This International Women’s Day, as we celebrated sheroes who have shown us how to own their power and impact lives positively, I was reminded of an article adapted from Debora L. Spar’s new book Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection. She is the president of Barnard College and says something really pertinent in the book, “Feminism was meant to remove a fixed set of expectations; instead, we now interpret it as a route to personal perfection. Because we can do anything, we feel as if we have to do everything.”
How many women feel they can’t afford to fail either as professionals or nurturers and how many fail sometimes to grant themselves their own humanity? And the fact they are not perfect and need not be?
Fashion and lifestyle marketing consultant Priya Sanghvi runs her own business and has a fulfilling personal life. Still, over six years ago, she ran into an emotional brick wall called depression and was forced to confront the fact that all women need to care for themselves and give themselves some of the compassion and the love they lavish on others.
Today she has grown past the darkness and looks at the experience as an opportunity to learn about selfhood and reserves of strength, she never thought, she had. Here is her story, in her own words. This could be the story of many women and demonstrates how hope, resilience and the right information can turn any situation around.
When the spiral began
The signals started in October, 2008. I will never forget that day. I had a fall -out with a loved one which was a huge emotional setback for me. That was also the year, when I started my own business. Hence, I thought that these two were the triggers, but apparently not. An emotional setback may trigger something off but is never a reason for ‘clinical depression’. Hence, it is a myth that depression is ‘all in your head’. Definitely not. It is just like any other physical ailment like a viral or typhoid.etc.
Depression ranges from mild, temporary episodes of sadness to severe, persistent episodes. Clinical depression is the more severe form. It isn’t the same as depression caused by a loss, such as the death of a loved one, or a medical condition, such as a thyroid disorder. Clinical depression includes at least one of the symptoms, either a depressed mood or a loss of interest or pleasure.
- Depressed mood, such as feeling sad, empty or tearful
- Significantly reduced interest or feeling no pleasure in all or most activities
- Significant weight gain
- Slowing down
- Fatigue and loss of energy
- Feelings of worthlessness; excessive guilt
- Trouble in making decisions and in concentrating
- Recurrent thoughts of death and suicide
My symptoms were severe enough to cause noticeable problems in relationships with others and at work, or during social activities.
Clinical depression has two main causes. There are ‘personal factors’ like family history, a major medical illness and severe drug or alcohol problems. The second reason pertains to changes in the brain. For me, it was the latter. Although I did a lot of research in this complex area, there is still much that we do not know. Depression is simply the result of a ‘chemical imbalance,’ and happens because you have too much or not enough of a particular brain chemical.
On the face of it, people behaved normally, but I knew that they were all talking about my condition. The primary challenge was that I felt judged all the time. Initially, nobody including my husband understood what was happening to me. They were quite casual about it. Then, reality kicked in. When my condition got worse, people around me started taking me seriously. In fact, my therapist explained everything to them which is when they all understood the gravity of this condition.
However, other than my husband, I did not have a strong support system. A part of the family and some of my ‘true friends’ made efforts but nobody really knew how to handle me. People were either overbearing or they completely cut themselves off from me.
Initially, I would feel terribly guilty about almost everything which would put extra pressure on myself. My defensiveness and the desire to justify myself had undesirable consequences. Sometimes, this caused me to mistreat my close ones, undermine their feelings and even verbally abuse them. I had severe feelings of worthlessness and low self-esteem.
Lack of validation and self- worth
A woman is ‘nothing’ without her perception about her self-worth. Social isolation is associated with increased risk of mental health problems and the relationship between stressful life events and the lack of social support may increase the likelihood of depression. Lastly, a woman lacking validity or self worth may internalise her perceptions and develop depression.
My recovery began in 2012 when I changed cities and took a break from work and did everything which I always wanted to do but couldn’t.
This included learning the piano, taking French classes and starting and sticking to a fitness regime.
Although I was still under medication, I felt refreshed. However, I was still just at the half way mark of my recovery. It has taken me six years to recover.
I know I could have probably done this in half the time, if I had done some things right. For example, I was not regular with my fitness regime earlier and continued working when all it did was put additional pressure on me. I did not reach out to people, I abused my medication which made me a lot worse and I continued with the same stressful lifestyle.
My breakthrough happened when I witnessed that my husband was finally losing his patience with me. That made me take charge of my life, make regular visits to my psychiatrist and my counsellor, take the right dosage of medication, focus on health and fitness, adopt a stress free, simple life and lastly, show kindness to myself.
Thanks to all of the above changes, I gradually started getting better. I only socialised with positive people and having cats as pets was a very healing experience. Lastly, a lot of nutrient supplements enhanced the pace of my recovery.
I have learnt a lot from life and people during the last six years.The most important lesson I’ve learnt is to live in the moment. We women measure our worth by how successful we are at everything but there is so much more to life besides success. We are complete just as we are.
It is important to let go of excessive control as life has its own way of working things out. We just have to be present, physically, emotionally and spiritually in the moment.
I am less judgmental and more patient now and have less expectations from people . Statistics say, that one out of every four women suffers from depression but some of these women many not even be aware of it till the symptoms start getting more apparent. I’m sharing my story to let such women know that there is always a light at the end of a dark and lonely tunnel.