Depression, as it becomes more and more acceptable in the modern world, we talk about it more openly and with 'No Reservations'. As I sit typing and watching an episode of CNN's, 'Parts Unknown' featuring Anthony Bourdain and his girlfriend, Asia Argento and her family, filmed in Rome where she lives, I wonder what went wrong? Didn't the man who was on a mission to visit every corner of the world so friendless that he couldn't even make a call in a ditch attempt to save himself?
Bourdain, who must have pulled a whole lot of people out of their stupor - if not depression - and pushed them out of their safe and luxurious couches to go and explore the world, is dead. He hung himself with the belt of a hotel bathrobe in the city of love, Paris - so much irony! He was alone in a hotel room with every luxury at his disposal including the weapon of his own destruction and phones that could have saved him.
We may never know what went wrong ever. The man who started walking the earth at age 42, eating through unknown palates and filming humans and their food across the world, unmasking civilizations - known and unknown - is no more. It's disorienting as well as scary. The man who could meld into any milieu couldn't live with himself.
Read my article here to know more about the incident and the person,
Traveler, chef Anthony Bourdain commits suicide, Obama, Trump mourn untimely death
All the usual theories fall flat on the face of such incidents. Perhaps it is time to start discussing mental health threadbare instead of making jokes and memes about it. It is time to switch on the compassion button, a time to cultivate patience that allows us to listen to others and to speak about our own shortcomings - real or imagery - without fear of being judged.
Perhaps in the long run, it may or may not save your life because the ultimate truth is death but, while we are here on earth, it will let us live in peace knowing that there is someone to talk to, feel safe and loved. When betrayal is more common than friendship, we need to collectively challenge our social makeup and push for a change. Perhaps this is the time. Perhaps we have missed the deadline long back but, it is always good to start somewhere. Better late than never.
Growing up, I was exposed to a whole bunch of negatives that I am sure most kids face. I faced, school bullies who wanted to push and keep me in a corner, biased teachers who only found mistakes and never appreciated any of my efforts, sexual predators, back-stabbing friends and elders and peers who would always try and put me down.
College was oxygen and I still am thankful for landing among great academics who were also compassionate humans, never worried about sharing knowledge of books as well as life. If not for that, I would have never become as resolute as I a today. It also helped greatly that I had a very loving set of parents who were always supportive, involved and loving.
Life is tough and no one teaches you how to deal with it. And I don't blame anyone for that because the permutations and combinations of the people we encounter in our lives are unique and no one knows what we are going to encounter.
But, as I grew up and met the worse periods of my life, I learnt to control my mind and keep it off darkness through hit and trial as do most people.
Though not many would like to talk about depression and any other 'weaknesses' and though I have never taken help from a psychiatric, I want to talk about it. I have practiced listening and supporting friends and family for a long time and have now started taking my own problems outside of the home as my parents grow older and more fragile. Some of the things that I have learnt while taking control of my life are very basic.
Actually, all it takes is recognizing your weakness, accepting it as a problem and talking about it. For example, I have always been a slacker in the mornings - I have also always glorified it, calling myself a wise owl - but, now as a consultant working from home I realized it was a bad thing. I spoke about it with a friend-cum-client who starts her day really early, her simple answer was, "you are not getting enough sleep."
I thought about it and realized that she had hit the nail hard on the head. I accepted the fact that I stay up late just enjoying the silence of the night - have always done so - but, now I needed an early start so that I could wrap up my day fast.
Once I accepted it, I have started staying away from the laptop in the night, switching off the phone Internet and sound and going off to sleep often with my parents because, sleeping with the people I love the most makes me feel comfortable. Thus, I am trying to change my sleep cycle for the first time in life. I sleep early and wake up fresh. You can do this with whoever you feel closest to because, it is really difficult to change a childhood habit like sleep cycle and needs strong resolution to achieve.
Life is like the celestial dance of Kali, the Hindu goddess. When we are frenzied by our own zeal, we forget to really understand our actions till the time, Shiva, our conscience wakes us up from our stupor. The harm is already done but, there is still time. There is always time.
Most of our life is actually a reflection of how we have built it. Here are some of the good practices that have helped keep me out of reach of darkness. Hope it helps whoever is fighting darkness or anyone who is fighting it around them:
SpeakEach time we meet with failures - real or fictitious - we need to sit back, take a deep breath and speak about the pain with someone. Talking makes it easier to handle. Don't hit the bottle, meet a friend or call up and ask them to come over. Most will agree to listen. Some might even share some good advice but, that may fall flat at that moment but, their kindness will never go unnoticed by your ravaged heart.
Also, the more you speak about your distress, the easier it will be to handle them. Try and avoid the ones who are fighting problems of their own or those who have a tendency to rat on you or make fun of you. You always know who they are. You don't need any more betrayals at this point.
Cry"Tears are not weakness". Thankfully one of my wise professors had told me this when I was a freshman. In between a lecture on the ancient Greek society and their culture, he had said that it is good to cry. Crying is good for letting go. I can't thank him enough for that advice.
Crying is a great way to let it out. But, don't make it a habit. If you are crying too much, seek help please. It is a sign - not of weakness but, of depression. Tears are also a sign that indicate depression. If everything makes you cry, then seek help from a metal health expert immediately.
LaughI was always a happy child. Even as a youngster I would always smile and laugh which was actively supported by my parents - especially my father. As I joined the adult world, some people labelled me an "airhead" but, somehow that never stopped me from laughing. I am glad that I can laugh and smile. It helps me overcome pressure. Over the years as pressure built up in relationships, work or when my bank balance got depleted, thanks to other people dipping into it to sustain their expensive habits, I almost inevitably would laugh it off after a while.
Sometimes it took me longer to laugh a situation off but, that one natural instinct has been a life savior. Please laugh if you don't often. Don't listen to people who tell you that you are an airhead or silly old woman/ man to do so. Just ignore such people. You NEED endorphins.
ListenAs you start practicing compassion, you will automatically start listening to people. The more you practice listening, the more patient you will become and you will find the answers to your problems in other peoples'. It is a wrong assumption that you pick up negativity when you listen to negative stories. Instead, when you listen to someone else's problems, you start realizing that you are not just the only one in the crowd.
It paints for you, a bigger picture. Like a wise friend once said, "when you stare at the tree constantly, you miss the forest." It takes a while to achieve that patience to just listen and offer nothing but, your ears. But, once you have practiced it, you are one of the rare breed that will always receive love and blessings. Sympathy will lead to empathy and it will enrich your life in more ways than you can imagine. The Dalai Lama had once said, "The only religion I practice is compassion."
MeditateIt is easier said than done. Not everyone buys into meditation as we are not ready to put our problems on hold for even a few minutes. Meditation is not a complex state of being nor is it an unattainable goal / state of being. If you understand that your smartphone needs daily rebooting to free-up space in its RAM thanks to the multiple apps running simultaneously in it you will catch on to why your mind and body needs meditation. Meditation helps you slow down your breath for a few minutes and regroup your body and reclaim your mind.
It does take a little time to reach the "no thoughts zone" but, it comes with practice and no, you don't really need to sit in Yogic mudra to do it. You can do it sitting comfortably in a silent space anywhere or while listening to soothing music in your drawing room or in a joggers' park. Regular practice will help your mind close down and restart once you open your eyes. It is refreshing like nothing else.
Give up AngerWhat we seek, we receive. If we are on a panic mode all the time, we will always be scared and angry. Our worries get transferred on whoever comes in contact with us. Soon, people start avoiding us because of our forever-irritated mood or because we are always on a short fuse. Anger turns you mean and negative. Whatever you say or do under the influence of anger is something you will regret when you wake up. Anger becomes a constant because of your frustrations and fears from outward situations. As the Buddha wisely said, "holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die."
Anger is not easy to handle because, most of the times we justify our anger. The day you realize that you have anger-management issues, acknowledge it and start looking for reasons why and ways you can heal yourself. Give it a shot and see the change in the quality of your life. If you are constantly pressurized, always angry, the chances are that you will hit the darkness button soon.
There are other small ways you can also add to your daily routine to avoid depression. I had written about them earlier. You can read it here,
Stay Healthy to Stay Happy this Winter
The DIY Managing Life Changes List
Beat Stress without Breaking Sweat
Have a very happy and adventurous life so you can go without regret when you leave this world. Be a little selfish and put, "Me First" because, compassion can only work if you are first of all compassionate towards yourself.