From the ‘autumn’ of my heartFebruary 8th, 2022
Depression, anxiety, stress and other mental health issues often make us feel isolated. While we all fight some sort of internal or mental battle at some point in our lives, it is important for us to know that there is hope and we can overcome these negative feelings. And how better to do so than to draw on the experiences of others who are going through that process. Karishma Arora, a 25-year-old Commonwealth Correspondent from India shares the stories of three such people.
How am I ?
no one answers
how are you?
I feel like the painting
the poetry of silence
by vilhelm hammershøi
oil on canvas
tears on the floor
Anxiety, depression, stress, mental health – these buzzwords have become a part of our usual vocabulary. It’s estimated that about 13% of the global population suffer from some kind of mental disorder. I must admit that I was hesitant to look up the statistics on people dealing with mental health issues. The truth is, most, if not all, of us are fighting some sort of mental battle we cannot quite describe, while trying to navigate the gift called life. But there are times we can pull on the strength of others and learn from their experiences. It’s why I’ll share a few stories of people from diverse backgrounds who have faced these issues, felt despair at some point, but are constantly striving to protect their mental health by pushing through their circumstances.
In India, the Civil Services Examination (CSE) is a highly sought after test taken by people seeking government jobs. It is considered one of the toughest exams in the world, with only 0.1% to 0.4% of candidates successfully clearing it. Rashmi Sinha decided to chase her dreams of becoming an officer, so she signed up to do the exam.
As fate would have it, she failed despite her arduous work. It had been her final attempt at the exam. Broken that she had not realised her dream, Rashmi described how she confined herself to her room and began overeating – behaviours common with stress and depression. Slowly, she realised her actions were destructive, so she reached out to friends and immersed herself into her hobbies. “It did help,” she says.
With a renewed sense of determination, Rashmi applied and was able to get into State Services instead as a revenue collection officer. Today, she is a Senior Deputy Collector, a position many dream of. By achieving this, Rashmi proved the adage “If you shoot for the moon and miss, you can still land on the stars”. All one needs is constant effort and self-belief.³ But she is only human, and so there are times she still feels regret about failing the Civil Services Exam and stressed about missing a target she had set for herself. While she still considers that time of her life to be her lowest moment, Rashmi uses those emotions to fuel her drive to achieve even greater things.
Don’t we all envy the life of a successful digital creator or an Instagram influencer? What we cannot see is the hustle behind their success. Krishna Rathi, founder and CEO of Cyonn, a computer and network security company, an ethical hacker and lawyer, has won more than 13,000 hearts⁴ on Instagram by showcasing his unique artistic skills. How did he get to this point?
“Losing grandparents in a crucial period of my life was the lowest moment for me!” explained Krishna, as he recalled how he sat a very important exam just a day after his grandfather had died. He felt like he had hit the bottom of a pit. After all, his grandparents had raised him. Still, he knew healing would come through acceptance of his painful loss. According to Krishna, “Acceptance of the harsh truth sets a roadmap for what’s next.” So he took his own advice and decided that he would push past his pain and do the best in everything he did.
But that was easier said than done, especially with a major exam coming up. This was when he turned to ‘creative distraction’. “I ended up picking my pencil and distracted myself with art.” Ironically, that period in which he channelled his frustration and grief into his artistic skills, would shape his destiny. He was able to polish those skills and today, art is one of his several careers.
He is upbeat and confident. Does he still get bouts of anxiety when things go wrong? “Not anymore,” he says. “With many things going wrong, sequentially, the stress tolerance capacity increases!” Now, he calls himself the ‘master of uncertainties’ and says this immediately eases any tension he might be feeling in an anxious situation. He wants others to adopt a similar mindset. His advice to overcome anxiety is: “Don’t think, act. Don’t wait for perfection, it’s an illusion. The closer you go, the farther it goes…. Become the Master of Uncertainties.”
Unfortunately, mental health issues like loneliness and depression are quite common in older people. For Shrimati Shanti, these emotions are a result of her life experiences. Her husband had been martyred in an army mission and she was forced to single-handedly raise her children.
Though her children are now older and able to care for themselves, she still gets anxious about their well-being and their careers. Watching them grow up and leave “the nest” can be difficult, and the loss of a life partner, of love, only amplifies the feeling of loneliness. But while Shanti struggles with these emotions, she continues to take all that life throws at her, she smiles back and fights like a warrior.
While our challenges may be different, the purpose of these stories is to help us learn and imbibe a trait, or two, that could help us better enjoy the journey called life. Yes, we feel lonely, we crave love, we get anxious, we fail, and that is perfectly alright. What we need is to create the best out of our situations. Live like there’s no tomorrow, and welcome each day with open hearts and free spirits!
Photo Credit: Canva
About Karishma Arora: My source of happiness is working for the vulnerable and underprivileged. I aspire to be a civil servant and contribute to public services. Some of my interests include creative writing, photography and debating.