Our battles with mental illnesses

The thing about mental ailments is that it is much harder to accurately diagnose and as the popular saying goes, if you can’t measure it, then it doesn’t exist right? So, people spend all their lives trying to deny its existence although they feel it because there is no way to accurately measure its magnitude or impact. When the whole world (including oneself) is unified in denying it’s existence, it becomes harder to come out of the closet and acknowledge that something might be changing about your life that you’d like to talk about, have it diagnosed and get it treated. The greatest battle is with oneself and that really drains you from making much progress with the treatment.

A few years ago, my husband self-diagnosed himself (which was later confirmed by a qualified medical professional) of suffering from a condition called attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). He has written extensively about how he dealt with it on his blog because sometimes just sharing stories helps improve understanding of symptoms, treatment and so on. I wish I had documented how I dealt with this condition that was consuming our entire lives because a less written about topic is how people around the ones suffering from ADHD cope with ADHD. ‘It takes a lot of endurance to put up a 5 year long (still ongoing) 24/7 support. Although it’s a lot easier for someone who is not fighting their own battles. I failed. I gave up. I tried again. Failed again. I must confess that I did not do well and I am not proud of it. Sometimes I wondered if I was suffering from some mental illness myself that hadn’t been diagnosed but I convinced myself that all of us suffered from some sort of mental illness that seldom gets treated – greed, jealously, laziness, contempt, etc. I went on like this for 5 years!!

However, last month, a friend and I were watching Deepika Padukone, a Bollywood actress, talk about her journey through depression and how the support of her family was really crucial in being able to get through it. I told my friend that there’s a chance I might be depressed but she just laughed it off and said I’m probably just home sick. A few days later, she enquired how my “fake depression” was and my first instinct at that point was that I could totally relate to her. I was exactly like that when my husband first told me that he might be suffering from depression. Although my friend was absolutely right in calling it fake as I was not suffering from depression (which I later confirmed), I wondered how my husband must have felt, given that he was actually suffering. Until then, I had never understood that my apathy towards my husband’s condition stemmed from my lack of exposure and my reaction had only made it worse for him.

I realised that a huge contributor to depression is lack of awareness among the non-depressed who are in the immediate environment of the ones  who are actually suffering. The state of public care for mental illnesses is very nascent and hardly effective as our society is only now taking baby steps out of the stigma that is associated with recognising and acknowledging the fact that mental illnesses are as common as physical illnesses and that it could happen to any one of us. So, at the very least, I wonder if we could take a moment to learn and recognise symptoms just so we are not making it worse for someone!

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