Category Archives: Me.

Part i: Do I need a therapist?

(This is Part 1 of a four-part series on how to get help if you think you have a mental illness.)

For months after I wrote this, I received emails that said all kinds of things. Many were warm and confiding, many were heart-breaking and, yet others were full of questions. The few years since I’ve written this, the one question that keeps repeating itself from various sources, time and again, is “I am sad/unhappy/out of control. How do I know I need help?” The emails always make me sad and somewhat heartened. Sad that so many  people go through life with such pain that it stops them from being who they want to be. I am equally heartened because this many people are paying attention to their emotional states, listening to the voice of their hearts and considering that they might need help.

Before I start trying to answer the question that is the headline of this post, I’ll state at the outset that I am no expert. Everything that I list here is entirely my own experience and any suggestions I offer are drawn from how I have gone about getting help, and getting things to be a little better in my life. So with that out of the way, I’ll get on with it 🙂

I’ll go back to many summers ago when I was distraught and it felt like I was being overcome by something I cannot describe. It was the feeling of watching a gigantic, and I mean really fucking enormous, wave rise in front of you, bearings its dipping fangs and threatening to completely obliterate you the minute it loses its battle with gravity. And you? You’re rooted to the spot, like you’ve been many times in a dream, unable to move and save yourself. This feeling attacked me often and intensely when I was a teenager. I have still not learnt to identify it or name it. Overwhelmed? Panic attack? Anxiety? I don’t know and, honestly, now I don’t bother with labels. I just know I am unwell and I (almost always) do my best to take care of myself. This feeling never really went away until therapy started kicking in but I got better and better at hiding it, or worse, escaping from it. And at my worst moments, I’d tell those around me, “Help me, there’s something wrong with me. I need help.” People around me knew just as little as I did, and therefore there would only be helpless hugs, or empty consolations or brushing away of things.

It was when things broke down completely — including me — that I realised I needed some level of help. A very personal incident finally pushed me over the edge and I went to a doctor to get diagnosed. The story of my diagnosis is for another post, one I want to pay particular attention to because it was not something I’d wish on anyone at all.

In the meantime, however, here’s how you can decide that you need to go to a therapist.

  1. When your life falls apart: Simply put, if your heart or your hands or your legs weren’t performing the functions that they were meant to, you’d see a doctor. Similarly, when your mind doesn’t do what it needs to do, you need to get help. What does that mean? Because the mind is tricky and it’s always working; and while it’s working, you think you’re doing the right things, behaving the right way, making the right decisions. And yet, outside of you is chaos. You don’t eat on time (or at all), you probably don’t sleep well (or at all), you’re short tempered, unable to meet even daily goals, you probably overspeed, have accidents, bad relationships. You probably are never able to make decisions when they need to be made because that action paralyses you, and then, suddenly you’re at a point in time when you need to make that decision. So you make that decision last minute, under compulsion, with no more time to consider the matter carefully. You probably miss deadlines, flake on a lot of plans, lose your temper really easily. Needless to say you’re unhappy a lot. The above list is for high-functioning individuals who, despite keeping their jobs and relationships, still find themselves fighting with or being drowned by dark thoughts, for want of a better phrase. When nothing in your life is working, and you find yourself justifying all your fuck-ups (because face it, not being able to perform with a steady mind is going to fuck things up even if it wasn’t intentional), blaming everything else for your circumstances and unhappiness, it might be time for you to consider getting help .
  2. If you’re not high functioning, then this is simple. You’ve probably been sitting in bed for days, have barely eaten or washed this week, you’ve disconnected possibly every phone call that’s come in and have lived your life entirely online. You’ve cried incessantly, you’ve opened up to perfect strangers because the pain inside you felt akin to strangulation. If you’ve done this for over a month, you definitely need help. There may be no diagnosis, there may be no medication (thankfully) and it might be a really mild depressive phase, but catching it in time and fixing it is key. Even better, your treatment might only include a therapist talking to you to get you back on even keel for a bit, asking you to exercise, pick up a hobby.
  3. A third way to consider getting help is when a trusted and trustworthy friend or family member gently suggests (not when you’re having fireworks burn up the room “You’re crazy! Get your head checked”) that you might want to consider getting help for the sake of your own peace of mind.

For me, it all comes down to functioning. People say the point of therapy is that it should open up the pathways to happiness. I call BS on that. The point of therapy is to help you get on track and function fully, individually, to be able to help you achieve your goals and above all, treat your mind and your self with respect. If happiness, as we define it, is the byproduct of that then, yay.

I’d like to once more stress on the functionality bit. It’s not just doing your daily chores and completing your work responsibilities. It’s  being able to function in all areas of life without wanting to slash your wrists or overdose yourself every second day. What areas of life would I say these are? Being a productive, contributing individual: be that at work or home. Being a person capable of love, empathy and kindness: towards strangers, friends, family, oneself, and other living beings you might be fond of.  Being a person who takes joy in their talents, passions and hobbies: to function in this area is to be able to give yourself time that is exclusively yours. This is essential to feeling fulfilled.

I went to therapy because I didn’t love myself (my therapist would argue I still don’t). I went to therapy because the thought of death was blissful (it still is, many times). I went to therapy because I had two little children and I knew needed to be there for them, in spite of believing that anyone else would do a better job of raising them than I would. I went to therapy because every day was a real struggle. It was morning too early and day light felt like scalding water being poured on me relentlessly. I went to therapy because, finally, after all is said and done, our spirits genuinely subsist on hope.

 

 

A little man, some woman, all me.

So I’ve been tagged by two people on the same tag. The very lovely Quicksilver! and the thoughtful Goofy Momma.
The tag is, basically, this.
I am to write down 10 things that people of my gender cannot do/should not do/have never done.
This is a tough one to tag me with because, as my regular readers (all five point three of you) will know the lines in my head that divide things are pretty blurry. My good and bad distinctions, my girl-boy differences and my too much-too little demarcations are pretty fuzzy. So I am going attempt this after having given it a full week of intermittent thought. You’ve been warned. Don’t you judge me on this.
I also strongly believe (and this is something that’s like breathing to me, not something I’ve learnt) that there are no clear gender roles. There is nothing a man can do (which is not biological or involves walking around bare-chested in public) which a woman can’t or shouldn’t do. That we refrain from doing certain things only points to our wisdom. So tolerate me if you think these are not typically ‘male’ things. This is just my classification of what I think are men’s prerogatives, usually. 
Here’s my list, then. 
1) I watch sport more than once in four years. At the risk of getting beaten up by my sisters, most women who have been tweeting, FBing and living football this last month, have been doing it only during the World Cup. If I have TV that’s not been taken over by someone in the family, I watch sport that doesn’t necessarily involve 20 nations. 
2) I know my cars. Really well. 
3) This might be complicated, so bear with me. Men, notice how you put a tee shirt on? Women, do the same thing. And if you have access to each other dressing or undressing, observe how they do it. See a difference? Yes. At least, for most of you. 
I don’t wear tee shirts like a lot of women do. I don’t put it over my head first, then poke one arm through, followed by the other. I pull it on to both arms first and then pull it down over my head. Same thing when I take it off. I tend to cross my arms in front of me and pull it off in one shot. 
Now that you know my dressing habits, may be I should tell you how I shave. 
4) I can shop for the most important things in life in half an hour flat. And I don’t need to “see what’s in Nalli’s or hop over to Zara for one last look.” Whether it’s a wedding sari, precious jewellery or a toy for the kids, half an hour is a lot of time for me.
5) If I need something I’ll buy it. I won’t go back home to pick up a charger I left home or take a detour to office to pick my spare up if I am in a hurry or am travelling or something. I’ll just stop somewhere and buy a third. 
6) I always shake hands when I meet someone new. 
7) I can catch really well. If something’s thrown to me, at me, I can almost always catch it without dropping. With one hand, with two hands, stretching my hand way out, any way. 
8) I like a little of the feminine in my men. I don’t now how that figures here. (I am not going to qualify this one till someone explicitly asks me to, okay? Okay.) 
9) I don’t care about walking in the sun or getting my hair messed up in bed. 
10) I always offer to pay for a meal, first. Not just my share, but all of it. I have no issues with that. 
That took some effort. Quicksilver, Momma, you both will pay. I vow revenge. But meanwhile, here’s someone breaking all kinds of stereotypes. He’s cute, to boot. (Thanks, @LailaNasseri for the link.)

I men-t to do this post some time ago.

I’ve meant to do this post for a while, and no, I haven’t I misspelt the title.

As you will doubtless know by now, I go through life with perennially failed brakes. I take very sharp turns and I almost always rely on my smile and my incredible good luck to keep me from becoming roadkill.

There’s never been an instance where I’ve slowed down, parked and said, wait a minute — look at the map, will you? Look and see if that’s where you want to go. I’ve just put on shades, folded the top down, turned the music up and driven on without watching the fuel gauge or for signboards. And where has that landed me? With a lot of fun. A lot more trouble. A lot of serious heartbreak. If I were the only one, I’d have just sucked it up and gone looking for the next shiny thing that distracted me. But life’s not a one-way road, right? More often than  not, things are a two-way street. On those, I crash into people, swerve wildly to avoid them or just run out of fuel, get off and say hello to whoever else is parked by.

Among those are the men in my life. I love men, as I’ve said before. And I think it would be safe to say they love me. As long as they don’t live with me or know me too well.

But we won’t talk about how they feel about me.

The first, most important and honestly the best man in my life has to be my father.
Before you think I have a huge Electra complex, let me make things clear. We fight. Big time. He speaks Greek in medium tones and I speak Mercurian very fast in a loud voice. And oh, he speaks turning to the wall and I speak loud in a vacuum. We just don’t hear each other. Never.

But for all that, he’s the best man I know. He’s taken all that his circumstance gave him and turned it around to his best advantage. He has every value that I determinedly brush off as not valuable. Only, I know I do it because imbibing those values would mean a lot of very hard work. He has every virtue that makes me scoff but only because I know if I were to appreciate those virtues he possesses, I will never be able to look myself in the mirror and accept the person that I am now.

My father is an intelligent man but he is also limited by his complete and utter respectability. His dignity is great and he’s much fun when he’s a little high. He absolutely loves to annoy a girl or two (me!) but he knows how to make me feel like a princess. He can cut me down, or into a million shreds, with his sarcasm (my wool is black these days, in the family) and his expression of complete resignation but he can also make me feel like a million planets with just one word of praise, a smile of approval. And at 30, I still crave it.

There’s much I don’t like about him but not as much as what he doesn’t like about me. And he still loves me incomparably. So what does that say about him? We fight, we’re rude to each other and we’re very very unforgiving for a few moments in the day, on bad days. But he can reduce me to tears with his great great love. Just like I can him. If there’s a softer heart I  haven’t seen one.

The other day I was thinking about all this and it struck me that the only person I’ve never had a fight with is  my best friend. He’s everything I could ask for — patient, utterly non-judgmental (which is a good thing or I’d  be sentenced so many times, I am that bad) funny, undemanding, giving, and most of all loves me, inconsistencies and all.

I will leave my husband out of this list of the men in my life because I’ve written about him often enough. And will continue doing so. He, after all, is the husband.

I cringe every time a woman says, “Men are bastards.” It’s embarrassing because that woman has for sure met many men who aren’t but she’s choosing to focus on the few that are. It’s funny because I imagine her saying to herself as she tries to look vicious, “Except my dad. And my brother. Oh, and my uncle. Oh yeah, my best friend too. Of course, my English teacher from school.” It’s just stupid because you can’t make sweeping statements of judgement like that. And while I’ve my share of complete and utter excuses for men, I am thankful for these men in my life for helping me maintain a healthy attitude towards men. And so, my list won’t be complete without two people who have contributed towards my constant and undying faith that we cannot, and should not, live without men.

My brother. We are very close in age. We grew up as partners in crime. Then we hated each other — short of killing each other we gave each other every kind of beating. Then he grew up and became stronger — and taller — than me so I couldn’t do as much damage. So we started being snarky and mean to each other. We went through tough times — we didn’t talk to each other for a bit, I threw him out of the house for some time, he messed up the folks with his ‘reading’ of who I was. And now he’s easily older than me in his head, has a reached a place in life after much struggle, strength and thought where I can take his advice, criticism and suggestions seriously. I have never loved him as much as I love him today.

Here’s why he reinforces my belief in the goodness of men.
1) When he hugs a girl, or puts his arm around her, he is extremely careful with his hands. Without being uncomfortable.
2) He has accepted my parents — who I struggle with — as they are and has managed to establish a beautiful, peaceful, trusting relationship with them.
3) He takes his wedding vows seriously. Very seriously. He says till then it was all excitement for him but when he vowed to do what he did, the whole impact of it became larger and reminds himself of it every so often.

Finally, the guy who decided to enter my life in the quietest way possible and stay there forever. No bang at the first meeting, no immediate connection. But I know for a fact that if I ever put my speed dial in use his number would be one of the ones. This friend would also be one of the five I would call if I found myself in trouble that I can’t extricate myself from. If I were to sit down and define a friend, I’d just point people in his direction. He judges without hurting, calls a spade a spade and knows what I am thinking without my saying a word. There’s no pretence, no what ifs, no “I wonder what he’ll think of me if I tell him…”. In one word, he’s what free feels like.

Thinking about these men in my life led me to thinking about what I like in a man. I know this should be a post for Judy or Revs but what’s wrong with a married girl talking about what she likes in a man? I am still a girl, red-blooded and fun at that. Just because I’ve eaten, should it mean I can’t check out the menu? If nothing else, a poor sod asking “What do women want” may actually chance upon this piece and take back something that will leave him less mystified.

Here’s my list.

1. I don’t like a man who doesn’t listen. If you’re saying that’s so typical of a woman because women talk a lot, then I think you’re running away from reality. Men talk a lot. Like a whole lot and nothing flatters them than a woman who listens. I am a good listener because I am genuinely interested in people. And by that coin, I expect the same from anyone, not just a man. In a man, however, it is very special.

2. I like a man to remember little things about me. It could be that I don’t drink aerated drinks or it could be that I love colours white, green and purple. It could be that I prefer sour orange juice over sweet. I’ve so far met only one who does that a lot.

3. I am not overly hung up over funny men. A man’s got to have a sense of humour in the sense that he needs to be able to laugh — at himself, at the world around him, at a joke from Readers’ Digest. It doesn’t matter if he doesn’t have me rolling on the floor, catching my sides, laughing like it was going out of fashion.

4. I like a man who has a passion. Or two. Music, art, reading, riding, cars, cockroaches, forks, watches, mud, Sumo wrestlers. Anything. Just anything that gets him going. And moving.

5. Speaking of which, I like a man who’s active — who walks fast or plays a sport or something. I’ve known non-physical people and I know for a fact that their attitude in life could do with general improvement.

6. I like cheerful men. Not in that irritating blowing-sunshine-up-your-glutes kinda way but someone with a quick smile, on the ready. Someone who laughs at the small ironies of life.

7. A man needs to like alcohol. Really. The ones who don’t, I am very suspicious about.

Men, is that a tall order? And the lovely women who come here, what’s your list?

A photo post…

I love pictures. Mine, others’, taken by me, taken by others. All kinds. My favourite way to spend time on some days is to go through photographs that capture the heart and soul of some thing, place, person.

This picture is of one of my windchimes. At last count I had 10 — bamboo, terracota, ceramic, some strange alloy, plastic, now this. Yes I collect them. This one is my favourite

I also happen to love light. I bought this string of chinese lanterns earlier this year. We are still looking for a place to hang it up. I’d love to put it up on a dresser mirror or any other mirror but it also looks good in a doorway corner. Any other suggestions?

This is how I spent part of my salary. I absolutely adore this compact. It’s all mineral so no preservatives and it glides on like silk, feels like it too. And it gives you just the perfect glow. I say buy. The lipstick, I feel, could have been another colour — basically a nude, shiny shimmer that I already have six of, from various brands. I just cannot experiment with lipsticks.

This is Her Madness Shyama and her psycho Devil In Disguise singing doggy. She loves him with a ferocity that stuns me. Must be his shaggy ears. Shyama came very close to being called Kalindi, which is what I wanted for her. It was also the synonym to Yamuna which was my beloved grandmother’s name. (One of her names in any case). I conceived Shyama the month we lost my ammamma. But for reasons only close friends know, Kalindi had to be dropped. So I went through many many days of wondering before she came up with a list that had Shyama in it. It also mean the dark one, which is what Yamuna means. And so was born Shyama. Eternally grateful, Abhipraya.

 
 

And, finally, this is my marshamallow. He turns 6 months on Valentine’s Day and I love him more with every day.Utkarsh was a surprise to all of us. Call me whatever, but I didn’t know till I was four months on that I was going to be a mother again so soon. Shyama was only 8 months when I found out about Utkarsh. It was not a happy time for me. But I see him now and realise that my life would have been incomplete without him, his ready smiles and his beautiful dimples, had I been early enough to detect my pregnancy and decided against having him. I am just being honest.

 Whatever It Is That Looks After Us, I thank It with all my self for this little gift.

30 and counting

What do I like about having turned 30?

I like that I have mellowed in all the right places. I am still impulsive and I still am careless about who I make friends with. But I am also careful about judging someone. I am slower to judge, but not as slow as I’d like to be.

Increased libido and opening up of sexual worlds. It helps that there’s a husband on the scene to oblige.
You still look like you are in your mid or early 20s — if you are south indian, that is. If you are a washed-out, cranky, whiney north indian then you lost the looking young battle when you were 21. Yes, I am bigot. So people look at you and say whoa! 30, you don’t look it. (What the hell is 30 supposed to look like anyway?)

Add to that two kids and a reasonably well-kept exterior, I am always surprising people. 🙂

I am taken seriously at work even though I wear dresses that end above my knee and moderately plunging necklines because, come on she’s 30 right? She should know what she’s doing. Muahahahah yeah, right!

I can legitimately go for facials and not pretend that my skin is nature’s gift because I washed delinquent doggies last birth, free of charge. It’s a whole different thing that the very two kids who make me look good also come in the way of my trip to the salon.
 
I like saying thirty.

Soul searching

I felt like putting labels to myself. In about five weeks, I’ll be cringing with embarrassment but now I just want to look good to myself.

I’d like to think with me what you see is what you get. Like most human beings I love life, only I suppose I love it lustily, joyously and in a very involved way.
I like to think I have sense of humour even though I might not be the funniest girl about. I get over things pretty easily.
These days nothing seems impossible for me. I am a decent enough writer, a good human being, an honest friend, a feisty woman, a colourful child and a rather intelligent creature on the whole. I also make tons of mistakes, I can barely tell right from wrong because I can justify both, almost always. My smile starts from my heart and I am constantly looking, searching – inside, outside, in between – for myself.
I have a thousand stories to tell. And thousand more words. The connect between the two, however, hasn’t shown itself to me yet. Waiting.
I am super sensitive. But it’ll take you years to figure that one out. Last year was the most defining year of all my 27 years.
I was born under a star that sparkled, crackled, was filled with music and light and spun like crazy while emitting rainbow coloured showers. It was labelled “Super Blessed”.
I believe JK Rowling didn’t make Harry Potter up.
I love Calvin’s dad. He rocks.
I like or feel indifferent towards people immediately. And everytime I have gone against my instinct, I’ve learnt not to do it. Till the next time.
I hated pink for most my life. I love it these days.
I make a mean coffee. Give a mean massage. Love myself. And look forward to life.
In short, I am that spunky, happy, content-with-life girl that I sometimes doubted I’d be.
Enough?