When I had to save myself from depression

Published: February 24, 2015
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This was my routine to de-stress my boiling brain. I closed my eyes in a futile attempt to give my superbly loquacious brain some rest. PHOTO: REUTERS

My colleague said something (not) funny again and the room roared with laughter.

Knowing that I did not share the mood in the room, I grabbed my tea and headed for the corridor. That long corridor with a single window was my solace. There, I rested my head against the wall and stared out for a while. This was my routine to de-stress my boiling brain. I closed my eyes in a futile attempt to give my superbly loquacious brain some rest.

Sometimes I wished I could run far, far away from the noise, nuisance and people, and sleep for eons. Other times I thought of quitting my job and just sleep. Peace and sleep – the only two things I craved. As I drifted into my familiar turf of daydreaming, my brain started to nag me:

“No, you cannot resign, okay? You know your brother’s semester fee slip is about to arrive. How can you be so selfish? You can’t stop earning when your father is old, tired and travels to another city daily? You even have to take your mother to doctors”.

“And… what if…”

“Saira, are you all right?” 

A sudden voice jerked me out of my trance. It was my boss, looking anxiously at me. Slightly embarrassed, I reassured him of my sanity and went back to the room.

This much was bearable for me; after all, I was just stressed as anyone else. But then things started to get worse. I developed a hormonal problem and went to see a gynecologist who confirmed that I had cysts in my ovaries (polycystic ovaries).

Shocked, I got it confirmed from three different doctors. In fact, one was rude enough to say I was infertile. As you can imagine, it robbed me of sleep. Infertility ran in my family and I could not find any medical explanation for that (not even to this day). For the many months that ensued, I could not get rid of the worrisome feeling of what might happen if I really were infertile.

What made matters worse was my advancing age and a chronic singleness. I was moving towards my late 20s with no suitable rishta in sight. All my friends were married, offshore and living happily with their families. I had nobody to speak to; in fact I did not want to speak to anyone. I transformed from a normal person into an aloof, stressed, and tired being who neither heard nor spoke to anyone. Since it was all in my head, people could not see any physical manifestations. I was just a dormant zombie.

And then the physical manifestations began. My body had had enough. I developed insomnia. Every time I attempted to sleep, my body would jerk me out of it. It would happen continuously each night. It was so severe that I was on the verge of cracking up. The anxiety grew and so did the jerking. I thought it was epilepsy. I felt like screaming at everyone and everything around me. However, belonging to a medical profession myself, I knew I needed help and I needed it fast, because things were slipping out of my hand way too quickly.

I saw a couple of psychologists, neurologists and epilepsy specialists, who eventually put me on sedatives. It was after much searching and running around here and there that I found a good psychiatrist. As soon as I walked into his office, I burst into tears. It was hard for me to explain what I was going through. He sat there patiently listening to my sobs, grievances, reservations and fears – all punctuated with bouts of painful silence. It was perhaps for the first time in years that I shared my feelings with anyone.

My diagnosis was simple – depression. My body and brain could not take any more stress and they had started to react – with insomnia, sleep jerks (hypnic jerking), panic, and anxiety.

My treatment continued for one year and I began to get better. Finally, a time came when I told my doctor I was no longer suffering from depression and wanted to quit the medications.

And I did. I am not suffering from depression anymore.

Even though the problems that gnawed at me still persist, I have learned to keep them at bay without affecting my life. Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and pharmacotherapy have not cured my problems; they have just taught me how to deal with them. I have come to realise a simple thing; you cannot take charge of everything and mould things your way. Some things are beyond your control and you have to accept them the way they are.

It took me two years to muster up the courage and write about my condition. Depression is remarkably common and affects 50% more females than males. Most of us deny and ignore it for years until the matter slips out of our hands. Depression is more complex than we think. It takes several months to diagnose it and at least a year to cure.

But the first step is to acknowledge that you have a problem.

I am a professional and independent woman. Despite the prolonged denial on my part, I could always afford treatment. I dread to think what might happen to people, particularly house-bound women, who cannot express their feelings, much less afford treatment.

All I can say is,

“Sometimes we need to save ourselves from us, don’t be in denial, speak to someone today. Get well soon.”

This post originally appeared here.

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