Born to Bengali parents, I lived a good part of my life in Maharashtra in various cities and changed schools every 2-3 years. I was an only child, and therefore my parents gave a lot of attention to me for my studies and other extracurricular activities. However, both my parents had separate expectations from me, and although they married out of love, it was an unhappy marriage.
Growing up under my mother’s umbrella, she wanted me to do things that she as a child couldn’t.
She would enroll me into dance classes, skating classes, and singing classes. She would also make me practice drawing at home, knit, stitch, practice handwriting, and learn different languages. The list is endless. And although I’m grateful for the holistic development she provided me at such a young age, the expectation to excel everywhere was high, at least in my head. I would constantly be afraid of failing, lest I invite my Mother’s dislike.
On the other hand, my father, who initially wanted a son, groomed me like a boy, kept my hair short, took me out every Sunday morning to play cricket with his colleagues and their sons. Both my parents had one thing in common. They wanted to live their own unfulfilled expectations through me. However, this led to a severe conflict of interest and thus began my journey with anxiety.
My mother being the more dominant personality, got her way with me, to my father’s utmost dismay. I found myself constantly dragged into an invisible battle of domination. Pleasing one would incur the wrath of the other. To cope with this, I built strong social skills from a very early age. It was never challenging for me to make friends or sustain friendships, and luckily I always found myself surrounded by the right people. Things changed when I moved to Calcutta and studied in a small town school away from the city. The cultural changes I was suddenly made to face were drastic.
As a growing adolescent, I was not too fond of the way I looked, the way my hair curled unlike other girls, and the way boys tried to woo the prettier girls in the class.
My mother also fell sick around that time, and she was unable to devote as much time and attention to my studies as she did before. Over time, my grades started to fall rather miserably. From being an accomplished kid in every walk of life, I grew up to be a very insecure teen, unsure of myself, my body, and my personality.
I didn’t realise that all this was also affecting me psychologically, but I would often get nervous in tough situations, panic before a deadline, and lose my appetite. Back in school, with very little understanding of mental health, I did not know that this behaviour pattern had a name. Later in life, the obvious symptoms vanished, and I was seemingly more confident, aside from the occasional panic attacks and indecisiveness before a major deadline.
However, it resurfaced after I got an admit from IISc Bangalore for a PhD position. As grateful as I am for this opportunity here, the challenges of life in research are tough to cope with.
Failed experiments, long working hours in the laboratory, establishing a hypothesis, making sense of your observations, day in and day out.
It all took a massive toll on me. However, I had a very tightly knit circle of friends. With the support of my peers and my research guide, I was able to muster the courage to wake up each day and work hard despite the failures.
It wasn’t until I experienced a major heartbreak from a failed relationship that I decided to get help. It had dismantled my circle, and I found myself without any support, without any ally, friendless, and extremely insecure.
I lost my appetite, felt nauseous at the sight of food, developed an eating disorder, wherein I would vomit after every meal.
Anyone who has gone through an unwarranted break-up knows where it hurts the most. I would often find myself writhing in pain, with heaviness in my chest, tremors in my body, and blinding headaches. During the lockdown, it got even more difficult for me to stabilise myself following the break-up. I relied heavily on my partner for my emotional wellness and having lost that, I found myself lost. It wasn’t until I got help at YourDOST that I realised that the roots of my anxiety go back to my childhood. I realised I had developed OCD in my childhood that spilt over into my professional and personal lives too.
As much as it is a taboo in India to even discuss one’s mental health, it is even more difficult for someone to ask for help. Sometimes, we find ourselves in a situation without support from our peers, our families, and it’s alright to seek support elsewhere. It is even more important to find support in such situations, to realise that the pain, the sorrow, the hurt is valid, and most importantly, Temporary.
Today, 6 months into therapy, I realised many things about myself that I hadn’t before.
I am more aware of myself, calmer, and patient than I was before. I was able to build a stronger perspective about life and the people I have in it. It has greatly helped me steer my life’s boat, even when it looks foggy, and I find myself able to navigate through it all.
I am currently seeking help, and I know I am in able hands when it comes to my counsellors at YourDOST. Of the many techniques I was asked to engage in, in order to cope up, journaling was the most beneficial. I was able to calm my mind down by establishing my feelings on a piece of paper, and for a little while, pretend like I am a Jane Austen in the making.
To anyone reading this, if you’re looking for a sign to decide if you want to talk to someone or if you feel like you’re lost; This is it. Like Elsa says in Frozen 2,
When all is lost, then all is found
The toughest part is to take the first step, but there on, it is as simple as one step at a time, one day at a time.
Are you someone who has gone through a difficult phase and emerged stronger and better, with some professional help? Share your story with us to encourage thousands of others who might be struggling. Click here to submit your story.