Depression for a “Good Indian Boy”? Impossible - OC87 Recovery Diaries

Depression for a “Good Indian Boy”? Impossible


Listen to Executive Director Gabriel Nathan read this post aloud:

“There is no disease called depression.” That’s what I heard growing up in one of the mountain states of India. Coming from a middle-class household, I have seen many diseases, like cancer, take hold of my near and dear ones. Like boys in any Indian household, my brother and I were instructed to be good in studies, focus on our career goals and, most importantly, ignore any distractions. Strange as it may sound, throughout India, depression is viewed by many as just that: a distraction.

My journey into depression started with my elder brother’s death when I was seventeen years old. Just two and a half years elder to me, we lost him to a freak accident. The sudden demise of a family member in a family of four was never going to be good; that much I knew. But I had no idea my brother’s death would have such profound impact on my life.

I didn’t even get time to process the grief as everybody who came to console my parents told me, in turn, to be careful and responsible from then on as I was my parent’s sole support. My parents never said anything of the sort but, like a good Indian boy, I buried my emotions deep within me and put myself face-first into studies. I cleared the famed engineering entrance exam of India called AIEEE (All India Engineering Entrance Exam) and got admission into one of the top engineering schools of the country. In fact, I became the first one in my family to go to an engineering school. Our family came from a historically marginalized community of India and if it hadn’t been for my father moving into the city, we would have continued to be farmers.

My mental health symptoms started in my first year itself when I started feeling uncomfortable in my own skin. The technical term—which I came to know much later—for the phenomenon is depersonalization disorder. At that time I was advised by people to ignore such things and concentrate on my studies.

Three years of ‘ignoring it’ landed me in the final year of engineering. During those three years, the mental health problem had slowly and steadily taken roots inside my mind and hence it came back as full-fledged anxiety. I had gotten used to being alone in my hostel room and reading books not necessarily related to my course. Although the books expanded my horizon, they also brought with it a solitude. A solitude that kept becoming uncomfortable with each passing day.

I again tried to ignore it by going out and drowning out the silence with the noise of my extroverted friends. But as much as I tried, I never could fill the hole inside me. The trigger came when I was selected for MBA in one of the top Business schools of India right out of engineering school. It was again a big moment for my family and so I couldn’t raise my concerns. The pressure of B school shattered my cracked mental health in the first week itself. I decided to leave MBA altogether and return to my hometown in the hills.

And if it hadn’t been for my mother, I would have left it surely. Whereas my father supported my decision to leave and was happy in anything that made me happy, my mother took matters into her own hand. She came to live with me in the college for a while in spite of the fact that she had her own job to take care of. She listened to my concerns carefully and without judgement just supported me in my everyday ordeals.


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Even when she returned home, she kept calling me every day and every hour to console me and check on me. Slowly and steadily I completed my MBA. But the hole was always there. It kept staring at me from the abyss whenever I was alone. I was so used to having my family around me and talking my heart out with them that being by myself reminded me of how desolate this land far away from my home in the mountains felt. So I made sure I was not alone. But it kept happening inevitably and my mental health took a turn for the worse.

When I joined my first job after two years of MBA and four years of engineering, I directly landed up into my first anxiety attack and then into a psychiatrist’s clinic. The trigger came from an altercation with one of my colleagues which elevated my breathing rate and heartbeat. I felt suffocated and called my manager who sent two of my colleagues to take me to the hospital. I became sure as I entered the hospital that I would not escape from there as I had been taken up by depression for good. Even my office colleagues kept repeating to every passing nurse or ward boy “this guy has had a breakdown”. I was too tired and broken to answer them. Such was the place and the environment I had grown in that I assumed that an anxiety attack meant either that I was dying or that I had gone full-on crazy. First thing I said to the doctor when he entered the room was that, “I’m not crazy.” He smiled and replied, “I know. You’re just depressed.”

In India visiting a psychiatrist is enough to declare a person insane. However, if someone has any mental health problem he can be taken almost anywhere except to a psychiatrist. Patient is told to toughen up and ignore it first. If still not cured—according to the society—he is taken to the babas and ascetics who keep chanting weird mantras while beating people with sticks to exorcise the ghost of depression out of them. Thankfully that didn’t happen to me.

If the person still doesn’t learn his lesson and at last is no longer in control of his psyche he is thrown into a sanitarium. Such is the diaspora of the Indian subcontinent that even the general physicians ridicule the psychiatric branch and prescribe their patients sleeping pills to sleep away depression or any other mental health ailment. This did happen to me by the way.

​The psychiatrist, however, was different. He explained to me that taking a dose of mild antidepressants for some time would take care of my problem. I became anxious and told him that I’m a writer and I can’t handle being slow in the brain. He again smiled and explained that antidepressants or SSRIs he was prescribing me don’t make you slow. They just give the patient an opportunity to be happy.

Depression makes you sad without any reason. In fact, the definition of clinical depression is having feelings of sadness or hopelessness for more than six months without any apparent reason. The medicines increase the amount of serotonin or the “happiness hormone” in one’s body and hence give you a chance to be happy and function normally.

The medicines however are not the complete answer, is what the doctor advised me. And so with my mother’s unrelenting support I slowly shifted my happiness dependency from medicines to healthy habits that achieve the same effect like yoga, meditation, spirituality, and much more. I won’t say I am cured today because a little bit of tension or anxiety always resides inside a human brain as it should. However, I can say that I am on the path towards a happy and fulfilling life.

EDITOR IN CHIEF / EDITOR: Gabriel Nathan | DESIGN: Leah Alexandra Goldstein | PUBLISHER: Bud Clayman

Abhishek Pandeyar is a writer who belongs to the scenic mountains of Himachal Pradesh, India. He regularly publishes short stories and poems about the mysterious world of the 'Abode of Gods', on his blog Suburban Wordsmith. His first book 'The Whispering Himalayas' based on the mountains of North India was published in February 2021 and is available on Amazon and Flipkart. You may visit his website, follow him on Instagram, or email him.