Female / Karachi

One of the biggest struggles I’ve had with my depression and anxiety is the acceptance that it is not my fault. I learnt in medical school that it is a chemical imbalance in your brain inhibiting dopamine from staying when it should (popular theory) and yet I think it’s still something I can control. That’s a pretty popular mindset that plenty around me had as well.

Nobody wants to believe they have a problem, nobody wants to accept that they need help, people see this as a weakness they have to hide and be ashamed of. Pakistan had 1500 psychiatrists catering to millions. That’s how unpopular the field is due to stigma. It’s not uncommon for the field to be discouraged amongst females, “pagal khana meh kaam na karo, khud pagal hojaogi” is what girls commonly hear when they even bring up the idea. I would know, I heard it quite a bit. Despite seeing people take their lives around me, despite people who seemed entirely alright admit they were suicidal & struggled with depression in silence when they didn’t have to people still think this is not a problem.

People have different interpretations of depression, sometimes they refer to it as a dark cloud constantly weighing you down. Sometimes they say it’s this weight on your shoulders constantly increasing. I think of it is a dark substance inside(just to explain how it feels), a black liquid taking over me & destroying me on the inside, the more I give into it the more it erodes me.

Anxiety feels like you’re a time bomb ready to explode, it’s different for everyone. Some bite their fingernails till bone shows, I have ended up destroying the inside of my cheeks because I bite so much because of it. Your chest feels like it will explode any minute, your hearts racing, your hands and feet shake. It’s a really uncomfortable situation where you’re in constant panic thinking you’ll actually die. I’ve dealt with 2 episodes of panic attacks in my life, one was triggered by a teacher yelling that I would kill my patient in a viva and I couldn’t escape the situation. I was stuck in that chair, feeling like the walls would collapse around me, my heart feeling like it would literally burst out of my chest, the tears unable to stop. I don’t know how I got out of there in one piece but once I was outside that room I collapsed by a wall, my legs literally gave out and I was exhausted the entire day. That 5 minutes of intense panic had wiped me out. That is how bad a panic attack is for people.

The problem with explaining mental illness is that it’s all internal. You can’t explain it like a physical illness showing a wound. If I hadn’t started taking medication I would not be the person I am today. It took the support system & an incredibly supportive psychiatrist to help me understand that I’m not broken but need a little help. Funny thing is nobody would have the slightest idea I struggle with these issues & that is exactly how dangerous these illnesses are. They need awareness & acceptance by our community otherwise so many will suffer continuously thinking their mental health issues are their fault when they are not.