Imagine, someone with a bad headache approaches you. What would you tell that person? Sshhh! “Try to ignore it. You are brave. And sshhh! don’t tell this to anyone”. Or, imagine someone who is just diagnosed with cancer breaks the NEWS to you in a moment of despair. What would you tell that person? “Oh, you can deal with it. You are brave. Believe in yourself.” Awareness about mental illness is so less in our society that people who should seek professional help for their mental conditions are made to believe that there is no real problem to begin with — it’s all a figment of their imagination. “Be brave”, “Don’t act sissy”, “You are lost”, “Look at the positive side of things” is what they get instead of help.
There are also another kind of people who use the word ‘depression’ and ‘panic attack’ so casually that they make these sound like a seasonal flu. Haven’t you heard statements like, “Oh, I am so depressed that I didn’t get a decent pair of shoes to match with my dress” or “I almost had a panic attack when Brad & Angelina broke up“. I wish it was casual as they made it sound. Alas! It’s not.
Very interestingly, patients with mental illness are also conveniently labelled as ‘attention seekers’, ‘weak’, and ‘someone unable to deal with pressure’. Unfortunately, the labeling and the stereotype prevents people from seeking help. It’s the result of this stereotyping that parents of kids with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Autism Spectrum Disorders, or similar other issues, which can be managed with some patience and professional help, hesitate to first acknowledge the problem and then seek professional help. Some adults with mental illnesses (and aware of their condition) also hesitate to seek help because, you know, from there on the term ‘the mentally ill’ will overshadow all other aspects of their personalities & lives. The terms ‘people with mental illnesses’ and ‘the mentally ill’ are used so interchangeably that I, sometimes, wonder how difficult it is for people to see the difference in both the terms and the baggage that the latter one carries. It’s hard for one to deal with the illness in the first place and people around don’t always make things easier.
As a kid, I was introverted and struggled a great deal with ‘social anxiety’. I would never understand why I did not enjoy weddings, gatherings, celebrations as much as others from my age would. Somehow, my parents understood my issues (while they might not have been aware of the term ‘social anxiety’ at that time) and gave me my space when needed. I am so glad they didn’t coerce me into attending every damn celebration within the family and their social circle. But I know how much slack my mom had to take because of this. Very often, people would express concerns about my marriage, because I was a loner and wouldn’t enthusiastically perform in front of uncles and aunties to garner praises. They were worried how I will take on the responsibilities in a new family if I don’t learn to socialize (and this was when I was barely 13). Dear over-concerned uncles & aunties, fortunately, I am doing pretty well in my married life as an adult because I acknowledged and addressed my problems 🙂
My friend’s dad struggled with anxiety at one time and my dad struggled with it too. When my friend and I discussed about the intensity of their issues, we knew the problem was bigger than what we assume to be normal day-to-day stress. I am glad that we could talk about their issues freely because it was only then we realized our parents needed professional help. I am glad they agreed to seek help. Unfortunately, depression and anxiety finally overshadowed my friend’s dad’s will to live. By God’s grace, my dad could overcome the ordeal. But you know, during all this, I saw how the very acknowledgment of a mental problem makes many near and dear ones distance themselves from the entire family, as if, suddenly, the whole family has some sort of contagious disease.
I am glad that now many celebrities are now coming forward and acknowledging the fact that they have struggled with similar issues. Success, failure, temperament, money has nothing to do with it. Like any other kind of ‘illness’, it can happen to anyone. On a lighter note, I feel illness is less biased in its approach than the people around us 🙂
Anthony Bourdain’s suicide starts a dialogue on the acknowledgment of mental illness once again. People wonder, why Anthony Bourdain felt like his life of adventure was not worth living and suicide was his only possible option. The simple answer is, this is how advance stages of depression and anxiety make one feel. I am glad closer to home, Deepika Padukone and Shaheen Bhatt have spoken about their struggle with the problem. I am glad that we are, at least, at a juncture where there is a possibility of starting a dialogue. It’s only when we share, talk, acknowledge that we will be able to receive and provide help in time.
I wish more & more people come out and talk about this.
PS: If you are someone who is feeling extremely low and considering on giving up your life, please call Sneha India Foundation at 044-24640050 or write to firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s a 24×7 free helpline. And please, please, please seek professional help.
Okay! Cool! Your husband is <insert his rank here>. That’s awesome. That’s more than awesome. I would love if you could thank him on my behalf for serving our country with his blood and sweat. Trust me, I understand, how much it takes to be away from family, friends, love, hometown, and everything that, in multiple ways, is a part of his identity. And of course, if you were not his pillar of strength, he wouldn’t be where he is right now. I am explicitly stating that he could not have done any of this without you. But oh dear, that’s where your role ends.
Being married to an army man, I know I always take the second precedence. Duty comes first, always — without any ifs, buts, whys, and why-nots . He has taken that oath and as his life partner, I must help him stand by his words. Well, but then, frankly, I am not doing this for the country, I am doing this for my man, and here is what makes his role very different from my role.
I rejoice his success. I help him overcome a failure. But I don’t sit in his chair or walk in his office, uninvited. They are his, not mine! I married my man for who he is, not for the brass on his shoulders; so of course, with or without the uniform, I take pride in my man and love him with all my heart.
Someone I know introduced herself to me in the first meeting as the wife of the second-in-command in the unit and I couldn’t help but chuckle. “Oh dear! you are not married to an appointment. You are married to a gentleman — all in flesh and blood“, I so wanted to say. But better late than never, Mrs so&so.
No, hold on! That’s not all. Some women talk about helping out their husbands with the duties.
So, am I supposed to share my husband’s duties? No, the answer is — I am not trained to do his tasks. I may be a coder, a doctor, a teacher, but of course, I am not supposed to take strategic or welfare related decisions for the unit/sub-unit on his behalf. I am not supposed to give any instructions to the staff meant to assist him. So, buddy bhaiya certainly is not arranging the school uniforms for kids in my house and escorting my babies and babas to the school bus stops. And in return, I am not grooming their wives. I trust their parents to have groomed the girls well. If at all they need my advice, I would love to offer one, but not in the capacity of an officer’s wife — but in the capacity of a fellow human being who shares similar problems as theirs. Do I feel great that they think that I am worthy of giving them advice? Oh yes! Of course. But I am no one to shove my choices in their life. For example, unless I am a Sangeet Visharad myself and they have come to me to learn music, I am not qualified to tell a JCO/OR wife, “Tumahara sur hi nahie lagta hai! (You can’t sing well!)”
I am glad that the men in uniform — full of chivalry and class — miss no opportunity to show us respect. Whether it is an NCO in the mess offering me a glass of cold water on a super sunny day or an officer pulling a chair for me at a formal dinner, I feel glad that ‘my husband’ socializes with men who respect women. I am proud that army as an organization welcomes me with open arms despite I NOT being a part of it in any official capacity. I remain a civilian. So, women who pass nasty comments on civilians make me wonder, “When did you don the OG, dear lady?”. Last I checked, you were a civilian yourself.
Also, how much ever I love my husband — he certainly is not the be-it-all of my existence. I have a career. My political viewpoint is different from his and we debate, the army parties are not the only occasions I shop for, and oh yes, he didn’t have to ‘groom me’ — my parents & alma mater did that really well.
However proud I am of my husband for the person he is and, to some extent, the hardships he takes in the line of his duty, that’s not the only thing I am proud of in my life. There are many more achievements to my credit other than being an army wife, an-almost-single-mother, and grooming the ladies around me. So, when women say they gave the life to army because they couldn’t have enough time beyond army activities! Sorry, the army never asked for it! You did it out of your own free will. You did it for your life partner. Blame him with all your might for making your life challenging, but blame the army! Nay!!!
I am not taking away the fact that your life could have been easier if he was not in the army. He chose that life and you chose him! Ah! But that doesn’t mean, you show off his rank instead of his ring.