Depression is a sweet poison. It is a quagmire which drags me in within its dark murky folds. Each breath becomes an effort and each effort becomes a burden. But coming out of it, I feel like a phoenix rising out of the ashes. The world looks different. It is colourful again.
It was a hot and dusty day in July when I encountered depression for the very first time in its full glory. First, it was like my heart was being prodded by the icy fingers of an unknown entity. Suddenly, the heat of the suffocating afternoon receded in the face of the slowly creeping icy winter. Dark drapes slid over the brightness of the glowing sun and my heart was replaced by a vacuum. A dark void, which somehow pulsated with all the coldness of a black hole. I felt alone – lonelier than the only survivor of a global nuclear holocaust. The feeling, strangely alien, first shocked me and then scared me shitless. The episode ended in about fifteen minutes or so but it left me badly shattered. And then it became a routine, to be repeated every month or so. I started living in a constant state of fear and apprehension.
Thereafter, depression became a regular visitor and the element of surprise receded with time. I would be sitting in the midst of a thriving family gathering – laughter all around with myself basking in the warmth of well-being. I would be playing with my brother, heart brimming over with excitement and carefree adventure; and suddenly I felt the first touch of those icy cold fingers. My God, how I used to hate that touch – I would stop doing whatever I was doing or continue with my mind paralysed by a crippling fear. The feeling covered my eyes with a pair of invisible goggles, through which I could only see strangers – my mom, my brother, the loving relatives, all complete strangers. It was kind of an out-of-body feeling as I could look at myself from the outside, liquid fear filling my eyes.
When I read Lord of the Rings and came across Frodo feeling an icy coldness every time he slipped the ring on his finger, I could exactly relate to the sensation. To me, Sauron was frightening because he could make anybody he turned his eye onto, utterly helpless in face of a formidable and dark power capable of undoing your soul. Depression made me Frodo by virtue of its dark hold over my heart. It had the power to undo my soul. And that is a mighty power.
The eldest of my maternal aunts was suffering from schizophrenia. Newly awed by genetics, I seriously considered the possibility of DNA covertly carrying a disease. I was almost certain I was going mad. I looked at my aunt and observed her violent fits, sure that a day would come when I would be suffering the same fate. I could see the desperate fury in her eyes and practically empathize with her. The experience was terrifying but also fascinating as madness seemed interesting from a distance. But once she started getting her electric therapy, my interest vanished into thin air with an audible poof. She would come back from the clinic looking absolutely vacant as if the doctors somehow extracted her soul and instead filled her with an eternal tiredness. Plus the drooling and lolling mouth was not an attractive scene at all.
The years passed and gradually I grew older and comparatively more mature. I started detecting that my depression did not leave me completely empty. Instead it left a lingering feeling in its aftermath. It was like my depression was a sad violin piece fading into nothingness, but with the promise of a sweet flute note across a dark silence filled abyss. Sometimes the feeling also manifested in the form of a dark solid wooden door, hiding a world of light and pleasant warmth. I would start clawing the door, scratching it with imaginary fingers, desperately trying to reach the light – my efforts culminating into torn nails and bleeding fingers. Though the door remained closed for a few more years, unbeknownst to me, the phase of awareness had started.
I don’t remember who exactly, but there was somebody close whom I tried to consult regarding my problem. Instead of friendly counselling or advice, all I got was a booming laughter immediately followed by a ‘what a piece of crap? Go concentrate on your studies instead of fantasizing about feelings you know nothing about’. Or something on a similar note but with ‘crap’ and ‘studies’ definitely a part of it. Well, who did I think I was? A kid in America assured of appropriate psychological counselling? I realized I was all alone. I had to fight the monster under my bed or more exactly, the monster in my mind, all by myself. That interaction made me aware of another fact too. Adults get afraid when they are asked unconventional questions and their fear mostly exhibits in interesting but predictable reactions. But that is a topic for another day.
Before launching onto a lonely quest, I did make another try for help. Instead of posing the actual problem, I just told my parents that I was having frequent nightmares about an evil djinn. That was actually received in a better manner and more positive light than I expected. I was just a child and was supposed to have nightmares. I do not deny that I had nightmares. But mine involved deserted streets and fear of an ever looming but invisible danger. Anyhow, it seemed a horned and fiery entity was more believable than psychological problems. My parents tried to counter the nightmares with the most obvious and the easiest remedy that is the Quranic verses. These were supposed to kill all the djinns in my dreams, at least for the following night. I am absolutely sure the verse could do that or even more, if there were really any djinns occupying my dreams. Thankfully my innocently sinful dreams remained unmolested but my hypothesis stood confirmed as I unknowingly stepped into the realm of acknowledgement.
My quest towards conquering the depression progressed on numerous fronts simultaneously. In my boyhood, because of the exposure to digests, I was a firm believer in the power of telepathy and concentration exercises. So I started these with full zeal getting guidance from a small book acquired from a roadside bookseller. The cover of the badly printed but mysterious book displayed a man sitting cross legged with an aura of light around his head. ‘That’s it!’, my heart leapt with joy and excitement on the prospects of mind control, levitation and other associated super human powers. The first chapter dealt with breathing exercises. I inhaled and exhaled for about twenty times, added five more cycles as a safety measure and considered those enough for a lifetime. The second chapter wanted me to strengthen my concentration by emptying my mind of all thoughts. That was done too. Though, there was one particular charming neighbour of mine, of who’s thought it was impossible to get rid of in those days.
The third chapter of the training manual proved rather decisive. It instructed me to make a routine of repeating concentration exercises both before sunrise and after sunset each day. Sunset was fine but sunrise was a comparatively difficult option. I did probably manage to get up one single day or two, if my memory serves me right; but after that it was only the sunset session and a bit later, no more concentration exercises. I still believe in some corner of my mind that had I continued, I would have become a great guru at least, depression or no depression. Alas the world was deprived of the second coming of Guru Rajnesh, albeit a depressed one.
A little while later a friend managed to coax me into morning walks. I was highly doubtful of his actual motives but the relationship between a healthy body and mind, mentioned in some book, convinced me otherwise. Thus, we started with the morning walks. Discipline and I never really interacted on friendly terms so the walks ultimately became drudgery. But still I continued with a determined mind and a hopeful heart. Well, determination and hope had lesser to do with it. It was actually more the fact that my charming and doe-eyed neighbour also started taking morning walks with her father. My determination was given a boost by the prospects of exchanging a few smiles with the girl and also to impress her father. Unfortunately, the pleasant experience could not continue as my neighbour finally stopped accompanying her father. It was probably on account of the gentleman getting a bit doubtful of my smiling sincerity and overzealous greetings. This sudden break rather added to my depression, though of a different sort.
Depression finally became a friend. Yes ladies and gentlemen, it did. It was around the time when I was turning forty. In fact it became a kind of super power the moment I realised its full potential. I suddenly found out one day that if channelled correctly, depression could lead to creativity. Especially it made me write. No wonder people accuse me of loving dark endings. Now you know, it is not me but my depression which makes it so. This shows that depression is not always a burden for everybody. For some, it may become a blessing. Please do not start praying for depression because for me the issue now is, how to get rid of my addiction to depression.