D for depression and D for Deepika. By sharing her experience with depression, Deepika Padukone has no doubt lent her very influential voice to this mental health challenge. Kudos to a very , very brave interview.
So what is depression like for the rest of us in the trenches?
As a person living with the physical challenge of clinical dizziness, experiencing depression and its evil stepsister anxiety is a natural by product. My own experience with it has taught me some very valuable lessons.
1) If the doctor doesn't feel right, ditch him or her, even if they are famous.
In 2008, I had one of my most serious relapses with dizziness, spending my day in bed as most movements sent my head spinning. It also coincided with a broken engagement. Needless to say a perfect storm for depression. For the first time in my life I sought professional help and made an appointment with one of the leading psychiatrists' in India today at a south Delhi hospital. The doctor was nearly two hours late for the appointment - torture for me already crouched in a wheelchair, barely able to sit up. Once the 20 minute appointment began, the doctor had a five minute conversation with me and spent the rest of the appointment I paid a large sum for - answering calls and printing bills. The side-effects of Prozac were dismissed. I was told I was being given a paediatric dose which wouldn't harm me. Turned out among the side-effects were dizziness and the medicine made my already dizzy head that much worse. Needless to say I didn't take the medicine or go back for an appointment. So however well-known and reputed the doctor is, if he doesn't feel right my advice is to ditch him and ditch him fast.
2) Find out if you need anti-anxiety meds instead of depression pills
In one conversation with me, my counsellor said I was not depressed but anxious; brought on by the fact that the dizzy spells came on without warning. The psychiatrist agreed and I was put on anti-anxiety meds, which also has a component of dealing with depression. While it still took me a month to adjust to the medicine, it helped to calm down the anxiety and panic and now after almost two years of being on it, I have not had a panic attack for nearly a year.
3) You will need a psychiatrist as well as a psychologist
While a psychiatrist will prescribe the medicine, a clinical psychologist or counsellor will do the hard work of helping you form habits that cope effectively with the anxiety. When I first started therapy, I was so ill that I could not sleep alone, would avoid colours in the clothes that I wore during an episode of dizziness and had a Detective Monk type of routine that would supposedly ward off any relapse! With the counsellor's help I have broken all of this and hopefully for good.
4) It's you stupid!
While family support is most essential (and I am very lucky to have a very strong support system), it's finally you, who will have to hunker down and do the hard work. It means things like choosing to get up, get dressed and go out, rather than stay at home, it means choosing to deliberately wear an "unlucky" shirt and colour, it means continuing to work even as you feel like crap. That's all you. No one else can do that for you.
5) Help is good
One question that will certainly cross your mind when you think about professional help is that I don't want to take meds or I can handle it. Thing is, sometimes you can't and please don't even hesitate to do so. I went through many frogs before I found a set of princely doctors, stay with the process and get help. It's worth it.
Am sure all of you have many experiences of your own to add to the above -- please do comment below.