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?

love · schizophrenia · Spirituality

What do you think love is?

14th February, 2017. The highlight in most people’s lives and the question that has more answers than any other: What is love?

I’ve been going through my own churning, with the personal, the political, the social and work at school. The answer to all that churns me arises from what the heart has been acting upon…and that is love.

Love is a funny word isn’t it?

There are a million claims over the meaning and understanding of it.
To my knowledge and experience love is the simple act of courage found buried in our hearts.
It’s easy to love but not easy to act upon the necessary outcomes of love.


Love makes us do things we wouldn’t otherwise do. It makes us look deep within a kaleidoscope of illusions to muster up a kind of strength that we wouldn’t otherwise have found in ourselves.

This strength is called courage. It surpasses all illusions and the heart begins glowing. This glow invades all our fears, purging it by telling us to act upon what troubles us.

But it is not a sacrifice. It’s a choice made instinctively by our hearts.
For when our hearts are hurt and we cannot any longer rely on the subtle projections of our egos we begin experiencing anger.
This anger shakes us, makes us weak, make us immobile, makes us silent, makes us yell, makes us churn, until we get around and do something about it.
But that something must come from what our heart truly feels. The intent in what exist within us will kindle a courage necessary for us to move to our next step. The kind we never thought possible.

Love doesn’t blind you. Love opens your eyes. I’ve read this somewhere! So I know I am not the only one stating that which I believe in.
Love requires courage and courage is born from the heart. It cannot be found in any other way. It is not found in books, in movies, in our heads, in our biceps, in our thoughts, in our intellectual wisdom or in our self-proclaimed understanding of it. It is a wisdom found in our hearts which bear fruits of profundity. This courage is what delivers two individuals in existing together as it becomes a conscious choice made in full awareness of their respective strengths and weaknesses.

Such love is not just limited to romantic couples but it exist in all relationships. Such love is kindled by a knowing that it requires two to tango. It’s team work. It’s selfless yet selfish. It’s a high with a low coming with a sense of belonging yet not ownership. And it can never fade away because such courage when found becomes the light that will always glow for another even when they’re unable to find their own.

Such love is crazy, unfathomable and almost something alien. Alien only because it’s not something that was allowed to enter your life.

To me my madness is the same. They draw me…both love and madness. It is not a romantic notion I’m laying claims over. It is something that has to be lived to be understood.

Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you! Have the courage to love. I am not speaking of romantic or sexual love but the kind that makes our own secret world spin in happiness and abundance of recognizing such love. It’s the best path towards being a good human and doesn’t require any spiritual explanations of enlightenment as love is the essence that already exist within us all.

© Reshma Valliappan 2017img_20170208_092846032

Mental Health

Experience and review by a mother

I’d like to share a mother’s Experience and review of my book ‘Fallen, Standing…’  < (click) which is on my website.

You must be wondering why I have a website and a blog and an art blog. Well it’s easy. We already know I do a million things and engage in several creative forms as tools for expression and advocacy. My alter egos surely have their own worlds.

My website http://www.theschizophrenist.com is a one stop to find out about the books and publications I am featured in + my art exhibition + the movie + my shop + services.

My blog http://www.valresh.com (this one) is where I write (blog) of course on my daily journeys, mental health issues, politics, drama, love, my work experience at school, and my mime.

My art blog: dependsonmyalterego.wordpress.com has a collection of my art work over the years for those who aren’t interested in the other stuff I do. This works for those who aren’t on other social media platforms as it’s pretty difficult to keep going back to an older Facebook post to locate an art work.

But all of it gets reblogged and shared over here on valresh.com during different times (if not immediately).

 

Shamanism

Has society made boys emotionally disabled?

What work do you do in school?someone asked.
In short I work with the heart. It’s all about the heart, I said.

In one of our TRD club sessions in school everyone (including the adults) said that ‘We come to school to look for love that we don’t get at home’.

In another TRD club session a student asked our previous intern What is The Red Door? to which the reply was…’The Red Door is you. You become the change, the helper, a better human being and you reach out to others’.

The girls from school initiated their own peer support meetings every Thursdays during lunch. The boys having heard of what the girls were upto showed interest in starting their own but are facing their own battles of maintaining it. Expressing their emotions is one uphill task since it is rooted in the lives of boys and men that they shouldn’t and that soon becomes an inability for them. It becomes their disability which to me is the starting point towards the creation of anger and violence.

Yesterday, one kid tells me ‘Didi, I need to cry. How do I cry?’ and began narrating how the only expressions he knows is of hitting, punching, breaking, throwing, fighting. I left him with a story to think of and ended with ‘We know how to make people laugh, which is great. But we don’t need to make them laugh, if we don’t make them cry. Everyone knows how to make another person cry but they don’t know how to help another person cry. There’s a difference’.

Then another kid allowed tears to fall when I hugged him and said ‘It’s okay. I’m also crying with you’. 5 minutes later he said ‘This is good my anger reduced’. After sitting on the stairs with him and a few friends of his I told them about love, attention, needs, care and compassion.

I am amazed but not surprised that kids are losing this ability to ask for love, to ask for care, to ask for hugs, to ask for attention through what was once a natural process for them. They are asking for all of this but through violence because the adults in the world don’t offer any role modelling and are equally trapped in their own ridiculous choices.

I’m curious to know about others. How many of you can ask for love? for a hug? be open and ask for attention? OR do you choose to hurt another person in disguise of this. Because the latter is dangerous and cannot be an excuse since it is a conscious choice.

Uncategorized

Are you a fan or a label?

Someone who read my book tweeted this to me and it made sense of my entire week!

c3o95wewaaalgwl

I always consider having friends something more important to me than anything else since I’ve mostly lost mine or relied on imaginary ones. Off late I’ve also met women who’ve become part of this love tribe…you know the whole new age stuff on women (and men!) having their own tribe thing.

I remember an interviewer asking me how many Likes, Follows and Fans I have. I said “If I was Deepika Padukone, maybe I’d like to focus on those numbers but I am not.”

To me having Fans are like having Labels and all of you know how much I don’t like the latter.

Labels are meant to be on clothes & Fans are meant to be on ceilings to keep you cool. If you can’t be cool without one then it suggest otherwise, no? Well that’s my thing and I kinda like my thing because I have made an interesting friend just over 2 meetings and told her ‘You’re like the friend I’ve always wanted. Not to say I don’t have other friends but this is something else’ – and she agreed!

When I first began working at school, the teacher had this fan like impression too after having read my book and got to know about my story. Today she is my biggest listener and co-worker as we sync so beautifully with her skills in education and mine in mental health.

If I saw others as fans I would also see them as labels which would mean I would see myself as a label…thereby only limiting my own existence and possibilities of being on this already estranged planet. Isn’t there enough hate, prejudice, war, jealousy, envy, greed, fights, disrespect, control and bitterness existing? Imagine having to walk all of that alone – which many are doing. We can flush these all away when we choose to be open and surrender to the greatest being called Nature. In her, through her, with her, by her, she will present herself through others. We can choose to see Her and walk together or we can choose to remain in our illusions of metaphors, control and ownership.

I wish people saw each other as people, as humans, as beings, as individuals – in their own Gods and Goddesses avatars yet aware of the human limitations and frailties of our hearts. No one is an object, thing and goal. Sure enough I’ve also had to deal with letting go of those who don’t understand such relationships and it’s part of the same journey. But if we keep ourselves open – the most beautiful heaven like connections will be made to nurture our spiritual evolution. We begin syncing at all levels…living each other’s life through different realms and bodies. Now who wouldn’t want that?

 

The beauty of life is love and it is not something that grows when in control. In control, it will begin to suffocate causing a network of disrespectful people coming your way. Lose that need to control and love will bring in a network of colourful beings walking the same path to uplift each other together. We are all warriors…we are either spiritual warriors, peaceful warriors or lover warriors – all of which are the same thing.

Have a happy week ahead y’all! Lots of peace and colour. – ©Reshma Valliappan 2017