This article was submitted to Ergo by Shravan Pandey, a sports enthusiast somehow studying in a Law school (4th year, GNLU), and kind of liking it now.
Trigger Warning: This article deals with issues of Depression and Mental Health.
This is my first attempt at writing something, and I am feeling lots of things. I am happy that I have been given an opportunity to put my thoughts to words, because I know this could affect a lot of people, hopefully in a positive way. I am also considerably nervous, since I don’t know what exactly to say. So, I have decided to adopt the easiest course of action: rambling. I will try to make as much sense as possible. This will be like a story, your classic happy-unhappy-stable trope, if you will. Fasten your seatbelts, bear with me, and try to stay awake. (Yes, being born in the 20th century forces me to use humor as a coping mechanism during awkward times of nervousness).
Not too long ago, I was terrified of sleeping: I knew my life wasn’t a rosy, fantasy movie, where I’d manage to wake up as a different person altogether. Nope. I knew I had no option but to wake up with my terrible self, and there was nothing I could do about it. I was stuck with myself, and there was no escaping that. All in all, it was a fairly hellish experience to have to live with someone like me. But, it’s necessary to understand why. Let me start from the beginning.
I was introverted, I didn’t like to talk too much, I was and pretty much still am more of a listener. I didn’t like to engage in public speaking of any kind. I was studying Law, when I was certain I was born to do something else, like represent my country in a sport, but here I was, studying Law. I hated the Gujarat summers, especially coming from a cold place. I don’t enjoy spending money frivolously because the guilt I feel thereafter is immediate and long-lasting. Long story short, I really wasn’t too pleased about studying Law at one of the “premier Law institutes” of the country. I was, for the lack of a better word, just lost. It seemed to me that everybody in my batch was better than me in so many things that I was “supposed” to be good at, and there I was: not engaging in anything, and just complaining about almost everything. I was also hesitant to make any efforts, because I had convinced myself that it was pointless, especially since all my peers already had a head start anyway.
But then, I found solace in my University’s football field, and it seemed like I discovered myself again. I was always fascinated by all sports, and it didn’t stop there: I knew I was good at it. As conceited as this sounds, I cannot help it. I was good at what I played, not because of my talents or techniques, but because when I was on the field, I used to give it my best shot, every single time. I’d have loved to make a career out of it (sports, not necessarily football), but of course, as cited by my parents, it wasn’t the most practical choice, and I wound up studying Law.
One fine day, I was on the field, playing, and I heard something crack in my leg, but I shrugged that off and continued to play, only to later realize that it was a serious injury. I didn’t care what the injury was, or what the solution would be: all I knew was that I would not be able to give my best anymore, because I would not be able to play at all.
Of course, my world had reached a standstill, I was emotionally destroyed. A large chunk of my day cleared up, when I had absolutely nothing to do. I would go to the field and look at my peers play, cursing myself for not being more careful. There would be random bursts of pain in my legs, when I’d think that I might as well cause pain to my leg by playing, rather than not playing, and I’d go and try to play, just to worsen the pain. It was an endless cycle, and I hated everything, including myself, because, detached from sports, I realized that I had no value whatsoever.
Given how free I was, I opened up to new people and made new friends, one of whom was truly special. She helped me overcome a lot of my sadness, anger and frustration, and I truly enjoyed spending time with her. We both agreed to culminate our friendship into a romantic relationship, and it was all fun and games. She made me happy, and to me, she was one of the better things about college. However, we stumbled upon the realization that maybe we rushed into it all, maybe, we weren’t ready since we were too different in very fundamental ways. That was quite a realization, and it hurt, because it meant that we had to part ways, and I was alone and bitter again.
Don’t get me wrong. I had, and continue to have, lots of friends in college, and I enjoy the time I spend with them, however, I felt alone with them, through no fault of their own. I felt alone in too many situations, and it was a heartbreaking feeling. I believed that I didn’t have anything to guide me through the falls I was facing. That’s when I got scared: the feeling of loneliness that overcomes you even when you are in a room full of people you love. That’s when I realized that I was done for. I believed I was a liability to my parents, and I will never be as determined and hardworking as my sister, or my batchmates, and of course, since I will probably never be able to play football again, the easiest option for me was to escape: escape all situations where I am reminded of this fact. I tried to meditate continuously, but that didn’t work for me, so I realized that perhaps, I required a bigger escape, an escape which would cease my existence, because, I thought to myself, nobody would be losing too much. If I were to stay where I was, it was necessary for me to feel that I wasn’t alone, and I had a handle on my life, but I didn’t. I always felt loneliness and kept lashing out at my poor friends who tried to talk to me, because I knew they wouldn’t understand. I was convinced that I was a mess too difficult to untangle, and there was nobody who could help me.
At right about this point, when I was casually browsing through my inbox, I saw an E-mail from my University Dean, about how there was a counsellor available on campus, twice a week. I decided to take a leap of faith, and go to them and pour my heart out. And I did. It took a while, but after two to three weeks, I was genuinely feeling better- better about myself, better about others, and better about my life in general. I was taken aback that it took me this long to address the problems I had, and I put myself through so much by just being reluctant, because I was certain that I’d find no help, when it was literally twenty steps away.
Of course, even before facing such problems myself, I knew that the youth of today is riddled with a multitude of problems which cause them mental agony, and takes a toll on their mental health, and it always surprised me that they never chose to go seek help. However, after facing such problems myself, I understood why there was so much trepidation involved. I was on the path to getting better, and I was further away from my problems, as compared to say, a year ago, and this made me realize that in one way or another, I was responsible for letting my batchmates and peers know how important it is to take that leap of faith. I put up a message on my batch group and had several people reach out to me, and I was stunned that there were so many people who wanted to talk to me. Everybody seems put together on the outside but they are all bogged down by their own problems, which is why when Maitreyee asked me to pen down this article, I jumped at it and grabbed the opportunity with both hands to let the world know that it is necessary to overcome the taboo surrounding mental health. It’s time for people, who have not faced any mental health issues, to realize their good fortune, and help their peers and friends know that it’s okay to reach out to them. Anybody and everybody who has somehow gathered the courage to tackle their problems and speak out about them, need to be appreciated. We need to certainly build an environment that is more conducive to addressing such problems.
It needs to be understood that at times, our friends and parents, as close as they may be to us, might not be the best people to understand what we are going through, which is why, the best recourse would be to seek professional help. They would not be judgmental, and at the same time, they would not be prejudiced towards you. There won’t be any spoonfeeding, but they will make it possible for you to make the best decisions for yourself.
It won’t be an instant transformation, and I cannot promise that it will be a nice bed of roses all along, but at least it’s a start. You have to know that you are not alone in this, and I mean that in as literal a way as possible. But even if you are not alone, know that what you are going through, is not normal. Don’t get used to all the troubles your mind is facing, because honestly, you don’t deserve it. It doesn’t matter that I don’t know you, but I can say with a cent percent certainty that nobody deserves this. You deserve better and you need a little push to guide you in that direction.
Healing is a tedious process, but if it is something that helps you get better, grab it with both hands, no matter how difficult it is. You will learn more about yourself than you ever knew, you will learn to accept your flaws with less hatred towards yourself, and there’s a strong probability that you will learn to be okay with your past self. Seeking help will give you the calmness and clarity that you need. You will learn to be real with yourself, and that will make all the difference.
I urge you to try and lift your leg for that one step, no matter how heavy your leg feels.
“Trauma creates change you don’t choose, healing is about creating change you do choose.”