She was jovial and upbeat. After all, it was a dream-come-true moment for her. The girl who hadn't smiled in months was suddenly laughing furiously, her infectious smile making everyone around her grin back. But not so long ago, she was contemplating suicide.
One may think, why is it such a great deal? She only became a teacher, right? But by the time I am through with this story, you will understand why such simple--and seemingly trivial--joys can mean so much to some people, and how being denied of them can turn someone's world upside down.
Neha wanted to pursue teaching. But her parents had other plans; they wanted her to get a government job--a perennial Indian obsession.
Born in a conservative family, Neha (name changed) wanted to pursue teaching. But her parents had other plans; they wanted her to get a government job--a perennial Indian obsession.
After completing her graduation, Neha's parents began pressurizing her to write exams that would land her a government job of their dreams. Meanwhile, Neha's mental torment continued to grow. She, despite having no interest and passion for such a job, continued to struggle. After trying relentlessly for two years and many failed attempts, she started to implode.
Neha started feeling increasingly hopeless--filled with self-doubt, self-loathing and low self-esteem. Soon, she became indrawn, forlorn and started losing interest in everything. She stopped talking to anyone, even her family and friends, and started skipping her meals. It didn't take her long to succumb to depression. Each passing day her condition got worse. And one day she attempted to commit suicide; thankfully she was saved.
After trying relentlessly for two years and many failed attempts, she started to implode.
Being a friend I have witnessed her downward spiral from extremely close quarters. But I was not ready to let her end her life in such misery and pain.
So, taking matters in my own hand, I looked out for help and support. I noticed that neither she nor her parents were open to the idea of talking to an expert in this regard. They had their own apprehensions and reservations and I decided not to waste my efforts in trying to coax them to do otherwise. While researching, I came across the website called YourDOST which ensured confidentiality and promised anonymity while talking to a counsellor, online through chat.
It took a little time for her to open up to the counsellor. The initial few conversations revolved around her family issues and the never-ending arguments between her parents.
Gradually it shifted to her education and career. She revealed that she had no desire to pursue a government job but was forced to do so. She was keen on doing her B.Ed and taking up a job as a teacher--her one true passion--but her parents were never supportive of this idea. Her parents taunted her for her two years' gap and her repeated failure to crack the different exams, and this had shattered her confidence completely.
Sitting in the terrace where she once thought of ending her life, Neha told me, "One step of sharing my worries has now given me a completely new life."
The counsellor helped her vent out all the negativity and anguish brewing inside her. And the counsellor did what everyone around Neha failed to do--instil confidence in her. She motivated Neha by infusing positive thoughts and sentiments in her: things such as how beautiful her name is, or how smart she is.
The counsellor also coaxed her to start applying in places where a B. Ed would not be a factor for teaching, such as NGOs, kindergarten or primary schools. Neha started taking more interest in chatting about her education and career. Her topics shifted from family issues/suicidal discussion to career/education. She requested the counsellor to give her information about B.Ed courses and other teaching courses where she could apply.
The counsellor gave her a few small assignments, for instance, "write an email to a particular university asking for admission details", or "enquire about the fee structure in a particular institute" etc. Neha took it seriously and responded well to this exercise.
She also started applying in places where not having a B.Ed degree would not be a deal breaker. In the beginning, she struggled with handling a few rejections, but gradually she felt motivated to apply for jobs in different institutions.
Neha's story illustrates how important mental health is. Anyone around us could be going through a tough phase... I urge you not to take any such signs lightly.
And as providence would have it, she started getting calls back from interested parties which made her feel good about herself.
After eight-nine months of counselling she got her confidence and life back. She got an offer to be a 7th Standard class teacher. She took up the job and is currently pursuing B.Ed through distance education.
A few days back, sitting in the very same terrace where she had once thought of ending her life, Neha told me, "My life seems so perfect now! I am finally living my dream as a teacher. One step of sharing my worries has now given me a completely new life."
Neha's story illustrates how important mental health is. Anyone around us could be going through a tough phase, and we might not even know the gravity of the situation. I urge you not to take any such signs lightly and try your best to help them cope with it. If you don't know how to handle it, reach out and take help from others. There is plenty of help available in today's digital world. It is only a matter of trying - your help can save a life.
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