Disclaimer: Some may find this personal account distressing. Readers' discretion is advised. If you are feeling low or need help with your mental health, you can reach out to these experts.
My first suicide attempt was at the age of 15. At 26, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. For 11 years, I suffered in oblivion, trying to figure out what was wrong with my brain and why I was experiencing things that no one else around me was.
During these 11 years, I attempted suicide 5 times, received 12 ECTs wherein electric shocks were given to my brain, dropped out of one of the top B schools in the country, quit my job, lost a loving relationship with my partner and spent countless days terrified, thinking that my life was doomed.
11 years if a very long time period - it crushed my soul, crippled my self-esteem, and sucked every ounce of faith I had in myself. It has been a long and difficult journey.
Today, after over a decade of suffering through extremes, I've lived to tell the tale.
Out of body experiences
On 1st Jan 2015, I decided that I'd had enough. I took a new-year pledge that I was not going my mind defeat me. I promised to myself that I'll summon my entire strength and drag myself out of any darkest pit of depression my mind throws me in.
My condition had worsened. For the first time, I had auditory hallucinations. I hallucinated that the hospital staff was making plans to kill me. I got so aggressive that they had to physically restrain me by tying me with straps and forcefully inject sedative medication to put me to sleep. When I woke up, the same cycle repeated. I got aggressive, was restrained, and forcefully put to sleep. This went on for two days.
After getting discharged, my brother told me that whatever that I experienced in the hospital was all my imagination. I was flummoxed. Was I no more able to differentiate between real and unreal? I wasn't prepared for this. I didn’t know how to fight this out of body experience.
Whenever we're faced with a challenging situation in our life, we have two possible ways: either put up a fight, or take flight - simply run away from it. Sadly, when you’re suffering from a mental “illness”, none of them work.
I’ve put up a brave front and fought my illness with all my might. Each time I failed, I would try harder. My spirit vs my brain – the tussle has been huge, but to no avail. This fight only had me exerting myself to an extent that at times I had my vision blurred due to peak anxiety and I would rush to office washroom in between meetings to throw up.
So, I stopped fighting and accepted the reality.
My therapist made me understand – the first step to winning the war against Bipolar Disorder is to step out of the war and accept your condition. Accept I did, and it did wonders for me. Instead of fighting it, I was now learning to channelize my energy into balancing my life along with a mind that left no chance to bog me down.
Making my therapist my best friend
ECT, wherein electric shocks are given to your brain to cure extreme depression, wipes away your memory. After my first ECT, I lost nearly 2 months of my memory. I'm told that my friends and family had a grand celebration for my 16th birthday. But I have no memory of it.
Losing my memory was a fearful experience. It was as if I’d lost a part of myself, and I could never gather enough courage to talk freely about it with anyone – not even my parents.
Here, my therapist came to the rescue. Initially, I was hesitant to open up with her too. But gradually, I shared with her my experiences and how I felt that I’d lost touch with reality. She made me feel comfortable and told how it was a perfectly normal post-ECT symptom.
Over a period of time, with long conversations, and scientific tests, she deconstructed my personality and my cognitive thought patterns, and made me realize how I’d subconsciously - due to prolonged suffering- accumulated negative thoughts, prejudices, and guilt about myself.
It took her a year; but as a professional, and a friend, she imbibed in me positive and healthy thought patterns. Risking discounting the efforts of my parents, I do feel that my therapist has played a larger role in the betterment of my mental health.
I still don’t have any memory of those two months post my ECT, but now I don’t fret much about it.
Letting my loved ones help me
When I was in the darkest phase of my life, my ex-boss once told me – “Zindagi jeeni hai to auron ke liye jiyo” (If you’ve to live your life, live it for others). As cheesy as it sounds, I took it as my gospel. And it became one of the major contributing factors to my successful turnaround.
When my therapist asked to go for a daily morning run, it sounded like a distant dream for me.
At my worst, I used to be so low on energy that when I tried walking, my knees would bend because they couldn't take my body’s weight. I used to have trouble getting out of the bed every morning, how was I possibly going to muster the drive for a daily morning run?
The first day I went for the walk, I could only do it for 10 minutes. But those 10 minutes had brightened up my mother's face for that whole day. She called my grandmother, and told her how her grandson, who at times couldn’t even walk properly, had decided to take a healthy step and go for the morning walk.
Next morning again, I woke up all drained, only to find my mother ready with a glass of lime water for me. Her happiness had sparked something inside of me.
From them on, whenever all hope was lost, I would think about my parents, my brother, my partner and continue to put efforts. The happiness on their faces was fuel enough for me to defeat any ailment.
Realizing that my dependence on medication doesn't make me a weaker human
"Why should I depend on medicines for my sanity? They don’t control me. I can very well take care of myself and get better without them."
Post this ego-trip, I thought that I was going to take care of myself without doctor-prescribed medication and stopped taking them. Cut to 2 days later – I began facing difficulty in looking at objects with straight lines on them. When I looked at them, the lines appeared to move and shaped themselves into waves. I couldn’t look at any person wearing a striped shirt because it started to shift shapes, making me feel nauseous and dizzy. The chemicals in my brain had started acting up, I was hallucinating.
Lesson learnt – don’t skip the basics. I began taking my medications timely, took care of my diet, followed a healthy sleep cycle, and also started doing light exercise every day as it releases happy hormones.
Faced with depression, many people try to do dramatic turnarounds in their life. But, more often than not, it is the simple things that do the trick. Perfection is many small things done right.
“What doesn’t kill you, only makes you stronger.”
Learning to live with Bipolar Disorder has been a tiring, soul-crushing, but eventually an enriching journey. Somewhere amidst the struggle of balancing Bipolar Disorder as a part of my life, I got in touch with my inner-self better. As a result of many introspection sessions, I’ve become a happy and content individual. My outlook towards life has changed, my relationship with family has improved, and my equation with my partner has bettered. I’ve started to walk again, and am pretty confident that in coming times I'll run or even fly.
To all those who are going through a tasking phase in their life, I'd tell just one thing – please shed your inhibition, let societal stigma go-to-hell ,and seek professional mental health therapy for yourself.
Mental Health Therapy isn’t just for the mentally “sick”. Even if you’re struggling with basic daily things – not having enough energy to get out of bed in morning, finding it difficult to get into shower, having loss of appetite, trouble getting over your ex, going through a phase of unemployment, difficulty standing up to your bullies, difficulty getting over loss of life of a loved one – please go and seek professional mental health therapy. You deserve every bit of self care.
Today, thanks to support of my parents and partner, professional mental therapy, and my repeated efforts, I'm leading a happy, balanced, and satisfied life and on my way to another top B-school of the country.
If a person like me, whose parents had left the hope of seeing their son smile again, can turn his life around for the better with mental therapy – so can you.