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My journey of battling mental health issues made me see the gaps with respect to mental health awareness and the stigma associated with it. It took some time for me to work on myself to come out of trauma, severe depression, and suicidal thoughts.

When I looked around, I saw so many people suffering silently with one or many mental health issues, but they did not want to take help because of a lack of awareness of the therapy process, and the associated stigma.

I know people who are dealing with heartbreak and depression, they have friends available to listen to them, and it makes them feel better. But they do not want to take professional help. Friends and family may be able to be with you and listen to you, but they may not be able to help you process any trauma, which must be done by a professional.

When someone gets a fracture, they get the required treatment and do not rely only on friends or family; similarly, any kind of mental health issues may also require a professional. Not being allowed to feel is not going to help you heal. Therapy helps one to connect with oneself in a better way. At the same time, therapists are not the decision-makers of your life.

There is a lot of toxic positivity around us. “Think positive and good will happen with you”, “Don’t talk negatively, it is only going to make you worse” are some of these toxic positive statements. I have learned that one cannot access happiness if one suppresses emotions, be it sadness or anger. I did not know about all this until I went into therapy. I have seen a huge change in myself, especially with how I deal with grief and trauma in my life now. I decided to talk about my journey to let people know that it is okay to take professional help and there is nothing to be ashamed of. If I can get better, anyone can. I want to break all these myths I mentioned above so that people can begin their mental wellness journey which will help them to lead a healthy life.

For me, and, I believe, for most people, suicide is never about ending life, rather, it is a way out of the feeling of being stuck in a certain situation.

I went through a lot of childhood trauma, because of which the only way I learned to cope with my problems was through self-destruction and self-harm. I have made multiple suicide attempts in childhood, though I cannot recollect their details.

As a result, I built up hopes of a relationship with someone I loved. Somewhere I imagined that that relationship was going to be the solution to many of my problems. However, my ex was toxic to me. I am now able to see the issues behind his behaviour, but I could not back then. And they were not an excuse for how he treated me. All these factors contributed towards my suicidal thoughts. I had attempted suicide multiple times even as a child because I did not know any other solutions for the problems I faced. Suicidal thoughts are not just “I want to kill myself”. It could also be “I want to sleep and never wake up or wake up when all of this is over”, “I want to go far away from all of this” and many more thoughts like this.

After I attempted suicide in the US, I was sent to a psychiatric unit there because those were the rules. I used to cry in hiding because I had to put on a happy face all day so that they could relieve me as soon as possible. Those five days were no less than a hell for me.

This made me more depressed and anxious. I went into hypervigilance mode. I developed a fear for my life. I could not sleep without keeping the lights on. Whenever I saw a group of people in the office talking and laughing, my mind told me that they are making fun of me or plotting against me. I started hearing voices in my head like “You are never going to get better”, “You are never going to live happily”. My therapist insisted that I come back to India for a few days so that I can visit a doctor and live in a healthy environment. All this impacted my physical health too. I faced gut issues, a lot of fatigue and tiredness.

I came back to India for a week. I visited a psychiatrist and started my medication. When I went back to the US, a few incidents happened, and I attempted suicide again. This time I really wanted to end my life and not just come out of the situation.

When my colleagues came to know about my suicide attempt, I faced a lot of bullying. No one wanted to talk to me other than for professional communication. A few people who were a huge support to me were asked by my colleagues to keep a distance from me because they might end up in trouble as well.

For a month I was devoid of any physical and emotional connection. I wanted to hug someone and cry for as long as I could. I wanted to hold hands that could give me the strength to keep going.

This toxic office environment of constant bullying and psychological harassment even after a year was very stressful for me. So, I decided to get away from that environment.

I initially started my mental wellness journey with a psychiatrist in Ahmedabad in 2010. I was on medication for around 2 years. Medication really helped me to get out of bed and do my daily chores. I began therapy in 2017 after one of my suicide attempts. Over time I realised therapy is such a wonderful tool to decode behavioural and thinking patterns. Some resources my therapist used with me were – Vulnerability writing exercise, crisis manual, and wellness recovery action plan.

I was in a foreign country where people I knew before could not travel to be with me. But there were so many friends who were by my side when I was going through the worst. Some of them were active listeners, some made sure that they checked on me every few hours. One of my managers and his family took care of me against all odds. Whenever I felt low, I would stay over at their home for a couple of days until I felt better enough to go back to my apartment. Two of my childhood friends would get on a call with me for hours even at odd times. I am alive today because of all of them.

Today when I look back, I have come a long way. I am much better now. I would say I have healed.

Therapy has helped me to get new perspectives when I feel stuck. I learn new skills every day which I would have never thought of otherwise. I can do my daily chores even in my low days and figure it out myself or I take help from my therapist. I do take breaks from time to time to rest.

I have a new zeal to stay alive and fulfil the dreams and goals I have set for myself. I am blessed to have connected with the most wonderful therapist and an incredible human being who helps me navigate through my tough days.

I have learned to create healthy boundaries in my relationships which makes day to day life much easier. Professionally, I am doing well and will relocate to a new city soon to start a new chapter of my life.

I have a good support system in place apart from my therapist. I have a few friends in my life who I rely on during my difficult days, and they make sure I am heard, and I feel better.

The biggest learning from my journey is that it is very important to take professional help. One can either go to a verified professional therapist/counsellor or to a psychiatrist. They can support by giving medication if needed, and advice for continued support.

One might feel there is no hope, but there is always hope. There might be times when you can’t even see the light at the end of the tunnel. All you need to do is find one straw of hope and the rest will follow. Find resources around you – there are numerous resources available now, from helplines to non-profit organisations that provide professional help through mental health professionals. I advocate for mental health now and I am always reachable at my Instagram handle @voiceofmeghna.

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