A simple gesture, a simple ‘Hey, how are you?’ can make all the difference in someone’s day. Talking about how the world around you is closing in on you, how you feel alone, how it’s raining gasoline and you’re trying your hardest to resist the urge to set yourself on fire can be very very challenging to talk about especially if you’ve never had that space to talk about it before.
I come from a typical Indian family, where in the past, mental health was simply not a topic for discussion. Today, I help connect hundreds of people with therapists and direct them to basic mental health resources. Here’s a slice of my journey:
I’m a school teacher with a mental illness. I was subjected to two years of relentless bullying and constant questioning of my performance. On one occasion, another staff member swore at me because I was anxious. They were relentless in their criticism of the symptoms of my anxiety. Questioning my mental health, my competence and my capabilities as a teacher. This only served to increase my anxiety and upset, the more I got upset, the more they questioned my fitness to teach.
I remember the first conversation I had about mental health. I didn’t mean to: I must have been about 13, and I’d not been feeling myself for weeks, but I had no idea what was wrong with me. My school friend remarked that I had been quiet recently and didn’t seem myself. Back then I didn’t really know what mental health was and I certainly didn’t put a label on what I was feeling. Now in my late twenties, it’s a relief to put a label on it – and to be able to go online and read stories of others’ experiences.
Just before Christmas this year I began to have thoughts that weren't entirely to my liking. I put it down to the usual feelings I get around that time. They'll pass.
Christmas came around, the thoughts were getting worse. The nagging thought that something isn't right. I was deeply unhappy. It was only Christmas Day afternoon that I found myself at peace. As a family we were all enjoying time together.