A good friend and a classmate from school reached out recently. The first thing he asked was how did I survive depression and made my way back “successfully” from the low. Our conversation went on to discuss some common thoughts that cross our minds in times of a crisis. Confusion, invalidation, pain, breakdowns, being triggered, panic attacks, breathlessness, lack of appetite, thoughts on why am I so fucked up, and several more are all normal to feel.
Apart from this friend, in the last fortnight, five friends or acquaintances reaching out for help. It makes me wonder how many more people in my circle are cringing and holding on to the misery, without giving themselves a chance to get out of it.
During this conversation one things my friend said was, “I was thinking of going to a Baba foundation to get my head fixed up”. Obviously it drew some ire and flak from me. The ‘Baba’ business enterprises have somehow managed to arraign that they have solutions for every problem one encounters. And, this got me thinking and was the cue for me to pen down this post.
My Journey from Low to Seek Help
I am no “Baba”, but I have been there and done that. Along with losing my head, I had lost all the faith in my abilities. I failed to believe I was good at anything. Neither as a son, a husband, an employee, an entrepreneur nor as a dreamer. I was not good enough to make anything work successfully. While I think these thoughts had been weighing on me for a fairly long time (let’s say 6 years or so), the triggers only got stronger after a toxic conversation in the family. This invalidated me for being who I was.
Over the next 6 months, I wrestled with myself until the day I choked on it. I couldn’t rise from where I sat; broke down for no apparent reason; was breathless; felt I was sinking.
That day, I was nudged by my wife to pursue the long-pending item on my list – To Seek Help.
From then to now, it has been about 2 years and it hasn’t been an easy ride. Nevertheless, seeking help and staying on the path has been the best thing I ever did; for myself and for the gift of life I have.
When I hit my lowest, the psychological pain is/was just way too much to handle. I had panic attacks, breathlessness, uncomfortable sensations, heaviness in the chest, heavy in the head, frequent headaches, inconsolable wailing, lack of appetite, inability to sleep, inability to focus, inability to remember, extreme blinding rage, insecurity of abandonment, fear of loss of something or someone.
A mid-life crisis may or may not be a reality, but our mental health can breakdown anytime. We are conditioned to be part of the rat race, with this unending focus on “Doing well in life” and the pursuit of “settled in life” status. This status is probably the most unsettling thing one experiences, like a continuous loop with no stop button. The run is long with no pauses to rest. And before one knows, we are already battling with several disturbing invalidating questions and are likely to spiral and crash real bad.
The good news is – If you get out of the comfort zone, and want a way out of the discomfort you are in, then Seek Help. You and your soul WILL make it out alive.
My Two Cents on Seeking Help
There is so much taboo around addressing mental health, I am pressed to share a transparent point of view. So here are points and thing I wish to tell about seeking help based on my experience of lows and also hopefully will give pointers for setting a realistic expectation.
- The Therapist is the first step. Find and go to a qualified therapist if you are going through a phase with your mind. You need someone who has learned psychology and practiced several dimensions for several years.
- Spiritualism is not an alternative for those who need Therapy. Vipassana, Baba businesses, Yoga, even a visit to most coaches, religious institutions will not fix the problem. The incumbent must have a dispassionate approach to making you become strong enough to solve your own issues.
Choosing a Therapist
- While picking a therapist, please take help. References matter. Reach out to someone who will fix you up with a person who can handle your shit.
- Therapists are not one size fits all. Once you kick-start the process, don’t go “therapist” shopping. It will damage you for good. You are going to re-live your low moments every time you meet a new therapist. Pick one and stick with the person for good. Getting a therapist is something you want to be as sure as the partner you choose to live with. They have to deal with your fuck ups in the head and fix you up too. Trust them and they will do their job.
- You are not going to a therapist to get advice. If you are going into therapy to get advice, then you are wasting your time and money. It is important to know, you are the solution to your problems. Therapists know how to get you to solve, so long as you are committed to solving it. Anyone advising you with solutions, trust me they have no idea or patience to do what their job expects them to do. Run from an advisor type of therapist.
- Likewise, if you have a therapist who starts you off on medication without really making you push your mental limits of confronting your uncomfortable truths, run from them too. Find another therapist. Medication is NOT the first step. The intent to write this is not create a resistance to being prescribed medication when you absolutely necessary need it. I have people who advice medication to take anti-anxiety or anti-depressant drug just like that to feel better.
- Your therapist has life and has a profession. The average session will cost you about Rs.1500 an hour in the metro/cosmopolitan cities. With an average of 1 session a week, you will be spending about 6000 a month. Trust me if you take stock of the kind of non-sense choices you spend every month, the therapy fee will still be less than that. Therapists aren’t grocers or traders, so please don’t ask for discounts. That is their bread, let alone the butter.
- Go to a psychologist first and you will be recommended appropriately to a psychiatrist if necessary. They are 2 different roles in the area of mental health.
While in Therapy
- It takes about 6-8 sessions before you are likely to build your rapport with the therapist. Since the therapist is going to nurse your wounds of the mind, you are likely to go through some difficulty confronting your innermost trauma causing moments. Be patient. Go through the pain, it will go on its time and when you are ready let it go.
- Some people find themselves feeling good after 3-4 sessions and decide to stop going to the therapist. DO NOT STOP until the therapist tells you that you can stop.
- The therapist is going to ask you to do some exercises depending on what you need. It is highly imperative that you complete them. This will save you for life. Give this more importance than the dramatic exercises the Baba companies give you, keeping divine interventions. If this is what you want to hear, perfect, but still go to someone who knows his/her job with qualifications and recommendations that make it worthwhile.
- During and after the therapy, you will have healed significantly, but doesn’t mean you will not have lows that are triggered by the memory of the past. You are likely to continue having breakdowns, but you will be much better at handling it than without therapeutic help.
- DO NOT come home and tell your loved ones and friends what you shared with the therapist. As much as they love you, they are not equipped or trained to handle the issues you are going through. You sharing with them could trigger them into depression, as an outcome of not being able to handle your truth. Let this be the dark matter that only your therapist is able to handle.
Things to Keep in Mind
- It took me 12 months before I decided to take charge of my life and do what is my right thing to do. This takes time. Less for some and longer for some. It is an individual’s journey. Trust the process. You will come out healed with some bruises and holes. But you will live to tell the story and help another person.
- If you think someone needs help, let that person come to terms with that fact. Else it is a process that will backfire. You can take the horse to the water, but can’t make it drink. Therefore don’t force it.
- Many at times the triggers are the closest blood relative in the inner circle. What I mean that the trigger could be parents, siblings, wife, or children. It might require to cut the source of the trigger to be able to heal completely. Quite apologetically.
- Lastly, going to a psychologist is like going to any other doctor. You aren’t mad because you can’t handle your emotions. You just need professional help to get through it. It is simply the right thing to do.