Being there for those going through struggle matters, says new book on depression
New Delhi, January 25, 2021
Depression is a condition – it leaves you devastated, fighting unseen demons within yourself, crippling you, mocking you, turning life into a losing battle.
But then there is always hope when you find friends with the same condition. They understand you better and assist you without being specialists on the subject. Why do I need a mental health expert to treat me when I have found a friend who counsels with a kind heart?
Anita Peter’s To Win Your Battles Stay Alive (TWYBSA) is that friend.
"Being There Matters,” Anita emphasizes as we discuss her book that reaches out to all those suffering from depression. “Being there matters, whether it is a person going through the struggle, the support system or society,” she says.
First, a little about Anita, a woman of many parts. She did her initial schooling in Kuwait before continuing her studies in Kochi, Kerala, where her parents are settled.
She worked for some time in an airline and has been modelling for print and television ads since her early days. She was one of the top 10 finalists in the Haier Gladrags Mrs. India 2010 contest. She has also won the Kerala State Championship in Artistic and Figure Roller Skating and is a graded Mohiniyattam dancer by the national broadcaster Doordarshan. She acted in lead roles in television serials, telefilms and short films. She is also a theatre actor.
Anita, now an accomplished Mohiniyattam dancer, stays in Hyderabad, where she has founded the Lasya Drutha Centre for Performing and Fine Arts. She is also the CEO and Principal Facilitator of Persona Script, a leadership development and design company. She is a motivational speaker and the initiator of the "I-Pledge Awareness for Change", a social initiative which focuses on civic sense.
Last but not least, she is an avid motor biker. She travelled on her Harley-Davidson from Kanyakumari to Leh some years ago with a few other women bikers. More recently, she took off on a solo ride from Hyderabad to Kochi.
You would think that someone with such a full and busy life cannot fall into depression. Then again, you could be very wrong, as Anita tells you in her book.
What is it that prompted her to undertake this difficult exercise? “I decided to write this book as the voice of many who go through what I did and are unable to speak out due to several reasons that hold them back. Whatever I have written is either from personal experience or from what I have learned through my interaction with many others who were going through depression. I had this habit of writing a diary from childhood,” Anita told NetIndian.
A couple of heartbreaking experiences for Anita changed her attitude to life. She came across two cases of young people, one of them ending her life.
“One was the daughter of a priest I knew. She did not get an audience to share her depression. I also took the same path but survived to tell my story. It was a decision that came on an impulse. It was a trigger and certainly not something normal. Then I thought could I bring about a change. It was a tough phase no doubt but I am happy I could document my experiences," she said.
The book details Anita’s battle with depression at three different times with “different experience” on each occasion. She knew something was wrong but the word “mental” during reference to her condition pulled her back. “All I knew was that I was sad.” And when they asked her why could she not smile, she never had an “answer.”
The experience, as she writes, was important. It taught her to be “patient” and also understand that “acceptance” of the illness was a vital factor in the process of recovery. She then realized that to win the battle she needed to Stay Alive, which she did by making efforts to study and understand the subject of depression. The word “mental” in mental health then assumed a different connotation.
The book deals with different aspects of depression and makes every effort to soothe the mind of those afflicted. At no point does Anita claim to be an expert on the illness. It is a work of her experience based on personal sufferings and her conversations with friends affected by depression.
There is a more than useful chapter that lists the signs to look out for and I found this so near and accurate to the physical and mental challenges I have been through:
*Overeating, or loss of appetite
*Loss of sleep, or an urge to stay in bed all-day
*Lack of interest in daily routine chores
*Lack of interest in meeting people
*Not able to smile in response to a light conversation
*Any sound would feel like noise
*Bright light could be blinding
*Dim light would bring in sadness
*Irritability on not being understood, and not being able to explain
These are common symptoms that Anita points out and I would add diminishing memory as a dangerous fallout of depression. I sometimes enter a room and forget the purpose and many a time I can’t locate a name in the phonebook unless it is saved by connecting him/her to the workplace.
Anita says, “An individual may go through a few of the above-listed feelings, in slow progression, due to different reasons. A person who goes through depression hits rock bottom of their lives most of the time if left untreated. The worst is when nobody around you can see that there is something wrong. Then there are some who tell you that your feeling of sadness is a figment of your imagination. It is tiring to convince people.”
Anita, who has also released three short films which are available on YouTube on a different perspective of mental health awareness, notes that the Lockdown period and the pandemic has been a tough phase. “The pandemic has highlighted lots of cases. The fear of what people will say persists but then many have started to share their pain. Mental health is being recognized as an illness that needs understanding and attention. The taboo may take time to be eradicated and we all know that depression can be treated. We must be accepted and understood.”
Anita has charted a path to recovery: Beginning with acceptance, then readiness to deal with that acceptance. Next phase is the treatment, then the need to be patient and finally the healing.
“It will take time. I am amazed how people don’t raise eyebrows when patients down tablets for various ailments but looking askance if I have to take one psychiatric pill to tackle depression. It is an ailment just as the rest and needs medical assistance. The taboo is created only because it is related to a matter that concerns mental condition,” she stresses.
She emphasizes the importance of having a friend. “You must have a shoulder to cry on. There is nothing like having a friend, just one friend, to share your experiences with. A hug can heal so much. But take care when you confide in someone. You should not be exploited. I came close twice, from a man and woman. So, it is important you have a friend who you can give you a hug. A hug certainly heals your mind!”
Anita concludes on a positive note. “If I can, you can. I emerged stronger through my struggle. Success is a by-product of staying, not stepping back. I can proudly say I am a Depression Survivor and I consulted a Psychiatrist. I live in hope.” The book is a helpful guide to remove the social stigma attached to depression. “Recovery takes time. Understand the same and be patient.”