’s not wise, either.

Aishwarya: True, that! I think you shouldn’t be judgemental in the first place, and as you said, ten versus a hundred; it’s important that a lot of time and potential is invested into it, rather than just tying up with the short-term outcomes. It’s important to step aside and look at the longer run, and the bigger picture. 

Rand: And this is a really hard thing, right, I don’t want to downplay how difficult it is to make investments when you don’t have results to prove. I think one of the toughest things is to ask executives and leadership to make space for failures and investments that have long pay-off periods.  But when they do, when leadership embraces that, I think you can get the expected results over time. 

Aishwarya: Yeah, I think this mentality starts with leadership, and if it’s set right there, I’m sure the startup is going to really function well because tying up to results is a problem with the urges that tend to happen to companies. Obviously, you’d be questioned about the results, about what you have done to validate your work, but it’s also important to note the fact that failures are required for you to do some quality work in the future. 

Rand: Yeah, yeah, absolutely.

Aishwarya: So now that we’re towards the end of the conversation, I have a quick something to ask you. What’s the thing that seemed like the one; that would bring the world down for you, back then, but now brings a laugh at the very thought of it?

Rand: Oh, gosh. I’m not sure I had something around quite that stark. Hmm, you know, there was a time at ‘Moz’ when we were getting, I don’t know, sort of subtle threats, from Google. 

People who worked at Google, like, there’s this one guy who worked at Google who would occasionally email me or say something to me like in person about how they didn’t like what ‘Moz’ was doing, they didn’t like the blog posts that we were publishing, or who we invited to our conferences, or they didn’t like the experiments that we were running, and I remember being really scared; we had board meetings where we talked about how this was going to be a big threat to the company and what we did there. 

And then it really turned out to be nothing at all. I don’t even think it was Google’s policy at all. It was just this one person, or this one team at Google who sort of got annoyed and thought, “Well, maybe I’ll mention that I’m annoyed” and we just took it really really hard. 

I regret making concessions and changing our business tactics and strategies to please some far-off person from Google that we really didn’t have to. 

Aishwarya: I see, wow. It’s a little creepy to hear as well, right, somebody personally attacking you, and obviously as you said, it’s not going to be the other company’s terms for them to directly reach out to another person of another company, and this seems like more of a personal attack than it seems from the company. 

Rand: Yeah, and Google’s done this a bunch, right, use some combination of carrot and stick to gauge behavior, and now they’re powerful company, you know, now much more so than back then, but even then they were much more powerful in terms of the web, and web traffic, and people being able to find you and trust you, and especially for an SEO company, which ‘Moz’ was, you know, we thought it was so important to have good relationships there. Yeah, I wish I had been a little more mature. 

Aishwarya: You don’t have to regret much, Rand, because at that time it would’ve definitely taught you something, which you can pick up for the next couple of your ventures, as well. 

Rand: Right, I think one of the things I’d definitely do for my future companies, is not feel bullied by bigger players. 

Aishwarya: Yes, that’s such a strong part, actually, thanks for mentioning that.

Rand: Ah, it was my pleasure. 

Aishwarya: So thank you so much for your time today, Rand. It was such a pleasure to talk to you about dealing with depression through an entrepreneurial journey. I picked up a lot of lessons today, and I’m sure the listeners would also know about the struggles before starting up, and coping with everyday pressures at work, and shattering the stigmas while they function, or try to function as an organisation together.  

Rand: Well, thank you so much for having this great conversation with me, Aishwarya. I appreciate it. 

Aishwarya: All the best from LonePack for your SparkToro journey; I’m sure it is going to be really really interesting and exciting.  

The Aftermath

Life after depression is a silent revolution that takes place within a person. It is so pleasing to watch a life ahead of the darkness, you’ll enjoy the good days, learn from the bad ones. Be a part of important occasions, being available for sharing, being physically and mentally present, looking forward to the future and loving what the universe is preparing for you, Looking in the mirror and like what is seen there.

The core of mental well being is striking a balance of emotions. We’ve discussed how depression is an illness that makes your brain sick. The symptoms, the journey, than survival. 

What happens next?

Every illness is considered to be negative, frowned upon as it affects the normalcy of the functioning of the human body. The difference between the illness of mind and the illness of the body is that it affects us in a completely different perspective. Physical illness gets rid of toxins from your body once in for all. Or after a series of medicinal attention. While mental illness opens a door to self-awareness. It forces you to learn a lesson, take a chance, try new things out of your comfort zone. It teaches us a lot. Although it takes an awful lot of you and replaces it with something much more bigger and different, what happens when the depression finally does leave you? What happens when you finally heal? What does it feel like to find the light at the end of the tunnel?

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Well, all of these questions are hypothetical in nature. You are never ‘healed’ from mental illness. However, things start to get clarity, people suddenly become approachable. Someday, you’ll wake up and just feel better. You’d want to look good,  wear new clothes. The days after depression are extremely odd. After living in a mindset of ”I don’t deserve anything I have and I want” for a very long period, this will make us doubt ourselves, the self-doubting again lands us in the vicious cycle of ‘Am I good enough for this yet? ‘

And for a split second, it’ll feel like you’re spiralling back into the person you used to be during the depression. Here’s the thing about recovery, you’re never fully healed. It never truly leaves you. The way things feel will change, they will become more optimistic and open for learning. 

Fear turns into ‘things I can get better at if I practice more’. Insecurities change into ‘Yes, I look this way and I can control over it to an extent by eating healthy, keeping myself hydrated.’ Self-doubt turns into ‘I was able to get myself through something as exhausting as depression, I can handle this too’. Frustration and disappointment will turn into ‘I can do this one step at a time.’ 

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The process of healing, as a matter of fact, is not linear. The ups and downs are sometimes extreme. The extremes will make you want to lock yourself in your bedroom for a day or more in order to avoid social interaction, Mental breakdowns in a random sequence that don’t really have a prerequisite reason or purpose. The balance of emotions plays a vital role here. On some days, you’ll feel numb.

It’ll drag you down to a point where you’ll feel like you’re back to square one, but this is the exact same moment you need to understand that looking back only means you’ve come ahead.  Let’s not worry now. 

There’s hope, there are new beginnings awaiting. And it’s your time now. 

Step out, Breath. Be.

The Quest for the Silver Bullet

“Depression resembles a vampire”. The statement sliced through the cacophony of noises clouding my consciousness and conquered my attention. Like a beagle who had just got a sniff of a bone, my eyes lit up and darted across the room towards my best friend of many years, imploring her to explain what she meant by the statement. “I feel depression sucks hope and happiness from its victims just like a vampire would suck blood”, she continued. The people around, myself included shared their thoughts on the comparison but the conversation soon moved on to other topics. Somehow, the comparison she made stuck in my mind and my attempt at writing this is an effort at crystallizing my thoughts as to why I found the particular analogy interesting.

Vampires, ghosts, werewolves and other paranormal beings appear in the folklore of many cultures across the globe and are a part of our collective social conscience. Despite modern advances in science and education, belief in the supernatural remains as strong as ever with many surveys showing that a majority of people profess belief in some form of the supernatural. Many theories abound as to how and why humans as a species tend (and want?) to believe in monsters. One interesting viewpoint is that these beliefs are an irrational response to legitimate fears that imbibed in our ancestors a cultural aversion to places and situations which represented a real danger. For example, it is very likely that large aspects of the legends of monsters which roamed forests at night evolved as a result of early human’s fear of nocturnal predators. But as time passed, the creative wonder that is our minds concocted increasingly eerie and frightening versions of these myths and legends. As with every strong cultural belief that has stood the test of time, it involves a combination of fear and hope. While the “fear” aspect of the supernatural legends needs no explaining, the “hope” aspect is in the form of methods that true-believers could use to dispel these monsters. Some examples included garlic being used to ward off vampires. In fact, one object, in particular, has been so widely used in legends as a defence against the paranormal that it is used to denote a specific, failsafe solution to a problem – the silver bullet. In folklore, a bullet cast from silver is often the only weapon that is effective against a werewolf, witch, or other monsters.

With these facts in mind, my friend’s comparison of a mental health issue to a supernatural entity becomes more credible in my opinion. One of the major impediments to mental illness is denial. Just as people choose to ignore the mountains of evidence against the supernatural since it challenges their deep-set beliefs, very often people dealing with issues of the mind refuse to acknowledge that they need help. Similarly like the monsters of legends, paranoia and insecurity are just irrational reactions to legitimate grievances that we do not wish to acknowledge. However, the one similarity that I find most striking and the one that this article is going to largely deal with is the belief that there exists a silver bullet – a magic cure.

From my own experience, while I refused to actively seek out help from people in dealing with my depression, I clung to this fairy tale idea of a silver bullet – one single incident, person, belief or action that would help me overcome my inner demons. At my most desperate moments, my search for the silver bullet became an obsession. This obsession for immediate, painless redemption latched itself into anything that my mind could interact with. Family, friends, God, self-help books, that award that I always wanted to win, that dream job – the list went on. Like a chain smoker who convinced himself that he would quit the next day, my transformational healing was just around the corner. “If only I won the competition, I would gain my confidence and people would befriend me. “, “I just need to pray hard enough and one day, I ll awaken enlightened”, “If only I loved my friends, they would rescue me from my insecurities”. These were the thoughts that fuelled my paranoia as I spiralled further into the depths of anxiety and depression as each and every entity that I thought would redeem me did not. My blind belief in an external agency that would save me only further alienated me from the ones I cared about. My obsessive need for reassurance that they would pull me out spurned irrational thoughts of insecurity and fear which played havoc with the way I dealt with people.

Perhaps the most enlightening realization that I have had over the past year when I finally decided to reach out and seek professional help is that there is no silver bullet. My belief that one person, thing or event could single-handedly provide me with a new breath of life was badly misplaced. It turned out that defeating with depression wasn’t a quick, painless glorious moment as I had envisioned but instead a long-winding, sometimes messy affair which required commitment from my side and determination to face my darkest fears myself. And while it might seem counter-intuitive at first, the realization that my redemption did not lay in a single object was immensely liberating. I was able to be much more rational and level headed in my relationships with people and my expectations about events. It helped greatly with dealing with my anxiety and identifying and observing irrational thought patterns and I can confidently say that I have become a much happier person than I have been in a long while.

 

Looking back, I can see why I wanted to believe in a silver bullet. It took responsibility and agency for dealing with my issues away from me and helped me live a life of denial and self-hate. Perhaps, it also tied into the fantasy novels that I read which fed into the idea of war being won with one masterstroke or by a legendary hero. Who wouldn’t have been awestruck by the thundering roar of the brave cavalry galloping into the battlefield, trumpets and all as they swoop in to smash the armies of the bad guys to smithereens? It makes for great literature and gripping movies but does not translate well on a real battlefield. The wars in our world are won by engaging in long winding pitched battles, using strategic retreats and by soldiers fighting on in smelly trenches winning territory in agonizingly slow increments. It might not be glamorous but that’s just the way life is.

 

I would like to end with this quote:

“’Don’t ask for guarantees. And don’t look to be saved in any one thing, person, machine, or library. Do your own bit of saving, and if you drown, at least die knowing you were heading for the shore.”

  • Ray Bradbury

 

When it comes to mental illness, the silver bullet may paradoxically be the realization that there isn’t one. I have stopped my quest for the silver bullet, have you?

  • BloodRaven

The Longing to Belong

There are some days when I don’t see the point in anything I do. 

 

Some days where I still feel the tired drag of my bones and the slow yet constant thump of my heart and I know that it’s going to be “one of those days”. And that’s alright. I’ve learnt how to cope with them. To learn to ask for help and seek support and take it easy till I feel better. And on those days I think, is there really anyone else going through what I’m going through right now, right this instant? I mean through all the 7 billion people of this small planet, there has to be someone who feels the exact same way I do. Right? 

 

Humans have always thrived in being part of something bigger than themselves, in being a community. Whether it came in the form of religion or political views or just something as simple as living with the same area code, we’ve always longed to be a part of something. And that sense of community with no doubt makes us stronger. 

 

The same, I think, is true for mental health as well. A word of encouragement always sounds better coming from a person who has been through the same thing once as you are right now because you know that they truly understand. And to be very honest, don’t we all want someone like that for us? 

 

It is not easy to put yourself out there and be vulnerable to everyone and be open to talk about your mental health issues. It took me the longest time to accept that it was okay to talk about it, that there is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. And talking about it to confused faces that would not take the time to understand at first was embarrassing and terrifying. And I didn’t do it for a while and kept it to myself like I always did. But then when I pushed myself to take that chance again, one day, one of those confused faces actually turned out to completely understand. They shared their experience with me and was so relieved to know that they weren’t alone in feeling that way. 

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[Image source: Pinterest]

And that made it all worth it.

 

Now I don’t feel terrified nor do I feel embarrassed for letting me run my mouth about issues when no one understands them. Because I know what it feels to long to belong. To finally feel like you are not alone. To finally know that this is okay and that there is nothing wrong with you and that you shouldn’t feel ashamed of yourself. 

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[Image source: Pinterest]

So, this goes out to you as well, the one reading this. If you feel that anything you say could help another person, then do it. I know it seems terrifying but even if one other person feel a little less left alone, then it will all be worth it. 

 

Everyone longs a little to belong. And together we are always stronger.

Feeling Homesick In My Own Body

Imagine if there was a machine, that can alter the way you look according to your wish. How cool is that? Every time you see yourself in the mirror your brain mentally opens a tab creating a list of things you want altered. The list might want clear skin, thinner waist, perfect hair, sharp jawline, shaped muscles, toned abs and never really ends.

What if we were in control of how we look? Whom would we want to look like? Most likely, the actors, the models we see on magazine covers, the beauty bloggers on social media, essentially someone who isn’t us. In a world where self-worth is measured in the number of likes and comments present beneath the picture you upload online after an hour of corrections and filters, it is not really your fault if you seek validation, even though it is indeed only virtual.

pic 1Now, comparison. It is an immediate reaction, to compare yourself with something you seek to achieve to look like. Sometimes, it is to keep track of the process of you wanting to become like them and in other cases, it is to beat yourself up because you will never be able to look like them.

Am I good enough? Am I worthy? Do I feel secure about my body?

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We are no strangers to these questions. Answer to this, however, is the same, Self-love. You were created by someone who created galaxies, moved mountains, made the sea kiss land as waves, diverse coexistence of all life forms thrives and every passing second, two million cells in your body die, to be regenerated. It is only foolish of you to think you are any less of a miracle.

Your hands, they have touched the rough edges of the shells you collected during your first trip to the beach, they have wiped your tears at 3 AM when you felt like giving up.

Your feet that you walked to the place holding your favourite memory.

Your eyes, have shown you the most beautiful things, the faces of people you love. From the first glimpse of your best friend after ages to the optical illusion puzzles, you see on the internet.

Your mouth that has said things to people and made them smile, feel loved.

Your belly that growled in the middle of a silent class making it awkward, how full it felt every time you did stress eating.

Your heart that broke for the first time, warm when your mom hugged you after a long day at work, or simply when you see a dog.

Your ears when you hear the song you finally find after not being able to stop humming its tune.

Self-love starts with gratitude, with affirmation. In simple words to be thankful to your body because it is functioning properly.

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Beautiful is stretch marks, cellulite, zero thigh gap, flat stomach, tummy rolls, acne, uneven and thick eyebrows, pale skin, melanin, waist of any number on the scale, skinny legs, no hair, more hair. Beautiful is everything you are. Self-love is a dynamic and deeply rooted journey, but let us start with level one. With our bodies. Wake up and see yourself in the mirror without opening a tab inside for alterations. Thank your body, feed it, nurture it, love it.

 

 

Of Songs and Anxiety

Sometimes, words fail me.

Allow me to digress for a bit. I love words and I love writing, that is the best way I communicate how I’m feeling and it makes the most comfortable medium for me to get my thoughts out. I dabble a lot in poetry and particularly love expressing spectrums of emotions and articulating them the right way to convey exactly what I want to, to people. However, when the same words sometimes don’t really fit together, don’t really weave themselves into what I want them to, what I want people to understand from them, all I’m left with is this frustrating pit of annoyance and helplessness with myself that I’ve somehow failed. And, for me, most of the time, these conversations happen to be on mental health. People don’t understand unless you communicate well, that much I’ve learnt. But what use is it if you can’t get what has been bothering you in your head, out? How do you make people take a look at all the swirling thoughts in your head and somehow hope that they’d understand what you’re feeling?

So, I suppose sometimes, words seem to fail me.

Or maybe I’ve yet to learn how to place them correctly.

Most of the frustrating moments for anyone battling mental health issues come with trying to make the person they’re talking to understand what they’re feeling. And what people have to realise is that it’s hard, incredibly hard to talk about it, to start a conversation. There will never be a right way to start, a right way to manoeuvre through the feelings and all that comes out is stuttered words spit out after being tongue-tied for so long. And then there is that small sliver of hope. Hope that they understand, that the other person makes sense of the words, to relate, to empathise. And if the other person has dealt with the same or any other of the same sorts, then they will get it and it takes a big weight off of your shoulders. But when they don’t, all you are left with is this feeling of inadequacy and embarrassment and crushed hope.

We’ve all been there.

So then the question becomes, how do we communicate better? Better yet, how do we make people understand?

I’ve dealt with anxiety for quite a while. And I’ve dealt with trying to make people understand why I’m not all that comfortable being around too many new people, with starting conversations, with making small talk with barely known acquaintances, with why I cancel out on plans quite often. But they don’t understand most of the time. I hope they did try to but I don’t blame them for not “getting it”. Humans are creatures of habit, anything we don’t relate to, we don’t really try too much to understand. But it becomes overwhelming when everyone around me seems to be fine and normal while I’m always freefalling with my stomach in knots and my heart in my mouth even at the mere mention of social interaction or any other thing that might trigger my anxiety. And after every unsuccessful attempt at making others understand, I’m always left with the parting thought of “Why can’t anyone just tell me it’s okay and just let me be” And then I just shut up, giving up to ever try making the oblivious listen.

However, there are people who get it, on the internet. So many support groups and forums are on the rise and I see so many other struggling with the same issues relating to each other’s experiences and finding relief in each other. It’s a big leap and one that is much needed yet while it’s comforting to find people who finally know what you feel like and are going through, the bigger picture still remains blurry.

Coming to the main point of discussion, during one of my late night YouTube surfing fun-time, I came across this new song that Julia Michaels had put out. I like her and decided why not take a listen. [Again, the way that music has helped me get through some of my worst days can form another piece on its own]. The song was titled “Anxiety” and I thought, alright then, I’m intrigued, let’s see where this goes. But to be very honest, after the song ended, for the first time ever, I felt like words in my head finally found their place.

It was a very honest, open and vulnerable song on what having anxiety feels like. Suddenly, there I was, sending the song to some who I had tried to explain my anxiety to, getting excited that they would finally understand. And I hope they did or at least I think they know better now. Anxiety can take many shapes and forms and is different to all people. This song might not relate to your anxiety but it is a start. And suddenly there I was wondering how much of a gap music can bridge if more songs were to come out openly talking about people’s experiences with mental health issues and emotions. Don’t get me wrong, there are wonderful artists and bands that are already trying to do the same, I’m a fan of a lot of them yet there is this invisible glass barrier that has to be overcome still to start a dialogue about mental health. Music is a great way to start conversations and nothing would make me happier than to see music and words come together to help people understand the said swirling thoughts that people can’t bring to explain properly by themselves. There is so much potential to help people and I really hope that more artists come out to create incredible music like this and more importantly, that more people are accepting of them.

Every dialogue starts only when the silence breaks. So why not have fun while we’re at it?

Let me know what songs helped you during your hardest days and take a look at the song by the wonderful Julia Michaels as well.

Anxiety- Julia Michaels ft. Selena Gomez.

New Year Resolution: I chose to be happy.

You deserve to be happy because you are alive. You were built to use happiness as a tool to assess the world that surrounds you. It’s in your genes, in your nature, in the way that you have functioned. Happiness is at the core of our experiences – it is as incomprehensible to deny ourselves the feeling as it is to deny ourselves the experience of eating or sleeping or breathing. We are human beings and happiness is a vital part of our survival/living.

 

This time last year, I wasn’t sure who I was or what I was capable of being. I was unsure of how things were going to turn out, was lost and thoughtless. I kept looking for ways to outlive negativity, to hold myself tight, to keep fighting, to never give up and to rise. I was desperate; but patient.

 

Last year, I let go of a lot of things. I let go of the person who I thought was the one for me. I let go of the things that never really belonged with me, held me down and pushed me into the dark. I let go of the pessimism that was brewing in me day in and out and the anxiety and paranoia that devoured me wholly.

 

I realized how busy I was fixing my invisible crown which was always at the hands of those I needed approval from.

 

But, here I am now, stable and no longer hanging off the edge. I can’t assure that this is permanent, but I am going to work on making it one because I believe everything can change and it’s only a matter of time. I believe in the universe and Law of Attraction; what you give is what you receive. I am now fixated on staying positive throughout, negating pessimism, staying low-key, working on myself, not letting my thoughts overcrowd my mind at difficult situations and above all, staying sane with sanctitude.

 

Now I try to explore different arenas, learn from my past experiences and grow into a new individual. It is also quite exhilarating to wonder what challenges you can run into each day.

 

I remind myself of this everyday:

Strive to be the best version of yourself, even if you have to lose certain qualities. 
Strive to make the people you love happy, even if you disappoint them from time to time. 
Strive to achieve what challenges you for the purpose of growing.

 

Love yourself first.

 

-Kirthana Ravi

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.

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–  Siva