RUNNING AWAY for a better life is easy, is it not? Members of my family are either living on the North American continent or dreaming about it, because India is so-not-cool; the corruption, the heat, all that inconvenience. Back in school, I was no different. I ran away to England, away from the bureaucratic institution that was an excuse for a school, where teachers were more interested in ‘administrative’ work than imparting knowledge. And from my conflicted parents — an ill-match courtesy the matrimonial papers, the bad end of which I had to see my entire life.
My English dream didn’t pan out that well. In my second semester, I started missing classes, rooted to my bed for days on end. I was convinced that I was physically sick, having absolutely no energy to get on with the daily routine. There were ghastly nightmares that caused anxiety attacks in the middle of my sleep. The symptoms resembled a heart attack — palpitations, sweating, hyperventilation, numbness in the hands and a fear of imminent death which, thereafter, I wished for. I understood I was depressed but had no capacity to reason out the cause of it. Logical thinking and practicality snapped away, replaced by thoughts of wrist-slitting and phenol consumption.
Desperate, I decided to see a counsellor. However, the psychologist followed the archaic principles of psychoanalysis, determining that I was jealous of the male genitalia. This was clearly no help. I sought out a ‘proper’ doctor with the National Health Service who diagnosed me with major depressive disorder. “Just quit, you know. If you don’t want to read law, you don’t have to! But I don’t want to be preachy,” she said. Prescribed pills were only a quick fix; they could not improve my grades or my relationships with friends or family. “You shouldn’t trouble your parents like that. They are paying for your education, the least you could do is respect them,” said one uncle who had no idea about the situation or my condition. Fareeba, a friend, coolly remarked, “Sounds to me you need a break from this.” She was right. I finished the year and came back to Delhi.
My father lost all faith in me and my mother exclaimed, “you were a colossal mistake of my life, to have brought such shame to the family”. They didn’t notice the bad shape I was in. I was broken inside out; I gave up.
But I had to keep my head straight and deal with circumstances practically. My pending degree had to be completed. Again, thanks to newspapers, my father hired an elderly tutor to help me finish with the course. It took the tutor only a couple of minutes to realise my state. He took me under his wing and not only taught the course but also almost everything there is to learn about the world, about family, people, self, society, health, habits. He not only built me back piece by piece, he restored my faith.
I stopped taking the medication and the attacks stopped soon. I learnt how to outsmart the seeming ‘inconveniences’ of the Indian social setting, how to navigate the ‘system’. I was not running from troubles anymore. As I grew confident, my parents finally listened to what I had to say. My father regained his trust in me but my mother could not; I had failed once and there was no going back. I finally developed the courage to say what I had in mind to my family. I had a voice and it needed to be heard. I could not be taken for granted by anyone but most importantly, by myself. I became unstoppable.
Now that I look back, I realise that there was no concrete reason for the depression. And even if there was, it’s all a blur. I think, the important part is having faith in oneself and not giving up. Rising and failing happen all the time, it’s up to you to choose which one.