Updated: Nov 3, 2021
My journey with mental health
As I sit across Suresh, listening to his story through his tears, I feel connected to him in a way I hadn't experienced before. As someone who had given his entire life to his orphanage with over 50 kids, he was struggling and poured his heart out. All I did was listen. A few hours later, for the first time in 32 years(!), I had a meaningful, almost 2 hour long conversation with my sister. 'Where have you been my whole life?!', I remember her saying.
A few weeks prior, I had been rushed back from Hong Kong because people around me had noticed something was off. I was sleeping for 2-3 hours a night, spoke excitedly about big ideas and was emotional (not something I'm known for!). Yet, some of the conversations I had with people in this period of time were beautiful, and I made some deep friendships that still hold strong to this day. On other occasions, I had racing thoughts, hurried speech, unrealistic ideas and MANY downright embarrassing conversations that make me cringe even to this day.
'I'm sorry to tell you that you have bipolar disorder', my psychiatrist says, much to my surprise. 'Thanks doc, but I'm fine, I'll get back to you'. Amused and a bit irritated, I couldn't understand why no one believed that all I was going through was a beautiful transformation to someone who knew their purpose in life. Even though I knew my dad had suffered from the same illness for over 45 years, I felt good at that time, and didn't feel anything was wrong
It was only when the intense depression hit months later that I started to realise something was wrong. Read that as panic attacks, low confidence, not having the will to get out of bed and avoiding people. The crash hit me hard. I was a sliver of the person I prided myself on being, my identity in tatters.
With medicines, the love and support from my amazing wife and trying to push myself constantly, I started to feel better months later.
Since 2015 - when the crash happened - I've had a journey of self-discovery that's been enriching, lonely, uncomfortable and exciting, all at once! I was determined to have a high performing life, irrespective of my mental health issues, and I've worked hard every single day to make that a reality. There are times when I'm frustrated by being held back by others who want me to take it slow, and other times when I'm amazed by the new layers of identity I've uncovered. It's been a journey that has tested my patience but unleashed my creativity and wisdom. In the process, the conversations I'm having are richer and I don't take myself so seriously anymore. I know that I don't have all the answers but I'm equipped with the tools to deal with whatever life throws at me(ha! right!). I know that there will be days when life will be tough, and I won't be able to respond in the right way. But I've learnt to ask for help and be kind on myself. This of course sounds great in theory, it never happens so smoothly unfortunately!
Dealing with this has given me the time to think about what's important, and pushed my boundaries on opening myself up to others in ways I did not think possible. It's given me the insight that we need to enjoy our time on this planet, doing what we love and being with the people we want to spend time with, with lightness and laughter.
I hope to have many more deep relationships and conversations with people like Suresh and my sister in the future. Experiencing this interconnectedness is a gift, and I'll always hold it close to my heart. Through my work at BecauseYOU, I'm curious to see what we discover about ourselves and how we can support each other. BecauseWE CAN! I promise not to be so corny all the time.