My Story as a Survivor of Depression & Bipolar Disorder

My Story as a Survivor of Depression & Bipolar Disorder

It seems strange that  I should write about this now, 13 years after it happened. I am not even sure where to begin, since the situation presented itself most unexpectedly. So, perhaps the best place to start is right in the middle of it.

An October day in 2001 dawned like any other and my tired eyes opened to switch off the ringing alarm at my bedside table. The bright display blinked the time, 4:30 a.m., in unforgiving neon. Almost mechanically, I went through the motions of getting ready for work, finishing my morning chores and cleaning the house before setting off for work at 5:30 a.m. This was within six months of being married, so I had all the new-found energy of a young bride. Or so I believed.

The rigorous routine was hacking away at my physical stamina, my mental preparedness and my overall peace of mind, but my stubborn brain refused to give in to the needs of the body. I ploughed away at work, did all the housework and started shunning family and friends who called me up to speak to me. That was the beginning of the silent and deadly Depression and Bipolar disorder that would govern my life for the next year.

It was only when my mom visited me that month that she realised that something was wrong. On a trip to the local jewelry store, I started hallucinating about a person following us and whispered to my mom that people were out to harm my family.

Over the next few days, this progressed to manic episodes where I picked up a souvenir and flung it across the room, threw a chair against a wall subsequently breaking it and left the house in the middle of the night, looking for a mythical person whom I held responsible for all my troubles.

Without ado, my husband,parents and in-laws agreed that help was what I needed and I began a round of medication, psychiatric counseling and therapy to bring me back from the abyss of Manic-Depression. As difficult as it was to answer probing questions and veiled queries by strangers and family alike, my parents and husband did not shy away from the truth. All through the nine months that was my pain, I had the best people stand by my side. At the end, it was a rebirth of the most spiritual kind.

See this photo of us? That was taken a couple of months before my ordeal began.
This one was taken last October.

What’s the difference, you ask? I mean, I am smiling in both photos, after all.

The difference is this: I am stronger now. My journey through the fire of Depression has honed my senses, made me more tolerant, taught me to judge less and love more. In effect, both photographs show that I am happy. But the Happiness in the second one comes from the heart of love which surpasses all obstacles.

Would I go back and change that entire period of my Depression? NO! Both the personas are me: The me from 2001 and the me from today. We exist because we enable each other. She AND I are twin faces of the same coin. Without her, I would not exist today.

Life has been a very fascinating journey over the last thirty-odd years and there are some moments that emerge more triumphant than the others. I count my Depressive episode as one of my triumphs, an achievement that I can proudly wear today after having been through the furnace, so to speak.

Why did I choose to share my story today, after so many years of being silent? In my heart, I believe that the time is now right for the world to deal with Depression in a kinder way. I hope that people will be more tolerant of those suffering from mental illness than they were a decade ago. Most of all, though, I pray that should my daughter or any child go through anything similar in the future, she can reach out to me for help without feeling that it is wrong to do so. If this post can encourage more people to share their stories of pain and unhappiness without the fear of being judged, then that is a positive step in the right direction.

Remember, who you are today AND who you were a decade ago may be two different people, but they are both you. Nothing should keep you from celebrating both with equal fervour; not society, not public opinion, not criticism and definitely no guilt.

I leave you with one of my favourite quotes:

*UPDATE*

(September 2015): Deepa Padmanabhan, freelance journalist, wrote about my struggle with Depression and how writing helped me come to terms with it in this piece in Live Mint.

(November 2015): I was interviewed by the White Swan Foundation for Mental Health who ran this interview with me after this piece was shared multiple times on social media. Read the interview here.

~~~

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146 thoughts on “My Story as a Survivor of Depression & Bipolar Disorder

  1. Hello Shailaja, very touching and inspiring post. It's really commendable for you to come out of the closet and discuss your trying period with the readers. This itself shows how brave and strong you have become now.

    Am sure the support you received from your family members is the reason behind. Be blessed!

  2. Glad to hear you came out stronger! That's what life is all about! ♥ Still, waking up at 4.30 and household chores and cleaning house before going to work at 5.30? I am tired just reading that line 😀 Hugs! ♥

  3. Proud of you Shailaja, for speaking out in the open, and for the personality you are now! It's not easy to share something like this. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Loved the quote by Dr Seuss and your strength and the courage to speak out.
    This line is my favorite…. “Most of all, though, I pray that should my daughter or any child go through anything similar in the future, she can reach out to me for help without feeling that it is wrong to do so.”
    The heart of the matter.
    On a lighter note stop getting up at 4.30 am, pm is still fine but am is what scared me! Gosh! Haven't seen that time of the day since forever!! 🙂

  5. Hugs , hugs and a zillion hugs more to you!!
    My mom just pulled out of it. And I can relate to the darkness and the pain loved ones suffer, too.
    You are blessed to have a loving family.
    God Bless!!

  6. I had no idea it had been so bad S. And I'm so so glad you came out through it all without a scar, hopefully. You were lucky in having supportive people around you. Touchwood to that. My mum has been going through something similar and has been on medication for over a year now. She's much better but still the monster returns each time she faces any kind of a stressful situation. Any small thing can trigger it off – a maid not coming, or a bad cold, or being alone at home – any kind of real or imagined worry. I too am glad she has all of us specially my dad and my sister who are constantly by her side. I just wish I were close by too. It's hard to watch my full-of-energy mum turning sad and silent and it's harder not being there. Hugs hugs and more hugs to you for being brave enough to share. I do hope it helps people understand others bearing up with this silent killer.

  7. Truly an inspiring post, Shailaja. Takes a lot of courage to put your life out there. Thanks for sharing this. Depression is something which a lot of people struggle with internally. The right kind of help is needed at the right time. You were truly lucky to have your family by your side through it all.

  8. Hugs Shailaja. I can understand the nature of experiences that you've had to a large extent coz I have some close people around me who suffer and also treat depression. It does take a lot of love and support from people around us to sail through such tough times and take it in your stride to emerge stronger. It takes a lot to share something like this and you have my respect for it. Take care.

  9. Wow Shailaja, I am in awe of your putting yourself and your story out there. Though I knew of it, it is still so powerful reading it in your written words here. Kudos to you, and I am definitely going to use this post as a resource for folks I know. Much love and strength to you my dear.

  10. Beautiful post Shailaja ! Because more than a story about depression , its about coming out stronger, about being strong enough to bring this out in a post to encourage and empower other people in similar situations. Kudos to you ! And as I said before, glad to have met you !

  11. It must be tough times for you and your family, but I am so happy that you overcame the deadly depression. The support of family is so important during these times. I am glad you wrote about it, so many could now derive inspiration from your story.

  12. Good that you finally wrote about it, Shailaja. You are a fighter spirit, many readers will find inspiration from your story. The love, support and patience of family members can make all the difference when one is dealing with such darkness and despair of depression. You were indeed fortunate in that respect. Happy that you came out stronger and more 'you' as a result of that painful experience. Hugs.

  13. I love that quote by Dr.Seuss too 🙂 It just fit my sentiments for this post so well! As for my child, I think my episode can help in the future. I hope so. Oh I no longer get up at 4:30 😉 Too tiring 😀

  14. I can completely relate to the fact that the supporters suffer equally. I saw my mother braving my entire phase with a smile on her lips, but I know the toll it took on her. Thanks for the hugs. God bless!

  15. The triggers are very real and very scary, Tulika. I hope your mother has someone she can rely on, in case of an emergency. I came very close to harming myself on two occasions when I was alone at home. I think a higher power watching over me is what saved me. It is terrible to watch a person you love suffer from depression and feeling helpless about it. You need love, patience and time to help them heal slowly but surely.

  16. Asha, your words make my heart sing 🙂 yes, this is more than just depression. It is the triumph of the human spirit and a call to others out there who may be suffering and who want to share but are unable to do so. The feeling of having met you is mutual 🙂

  17. Touching & inspiring post, Shailaja.
    Great that you have shared your story. So wonderful that you wish to help.
    Depression is a major illness. Sad that people don't know that they are afflicted… Support is much needed. Relieved that it's a past chapter in your life now.

  18. Thanks for sharing this story..I know it must have hard to write this. I am glad u r fine now 🙂
    I totally understand how it feels as my mom was under severe depression for 8 years, I want to write abt it but she reads my blogs n would be not be comfortable reading it so never posted abt it there.
    In India goin to a doctor for mental problem s is such a taboo, I was in school wen I used to take my mom to her doctor n I was told never to tell anypne abt it. Now she is perfectly healthy n normal but it has left a gear in me would I vo through it too… ithibk abt it sometimes..
    Take good care of urself..
    With luv
    Ananya

  19. Thank you for writing this very important post, Shailaja. I am not yet brave enough to accept the fact that I have gone through depression, and consequently had a very bad 4 or 5 months with it. The fact that I had a recent episode scares me too.

    Thank you!

  20. It's such an inspiring post! It needs a lot of courage and determination to reveal such things to the world, considering the fact that our society is not so liberal till date to look upon such cases with love and care. This account of yours will surely encourage a lot to overcome their hurdles.

    The best post I've read so far for this prompt!

  21. I empathise with your mom, Ananya. A couple of friends have mentioned the same thing about their parents. It is heartbreaking, no matter who suffers. That taboo is what we need to do away with. Don't fall prey to the fear of this illness. There is nothing we cannot overcome if we have the support and love that we can get. Thank you so much for your kind words.

  22. I am truly touched that you chose to share that here. Believe me when I say that the healing process is different for each person and the time needed will vary, but we can do it together if we choose. Thank you for reading. Bless you.

  23. Maniparna, that courage is what I lacked for a long time. I was afraid of being judged, of being told that I was foolish to share this with the world and perhaps of being shunned. The last few months have been challenging on the personal front and consequently strengthened me to put this out for people to read and share their own stories. I certainly hope it does that.

    As for the compliment, I am truly, deeply touched. Thank you so much!

  24. Wasn't easy, Sam. Not at all. But I am glad I worked up the courage to finally do it. I think my foothold in the Blogging community has really helped me that way. Thank you for your love.

  25. I am glad you had the most supporting people at your side during the phase. Everyone is not so lucky, shailaja. It must have been a crazy phase, I know. But like you said, it was you then, it is you now. Two sides of a coin.
    Also, I am so glad you wrote it. Not everyone has the guts to write about it. this could awaken someone, somewhere. you never know. cheers and hugs, Sailaja. Thanks to Rachna for liking this post on FB. otherwise, I wouldn't have come here to read. I am the 530th person to like your FB page now 🙂

  26. Prudhvi Latha, Thank you so much for the support. I agree that not everyone is that lucky to have supportive people by their side. That is why it is important to seek support from outside if the ones around you are not giving you the help that you need. I did not think I had the guts to write it, to be very honest. Thank you to Rachna for bringing you here. Grateful for the FB like as well. Stay blessed.

  27. Shailaja, a big hug to you dear! Two members of my family have battled mental illness and I know how it can turn the world upside down. And, I am proud one of them, who fought it and came through it stronger and braver. And, I am equally proud of you, my dear, for fighting it and coming out and speaking about it, so people can understand what it is that people with Depression go through. And, how they can be helped through this tough phase.

  28. Shailaja, finally here from the desktop. Couldn't comment from the phone. :/ What a story! You're a survivor. I also want to laud your family. I saw my mother suffer from depression. She was later put under medication and experienced crazy peaks and troughs. It was a very tough time for us kids especially because of her fractures, her emotionally fragile state and depression. Dad held us all adrift with this composure and strength. I have a lot of respect for you for sharing it here. I am sure it will help many others. Respect! So glad to have met you on this journey of blogging.

  29. As mentioned in my FB message, let's talk some time soon, Shilpa. That always helps us heal better and faster. Hugs to you too for surviving this and living through the whole thing like a true fighter.

  30. Aww hugs to you Rachna for commenting. Truly, sincerely appreciate that. I think one of the best things that emerged from my sharing of this story is the fact that so many people could identify with it and not feel alone. For that, I feel blessed. If this can do whatever little it can towards expelling the taboo and stigma surrounding Depression and mental illness, I would consider my job partly done. Your situation also seems to have been quite trying and as children, it must have been difficult to face, most definitely. The medication does do that, unfortunately. If the dosage is not monitored and gradually tapered, there is a danger of dependency. I thank my stars that my doctor was a very capable man whom my parents trusted completely. Very very glad to have met you on this journey as well. Blogging has helped me heal in so many ways.

  31. Love the Dr. Seuss quote Shailaja and more so, your courageous and inspiring post. <3 I have some friends who have been diagnosed as such, supposedly I have a mild form of it (who knows), though I had been depressed for years prior. I actually wrote a post on this you may appreciate: http://xpressyouressence.blogspot.ca/2014/09/part-3-aftermath-of-brilliant-comics.html 🙂 And by the way, you are such a brilliant write…I mean who else would come up with “in unforgiving neon?!” 😉 And no wonder, such a crazy hour to get up at! <3

  32. I too went through a mild phase of depression a few years ago after I lost my father. What helped me were Louise l hay, Reiki and past life regression. Thank god, I came out of it a stronger person.
    Kudos to you for writing about it with the intention to help others. Hugs.

  33. I too have been desperately sad when I lost a family to death. I could been seen so happy and full of energy during the day, but once I get into my room and close the door, then all the strength and energy could drain out and could find tears flowing down like a river. A person who slept for long, couldn't keep her eyes shut for more than 2-3 hours. Never been a person who shared much, except for few friends no one understand that I was really sad inspite of my smile. I still don't know whether I was undergoing depression or not. But only knew that I was not happy. But as time passed, as I started doing things I always wanted to do, as I opened up…. happiness came and the sadness started to drift off.

    Kudos to you Shailaja for sharing this here. Life gives us so many lessons and bitter experiences, but down the lane they teach us much more than anyone or anything.Hugs and loads of love. <3

  34. Such an honest post. You are a strong woman and it reflects in your writing. I am also glad that you are surrounded by such lovely souls who understood and stood by you throughout. My cousin sister went through the same and she is now recovered from it. You are a great person and I am sure you already know that 🙂

  35. It is not easy being so honest and I have even more respect for you than before. The support of family and friends is most crucial at such a stage in life and glad you had the right people by your side.
    Kudos to you!! And I am glad I can now say, I know you! 🙂

    Parul

  36. Writing is therapeutic! I know because when I am going through something and write about it, I feel light and happy. Your post is honest and courageous, just like you and hope it helps those going through the same. Lots of light and love coming your way, take care.

  37. Very brave of you Shailaja not only for writing this blog but also to have overcome everything! It is indeed very important to have supportive family and friends around you. Kudos to you and everyone who stood by you! Lots of hugs and best wishes!

  38. I am sorry to hear that you suffered after your father's loss, Preethi. I cannot even begin to imagine the pain that would have come with that. So glad to hear that you found the right tools to help you emerge from it stronger. Thank you for reading.

  39. Sheethal, that sounds like something that was very difficult to go through. DOing it alone is the worst thing, because the feelings get magnified and nobody is around to help take the edge off. I am sad that I went through what I did, but knowing that my experience is helping so many more is what keeps me happy today. Thank you for the hugs, love and for being part of my life. So very glad.

  40. I am not even sure how strong I was at the time, but I am glad that the family support around me helped me believe it. Thank you, Red. Your words always make me smile 🙂

  41. Thank God, that you have recovered and become a stronger woman. Thanks for trusting us enough to tell your story to us. Fortunately you were surrounded by loving and caring family and husband.
    Wil, ABCW team.

  42. Hi Shailaja,

    Beautifully written… I could feel the pain you have been through… By gods grace and your families support you have come our of the bad phase. What i could understand was that the whole problem began due to your mental and physical stress which was suppressed by you for a long time and when it exploded it resulted in all the negative things… So what is the advice that you would like to give to people who suffer with excessive stress…

  43. Hi Rakhi,

    Yes, the challenge was trying to do too many things at once. For those who are suffering from excessive stress, the first thing they need to do is accept that they are multi-tasking and reduce/delegate their workload. Second, they need to be willing to talk about this with someone- a family member, a trusted friend or a therapist. This is very tough for most people, but some gentle coaxing and support can help. Third, meditation and guided muscle relaxation works pretty well to alleviate stress-related ailments. I will be doing a follow-up post on this one and will publish it on the blog on the 20th of this month. Do check back for more suggestions and assistance. Reach out if you have more queries.

  44. You have a major point there about being more tolerant to people with mental illness. More often than not, a bit of compassion makes all the difference. You are fortunate that your husband and the rest of your folks stood by you in your hour of need instead of shunning you.

    I am glad to hear that you came out of that ordeal stronger 🙂

  45. Thank you Ilian. That tolerance is sadly lacking among many many people. Even today. Here's hoping every voice can reach the farthest corners of society and help change their views. Thank you for reading.

  46. Such an inspiring and courageous post. Thank you for sharing it Shailaja and I am so glad that you are blessed with such a lovely family who helped you get through such trying times. You have surely emerged a winner. Love and hugs, Smitha

  47. I am both sorry and inspired by this post. Sorry to read what you went through and inspired by your courage. Happiness which comes from within has no substitute and it makes us a better person.

  48. Thank you Shailaja for the inspirational post. Depression for sure has been the most neglected disease that can ruin entire families and identity. Myself being under depression for more then 2 years now have gone through crazy times where I have unintentionally hurt self and my closed ones emotionally and physically. There are days, I feel I am the worst mother, wife and person and hate myself for everything I do. My hormones have played a major role and I had a terrible pregnancy depression. Counselling has certainly helped me. With two very young kids, I hope I am able to fight it and soon enjoy my motherhood. Cheers, Abha

  49. Truly, an inspirational post. It's really sad to know what you went through. But the fact that you survived and had the courage to share your story shows how brave you are :).

  50. Abha, I am so sorry to hear what you are going through. I had no idea. Truly, it is said that the Happiest people always hide the deepest frowns. Not once would I have guessed that you suffer from Depression. I am glad though that you are seeking counseling for this actively. I am sure you will find the love that you need.

  51. I;m very late commenting on this one Shailaja. It's really brave of you to share such an raw and honest post. Depression is tough. Mental illness is hard But yes, you still learn from it and I reckon come out stronger on the other side. I'm glad you were able to beat the black dog and had the support you needed. xx

  52. Never too late to hear from friends, Sanch. Did I not take 13 years to write this? 🙂 Thank you for the support. Coming from you, who deals with these situations on a daily basis, I consider myself lucky and blessed.

  53. Shailaja though we haven't met in person… The little I have come to know you, I couldn't have ever guessed you were a victim of depression and that it was this terrible!!
    I am so happy that you fought this and spoke of it here! It takes courage! Bless your family who stood by you!
    Fighting depression, which is hugely ignored and is misunderstood, will be possible if more and more people speak about it and face the reality! Hugs!! N tons of respect!

  54. I read the post last week while I was at my mom's, couldn't comment then…All I can say is that this is so inspiring.You know what makes it even special? It is the fact that someone somewhere will be reading this and they will have the courage and positivity to shine through just like you…So glad that I've got the opportunity to know you 🙂

  55. Shailaja, you are one brave girl, a source of inspiration to thousands of those who read your inspiring words.I really admire you for your strong will power,which helped you to come out of that dreadful experience.Bravo!!

  56. I wish I could come and give you a tight hug right now! I saw this post doing the rounds on FB but never really got the time to read it. But now that I have, I feel so proud of you. First, for getting past it and next for having the courage to talk about it.

    God bless you Shailaja, you truly are awesome! 🙂 <3

  57. Thanks for sharing your story. That was a brave thing to do. You are lucky to have loving people who helped you through it. We often have to deal with this on our own and that is not an easy thing to do. But catastrophic events in life bring about major transformations. Perhaps someday I'll tell you my story.

  58. I am married for ten years and we still do not have a child. My husband is very supportive of my nature but my father in law and his extended family do not support me at all. His family always interferes and always hurt my feelings. Now I have turned into an angry person. Always show my angry side to everyone. I am very talented but can't keep my focus for more than four days. Sick of this life!

  59. Very inspiring. The best way to fight with depression is make friends, gossip with them. It will relax your mind, also doing Yoga and meditation also help a let. Everyday morning I start my day with yoga then light few Cycle incense sticks and start meditating. Yoga and meditation helps a lot for the people who is suffering in chronic headache. Try and let me know if it is useful.

  60. Shailaja, this was such a great post, and I'm sorry it's taken me so long to get around to reading it. It was so honest, open and brave. Thank you for sharing such a seminal part of your life with us, and you're quite right to believe that this was a defining moment in who you are. How fortunate you were to have so many wonderful people to support you. Thank you for pointing me in the direction of this post too!

  61. Aditi, the connection we have made online is one of the strongest bonds I have ever made and I am incredibly happy about that. Yes, I am happy that I spoke about this too. It is helping me heal and cope in amazing ways!

  62. Saantvana, I am really sorry to hear about all that you are going through. I know that what I say may not help, but please do not lose hope. Just when everything seems like it is going to fall apart, we get the love that we need from unexpected quarters. If prayer helps you, please turn to that. If you have a friend who will listen, please speak to him/her. Just don't go through this alone. Trust me. It is not worth it.

  63. Priti, thank you for your comment. All that you have mentioned is technically true for mild forms of depression and sadness. Clinical, Chronic depression is another situation. My post on February 20th will help dispel all these myths.

  64. Asha, the fact that you read the post is more than enough. Thank you so much for being here, being with me in my struggle as a writer and being supportive. This post has opened up so many avenues now that I am truly, deeply overwhelmed.

  65. loved your post shailaja, and I am happy to read this post. I like the way you have accepted both the persons in your life the 2001 You and the current YOU. Its so nice to see that you are able to look at the past with positivity and emerge stronger…. hats off to you… thanks for inspiring !

  66. Glad to know you dealt well with it with the support of your family. It really inspires a lot of people to deal with depression. One really needs to understand the turmoil of thoughts going inside one's head. I am so happy for you and what you said about the past makes so much sense. For that's one thing that was with us throughout and made us who we are today. We should always embrace with whatever we dealt with and learned to move forward carrying with us everything that life offered us. Thank you for sharing this one.
    I am so happy to have found you, you have no idea!

    Thank you.

  67. Shailaja, you reminded me of my tougher times of depression. I re-winded my past with your post and felt the same as you, that I have survived. Thanks for inspiring me to write my story. I have taken my pen and diary ….. 🙂

  68. Read this post now, after more than an year of u having written it Shailu. Great you could pull through it all and better for it with the help of your lovely family. 4.30am n new bride. Scary. I have had depressive attacks a few times and have gone thru them all alone. Someone from up there must have pulled me thru. Someday I will write about it all. Hugs.

  69. Thank you Shailaja for sharing your story and for the world to draw inspiration from it. I hear you completely. I have been in the same boat as you a couple of times during the course of my life, and till mid last year. I refused to believe the doctor who said I was bipolar, depressed yes, bipolar no. I might be wrong but then that helped me overcome the phase and move on without any labels to the chemical imbalances my body underwent.

    I’m not going to proclaim I’m healed but yes I’ve come a long way. And it’s been about 6 months now that the blues haven’t crept in. Writing has been the balm to my soul and it’s helped me soothe those frayed nerves and start afresh. It has given me a purpose in life. I started my official blog in Dec 2016 (prior to that had a redundant one at blogspot which I never used) and ever since then there has been no looking back.

    I hope to garner the strength and to be in a space where I can share my story just as you did. Thank you for your writings. God bless and much happiness. ❤❤

    1. Writing has definitely helped me, Natasha. I’m really sorry you’ve been through this. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Ever. You’ll always have the strength and support from me when you are ready to share your story. This much I guarantee. Big hugs always

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