With World Mental Health Day coming up on October 10, ZAROOK SHAH gives a candid first-hand account of his struggle with depression and how he worked through it
Millions of people around the world don’t fight external enemies, but they fight the one within: the mind. The mind is a very powerful element; it can take you to heights or it can destroy you completely. Many people just give up hope and succumb to the mind’s adversities, others fight and come out as winners, and I’m happy to say that I’m one amongst the latter. This is my story.
I come from a very caring family and was the fourth of six siblings and had a loving father and mother. After my graduation, in the early 90s, I went to Tokyo to take care of our family diamond business. From diamonds, I established a jewellery division and business was very good. The good times went on till 2002, when there was a huge setback in our Thailand operation and we had a huge monetary loss. This took a toll on my mental health.
Till then, I was always proud that I was mentally very strong, but only after this I realised how fragile the mind is. I was always a sound sleeper and could nod off easily, but after this incident, I started having difficulties with my sleep. In my extended family, I had seen the condition of uncles and cousins who suffer from bipolar disorder deteriorate due to lack of sleep and this caused me concern. I was not able to sleep even for a minute, and when night approached, it terrified me. My wife was very supportive and used to be with me all the time. Initially, with my family doctor’s advice, I started taking sleeping aids; they helped me to sleep for an hour, but then I used to wake up sweating profusely, and shivering all over, like I was having a nervous breakdown. I started losing my appetite, my interest in doing anything, and talking to people made me nervous. In a crowd, I was only able to hear a cacophony of noises and nothing else. I was like a dead man walking without any emotions; I could neither smile nor cry, and my only thoughts were about my sleep, or lack thereof. It felt like my brain was confined inside a small cardboard box along with repetitive frightening thoughts. Several times, I thought it would be better to end my life than live like this. Even writing about this time sends a shiver up my spine.
Because of my family and my work, I was unable to return to India, but I was very lucky to find a psychiatrist in Tokyo who specialised in pharmacology. He spoke English well and he assessed me and said that I was merely suffering from depression due to worry and lack of sleep and that I did not have bipolar disorder as I had been imagining. He put me on a regimen of anti-depressants and sleeping tablets. Initially, I was afraid to take anti-depressants, since I thought I will lose my quality of life, as I had seen my cousins lose theirs; only later I realised that it was because they were taking othr medicines, not anti-depressants. Slowly, my medicines started working, and over a period of time, I started feeling better and the combination of anti-depressants and sleeping tablets helped give me the quality of life I wanted. I finally stopped my anti-depressants after two years, but the struggle with sleeping pills carried on for a very long time. I was finally able to overcome it only a few years back.
The day that I stopped taking my sleeping tablets, I was on cloud nine, as I had never imagined I would be free of medication. This was one of the biggest achievements of my life. Even today, I struggle with my sleep, and even one day of sleeplessness can cause havoc. However, I have developed a sleeping regimen and always try to sleep on time and wake up on time. I have learnt a lot about sleep, our circadian rhythm and how it works. I have suffered from insomnia for well over a decade and have overcome it now.
During this decade, which I call my lost decade, I did achieve a lot of things. I established a successful jewellery business and started my own jewellery store as well and our company was well-known all over Japan. I’m still surprised how I did all these things. I’m happy to share my story and will be happier if it helps even one person. My advice: take your mental health very seriously and please seek professional healthcare when necessary. Talk to someone. Counselling with the right psychologist helps a lot. Please remove the stigma that going to a mental healthcare provider is shameful; they are there to help you.
I overcame my enemy and so can you.
Source: – The Hindu
By: – Zarook Shah