Health · Mental Health

Depression? Let’s talk

This is a piece I wrote for The Pioneer, New Delhi. Though nothing is ‘new’ about my thoughts anymore and what I write and say is expected 🙂

Original article is published HERE  do leave your comments on the site’s post if you could.

Depression affects all ages & walks of life. It causes mental anguish and hits one’s ability to carry out simple tasks with devastating consequences. Depression can lead to suicide, the second highest cause of death among 15 to 29-year-olds. RESHMA VALLIAPPAN talks about the issue on the occasion of World Health Day which is themed on this affliction this year

When I first met M, I saw a reflection of me in him. He came across as reserved, rebellious and unbothered by what people said of him. This was, of course, a surface level mask he presented, much like many other youth swimming between their child and adult self. When M attempted suicide, I was called to intervene as he would only listen to me. A social worker I knew called his behaviour “attention seeking” and asked me to be careful as he would keep repeating it since he knew I could be beckoned through self-destructive acts he presented.

I agreed and watched out for his emotional tricks, but it only lasted 20 minutes. This was because I was in the same place M was in as a teenager. I could relate to what he was trying to communicate through his emotional tricks and focussed on what he was not saying. He was definitely trying to get attention not because he had nothing else to do in life but much like the rest of the world, M couldn’t find a way to communicate his feelings and need for emotional security since the world around us stops us from doing so.

M is no different than other people, whether they have the label and experience of depression or not. The more civilised our world gets, the more emotionally distant we become of what our heart needs and wants. It is predicted by WHO that 36 per cent of India’s population is struck by Depression. Depression is often called the silent killer, like diabetes equating it to the latter as a medical problem that has to be treated and controlled.

There are different forms of depression and a list of symptoms one can watch out for to prevent depression complications. All of us feel sad, lonely, aimless, helpless and even hopeless. These are natural reactions to grief, loss and an injured heart. It is when these emotions become overwhelming, begin affecting our routine and functioning, that clinical depression becomes the label to our condition and our first contact for help is a medical practitioner or psychiatrist.

The Government has accepted depression as a serious mental health problem that needs to be addressed. In the past three years, there have many organisations and groups addressing this silent epidemic. There is also the alternative school or remedies which include Ayurveda, Homeopathy, Yoga, Meditation, Reiki or energy healing, Acupuncture, Body Movement, Tantra, Shamanism, Chanting, Martial Arts, Dance and other art-based therapies but very few credible practitioners that can work with an individual having Depression or another ‘mental illness’.

The problem here is that many from the latter group are not known or validated for their methods since the identifying markers in alternative medicine and thought differ from the conventional school of medicine and living. The conventional school is about fast fixes much like all our lives; fast food, fast thoughts, fast gains.

As an Asian nation, we need to know that psychiatry and psychology were born in Germany where the treatments, diagnosis, prognosis and even alternative methods come from a Western mind-set and structure of how illnesses and lifestyles are seen. There is a huge cultural, social, political, medical, religious, spiritual, economical, biological and familial mishmash going on since, as Indians, we are trapped between the Western and Eastern cultures. The youth are caught in having to live American dreams and chase Western norms and yet being respectful or true to their Indian roots and traditions which is confusing, contradictory, often even hypocritical way of living and thinking.

Unfortunately, this hypocritical way can be seen in all our lives and families. Individuals make families, families make societies and societies make communities and nations. This is not to say our families are at fault. Our growing civilized identities are at fault. We are still  recovering from 200 years of colonialism and patriarchy and in doing so the youth of this country is constantly shuffling between many identities and they don’t often know which one to call ‘Me’.

The stigma here is not that depression is a ‘disease’. Mental health advocates use the term “mental discomfort” instead, which means we understand and know there is an experience of something overwhelming which has been given the label of depression but we don’t necessarily accept or call it an illness that requires treatment in the conventional way.

The difference between a mental discomfort that disables us as opposed to physical disabilities is the invisibility of our discomfort. As a society, we don’t tell a blind person ‘Open your eyes, you’re not blind’. We don’t tell a person using a wheelchair ‘Oh you should try standing and your legs might work’. This is because we don’t have a choice to not see their blindness or limbic limitations.

However, we do tell a person having depression to ‘Buckle up, stop this nonsense, get focused, do something, you’re wasting your life…’ As a society, we are blinder than the blind since we need to ‘see’ something in order to believe it exists. This is because we have a choice here to not see someone else’s failing heart and emotion as it reflects us and looking in the mirror is something painful.

We need to fall so low and so helpless that those who we love and care for us can then open their eyes to see that we need their attention. It would be easier if our lives and the people around us let us say: ‘Hey, I want your attention because I feel unloved’. But we don’t do that despite this being what 1.21 billion hearts are asking for.

I see depression as the side-effect to a sudden rise in empowerment gone un-channelled. There are many mental health professionals and doctors who’ve pointed out the same only using different words that of: A faulty idea of what success means and in that chase the stress shows as anxiety and the inability to act on what is received becomes depression. The stress of living is what is causing depression, when living should be a wonderful journey.

I consider depression a very valuable guide. In fact, what is wrong if we experience depression? Why must it be something we need to fix or get rid of? We don’t say the same about cancer. We allow someone with cancer to choose if they would like to extend their lives with chemotherapy or to live their few months without it. So even when we are making medical comparisons we are doing it blindly.

Depression can be dealt with and we can reach our healing if we choose to be honest to who we are and we stop living lives filled with lies. When we begin accepting ourselves and, consequently, others. Perhaps the real question we must ask about depression is: What is it that we really want? We might find the answer in the ability to hug someone and just hold them. We might find ourselves opening our hearts and minds to listen intently without judging. We might accept that depression, just like other human conditions and suffering, is one part of our journey and it is okay for it to exist. We might find that this depression is changing us and it’s not something we need to fear since growth can only happen when we decide to change ourselves.

Maybe, depression isn’t something as dark and dramatic being presented over the decades. But it is a natural reaction to life stressors forcing us to wake up and do something about our lives that makes it purposeful. How do we choose to accept any human condition of suffering and pain is what points us towards our true healing. But the next question this poses to us as a nation is: Are we ready for it?

disability · Health · Mental Health · philosophy · schizophrenia · Sexuality · Spirituality

Have we lost our teenager?

My talk from Changing Tomorrow at Chat Jaipur is finally up!

But I am also sharing my facebook post from learnings with the kids at school in K.C.Thackeray Vidya Niketan as it does synchronize with my talk 2 months ago. I’ve learnt a lot about life as a teen and I am relearning it differently again with the kids at school.

Post on 23rd December 2016:

Teacher: I read your previous status and thought about these kids. It’s the same analogy one of them gave me one day, where they learn stuff here and get thrown into the same crap outside of school.

Me: Yes, I thought the exact same but you know one of your same kids has learnt and is practicing. It’s no more just about living in the same messed up society and having it’s crap thrown on us. Your one kid is dealing with the same but he’s making choices everyday to be a good human person. At the end we’re all from the same shitty society but we’ve turned out fine. Some people complain and find excuses and some make choices every day.

Bottom line: There always is a choice. Or there are excuses. And we are that same shitty society. We either contribute positively everyday or we find reasons to blame others and victimise ourselves.

I hope I don’t sound preachy! There are days I must analyse and judge myself 🙂 It is necessary when we strive towards perfection as human beings because perfection is not something attainable in a day since it is a forward moving goal. Therefore, I love to cultivate my life towards reaching it, yet knowing I am never perfect in this human body.

Yet my human body is what teaches me to respect all of its matter…billions of it and be humble in knowing it has its limitations.

Hope you like my talk though. I received the link for it yesterday which was quite a Christmas gift to me as I needed it more. I needed my own lessons and learnings repeated to me by another me.

 

 

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone! (See my featured image. It’s an old artwork though)

 

Health

Yellow fever vaccine day

I was on a hunt for Yellow Fever vaccination since yesterday in my city. And found that Sassoon Hospital in Pune city is the only Government authorised place to have it done. It was only available on Mondays from 9am – 12pm but thankfully they now do it on Tuesdays too.

So here’s what happened (though I missed school because of it!) Do read my school blog where I post on behalf of my kids and maintain it. Please spread the word and donate for the work being done if you can.

Now for the Yellow Fever Vaccination experience:

 

Reached Sassoon hospital at 7.45am.
Stood in a line (that could have had a better system) till 9.10.
Then had to wait for the token.
There were 3 batches of folks. I had to wait for the 3rd batch consisting of 4 of us that couldn’t be issued a token, because one vial is for 10 people costing (Rs.3000).

So we sat as bored monkeys talking to each other and soon we were counting people, with our heads glaring at each person who came to inquire in hope they would be taking the same vaccine.
The number stopped at 7 and we waited an hour again. By then the doctor and nurse kept asking if we would have some faint idea if more would show up. Of course she thought we were telepaths.

I suggested we go looking for Gandhiji’s 3 monkeys and everyone burst laughing. Another fellow suggested we pick random people from the streets and force them to take the vaccine. Clear signs of desperation.

10 minutes later, 3 of us walk up to people at the OPD line asking ‘Yellow Fever? Yellow Fever?’ and we found ONE person who was to save us. The vaccine guinea pigs reached 9.

However, this lady suddenly disappeared and the nurse had no guarantee that she would return. They could only open the vial after we made our payments. So 8 of us pitched in for 2 different receipts of Rs.300 each, under my name since I was the only one with a confirmed ticket. A letter stating ‘on urgent basis’ required was written.

Now the actual jab was just 5 seconds, with a 30 minute wait to rule out immediate reactions. This gives them the time to issue our certificate valid for 10 years. In all that process in between, since everyone had to ask what the other was doing at the place they were travelling to, I was the only one heading towards South America and the rest towards Africa. This became an opportunity to yak, crack more jokes and then switch to Mental Health by telling them on their not so spooked out faces ‘I have schizophrenia myself’.’

They (nurse and doctor) did say no pregnancy for a while after this vaccination so I repeated it to the other folks not keeping in mind that some were men. But they said ‘Okay we’ll not get pregnant’. Bored strangers can surely be fun!

Although when the 9th person was asking the nurse about the reason behind pregnancy and the vaccine, I butted in saying ‘That’s cause the child will come out yellow’ and the nurse laughed calling me ‘nuts’ in a friendly way to which I told her ‘I already told you I had schizophrenia’. Then serious convo happened on what I do and why I do what I do and how.

What got interesting was 1 guy was on the same page with me about mental health, faith healing and alternatives. [ Oh! I got a free ride to Ravivar Peth in that process to buy my mime make up. ]

It turned out his previous job was to code medical conditions for the US. The majority of conditions were breast cancer, diabetes and heart attack. When he began doing his own research out of seeing such high numbers daily, he found out the same thing I was talking about. About conditions like cancer being made by the US. He came across an article on 3 political rats (men of course) who were paid by the government to create cancer and have the money coming in (like the stock market). [ Don’t ask me for citations okay. I am busy writing another paper. Google it ]

To which I shared with him about another video I spotted on YouTube by a non-medical practitioner speaking about the politics of diseases. Medical marijuana has been a cure that worked, however since it comes from a plant which can be found all over the world the US will never legalize it since they cannot patent a plant or what is natural. There is no ownership or profit margins they can claim or stop the usage of it unless there is patent on it. (Much like the same issue over chemo drugs that were cheaper in India that created issues with US since they weren’t making the same amount of money if people flew to India for cheaper treatment options).

Which brings us back to the whole deal of western medical sciences that many many people aren’t aware of. It isn’t about just the money, it is about how much.

…and that is the highlight of my day. I got home, passed out and now trying to book my bnb for Brazil though I can’t seem to make sense of anything at the moment.

Phew…I need air

Health · recovery

Being a brat always works:D

I’m visiting my folks in Medan specifically to cheer them up and give some ‘crazy’ company to mom who has been immobile and dependent ever since the gas explosion accident.

On the 1st attempt of teaching mom breathing exercises while strictly guiding her on retraining her self-talk for hand tremors – it took just 3 minutes for it to stop under the witness of her two nurses.

Though it took a nanosecond for it to return when mom reverted to her conditioned self-talk.
It’s going to take a little more than just repetitions with her as she’s not in the same positive state she used to be in. From what I’ve seen her be during her cancer treatment – this burn incident has left her completely dependent and shaken.

But it’s kinda fun when I get to use my schizophrenia to emotionally psyche her into doing stuff. So 2 hours from now she’s dragging me to the Buddhist temple instead.

Being a brat always works! 😀 Now next on the list is to get her going with selfies and to look in the mirror.

p/s: “What we say to ourselves on a daily basis every minute is what defines our healing. And healing is a 27/4 work” – ‪#‎TheSchizophrenist‬

Health

It just takes breathing

​Is there something that helps depression? 

Breathing 

Is there something that helps anxiety?

Breathing

Is there something that helps epileptic seizures?

Breathing 

Is there something that helps schizophrenia?

Breathing 

Is there something that helps sleep disorders?

Breathing

Is there something that helps recovery after a brain surgery?

Breathing

Is there something that helps ADHD?

Breathing 

Is there something that helps OCD? 

Breathing 

Is there something that helps palpitations, nausea, acidity, heart burns, hangovers, heatstroke,….

Addition of: Ataxia, cerebral palsy, low muscle power and muscle tone, cochlear problems, extreme fatigue, and coordination problems also helped by breathing – a list of ‘symptoms’ given by Sundari Sivasubbu who’s ‘been there’!

I’m going to say breathing for everything because there is scientific prove to the same. 

Unlike animals we breathe with our conscious brains and thought too. It suggest the possibilities breath work has in altering our entire system including pain receptors, serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and a whole list of it.

Problem is no one can breathe for you and that’s why your health lies in your hands. Others can only show and help but not do it for you.

Please don’t ask me for references, citations and spoon fed answers. If you can read this you can Google it. Or then pay me for it!

 #TheSchizophrenist (c)Reshma Valliappan