What incredible goons my family must look like waiting for the train to depart as they animatedly talk to one another, wide grins plastered across their faces as the bright March sunshine generously pours through the station’s crevices and dances across Platform 6.
I watch them from behind the dirty glass in half admiration, half anticipation of the fact that within minutes, this carriage will glide into the distance, taking me to the place where I need to be. As it happens, it’s a place away from them. I brace myself. On this occasion, more than ever before, I know I have to take a part of them with me. The deep strength and unconditional love is the cement that glues me to the gorgeous scene on the platform before me, no matter where I go. I feel it like a warm bath of liquid light.
Days ago, I thought I was at rock bottom. Like a storm that started inside me collected winds bigger than me and attacked me with such force that I didn’t know if I could get back up.
“Was there a trigger that you can think of?” said the kind faced, slightly unconvinced doctor as he sat before me, confronted by my messy, anxious and poorly articulated attempt at conveying years’ worth of feelings that had spiralled out of control in the last week, leaving me in a place of such incorrigible darkness. Could it be that the storm was so forceful that I couldn’t even remember the trigger anymore?
I walked out with a green prescription clutched between my fingers wondering how on earth it could have possibly reached this point. How was it that so quickly I went from being in control… to losing ALL control? I closed my eyes and a loud voice screeched in my ears… “I don’t want to be on antidepressants”.
‘You wouldn’t think twice about taking antibiotics if you had pneumonia’.
‘Gowri… Depression is not a weakness. It’s an illness’.
‘I think you should submit extenuating circumstances. Your exams are in a month’.
‘Gowri… come home’.
People have previously commented on my inner strength. That very strength I was in utter desperation to find called out to me in the shape of my dad’s calm voice, filtering through my phone speakers in the form of that last sentence.
So I came home.
That night, I sat before my dad, cocooned by the comfort of my living room, hot drink in my hand and told him everything. The darkness, the storm… the doctor. How many people can say that their parents can sit before them and hear their child say that they might be depressed without an inkling of judgement?
My dad is also a GP. And I’m lucky to say that not only did he take me seriously, he talked me step by step through what got me here, what options I have, management-wise both short term and long term.
What I appear to be going through is a period of reactive depression mixed with anxiety. The cause was years’ worth of accumulated self esteem issues whereby the hard work I put in did not translate to good results, reinforcing this idea that I’m somehow a failure, in an already competitive environment. The trigger was not getting into the hospital trust that I wanted to for my foundation years, instead, starting work in a place so close to home that it felt like a digression. The anxiety has stemmed from these experiences and blown up to a level where I felt as though I couldn’t face anything anymore.
After much deliberation, I’m able to say the following:
1. I will not be taking antidepressants. That’s not because I’m in any way against them but because I feel that this is not endogenous depression, but reactive and that I do have the strength to overcome it without medication so far. I was also alerted to the fact that antidepressants are not a solution but an adjunct. They readjust chemicals in your brain that up your mood… but the actual work has to come from within anyway. I would rather not resort to them until I’ve tried other options… however, I feel no pride or ego and if I find I need to take them, I will.
2. My family came together in the most beautiful way this weekend to pull me right out of this funk. And in a 24 hour period… I had only one relapse; compared to this week, that is an incredible transformation.
3. I will be relying heavily on my mum, my dad, my boyfriend and my friends for support. And I’m not ashamed of that because when the storm knocks me over, these wonderful people are the people who have this unbelievable faith in me to pull through this.
4. The trigger was medschool. Paradoxically… I have a mere 3 weeks of medschool left. This weekend, my dad took me to WHSmith, bought me a calendar and two marker pens so I can cross off every day that goes by. Another day closer to the beginning of my new life.
5. The hardest part. The moments of darkness. The unexpected triggers. The tearful mornings. In these moments… I need something. An anchor. A light. I need my faith back. And as a devotee of Lord Krishna from the moment I was conscious of my own existence, I have decided to push aside all the philosophising, the rationalising, the logic and the confines of human understanding. I will be calling upon him every day because he is the ultimate strength inside me and he has not once let go of my hand when I’ve needed him.
Yes, my finals are in a month. And you know what? I’m going to pass them. And more importantly, I’m going to pass this. I’m facing the storm, each time it tries to knock me over and it’s going to pass. And I’m going to emerge from it with greater strength, greater perspective and a drive to continue working on myself to such a degree that dare a storm return into my life… it will feel like a breeze.