Resignation is a curious thing to surrender to. What it does is that it saps you of the will to live. I think I am depressed because I wake up in the morning one day and groan that the world didn’t end the previous night. I refuse to get up. My phone tells me that it is just 6 am. So I decide to turn on to my other side and go back to sleep. Only I cannot turn!
The thought of the effort involved in turning exhausts me. I lie the same way, waiting for the energy to return. I am so gone by now in my own head that I don’t even realize that this behaviour is alarming.
Days go on with the fight kicking back every now and then. I get the energy to run classes, create modules, plan other activities, look at hiring and training more facilitators for BWW so that someday I might not have to teach if I don’t want to. On the surface, everything is hunky-dory and normal with what I decide are a few bad low-energy days. I explain that away because I am emotionally a little distraught still for I am constantly thinking of my important relationships that have gone south.
My parents are so worried about me that they both shrink into themselves and start to resemble old, weather-beaten birds. My father starts to forget things more often. My mother tries hard to pull me out of it. Seeing them worry, I resolve that I must act normal, be cheerful and energetic at home. We go on long drives and eat out often.
Then I have a new batch begin – full of ten bright passionate minds, eager adults who want to become writers because literature has helped them in life. As they are sharing their stories and talking enthusiastically about books on the first day of the workshop, I want to stand up, shout ‘fuck off, you pathetic wimps’, and storm out of the room.
That is when I know, something is seriously wrong with me. I rush home to Google symptoms of depression. I am not depressed. That’s when I see an article on the symptoms of burnout and as I am reading it, I am ticking every one of those symptoms. It’s suddenly empowering. I know what is wrong with me. I have a name.
I get treatment. I am asked to continue on the anti-anxiety meds I self-medicated, and I am given a mild anti-depressant.
The anti-depressant starts giving me incessant killer headaches. Think migraine. Now, have a migraine spread on both sides of your head and throb at your neck. Add nausea. But I plough through my days hopeful and positive because I am doing something. I feel back in control.
I confess to my class that I am in the throes of a burnout. They are such decent human beings that they act surprised. They assure me that I have not been a monster to them. I am humbled by their love. The zest to teach and the empathy to hear and nurture other people’s stories returns.
We get the author Vasudhendra for a guest session. He is so humble, sincere, bright, and empathetic that I am reassured about the purpose of my work-life at least.
The women in my life make great efforts to share and give me a ear whenever I need it. We think that the medication is working even though the headaches are an everyday occurrence now.
The doctor assures me that the headaches might just be stress-induced and have nothing to do with the medication. I can’t counter that, because, of course, I am bloody stressed out. He increases the dosage of his medication and weans me off the pill I had prescribed myself.
The headaches increase and are so bad that I just have to go lie down in complete darkness when I have one. But mostly, I persist to reclaim my life and positivity. The batch helps tremendously with their dedication to the craft and to bettering themselves. It’s extremely rewarding for me.
After one such class as I am driving back home, happy and content, I get stuck in a traffic jam on Suranjandas road. I am there for about ten minutes when the heavens unfasten and it starts to pour. All around me drivers get hysterical and start honking. But we don’t move. Of course.
The music I listen to, to drown out the cacophony of the outside world makes my breath catch because it reminds me of happier days with my friends. I start to feel my breath hitch and my chest constrict. I think I am having an anxiety attack and to stave it off, I call a friend but she’s busy at a dinner and can’t help me just then. I resolve to help myself but find that I can’t breathe at all. I gulp in air but end up feeling as if my head is going to explode.
A part of me dissociates and watches in fascination. My Goddess. I am having a full-blown, real time panic attack. The traffic still doesn’t move. The noise of the rain and the traffic is deafening. Even in that noise, I feel I can hear my heart thundering in my body.
I imagine dying in the car. I imagine just banging through the cars like in movies. Just to be able to get out. Just so I am no longer stuck. Nothing distracts. I find that tears are furiously rushing down my face. I know then that I need help and in sheer desperation call the one friend I think might help even though we had fought a couple of months ago and are no longer on talking terms.
He miraculously answers my call. He is wonderful. That day it takes me an hour and a half to get home from Suranjandas road. It usually takes 15-20 minutes even with traffic. And through all that time I am sobbing hysterically on an international call while he teaches me how to breathe. I manage to drive when the jam does clear. I use the time to clear our misunderstanding as well. My heart feels lighter but I am still raw and torn by the time I get home. Even with medication, I have had a panic attack. This can’t be good.
Over the next few weeks, I have milder versions of the attack. I start keeping a journal where I write letters to the great love of my life in the hope of getting closure. Of course, I don’t share it. I realize that I must see my counselor again.
Therapy and talking to my counselor helps. I understand that I am already on the path to recovery. Her pride in me and her sincere admiration of my attempts to heal myself are a balm. I just have to wait out this period of my life and continue as I am. I am doing everything I can to help myself. She tells me to allow myself to experience the negativity and the hostility knowing it’s not real, knowing it’s not at all my nature. I try that and soon that nasty voice disappears. But the headaches increase multifold.
The other areas of my health do remarkably well. My rheumatologist is thrilled with my blood work. He decreases my medication. For the first time, both of us think that my RA might go into remission one day and I might be pill free.
My psychiatrist agrees that my headaches are pill-induced. He changes the drug. The new ones give me no headaches but makes me want to sleep all morning. I stay up till 1-1.30 watching innane videos on Facebook. I sit with my dad and we even watch Kabbadi matches on TV. I read everything about Game of Thrones online. I even start dreaming of swordfights and medieval wars. But in the morning, I am dead to the world. I have very low energy. Conversation is an effort. I honestly don’t know what to type or say to people who check-in. I avoid going out except for my classes. I work only as much as I absolutely need to and push the rest of my plans to my now To-Do-Once-Better-List.
But in spite of me, I end up taking two more batches and I manage to take on two new clients. I have to. I have loans to pay and my finances are a nice holy mess. I am even excited by the work. But as the deadlines approach, I am crippled by my anxiety to deliver. Only sheer determination makes me complete things somewhat on time. I am surprised when my work is not just approved but praised. I tell myself I have earned two whole days of sleeping and watching TV. Right now, being left alone is the best reward.
I tell my psychiatrist about this lethargy. He changes my medication again.
<to be continued…>