Standing tall, speaking out and fighting depression – Shailaja Vishwanath, on how she defeated depression as she found inner strength and vocal supporters.
Are you one of those ‘sunny disposition, always smiling, fun loving’ people who never have a bad, sad day. Is blue for you always a colour and never a feeling?
Then this post is for you.
I first heard of depression when I was in college. A dear friend was going through a particularly difficult phase. And I am not ashamed to accept the fact that I had absolutely no idea or awareness of how to handle the situation. I chose silence. It has been my deepest regret for looking the other way.
Shailaja Vishwanath is a brave lady who has helped me understand about fighting depression when she spoke out about her journey through mental illness on her blog. Spirited, humble yet resilient today I speak with her as she demystifies depression for us.
Shailaja speaks about why she wrote and spoke out, “There was no single reason that sparked it. I just assumed that the time was right. I had not felt comfortable speaking up earlier mainly because of the social stigma attached to the idea of mental illness and going to a therapist, or the idea of seeking counselling and medication.”
She had written a post about fighting depression and suicide in early 2015. “The post was shared by many people and many others reached out to me sharing their pain.”
It was the first time I understood the depth of the battle when you have to fight with your own mind. Shailaja mentions that it was easier for her as she didn’t have depression when she became a mother. Her struggle against depression lasted from mid-2001 to mid-2002. She became a mother in 2006 and had been medication free for four years and had done rounds of counselling, therapy and medication.
She emphasizes that, “I did share my medical history with my doctor but it didn’t affect me during my pregnancy although I suspect that I did have mild post partum depression for the first 3 months.”
I firmly believe that depression is a word that is even today in most households swept away, shushed and brings shifty eyes, uncomfortable pauses, shallow assurances, and is ignored. She agrees when she tells me that, “It really is a question of whom you are talking to because I find even among the educated circles, there are people who shut their eyes to the reality of mental illness. I would say the circle of support I have had is very strong both on a personal level as well as a professional, blogging level. But, I have had naysayers in the past.”
She was ignorant and did not understand the word depression when it struck her. She says that, “I just knew that I was going through a very bad mental and emotional patch and my family and some very close friends saw me through the entire phase. It was only when I spoke to fellow survivors and read about it that I realized that I had suffered from bi-polar disorder and depression.”
How did she address the problem, come out stronger and what medical advice does she follow now? Shailaja affirms, “My parents helped me address the problem, to be frank. I didn’t even know I was ill. A therapist would come home to meet me, counsel me and help with my medication. Coming out of this took time, about nine months in recovery and then a few months of self-care. I was on medication for anxiety and bipolar disorder as well as insomnia. A year after I was diagnosed I did not need any further medication.”
Shailaja has lots to advice to give to those facing similar issues, “Acknowledging the illness is important as a first step. Tell yourself that you need help and don’t shy away from asking for it either. What’s the worst case scenario?
People may turn away from you. But there will be others who will step up and help you. That’s what you need to focus on.
Second, stop blaming yourself. This isn’t something you wished upon yourself. It isn’t what happened because you didn’t take enough care or didn’t eat the right foods. It can happen to anyone and I do mean, anyone.
Next, find a support system. This can be from your friends or your family and ensure that you meet with a good therapist. Both of these are necessary for recovery.”
Her tip on how she coped while fighting depression is to remember that, “This is your battle, your war and your struggle. But it’s difficult to expect others to understand that. Don’t let that stop you from seeking help or getting better.”
Shailaja is not just a survivor but a fighter. She has spoken out against suicide, and fighting depression and advises sufferers that, “Don’t be afraid to seek help and ignore the warnings or the symptoms when they manifest. If institutionalization is required by the therapist, go for it.”
She also says, “Care givers must ask for help, stay informed and take advice. Seek counselling, be updated on the doctors available, the medication given, and feel free to get a second opinion about fighting depression, just the way you would if it were a life-threatening illness. Trust me, you’re better off being treated for it earlier than when it is too late.”
Her blogging and writing about fighting depression, overcoming suicidal tendencies, and bipolar disorder has led her to start writing a book that is, “First, to reach out to the victims, people who are suffering silently. People who are care givers to those who are suffering, and to give them an idea of what it is like to go through this and to treat it like you would treat any physical illness.
Second, I am not writing this book to transform the minds of those who do not believe in the idea of mental illness; if that happens, it is a bonus.
A post is one thing but a book is more permanent and can be referred to for a long time to come. Writing about my illness has helped by allowing myself to view the situation from the healthy perspective of a survivor who beat the odds.
I am writing but I have still a long way to go.”
Thank you Shailaja, I can only hope that your words make a difference in someone’s life. I wish you strength and success in all your future endeavors.
Shailaja blogs at The Diary of A Doting Mom and The Moving Quill and is writing a book about her battle with fighting depression. She is a freelance writer, full-time editor and passionate blogger.
Today, September 10th, is World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD), an opportunity for all sectors of the community to join with the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) to focus public attention on suicidal behaviours with diverse activities to promote understanding about suicide and highlight effective prevention activities.
Do you ever find yourself being drawn back into the web of depression or any other issue that could have a negative outcome? How do you deal with it? This is what Shailaja Vishwanath says, “Today, if I see a warning trigger I take action. I pick up the phone and call my close friends or my mom. Suffice to say that psychiatric treatment is both necessary and ideal if you are no longer in control of the things that you say or do.”
If you or anyone you know is feeling suicidal, here are some of the helplines available in India. Please call.
Aasra, Mumbai: 022-27546669
Sneha, Chennai: 044-2464 0050
Lifeline, Kolkata: 033-2474 4704
Sahai, Bangalore: 080–25497777
Roshni, Hyderabad: 040-66202000, 040-66202001
Image source: Shailaja Vishwanath