As I’m sitting down after, listening to Deepika Padukone’s interview on NDTV, about her personal experience of depression, I’m moved to the point where tears are rolling down my eyes and I feel an immense sense of respect, admiration for her.
I look back at my life as a Psychologist, where clients chose to trust me with their deepest vulnerable selves, I realize how most of them have moved on to a better space, where they are more in charge, have dealt with past baggage and chosen to turn their vulnerabilities into their strength. The interview was a reminder of how some clients have said exactly the same words that Deepika narrated.
Sometimes depression or anxiety leads a silent life, within us. We choose not to acknowledge it, as we believe it as a phase that would pass. As the Psychologist Guy Winch says — We cannot just shake off the depression, it needs to be handled and managed. Most clients show immense resilience and inherent strength that comes to life as we begin to deal with the layers of depression in therapy. A client whom I worked with, a few years back, told me how depression was a blessing in disguise. It reminded her how there were ways to fight it and choose a life where one is more in touch with oneself.
I’m often asked how I can distance myself from all the pain and sadness that clients bring in to therapy. The answer is quite simple actually — my clients also bring a deeper sense of hope, resilience and an ability to fight back, which makes me admire the human spirit even in moments when they are fragile.
We all feel vulnerable, and awareness of this vulnerability is our strength. Our strength to heal, to find meaning in moments of despair, and most importantly, as Deepika did, bare one’s personal journey so as to heal many others.
When I was younger, I would ask a lot of questions to my teachers and often draw inspiration from art, theater, movies and books. Many perceived me to be a misfit, as I seemed too questioning of the existing ways psychology was taught. My gut instinct always told me that psychology existed beyond textbooks, it existed in dark alleys, minds of writers, poets and everyone who struggled with a story.
It has been over 10 years now, that I have been working as a psychologist. Whether it was my work with TISS, or private clinic, I have had the privilege of working with some of the brightest minds, human beings struggling with concerns that seems to question their deepest fears. A lot of my work has been with visual artists, writers, and people in the creative field.
Working with them have triggered visual metaphors for me, which are a huge source of my personal learning. I recently remember how in a session, a strong metaphor found life within me. The conversation revolved around how I have tried to balance or prevent myself from being carried away by strong thoughts and ideas. As I was speaking , I could see myself standing far away in a visual field, where there were multiple ideas, just like speech bubbles, surrounding me. I could see them, feel them, yet they were far away. They could influence me, subtly , but not strong to be swept away by them.I could see in my younger days, these ideas and ‘I’ were too close, and could possibly consume me. It almost feels like the, observer in me, has gradually come to being.
Thank you to everyone who has trusted me with their darkest and deepest self.
Do you think visual metaphors and insights have healed you? would love listening to your story.
Sometimes when I look back at life,important people and how life has shaped,I’m amazed. There is so much we try and control,but life chooses to control us. I remember as a teenager worrying about my life choices as I took Humanities and decided to pursue Psychology.The only thing over the years,that has remained constant is the ability to dream, to be passionate about work and somewhere perceptive about people.Life amazed me by providing opportunities,when I saw none.I have always wondered if being good,being punctual and choosing to follow your heart works?
It does work only if we choose to be patient.Somewhere in your 30’s sometimes you feel like you are coming to being. Who said life stops at thirty? May be when you are in your 30’s,you allow life to happen to you. As I write this,I think of a yacht party I went to,where overlooking the seas,I felt I was ready to surrender.I remember when I was 20 years, I had this dream,which continues to inspire me and over years now I have understood it.
I saw these two lines
Faith to Fathom
Strength to Surrender
It’s strange how I oscillate when it comes to faith nd then strangely find it comforting in moments.Its so many years since the dream happened,but I guess Im beginning to see what it means to surrender.
So my daughter saw an Idea commercial and felt that it was prejudiced in it’s outlook towards women. So here is my story about how my 5 year old daughter learnt to be socially conscious.Sometimes I feel my social service genes and attitude has rubbed off.Any opinions?
Sometimes I feel there are so many stories of pain, struggle, hope and resilience buried deep within me.These are tales, that clients have trusted me with and they are sacred.I’m sure clients wonder,what do I do with them.They continue to live a silent life within me and no one has access to them.I remember,when I was in college,a friend of me would tell me how I love listening to stories.Somehow in psychotherapy, I do that.When people ask me, what do I do,I say, I listen.I create a facilitative environment where people can share and be themselves. It’s a privelege to be trusted.Sometimes,when clients walk in the room, with their pain,all I can see is the strong will power to recover and hope.I see courage that each client brings in,every time, they choose to share their deepest buried secret.I owe gratitude to them and that’s why I let the story lie deep within the recesses of my mind and soul.
Today when my daughter was playing in the garden and I was watching over her, I suddenly heard a boy of about 6 or 7 years scream out loudly to call his mother. After the boy called couple of times and his mother didn’t pay attention to him, he shouted loudly and said “If you don’t come right now Mom, I would kill myself”. ( conversation was in Hindi).
I couldn’t believe what I heard. I approached the mother, who by now was standing with her young boy and scolding him. I asked the mother about where he had heard this and the mother said she had no clue. When I asked the young boy,he mentioned how on a reality show, he had heard a participant say this line.
Just yesterday twice on Indian sitcom, I heard the characters,speak about self-harm and the desire to end their lives. These serials run anytime between 7 to 9 pm – primetime slots where children are likely to watch television. I consciously monitor TV timings for my daughter, but I have come to realise that I can’t have complete TV control.
At a time, where suicide rates are increasing among children and young people, are we glorifying death? Is it right to promote suicide on television and portray it as the only alternative when we find life meaningless? I don’t remember hearing or knowing about suicide till I was in my teens. English shows are censored beyond recognition in India, but does the Indian Censor Board set the same standard on Hindi channels? It is our responsibility to create resilience in children set examples by using characters who have a will and desire to bounce back. As a psychologist and a parent, I monitor and limit TV hour to just children’s cartoons, but I can’t control everything that’s been played on television.
In Indian settings, many people have 1 television and all family members watch the same serial. The very thought that television is introducing the term suicide and portraying it is heart wrenching. I know I can’t control what my daughter sees on television, but I can at least choose how she sees it and what meaning she makes of it, by talking and listening to her.
Research shows how suicides result from ‘CopyCat ‘ Phenomenon.Therefore it is in the interest of children and adults that suicide is not glorified
There are moments,when I feel lost and what comes to my rescue is an idea,lines from a book and then the strength to move on.Some of us turn inward when faced with a crisis,or a depressing moment and then there are others who turn outwards to people,engaging with the community.Sometimes it is important to remember that Kafka,Rilke,Camus and Yalom have all the answers.I remember as child I used to be immersed in books and continued to seek solace in their company.Strangely,these books have moved in to my therapy sessions and some clients need an idea,that cognitively resonates with them and then emotionally liberates them.For some of us, a writer is more magical than a therapist,it transports us to the hidden terrains within our own self,that sometimes are layered with so much conditioning.