Depression Mist Does not Ghost You
Our apologies for the delay of one of our newest contributors and editors, Eisha! Thank you so much for opening up and sharing with us!
My parents came to know about my depression through Facebook. I posted a photograph I was really pleased with, my smile and hair and eyes forming a pretty composition, and wrote a caption about how finding joy is hard for someone living with depression (so dramatic, I know). Then I waited with bated breath for my mother’s phone call that I knew would follow, my elation and trepidation mixing freely.
As expected, Mum sounded concerned and at a loss about what depression was. She and Dad thought that moving to Australia had brought about this ‘Western illness’ that didn’t affect people in countries like India. I didn’t blame them because it’s rare for Indians to have been brought up with an understanding of mental illness, how common it is within society and how intertwined it is with human wellbeing. But her ignorance, one not borne out of malice but simply of not knowing, hurt all the same.
I patiently explained to Mum what mental illness was and how many people, probably in her and dad’s own families and likely many other Indian families, have suffered silently for ages and continue to do so today. She didn’t take my depression seriously at first, wondering why I couldn’t just be happy knowing that I was loved and cared for. To her, depression appeared to be a non illness, unreal, something that wasn’t as serious as physical injury and something you could just put your mind to to get over—common myths that exist to this day about mental health which are deeply embedded in Indian society. With time, Mum became sympathetic to what I was going through. I didn’t tell her what living with depression was like because I couldn’t bring myself to, but I was pleased to see her absorb the avalanche of new information, of facts and figures I was giving her, with gentleness.
As a teenager in Dubai, where mental health conversations were just as non-existent until fairly recently, thanks to social media, I didn’t have words for the feelings that would consume me on and off for a few days. I thought it was general teenage angst that propelled me to contemplate taking my own life and to believe how much better the world would be without me. It was only in my late teens that I slowly started to make sense of my moods after consuming news and information about mental health and its importance.
I studied psychology at school in Dubai and was then exposed to an open intellectual atmosphere at an an elite women’s college in New Delhi which accelerated my understanding of mental health, a privilege not afforded to millions of Indians. Alas, all that knowledge remained at arm’s length, and I didn’t embrace it because I thought I was okay and ‘not doing too badly’—examples of classic mental health myth conditioning made all the more toxic because of a cultural stigma against such topics.
It wasn’t until two repeat attempts to take my own life, events that I haven’t mentioned to my family, that I was diagnosed with clinical depression and suicidal ideation in my early twenties after moving to Melbourne. People often say that homesickness makes people more vulnerable to mental illness but that wasn't the case for me. Melbourne felt like home almost immediately upon stepping foot on Wurundjeri Land. I was driven to attempt taking my own life because I was heartsick after starting promising friendships only to see them erode into dust. Despite being accustomed to loneliness and solitude in my formative years, two entirely different states of being but ones which I was intimately familiar with, I was left floundering for support after budding friendships withered.
I started attending counselling sessions and the love and care of my then partner and exquisite friends lifted the mist of depression from my being: a period of lightness that lasted at least two years. But the feeling of the world being better off without me remains. I try my best to combat such thoughts and feelings, finding refuge in philosophy and poetry (like this magnificent Rilke poem), but sometimes, there's just no escape from them.
Nowadays, I have become slightly more comfortable talking about mental illness with my parents. I unabashedly ask my Dad and the people around me about their mental health because I want them to feel comfortable to talk about the human condition with frankness. I may be struggling with the clouding mist of depression, but I make sure that I keep tabs on the wellbeing of the people I care about. When you have been to dark places that you wouldn’t wish anybody else enter into, you want to help people through it. Mental illness is not like a date on Tinder or an ex-lover; depression doesn’t ghost you. It lurks far away in the inner reaches of the mind, and it takes a lifetime’s work to not let it consume you completely. Therapy, medication and the love of people can do a lot to sustain oneself through dark periods, but even they are not enough sometimes. All we can do is show up for each other, love them and ourselves, and do our best.