It’s been 2 days since the news of Sushant Singh Rajput ending his own life shook all of us to the core. Most of us didn’t know him in person, he might not even have been our favourite actor. And yet, almost everyone I speak to, is distressed and devastated by the news. As much as it’s about his departure, it has a lot more to do with the manner in which he went, that has jolted us this bad.
Having still not been able to come to terms with what happened with him, I have decided to come out of my proverbial ‘closet’ now.
The fact that Sushant’s mental health was deteriorating rapidly, and that the people around him were aware and yet couldn’t do a thing about it, compelled me to bring out my own story. Something that, till now, only a few people close to me, are aware of.
I was this young, restless, curious engineer. I was inquisitive, and always a trier. I belonged to a family that had decent stature and living standards. We were neither tremendously rich, nor struggling to make ends meet. Just about happy.
Everyone in my family is highly principled and honest. They are all either in to Public Service or the Corporate. But no one in the previous generations had done extra-ordinarily well in Academics.
I was the eldest in my generation. So I had high hopes to live up to. That is why, when I got into one of the Top B-Schools of the country, it was a big deal for me and my family. They just couldn’t stop raving about it. It was almost embarrassingly pleasant. My family had dreams, that they had had to subdue forever. And now, they could see, in my trajectory of life, those dreams being fulfilled.
So I joined this college in 2013. It was a surreal experience. I made some amazing friends, started participating in various different kinds of activities, from debating to dancing, sports, photography, and even started embarking on road trips. And the first time in life, I was able to do all these without guilt. I was never cut throat competitive. I just enjoyed doing everything without the social stigma of being victorious all the time.
A year passed in a jiffy. And it was all fun. In the second year though, my health deteriorated. I started treatment for a chronic health condition. At the same time, I was elected for a position of great responsibility in the college. And that’s when it all started going downhill.
While not feeling well on most days, I started juggling between my responsibilities, personal interests and academics. But with almost no energy to do anything, my body started to give up, and so did my mind. It eventually started to reflect in all my endeavours.
But more importantly, I could see it in the eyes of the people around me. I was gradually losing the respect of my colleagues. Mocking and subtle taunts, stemming out of my inability to do things I was supposed to, became the norm. And I had no way to explain to people what I was going through. Because my condition had no symptoms. There were no obvious clues as to why I was in a bad shape, for people to realise. And if I had stated it from my own mouth, it would have seemed like an excuse.
So I started to distance myself from people. I was anyway not the guy who had the greatest attendance in the classroom, but in the second year, I missed more than half my classes, fearful of the people around. May be it wasn’t as bad as it sounds. Maybe, the teasing and mocking was all in good fun. But the state I was in, I just couldn’t decipher. I started losing my self worth.
I used to stay in my room, locked from the inside. So quiet that my flatmates wouldn’t even know if I was there or not. There were times when I gave up all contact with the rest of the world. I even stopped using the cellphone for a span of two weeks. I wanted no one around me. I felt purposeless, dejected and lost all the time.
I would walk randomly on the streets around Delhi university in the hope of getting lost. I used to sit on the railings of the Yamuna bridge, with no fear of falling down. I was not necessarily suicidal. But I was not in love with life either. And I didn’t feel like talking about it to the group of friends that I had, because I felt that they had matters in their own personal lives to take care of.
It was during the final semester exams though, that the sense of dejection peaked. So one fine day, I just packed up all my luggage, stuffed it into my car, and decided to drive back home. It is then, that one of my closest friends informed one of our professors, Dr. Mahima Thakur about it.
Remember, until this point, I had no idea what was happening to me.
She rang me up. Talked to me for a great length of time. Heard and understood my problem, and referred me to a well renowned psychiatrist/psychologist in Delhi. When I went and had a session with him, is when I came to know the truth behind my travesty.
I was diagnosed with Clinical Depression.
It was not severe though. He gave me a medication course, and told me to be in a place that I loved, with people I found myself comfortable around. He also asked what I wanted to do in life, to which I replied “I don’t necessarily want to be hugely successful, but yes, I do crave for affection and fulfilment a lot“.
He told me “It’s fine to not want to be hugely successful. In fact some CEOs and top bureaucrats are patients of depression whom I am treating. We fail to realise that success, power, fame and wealth are not happiness, they are some of the means to gain happiness. And not necessarily the only means.” And it was probably the sort of validation that I needed then.
So I decided to move back home and start teaching, something that I loved to do. My father was supportive of my decision, but the rest of the family wasn’t too keen. After a few months, I told my family about the whole depression episode. And I felt strange when they failed to even understand, and acknowledge depression as a valid reason for me to alter the course of my life.
So I decided to not tell this to anyone, anymore. But life has never been the same anymore.
Think of it this way. You love eating chocolates. Then one fine day, you put a chocolate in your mouth , but can’t feel the taste of it. The you realise that you have lost the sense of taste completely. Then, you’d obviously start to find eating chocolates useless.
Depression does that to every experience in life. The food you once loved eating will not seem tasty anymore. The activities you once loved, will stop exciting you at all. Everything that you do would start to either seem futile or completely frivolous. That’s when you start to think – what is the point of doing anything anymore.
Day before yesterday, when Sushant’s news surfaced, I saw a lot of reactions to the tune ‘But he was so rich and famous. Why would he take such a step?’
That’s precisely the kind of reaction that fails people dealing with stress and depression. We fail to understand that what the mind requires is affection, acceptance and empathy, and when it doesn’t get that, it meanders into the mysterious.
Through Sushant’s journey, I used to see my own, as I’m sure a lot of you did too. A small town boy, a curious and inquisitive engineer, someone who wanted to do it all, someone who always craved for acceptance, wanted to break barriers, and make others happy. My achievements are nowhere close to his, but I can somehow relate to what he must have been going through.
I was lucky to have a guiding light that made me understand that it’s completely fine to be mentally unwell, and like every other disease, it can be treated. And I had a bunch of friends who, ever since they came to know of my state, very extremely supportive and kind.
But not everyone is that lucky. Sushant wasn’t. Imagine how desperate the situation must have been that he found it easier to leave this world, than to live on. I’m sure a lot of people will still fail to understand his situation. But what we must not fail to understand is that depression is a real ailment, like malaria, or flu, or more relatably, like corona. It is not just a state of mind, it is something that makes someone’s life a living hell.
In no way am I trying to justify the act of ending one’s own life. I just want people to understand the exasperation that leads people to such a stage.
Depression is a genuine mental illness. It is Real, and It is a Bloody Big Deal!
The sooner we accept it, as well as the people suffering from it, the better.