Trigger Warning: Sexual Abuse
Mrinal was 12 years old when she was sexually abused by someone very close to her family. This was an isolated incident but immensely traumatising for her.
I would cry myself to sleep every night and wanted the ground to swallow me whole. I realised that I just wasn’t feeling okay.
These are some really strong feelings for a child. At this young age, Mrinal did not know how to deal with them.
Mrinal Gupta, 22, is a final year law student at National Law University Odisha, one of India’s most prestigious law schools, and has been struggling with Depression and Anxiety for as long as she can remember. This is her story.
“I did understand what had happened to me was wrong but I didn’t really know what to do or whom to reach out to. I just thought that it would be best to not tell my parents and forget about the whole incident.”
Mrinal buried these memories deep within for years. But they affected her every single day. Finally, she mustered up the courage to tell her parents the truth. This was when she was in 11th standard.
“I just wanted them to know because this was someone who was very close to the family. I had to see his face often and pretend as nothing had happened. It was getting exhausting for me.”
When she did tell them though, she did not receive the reaction she was hoping for.
“I think it was almost victim blaming, to an extent. All they could say was – ‘How could you let that happen to yourself?’ ‘What is the point of telling us now?’”
What hurt Mrinal the most was that despite everything, they did not cut contact with that person. There were also a few other issues that contributed to Mrinal’s woes with her mental health. There was always this pressure from her parents to do really well in academics. All that coupled with what had happened to her took a major toll on her happiness.
Mrinal recalls that in 10th standard, she was constantly under pressure to perform well in her board examinations.
This is when my anxiety became worse. I have always been a people pleaser, essentially with regard to authority figures like my parents.
This led to her setting some really high expectations for herself. The result being, even though she scored really well in her 10th board examinations, she was just not happy. The next two years of her life were equally exhausting.
“My parents wanted me to pursue Science but I was not sure that this was what I wanted to do.”
She ultimately decided to pursue law as a career. This road too was a rocky one. Mrinal dedicated two years of her life towards her preparation for law entrance examinations. But she had again set a high benchmark for herself, it was the top three colleges or nothing. When the results came in, she found that she had scored really well but not well enough to get into those top three colleges in the country. This hit her harder than it should have and she went into a downward spiral. This is when she contemplated suicide for the first time.
“It sounds crazy but I was really disappointed in myself. I harboured these thoughts for the longest time. I would literally plan it in my head – as soon as I get away from my parents, I will do it.”
Mrinal still did not seek help though. The tides turned when she decided to go see the college that she had gotten into and to her surprise, she really liked it.
“I decided to enroll for the course and eventually, I moved away from home. For the first six months, I was in a much better place as there was a change of environment.”
But it’s like they say, ignoring the problem is a short term solution. A few months down the line, she could feel herself slipping away again. This time around, her parents could also see that her situation was getting worse and they agreed to take her to the doctor. She consulted a counsellor in Mumbai who helped her get better. This is when she was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Unfortunately, Mrinal could not continue therapy as she had to leave Mumbai and come back to her college. Her anxiety started to slither back into her life. She knew one thing though –
“I knew that I did not want to go back to the state that I was in, a state where I constantly wanted to stop existing. I started looking for other resources to get help and came across YourDOST.”
Mrinal connected with Psychologist, Ms Sudha Ananth, who helped her deal with her issues head-on. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a technique that Sudha used in order to help her rationalize her thoughts. It really helped her work on her constant urge to catastrophize everything.
At this point in time, I’m much more in control of my thoughts, thanks to therapy.
Mrinal believes that everyone is going through something, we are all silently fighting battles that no one else can see. She also believes that people do want to get better but they just don’t know how to reach out and to whom.
“I think it’s also fear. Fear of being judged or being labelled or called crazy. When I went for my first few therapy sessions, I was completely okay with it. But the day that I got my diagnosis was something else altogether. It literally hits you like a brick.”
But the important thing to realise, according to her, is that you can only get better when you decide to take that first step. There is no magical pill that will make it all go away but that doesn’t mean it won’t get better eventually.
Mrinal is thankful that she came across YourDOST when she did.
“I think it is a very good platform in terms of accessibility and affordability. I just need to book an appointment and can consult my expert at any given time from anywhere in the country. This is one of the major reasons why I have been able to continue therapy for so long.”
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