"There was an inexplicable hopelessness I just couldn't shake"
Trigger warning: How one woman walked back from the brink after struggling with suicidal thoughts
The room was dimly lit, ‘Tumse milke dil ka’ from Main Hoon Na playing loud enough for the neighbours to complain (thankfully, they didn’t). I was dancing in my favourite new sari, surrounded by friends. There were toasts, cheers, hugs, kisses… And all I could think of was — I want to jump out of my 8th floor window.
Since I was a kid, I’ve often wondered what would happen to my family and friends if I decided to die (If you’re struggling with suicidal thoughts, please reach out to these helplines). It seemed perfectly normal, even common. Didn’t everyone think of death, flirt with the idea of giving up? A challenging childhood rife with body shaming, family separation, and losing my beloved grandfather without warning resulted in multiple, sometimes crippling insecurities that felt too heavy to bear. Fight or flight had become second nature.
But when I found myself entertaining the same suicidal thoughts at a party I’d thrown to celebrate Durga Pujo – my favourite time of year – I knew I needed help. Despite having a job I loved, a comfortable apartment, close friends, and enough attention to keep my need for validation in check, that gnawing feeling persisted like an antibiotic-resistant UTI.
There was an inexplicable hopelessness I simply could not shake. A constant thumping in my chest, like something bad was about to happen. True to the cliche, getting out of bed was a task – one I had no choice but to complete since I couldn’t afford to be unemployed.
Frankly, I was done. I had started planning the letters I’d write – one for my family, one for my closest friends, one for my ex-husband, and one for my best friend’s two-year-old daughter, who is the light of my life (yes, the irony). I had become a shell of the person I once was. And it was exhausting.
It was this exhaustion, coupled with my sister’s devastation if I decided to end it all, that led me to get help, even if for one last time.
Though I was deeply grateful for what I’d learnt through years of therapy — how to tackle triggers and lows, recognise negative patterns and my own red flags — it was clearly no longer enough to battle the suicidal thoughts.
I needed to visit a psychiatrist. If medication could dull the incessant pounding in my chest, despite my deep loathing for pills, I was ready.
The first psychiatrist I spoke to diagnosed me with clinical depression prone to panic attacks within the first 10 minutes. My anxiety hit the roof; it couldn’t be. “I’m overreacting,” I gaslit myself. “Things aren’t so bad.” I vented to my best friend and sister, both of whom were surprisingly calm. They explained that if I’d been diagnosed with a physical ailment, like diabetes, a diagnosis would be the first step towards recovery. The same applied to mental health as well.
Still, I wanted a second opinion, so my sister suggested that I speak to a male psychiatrist for a different perspective.
He asked all the right questions: about my childhood, career, marriage and subsequent divorce, getting my personality down with 95% accuracy. Though the diagnosis was the same, he explained the science behind it in layman’s terms. How my brain wasn’t making enough serotonin, resulting in physical symptoms like constant exhaustion, insomnia, and the heart-pounding anxiety. He added that I was probably born with this biological lack of serotonin, but that certain life events, like divorce, could have kicked it into high gear.
He prescribed medication for three months to curb the suicidal thoughts and asked to reconnect after that.
Let me say – the meds were a blessing. My sister christened them my ‘happy pills’. In just a few weeks, I started feeling calm, the pounding in my chest slowed down, the veil of despair began to lift. I was able to look forward to things, like going out on a Friday night, or planning a trip back home to Kolkata a few months down the line. Before the pills, I couldn’t see that far into the future – the image was too blurry.
I still have good days and bad, but with the help of the medication, support from my family and friends, and my own willpower, I’ve made considerable progress. Working out, spending time with those who love me, cutting out toxic people (no matter how difficult) all helped with staying on track. I now work towards short-term goals – I want to live long enough to meet my best friend’s daughter in February. After that, I will set another milestone to look forward to.
If there’s one thing I’ve taken away from this, so far, it’s gratitude. You’ll be surprised by where support comes from. I’m grateful for friends and family, and even my ex-boyfriend, who made me feel safe enough to talk about dealing with suicidal thoughts and depression.
I realised that I was not alone and unloved, as my brain tried to convince me I was. I was not a waste of space, and there were people who would feel the void if I wasn’t around. Loving someone with a debilitating mental illness like depression is not easy — I’ve seen the toll it can take. But we all have those people in our lives, the ones who wouldn’t let us give up on ourselves. And that’s what makes life worth living.
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please reach out to the following helplines.
- AASRA – 91-9820466726 (24X7)
- The Samaritans Mumbai — 8422984528 / 29 / 30 (between 4pm-10pm, all days)
- iCALL – 9152987821 (24X7)
- KIRAN — 18005990019 (24X7)