I have decided that it’s time for me to break the silence, because, by speaking out, I might just be a source of help to someone who is going through what I went through, and is confused about what to do next. It is time for our society to undergo some changes, for the good of those who constitute it.
My memory fails me and so I do not remember precisely when this started, but it was around the time when I started 8th grade, about 3 years back. The vacations before the start of the school year were when I started feeling low, and depressed. Horrifying accounts of the advent of death, and the fear of losing loved ones, became the dominant thought process in my mind, and slowly it took over my life. I started crying everyday, thinking continuously about the same fearful ideas. Soon it started developing into something similar to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder(OCD): I started washing my hands more than 20 times a day, I rigorously crossed out alphabets that I thought I had written ‘wrong’ in my school notebooks, I even started monitoring where my eyes travelled to, as if not doing any of these ‘rituals’ would result in the conversion of my deepest fears into reality. Things were slightly better at school, but at home they were just plain bad.
I think, about a year passed in the process and then I confessed to my friends what I was going through. They were very supportive, and didn’t make me feel awkward at all. Along the way, my mother had suggested I visit a psychiatrist, as she realized that there was no harm in doing so, but my father was opposed to it. That, and the norms of Pakistani society, kept me from going to someone who could have relieved me of the torment I went through for more than a year, if only I had reached out to that someone earlier. However soon my mother was convinced I should check with someone, and so she took me to a psychotherapist Dr. Imranna, a woman I truly admire now. I went to her, sobbing, I couldn’t even speak to her properly, without crying uncontrollably. I let go of all that was on my mind, and told her everything. I started to feel like maybe there was someone who actually understood what I was going through. Immediately after my first session with her, I felt better, and a lot lighter, as if someone had lifted an immensely heavy burden off my shoulders. The sessions continued, and soon I also visited the psychiatrist, who prescribed me medication. In a few months, I was free of all the thoughts that had once horrified me, and my life was back to normal. My psychotherapist advised me to adopt some changes in my lifestyle, and consequently those changes could substitute my medication, which I could then leave altogether. Today, my medication is about less than half of what it was when I first went to the psychiatrist, and never have I felt a relapse of depression, or felt low, in a way that was not normal. My visits to Dr. Imranna lessened significantly, as time passed, and today I feel as confident as any other person might feel – maybe even more! Those who know me today can tell you, without doubt, that I come across as a cheerful, friendly and confident individual, and my friends have been witnesses to the progress I have made. The one person who has seen this change most closely though, is me. I know how horrible my case of clinical depression was. It was a living hell and now that I think of it, I don’t know how I bore it. In breaking the norms of society, and doing the right thing, I had found support in a few people(my mother, my friends and my psychotherapist) who ensured that I came out of this ordeal, victorious.
What I am trying to say is that there is nothing wrong with consulting psychiatrists and psychotherapists, it is similar to going to the doctor when you have fever or flu. In a society like ours, depression is further fueled by economic woes, the lack of entertainment possibilities and the increasingly disturbing situation of security. Despite depression being a common problem, people strongly oppose seeking help, as those who reach out to these medical specialists are deemed ‘mad’. This narrow-minded approach is evident in all classes of Pakistani society. There is an urgent need to change people’s’ attitudes towards mental health. This will have to start with those who claim to be the ‘educated’ class. Not everyone needs medication, sometimes people just need someone to hear them out, and that is when a psychotherapist comes in. Even if someone does need medication, it is NOT a big deal, and we, as a society, need to realize that. It should be considered similar to taking medicine for a stomach ache! The Pakistani people need to accept mental illness as a disease, and simply treat it like they treat other diseases.
If you have suffered something of this sort, or are suffering, there is no need to be ashamed. Be strong, and overcome it. You are as good as anybody, and have as much potential to succeed as anyone else. If you know someone who has suffered something of this sort, or is suffering, be patient and support them, encourage them to seek help and remind them that they are amazing people, and are possessors of brilliant minds and hearts. Change will have to come from within the society, and we are the society: you and me. On this day, lets vow to speak up, encourage awareness regarding mental health and fight for the acceptance of the right way to treat any illnesses regarding the mind.
I broke me silence today. Will you?