For when the storm happens within…

Coping with overwhelming thoughts and terrible, no-good feelings…

The first time I saw him, his back was turned to me. He was on TV starring in a movie trailer, and playing the character of my favorite cricketer. At that time, I was hero-worshiping this cricketer, and was stubbornly sure that no one would be able to imitate my idol. To top it all, this kid was a newbie to the movie industry, only two or three movies old. He was literally a toddler. And here he was, attempting to play my hero! Sheesh! I rolled my eyes. My rolling eyes froze in their position when the actor moved forward. And what a movement it was! He imitated the walk so well that I felt as if I was watching my hero cricketer in action! Unbelievable! The kid had aced his role with a single move. A method actor was born.

Needless to say, I took my kid to the cinema hall to watch the movie when it was released. I was impressed with the actor’s impersonation and mentally wished him good luck in the movie industry. This was four years ago. Four days ago, I woke up from my afternoon nap to the news that this actor had committed suicide, hanging himself to death in his apartment.

My first reaction was to wake up my sister-in-law from her own nap, and ensure that she felt the shock just as much as I did. The shock quickly began to reverberate and very soon the world around me was only talking about the actor’s unfortunate decision. Everyone, from the best friend to the husband had something to say. My husband was disappointed. My best friend, being a professional in the mental well-being industry, was concerned. The newspapers were abuzz for the next two days about overworked suicide helplines. Somehow, a large number of people seemed to connect with the actor’s state of mind.

Theories are still being passed around. He was suffering from a maniac depression of sorts – could have been schizophrenic too, and avoiding medication. The bigger talk, however, is that of industry nepotism, targeted unfairly at a small-town kid who had hard-worked his way into the movie business. The actor had apparently lost at least six movies in the last six months. A reputed director complained about the actor’s teary days that followed several excited rounds of three-month worth of all-nighter rehearsals. All because, the producers had informed the director that they would not work with this actor. Cases have been lodged against heavy-weights in the industry for bullying the actor into suicide. Petitions are being signed across the world seeking justice for the actor who had been giving back to the community, albeit silently.

I simply cannot put a finger to why this situation affects me so. Maybe it was the actor’s enduring smile – it was child-like, and although the difference in age between him and me is only six years, I feel for him like he was a kid. Or maybe, it was his mind – it was quite the brilliant bit of space.

After reading an article that collated some of his Instagram posts, I did a double take. This guy had won a national level Olympiad in Physics, oozed poetry in both Hindi and English, made intelligent remarks about ancient scriptures, was deeply interested in astro-physics, was a gifted artist, wished to farm someday, and well…was the quite the wanderer, wasn’t he?! Industry nepotism had rubbed off in the wrong way upon a wandering mind that was in search of a sense of belonging.

Every being of nature is on a journey of growth. While the rest of nature remains aware of its roots and is always grounded to its reality, us humans, we have a tendency to wander. Sometimes, the wandering can get overwhelming. During times like this, I write.

My wandering mind is my strongest connection with the actor. Both of us were in search of a sense of homecoming. I get mine, when I write, and when I do things to keep my well-being at relative ease with itself. But mostly, when I write. And yes, I would probably cry my heart out if I get trolled. It is also the mind that used to wander towards suicidal thoughts that connects me to the actor. I can definitely relate to that.

During the course of many years – right from the time I was a teenager up until a week ago -and while trying to figure out why the hell I keep diving into severe bouts of depression on a regular basis, I also learnt a few basic pointers to keep me grounded.

Location matters: A sheep cannot seek sanctuary among a pride of lions. They will always look at it as a piece of meat.

There is a place for everything, and everything is in its place. This is Nature’s elementary design and it is foolish to think that humans can break this rule and survive against Nature’s primordial will. I have never thought of myself as anything but a writer. A part of my depression was on account of disregarding my calling, my real nature.

We wander until we find the place where we belong. The problem begins when we think we belong somewhere, when in reality, we don’t. It is commonsense to exit a place, the minute the voices inside our heads turn malevolent. Unless we are like MK Gandhi or ML King JR. Then, we turn back and fight. While the second route sounds fantastical, it is not for all of us, current company included. I very strongly advocate the idea that is equally heroic to take flight when the voices becomes overwhelming.

The mind is always the best friend: We don’t need a 2 am friend when we have our mind to fall back upon.

Sherlock Holmes lived a relatively solitary life, and was perfectly comfortable in his home, not just in 221 B Baker Street, but also in the home that he grew right inside his head. His intelligence was his best friend, and he was constantly taking care of it.

A mind that is at home with itself will become our greatest defense during times when the spiral of depression comes calling. Remember, a wise man waits out the storms from within the safety of his home.

Train your dragon to take you places: We all have a flying dragon that is programmed to carry us anywhere we wish to go. This dragon is called the brain.

The character of Jughead Jones from the comic Archies has a bottomless pit for a stomach. The human brain works in similar ways – there is no containment zone for its accumulation of knowledge. There are layers of learning in the brain that go way deeper than we can ever figure out. This is why it is important to give this powerful dragon the guidance of destinations.

Stop points, are a absolute necessity simply because the dragon deserves its break, and we deserve to enjoy the journey. Destinations are also very clever ways to keep things from becoming overwhelming, and therefore, keep the dragon flying.

Also train your dragon to fly you back home: Not all those wander are lost. This is because the wanderers remember to get themselves back home.

I have created a list of everything that grounds me whenever the noise inside my head becomes overwhelming. The directions I give myself are simple – journaling, chanting, art work, chatting with a friend, even cleaning and organizing my stuff – all of these directions automatically fall into place when the feeling of burden and overwhelm creep into position, inside my head. It has been a long time coming, but yes, I have trained my dragon to fly me home.

Become bigger than yourself: Have you wondered why the Buddha is usually portrayed as a larger than life figure? It is because he grew himself to become greater than the human he was designed to be.

Based on his teachings, I have formed my own set of four noble truths – humility, gratitude, goodwill and understanding – all of which I am still learning to practice upon myself. We cannot tend to another person’s garden unless we learn to grow and keep a garden ourselves. For people like me who are habituated to abstaining from self-care, waking up everyday with a determination to be kind to ourselves can be a challenge. I have found that a prayer of gratitude in place of a prayer of desire, helps maneuver this space.

As for the rest of the world, let us follow this motto – if we cannot be anything, let us be kind…

These guidelines are very relative, best practices that are working towards helping me feel the Earth beneath my feet, while my mind is working on its connections with the stars. I am grateful for my tribe, most of whom, have also endured depression sometime during their lifetime, and probably still do, but are also coping with it in their own way. I wish the actor had a tribe to fall back on, a circle to cry his heart into, and a home to ground him to his health. But he is on his way home now, through the stars, and somewhere in the beyond. And I wish him luck in his afterlife.

The mind grows, only to fade away. For death is the natural way of life. How we meet Death is a matter of choice that we can will ourselves towards. I have willed myself towards a wonderful life, a peaceful death, and a spirited afterlife. How about you?

Here’s to living the journey, from here, into the beyond, and right back home!

This post runs the commonsense disclaimer of seeking active medical support for depression, in the absence of which, it can be extremely challenging to see enough light to help ourselves better…

3 comments

  1. It was a good read Anu. Well written. We have all taken a trip through this journey and coming back gets harder everytime. Thanks for writing this.

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