“Happiness is a direction, not a place.”
— Sydney J. Harris
This is the rule that Shreshtha lived by. 19 year old Shreshtha is a design student at Anant National University, Ahmedabad. As we speak over the phone, her warmth and cheer instantly eases us into the conversation. Originally from Panipat, Shreshtha describes herself as a happy go lucky individual with big aspirations.
“Panipat is neither developed nor porgressive but I am lucky to have had a good upbringing and amazing parents. They are very supportive and open minded.”
Shreshtha had everything going for her – studying at a reputed college, majoring in design and blessed with a beautiful family. But it was the global pandemic and the subsequent lockdown that brought with itself a whole lot of challenges for her and her family.
“We had to go through some major life changes during the lockdown. I did not see them coming. It was a lot for me to take on.”
Elaborating on it, Shreshtha shares how she was forced to go back to Panipat, a place she had never been fond of, during the lockdown period. This led to a lot of misunderstandings with my family. To add to that, a close family member was also diagnosed with a serious illness during this time. Adding fuel to fire was a situation which ended up being all the more traumatising.
Someone in the family had to move away under very stressful circumstances. There was abuse and violence. It was a very traumatic experience for us.
If that wasn’t enough, she also lost someone in the family whom she had been really close with.
Such a major pile-up of unfortunate events, that too in the midst of a pandemic are bound to take a toll on anyone.
Shreshtha had experienced her fair share of mental health struggles back in her school days. Back when she was in 11th standard, she had to move cities to Panipat and consequently her school as well. Her new school didn’t turn out to be the best fit for her and she found herself being victim of bullying.
“It was a very difficult experience for me. This is when I started retreating into my shell and cut myself off from everyone. I am a total extrovert and this was so unlike me but I was just not able to cope.”
She is grateful for a couple friends whom she met in school, and who, like her, were trying to navigate through this new atmosphere. They instantly hit it off and became really close friends. Shreshtha credits them with pulling her out of the hole that she had retreated into.
However, now during the pandemic and the consequent lockdown, dealing with her mind proved to be a much more difficult task for her. Why? She found herself bereft of the usual outlets which she had relied on in the past to cope.
I could not meet my friends because of the lockdown. I did not know how to manage my thoughts all by myself.
It was under these circumstances that she reached out to her college for assistance and they helped her get in touch with Ms. Meera Ramesh, a Psychologist with YourDOST. Shreshtha describes therapy as a breath of fresh air as it gave her an opportunity to finally confront all the thoughts and feelings that she had repressed over the years. She finally learnt how to face them head on instead of sweeping them under the rug. Meera taught her some really useful tools and techniques to manage her thoughts effectively.
“I initially told her about my worries regarding my parents. She told me to first write it all down. The second thing was to be more open and have deeper conversations with loved ones.”
This journaling technique has proved to be a blessing for Shreshtha. It has become an outlet for all her negativity, where she can dispense of it through words. She can feel herself turning into her old natural self.
“Earlier, I would avoid having real conversations with my friends because I felt like it made me look weak. Now, I try to be more vulnerable with them. The validation and support I have gotten has really helped.”
Shreshtha says that she’s in a much better place now, both mentally as well as physically. She is in absolute awe of Meera and is grateful that she found her.
“She was very patient and understanding. At first, I was a little annoyed because she was asking all these questions and trying to dig out skeletons I had buried deep within. But now, I am thankful for everything she did for me.”
Looking back, Shreshtha confesses that she had always harboured a certain amount of stigma towards therapy but her perspective took a 180 degree turn when she came to college. Joining Anant National University and talking to the counselors at YourDOST completely changed her outlook towards therapy.
She now actively advocates for it.
Everyone should go for therapy. More than anything else, it helps you get to know yourself and become a better human being. People are just revolving around their own thoughts sometimes, therapy gives you perspective.
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