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Lavanya Bahuguna


Excerpts From The Mind Of A Depressed Soul: Art Student Divya Taneja’s Open Letter To You

  • IWB Post
  •  October 6, 2017


I met Divya, a film student, three years ago at a random tattoo stall during an art fest. We didn’t know each other and had absolutely no common friends. Call me awkward, I went ahead anyway and spoke to her about the tiny tattoo she was about to get engraved on her arm.

It was a pair of spectacles, I guess. She spoke a handful of words about it before returning back to staring at her leather boots covered in dust. The lunatic in me had her own interpretations.

We never saw each other until the arty world of Instagram united us once again. (She now lives in Texas) Her murky poems supported with self-portraits seemed attractive to me. Pictures that slightly embraced the rays of light appearing from one corner of her bedroom.

Today, over messages, we often discuss mental health and the need to openly talk about it. Both of us are on a mission of our own to first, put an end to the societal taboo linked to mental illness, and second, to extend our help to those who need someone to talk to.

Last weekend, I received a mail from Divya. She wrote to me a personal piece taking me back to the day she first attempted suicide. As I read, I realized how enormously I could resonate with this girl’s soundlessness.

May I request you to scroll down and read it?

(IWB has Divya’s permission to release the story on the public platform)

Imagine this:

You’re in your room, sleeping in your bed. You’re having a dream when suddenly your body moves a little too much and too fast causing you to fall down onto the floor, bruising yourself. You scream in agony, and the company around you (your parents/friends/spouse) comes over, rushing to help you up. Before the words even come out of their mouth, they have already deduced the situation, got you some water and begin to calm you down. After that’s done, they rub some ointment onto your bruise or call the ambulance if necessary and get you to the hospital. Pretty basic, isn’t it? Not a situation too hard to imagine, I figure.

Now, I want you to imagine this.

You’re in your room sleeping. You’re having a bad dream, a nightmare basically. It’s something about an event that has deeply upset you. You have been having these kinds of thoughts on a regular basis. Every time you wake up from such a dream, you lose your sleep and just stare into the darkness while trying to fall asleep. You tried calling the people who you live with and ask them to comfort you. They tell you that you’re just being stressed out and you need to “get over” being upset about the situation that’s causing you to lose your sleep. You feel a little bit pushed away and so you decide that you’ll never go back to them asking for help in these situations. And then you sit in your room, night after night like an owl unable to sleep. You don’t go out with your friends anymore because you’re asleep in the day. You miss work, you miss school, you miss out on all your errands, etc. You don’t pick up your parents’ phone call because all they have to say to you is how you need to just snap out of it. You stay quiet and mum and no longer mingle with people. They start making fun of you. Society calls you weird and crazy but you know you’re way too far from that. You want to go to therapy but that would prove their point, right? You realize that your life has become a living nightmare and you just don’t know what to do anymore.

I guess the latter situation is harder to imagine for most of you.

Mental health is a severe issue. Through my words, I am targeting depression for I think it is one of the most undiagnosed and least talked about illnesses.

I remember when I was going through my first breakup, I was forced to see this bizarre side of mine which I had no control over. The whole idea of being rejected and not being “good enough” for someone was so much for me to bear. In that moment, I had become exactly what one calls “a psycho bitch” who was just trying to win back what she thought of as “the love of her life.”

Strange, isn’t it, how one person or event can profoundly impact your life?

In India, particularly, there are various fascinating ways in which people try to ‘cure’ mental breakdowns. Let me scribble a few of them:

  • Arey bhai ki baat maan, daaru pee aur ladkiyo ke saath hook-up kar. Sab theek ho jana hai.
  • Girl, chal shopping chaltey hain. I Ladke ko bhul jayegi, pakka.
  • Arey yar, teri zindagi mere se zaada toh kharab nahi ho sakti na!
  • I think you just need a rebound.
  • Dekho beta, ye sab depression-vepression sirf films mein hota hai. 
  • Bahut drama ho chukka hai tera, band kar ye tamasha.
  • Why are you always trying to seek attention with that sad face of yours, dude?
  • Dekh bhench*d, buzz kill mat kar. Fun karna hai toh kar warna jaa yahan se.
  • Wapas lekar baith gayi apni dukh bhari kahani, uff.
  • Oh God man, why are you always so negative?

Have you noticed how the suggestion of visiting a therapist is not mentioned? That’s because it’s that uncommon. After all, you don’t want to be the talk of the town, do you?

Depression has a very strong foothold on the lives of the people who are undergoing it. It can cause a lack or increase of sleep, appetite, emotions, etc. You do not care about yourself and you’re constantly replaying the memories from your past. Sometimes, you just look at your social media channels for hours and hours together in the hopes of finding refuge in people who don’t necessarily know you all that well. I am no psychologist but I can attest to these facts for I have been through all this when I was under depression. And like most people I know, I didn’t go for any therapy because my parents didn’t think it was worth it. I am lucky that I made it, honestly. For if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have survived.

When I was undergoing depression, multiple thoughts of suicide rampaged my mind. I abused myself verbally and compared myself to beautiful women. I was left alone by my friends who’d tell me they had had enough of my drama, that they didn’t want to listen about the guy who I was in love with, that I should be strong and just “get out of it” and move on.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t do any of that. I couldn’t move on because I have issues with my past which remained unchecked for long. That’s what a therapy really does to you, it addresses the unresolved issues and brings them to the surface. Fortunately, I had myself and I healed myself to such an extent that I figured out each and every trait about my personality. Phew.

I was lucky that I didn’t die the five times I tried to commit suicide by the age of 15. I was lucky that I am still here, alive and breathing, trying to help people out when they need it because I know what it is to be alone with nobody who is willing to listen to you. I swear it took my sweat and blood to be at the pedestal of finally being emotionally stable.

Please understand that people suffering from depression feel emotionally handicapped. It is you who need to encourage them to speak up and express themselves. Talking is the best therapy, believe me. I would like to conclude my thoughts with a poem called ‘5 Disorders’ I wrote not so long ago:

1,2,3,4,5 the number of personalities inside her mind all different from one another all occupy the same body and come out to play together in the middle of the night the time when she checks into her mental asylum of her mind. 1,2,3,4,5 5,5,5,5,5 f i v e times I fell I fell 5 is an evil number 5 is a ghost that doesn’t deserve to haunt me but it still does because 5 knows no boundaries because 5 is odd and I am even wait this is my fifth personality fift-no wait-f i v e 5 fifth STOP fiv e e e e screams her OCD in the beginning. 1,2,3,4,5, 1,2,3,4,5 1,2,3,4,5 why are you whispering in my ear? “it’s time to kill them on the count of 5 or otherwise I will kill you and then torture your family too.” Two? “NOT TWO YOU FOOL at the count of FIVE” yells her schizophrenia in second place. 1,2,3,4,5, “punch yourself in the face and break your nose; that’s better oh no YOU NEED TO LOVE YOURSELF HOW MANY TIMES HAVE I TOLD YOU THAT?” but you, you told me to? “damn right bitch, I told you to you deserved it you fucking skinny skank” her bipolar reminds her at stage three. 1,2,3,4,5 oh no, not again here it comes *yanks* I need to be skinny I need to be a model I need to diet hey this is kind of fun cigarettes please hell yes her anorexia motivates her in position four. 1,2,3,4,5, “go to sleep darling permanently you aren’t fit to be a part of society your existence does not matter and you definitely are not made of some space matter; your favorite singer lied to you but you know who won’t? this elixir called poison in front of you. drink up my sweet child there is no living after dying.” her depression finally killed her in its fifth try.

200 Likes, 8 Comments – ya filthy animals (@divtorted) on Instagram: “1,2,3,4,5 the number of personalities inside her mind all different from one another all occupy the…”

[You can follow Divya’s work here]

As a part of ‘Mind Your Head’ Campaign, IWB seeks and wishes to promote free dialogue on the various mental health issues that are stigmatized by the society.

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