The stigma surrounding mental illness obstructs the hope of recovery. One of the most common stereotypes is discrimination towards the patient. Unfortunately, due to this stigma, people do not have enough education around mental health.
I have been a victim of this stigma which not only worsened my illness but also strengthened my doubts and fear to recover. I was fighting a constant battle with my mind for every second of my life. Till date I have no idea how I was even able to get up and go to work every day. I not only worked every single day but also managed to perform extra ordinarily handling multiple work assignments. In a way, my work kept me going.
After learning and spreading baseless rumors about my mental health, instead of letting me breathe and supporting me, I was victimized. I still remember the day when I stepped out of the hospital. Even my closest friends who were an immense support to me took a step back. The only question I asked myself — Who did I harm other than me?
No one wanted to talk to me, my colleagues used to become uncomfortable if I join them for lunch in the canteen. For days, I craved for someone to talk to me at my work or at my home. My soul was craving for a human touch. I wanted to hug someone and cry my heart out. But I had no one physically present around me. My therapist was the only one with whom I used to chat all day and had weekly sessions. This continued forever even a year after the incident. I had to move out of the city to get rid of that toxic environment.
I never expected my management to sympathize with me or be lenient at my work. But I did expect a basic right to handle those who were a part of the discrimination force at work. Though I understand it will take some time for the companies to build some policies around mental health, but I fail to understand how a set of well-educated matured adults could not search on internet to try and understand the mental illness. May be a little research would have educated them to stop creating problems in my life so that I could have focused on my recovery rather than dealing with new issues everyday created by them and their families.
My closest friends in the city were advised to stop talking to me else it could be a legal problem for them if something happens to me. And the irony is none of them didn’t know a thing about me, not only them but their l life partners too whom I have barely known or had a conversation with. They would advise others to block me on social media, stop inviting me to parties. Much later, I dared to counter them indirectly and these were the exact words of my colleague — “Being social is a virtue and not everyone has it. You should be thankful to us that we helped you even after knowing all this”.
I was devastated. I questioned my existence at that moment. I could not breathe. I could not speak for at least few days after that. I didn’t counter him because I wanted them to realize what they have done. But I am someone who cannot tolerate injustice to anyone around me. And I had to speak because this time my self-esteem was at stake. I urge all of you reading this to be kind towards a mental health patient. Your kindness may not help them recover but it will definitely not push them over the edge to end it forever. Because believe me, discrimination towards them can actually make them ‘mad’ like any mental illness is perceived in Indian society or kill them. I have been there numerous times, not just because of what was going inside me but because of the lack of humanity towards me.