The Beginning, Middle and End: A Tryst with Depression
Trigger warning: Depression
Every story has a beginning, a middle and an end; not necessarily in that order.
I think I always knew that there was something wrong with me. My brain was telling me that it was sick, and getting sicker day by day. I built up a wall. The artist in me imagined that I was made of scars, one on top of the other. I was a very dramatic child, and as you can see, nothing much has changed in that regard. The wall still exists, but it’s much less thick. I was diagnosed with Clinical Depression and Anxiety in 2015, at the ripe age of 16. I distinctly remember walking up the staircase to the school counsellors office, knocking on the door, sitting down and saying, “I think that there is something wrong with me.” That was the beginning of it all. My mother used to say that she had quit her job in 2010 because she had seen that I was retracting into myself, distancing myself from the world around me by burying into the world of novels and music. Looking back at it, that was probably the first sign that I wasn’t completely okay. But Indians have the bad habit of ignoring things until they hit them on the face, especially when it relates to their children and their brains. I wonder how different my story would be, if my mother had not had the courage to accept that I needed psychological help. But as her defence, she has sent me to a therapist which in turn did help me to certain degree to get out of the rabbit hole I had pushed myself into. Five years went by. I had used my turbulent life at home several times to excuse my bad marks, and my overall lack of effort in life. However that excuse went out the window when my parents finally decided to get divorced, at least according to my Mum. In my defence, my lack of energy was not just because of my parents. I didn’t know why I was becoming like this, and when people don’t know a reason, the most obvious becomes the easiest to tell.
When my school counsellor called my mum up, she was very angry. Not because I hadn’t told her first, but rather because I had told my counsellor. She believed that I was making it up for attention. I realise that this part of the story is painting my mum in rather a bad light. She is my best friend. But I decided that when I write this story, it will be true. It would be unafraid and absolutely, unabashedly, true. I don’t blame her, but rather I blame the society around us. It tells us that depression isn’t really true, that it is all in our heads. It tells us that to talk about our mental health is to cry for attention, that there needs to be an absolute reason for things to be how they are. In my mother’s defence, she did go to the school counsellor and listen to what she was told. She did take me to a therapist, and then a psychologist. She did try to help however much she could, and tried to support me however much she could. However, it took her a long time to really understand what depression is. And that came through, especially during the lows. She could not fathom why I couldn’t push myself to get out of bed. She didn’t know how to deal with me when all I wanted to do was sit and watch mindless TV, or when I didn’t eat for days on end, surviving on sugar and chocolate. But she pushed herself to understand and I think that now, she kind of does. I firmly believe that until someone goes through the same thing, one can never understand what the other is going through. All one can do is show empathy, and she definitely tries to do that.
My life was a rollercoaster during those years, with therapy twice a week, and medication going into my system everyday. I hate taking medicine, and this hatred came to the surface every night before I went to bed. But I would begrudgingly swallow those little white pills, for without them the rabbit hole became deeper. You see, that wall I spoke about before, it had come down with a big blow and I was trying to build another up, but the flow was too much, and I was drowning every time I would try and construct. The medicine made sure I wouldn’t even try. I named my depression Alice. I used to speak to her. I used to speak to her a lot. I think that helped me understand the whole thing more. Why it was happening, what was happening and how it was happening. That doesn’t mean that I learnt how to stop it from happening. I remember my first pre-board examination. I entered the hall, took my answer sheet and wrote, ‘I can’t do it’ on every page. I didn’t write any of my other papers. I managed to write my 12th grade boards though. My Vice-Principal had told me, “Finish it off, Samragni. The elephant has crossed the room, and only the tail remains. Let’s push it out.” I couldn’t have done it without my school. I have this bad habit of latching on to people, and I latched on to that school like it was my lifeline. I still go back sometimes, to just sit on the field or the amphitheatre. I passed my exams, and even though it felt like I could finally, almost breathe, I was still stuck. I still couldn’t move. Alice was there, and she was talking to me. She was always talking to me. When she wasn’t, it truly felt like a part of me was missing. Summer began and so did the next chapter.
I think I realised two things over the course of the beginning. One, that this was something I was going to have to deal with my entire life. And two, that everyone has scars, but that doesn’t make yours any less valid. In fact, your scars are different from everyone else’s, because they are yours.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness”
I can’t really pin-point when it all shifted. I was no longer a newbie to the whole shindig. I knew what it felt like to be at the lowest low and the highest high. I began applying to colleges, hoping that I would get it somewhere despite my dismal marks. I got into every college I applied to and I firmly believe that it happened because of my recommendation letters. Perhaps my teachers knew that I needed an extra push. My relationship with my mother at this point was on rocky terms. Most of my therapy appointments were focused on her and my father and the turbulent cyclone that was their relationship. I was the happiest when they got divorced. I think depression helps to numb it down, bring any emotion down to absolutely nothing. If I felt any anger or resentment or even love for my father, I think it disappeared as Alice got bigger. He wasn’t a terrible man. He just never knew what he wanted and in turn hated everyone who did know what they wanted. I don’t have a relationship with him anymore, and this is one of the few instances where I know that that is not my fault. He never understood why I am the way I am, and this became especially clear by the end of this chapter. The middle doesn’t really feel like the middle until you move on, or at least move as much as you can to really look back. My middle began with the idea of college, with the idea of leaving home and creating my own. I wanted to run away. I firmly believed that running away from the place that had held so much anger would help. I didn’t realise that along with anger, that that place held love. This isn’t a story of redemption or even reminiscence. This is just a story, as it happened.
I began my college life with an impulsive decision. I needed to leave, and so I took the fastest ride I could find. I received a scholarship to go to France and I hopped on the fastest flight I could. My father said he was proud of me, my mother worried and my sister felt abandoned. I just needed to leave. I don’t know if this can be medically proven, but for me, my mental health makes me run from any space that makes me feel cornered. I landed in an unknown land, with an unknown language and with unknown people. I didn’t know anyone well enough to call them my friend, but I knew some of my seniors who were also from my school. Skipping all the dreary details, I found my family there, but I could never create my own home. In the process though, my depression became worse. I lost whatever progress I had made over the year in therapy and Alice won over. I don’t even remember half my time there. I remember flashes of laughter, alcohol, late night mug cakes, lots of tears, karaoke and a sense of loneliness every time I was alone. I thought that was the loneliest I would ever feel but I was wrong. But more on that later. While my time in France was definitely the best of times, and the worst of times and 100% the age of foolishness, it was not the age of wisdom. I stopped going to class because getting out of bed was too hard. I stopped sleeping, I stopped eating but most importantly, I stopped trying. I think that was the scariest. I couldn’t find in myself the need to try, the want to try. Instead, I kept myself cooped up in a shipping container, eating supermarket donuts and drinking lemonade from the local store.
We have a funny way of putting rose tinted glasses on our memories. If you had asked me the year I came back, how my experience in France was, I would have only amazing things to say. In an essay of mine for college, I describe the French sunset as, “The sky is littered with shades of red, orange, grey, blue, black and purple. It’s almost as if the world has changed, as if the world is changing. The colours swirl in the sky, like a painting. I’ve never seen such a sunset before.” I don’t remember it that way now. I think of it as grey, cold with red so deep it scared me slightly. I remember being in love, not in love with someone but rather in love with the idea of falling in love. I remember writing lots of poetry. I remember being lost.
I’m falling apart,
piece by piece and I don’t know how to stop it.
I lie to myself all the time, telling myself that things will get better,
that I am getting better.
I met a boy when I came to France,
It hurts because every time I’m around him,
I let the darkness overcome me.
I am no longer confident,
I am no longer anything.
I have never felt beautiful
but I have never felt ugly,
yet around him,
I feel like I’m not good enough.
I feel like I do not deserve,
anything other than pain and unhappiness.
Is this what love feels like?
I left the course after one year and joined a college in Bangalore. I was back to the same place I had run away from, but everything was different. Over the course of the middle, I realised that running away doesn’t make it better. It sometimes makes it worse. But that doesn’t mean that I learnt not to run away.
I don’t think there is an end. Right now, it feels like it’s never ending. I am sitting on a roller coaster, going up, going down, never stopping, constantly moving. I buried everything for two years. All my feelings, all my fears. Everything was shoved into a box, with Alice taking maximum space. It was sealed shut, but opened occasionally to dump more things in. I couldn’t deal with it again. The heart aches, the fears, the loneliness. But loneliness has a funny way of catching up to you even when you run away from it. I stopped therapy, I stopped my medication, I stopped everything and everyone believed I was okay. And I was so happy that everyone thought I was okay. However, boxes have a limit and can begin to leak. It took two years for my box to start leaking, luckily it has not exploded yet. I’ve started therapy again, albeit with a new therapist, my medication has changed but is still going strong. The only thing that hasn’t changed is the loneliness. This time it’s different though, like I’m stuck in a glass box looking out into the world and everyone sees me and acknowledges me but doesn’t accept what they’re seeing. The rose tinted glasses are back on. My new therapist is different from my old one. I can’t seem to place how and I don’t know if it’s working but I’m sticking to her. I needed someone new, someone who could understand the now without the burden of the then. I don’t talk about France, I don’t talk about my father.
My depression has changed faces. It’s no longer evident. If you see me, I don’t look any different. Before I used to. You could know what was wrong but now it is different and I don’t know how. I’m scared of what that means but also grateful for the charades can go on for longer. My mother doesn’t know how bad it is, my sister doesn’t care and I’m very lost. I don’t know if this is normal. If this happens to others, where their Alice’s take different forms, changing as they change. I’ve changed, she’s changed. Every story has a beginning, a middle and an end; not necessarily in that order. My story has a beginning, a middle and an end. I don’t think I’ve finished living through any though. I’m still at the beginning.
Samragni Dasgupta is a blogger at One Future Collective.
Featured image source: Country Living Magazine