Mental Health in IIT Madras, Article 4: Anonymous Op-Ed

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Read more in the series:
Article 1: IIT Madras Mental Health Survey Findings
Article 2: Psychiatrist Speaks
Article 3: Student Experiences of Depression and Anxiety

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I don’t know where to start this from. Do I start from the time I was bullied in school or from the time I started to doubt my ability to talk to a stranger or to when I began doubting my admission into IITM?

Here, let me just start before my anxiety kicks in.

In wake of need for awareness for mental health in the campus, as a student of IIT Madras, I am writing this article anonymously to share my experiences under the vicious tentacles of a couple of mental illnesses.

My institute, like many others, has made waves in the media for several suicides in the campus and for its insensitivity about mental health. But how sensible and accommodating are those of us from outside the campus? Would these events be an issue if they were from some other college? How would YOU react if you found out that your sister/brother/best friend/cousin needs professional help?

You would freak out, right? Yes, even I did when I realised I needed to go to a psychiatrist. That’s because of our society, which plays a major role in framing our minds, not just in IITs. We do not want to acknowledge the fact that mental illness is just another form of illness, like any other physical illness. In our Indian society, anything which is far from accepted normality — i.e, homosexuality, mental health, love marriages etc — is a taboo to even talk about. But, I am here, resolute enough to talk about it.

In our Indian society, anything which is far from accepted normality — i.e, homosexuality, mental health, love marriages etc — is a taboo to even talk about. But, I am here, resolute enough to talk about it.

My tryst with the illness started from middle school I believe, which only got aggravated after getting into college, owing to the ocean of changes in my life. So, IIT has only a little part to play here. I was bullied recklessly in school — from primary till half of my high school — and the only way I could forget it was by focusing on my academics and extracurriculars. I did and wanted to focus on something bigger, and I changed schools to get better coaching for IIT-JEE where the competition was intense. But I somehow bit my tongue and moved on and scored a rank in JEE. Though I still had difficulties in talking to people, had panic attacks over small tests at the coaching centre and feared the heck out of me to ask even a small doubt to teachers, I slogged hard enough to get into an IIT.

After joining this institute, where everything was painted rosy and happy on the outside, I was too dazed to even realise what was happening to me. I felt extremely lonely and did not have a good support system to back me up whereas other people had their school friends to call up whenever they needed. Slowly the big void inside me started getting bigger as I felt empty from inside. Nobody could understand what I was feeling — including me — since everybody thought that being in IIT, I need not worry about anything else. I could not open up to anyone else, because everybody else was busy with their lives and too naïve to understand. I could not make new friends here either, since nobody had the patience to befriend a girl who can’t put herself together. One fine day, I could not continue any longer and my mother realised I needed professional help. Thanks to her unconditional love and support and her colleague who negotiated with me and gently pushed me to consult a psychiatrist, I am here alive, writing this article to you.

One fine day, I could not continue any longer and my mother realised I needed professional help. Thanks to her unconditional love and support and her colleague who negotiated with me and gently pushed me to consult a psychiatrist, I am here alive, writing this article to you.

I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Social Anxiety and Mild form of Depression by the doctor and slowly things began to fall in place and I began to understand why life had been so cruel to me earlier. It was because I had shortage of a chemical in my brain which made me see things much more differently than they are in reality and made me react to it differently. 

Now, now, now… you’re judgemental if you are calling me a psycho. According to statistics, 1 in 4 people suffer from a mental illness and depression is the most common out of them. It is everywhere around you and it is just like any other physical illness. After so much of thinking and rethinking of all this and after a couple of months of consultation, I chose to take the medication prescribed by my psychiatrist. Things are easier to handle now and I have a better hold of myself.  Though I cannot say I am fully recovered now — can cancer be cured in few months? No, right? — medication does help me to keep my mind less cluttered and stressful. Do you want to know how it felt to have all these illnesses? It felt like drowning. Except you can see everyone around you breathing.

Do you want to know how it felt to have all these illnesses? It felt like drowning. Except you can see everyone around you breathing.

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