I first came to know about Virginia Woolf when I read her novel “Mrs. Dalloway” during my post-graduation. During this time, I read many other great writers and poets of 19th and early 20th century but, Virginia Woolf stayed with me as I continued reading her work long after. With each passing year, my understanding of her writing became deeper and I became more interested in knowing her as a person. I learned about her family life, her journey as a modern writer and her life-long struggles with mental health which kept deteriorating with every passing year. Virginia Woolf decided to end her life on March 28, 1941 when she walked into the river Ouse with stones in her coat pockets.
Somehow, that image of Woolf with stones in her pocket remains quite vivid in my mind. I have thought about these stones many times and in the past two-three years, when I was going through a tough phase, I felt as if I was carrying these stones in my pockets. When I decided to write about this blog, I gave a lot of thought about how I should describe that challenging time. Was I going through depression, was it anxiety or was it simply many of my mood swings. I still haven’t been able to name my situation accurately, but I am sure of one thing that my mental health was not in good shape and like any other health condition, it needed immediate attention, care, and cure.
The purpose of this blog is to write about my struggles with my general well-being that forced me to change many of my lifestyle habits and move towards a more purposeful life. My experiences during my trying times compelled me to take a deep look within myself and understand what was going wrong with me and why it was imperative for me to take measures to come out of it.
How did I realize?
So, the question comes – how did I come to know that there was something not exactly right with me.
I realized my mind was experiencing distress because I was:
- not able to focus on one task for a longer period of time.
- becoming more forgetful.
- resentful towards every situation.
- constantly complaining.
- blaming everyone and everything around me.
- screaming a lot.
- crying often for no apparent reason.
- trying to prove myself in every situation.
- not able to express myself clearly.
- triggered very easily.
- tired all the time.
- constantly searching for my identity.
- questioning my self-worth.
- not happy from inside.
- not at peace.
Finally, the time came to accept the Truth
None of the situations given above seems life-threatening. So, why these symptoms became a warning bell for me. We all experience these symptoms on a daily basis, isn’t it! We do not realize the magnanimity of these signs as life keeps us busy in hundreds of things and people around us keep us distracted. I was also busy managing my work, family, and life till now and way too busy to realize the person I was becoming. And then Loneliness struck me. Suddenly, I was surrounded by people and had more than 150 names in my phone’s contact list and I had no one to talk to. This loneliness threw the hardest punch on me and engulfed me completely. I started looking for my strength every day.
The wake-up call came when I had to gather all the energy in my body and mind to get up every morning and live a day. I realized that if I do not do anything about it, I will lose myself completely and there is no one in this world who would miss me except for my husband and kids. I had to get well for them.
The biggest step towards taking care of your mental health is accepting mental health as an integral part of your well-being. If you feel stigmatized talking about it either in your context or your loved ones, then you need to broaden your horizons a bit. Just like it is important for you to drink warm water with lemon every morning, oiling your hair every week, and getting facial treatment done every month, it is important to care for your mind every day, every week, and every month.
Confusing Triggers with Reasons
The biggest mistake I was making in my path of self-discovery was to confuse the triggers with reasons. At first, I thought that change of location, becoming a housewife after 17 years of working, struggling with new language were the reasons behind me becoming so miserable. But then the question came – What happened to that strong woman who used to take pride in her fighter-spirit. The answer was right there – I was weak from within from the very beginning. And how weak I was that one considerable change in my life threw me off-the-bounds.
We all face these triggers everyday in our lives and unknowingly, we label them as reasons for your distress. A thoughtless, insensitive call from your relative that destroys your entire day, a stray comment or a random gesture from a known person that puts your mood off, a mild altercation in the market with a total stranger that makes you agitated – these are not the reasons for your disturbed mind. These are the triggers that life throws at you and because your mind is not strong enough, you give in to these situations and your mental peace pays the price.
How did I Save Myself
I did save myself and I am still saving myself every single day. Because it is not a single-occurrence issue and definitely not a one-time treatment. It is a life-long practice that I needed to do to keep myself safe. I had to make myself so strong that no matter what life throws at me, I should always be standing strong without getting affected by it. It is not easy. Because life will keep throwing these triggers at you every day and I am still working on my strengths.
My immediate path to recovery had only two treatments – Meditation and Cutting-off from Social Media completely.
The libraries around the world are full of books on meditation. Just pick one and choose your method. I started with guided meditation and gradually transformed it into meditating while running. I can also write a book on it and I would still not be able to justify the magic of meditation and how it transforms you.
Limit Social Media
Considering that the second point in my list is Social Media, you can imagine, how deep is the impact of Social Media in our lives and how important it is to limit it.
- Limit, limit, and if possible, cut off from social media. Esp. the pages which are full of only happy and beautiful faces.
- Use Social Media to ignite your passion or to present your creativity.
- Time your social media consumption. For every 1 hour of mindless scrolling, commit 2 hours of mindful activity.
- Read news only for 5-10 minutes. You can increase this time only if the Prime Minister/President of your country calls you regularly to hear your views.
- Artificial Intelligence captures your online preferences. Without your knowledge, the Social Media starts conditioning you to think in a particular way and gradually you become a stubborn and rigid person with very strong likes and dislikes.
Bollywood is not real
- You do not have teary-eyed happy, selflessly loving, and dancing relatives in your real-life.
- Friendships are complicated and hard to find in real life.
- There is no such thing as a perfect woman, perfect daughter-in-law, perfect mother in real life. So, don’t try to become one.
- No matter how hard you try and however much you scream, some people in your family will never understand you, will never realize your pain, and will never love you. That happy ending “where everything is sorted out in the end” never comes in real life.
Create a World with only “You” in it
- Compete with yourself.
- Become the best version of yourself, every day.
- Give one hour every day to build your brand – Every day, every week.
Be Practical and Reasonable
- You owe it only to your partner and kids. When was the last time your relative or friend lost their sleep because your kid came crying from the school.
- You don’t need social circle every day. There’s a reason why festivals come every quarter. Rest of the year is to work on yourself.
- Invest in yourself -> Invest in your partner and kids -> Invest in your parents -> Invest in your work -> Invest in your neighbors -> Invest in that precious friend or may be two friends -> (you will not be left with any time after this to invest anywhere else)
I had to gather a lot of courage to finally write this blog on mental health. I hope, all of you reading this will get something to take home with you.