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Written below are the experiences of a student of IIT Bombay. The final stage of moving on from these experiences is to be able to talk about it. We at Insight applaud the courage and perseverance of the author and hope that this post can serve as a reminder that no matter how bleak the circumstances look, asking for help from the right people will only serve to improve the situation.   

“Imagine you have to run a 200km marathon and you put yourself on the highest doses of painkillers to avoid the pain resisting you from running and finally you do get to complete the race. But what after that? When the painkillers are over! Your muscles have suffered enormously beyond their capability during the process, and whatever you do, your muscles are in no position to let you even walk.”

The same thing happened to me – the race was JEE, the painkillers were my motivation, fear and surrounding environment and the muscles were the muscles of my brain. It destroyed me in ways one could never imagine!

IDENTIFYING THE ISSUE

It started in the middle of the 11th standard when I was attending JEE coaching in Kota. It kept getting worse and worse, and as best as I can recall, after joining IIT Bombay, right from the first semester, I was seriously incapable of laughing, enjoying, making friends, feeling happy and much more I don’t have clear words for. Things only got worse as they led me to much more self-destructive paths making self-recovery impossible around the end of the third sem.

I had a lot of trouble making people understand what I was going through. I was having serious inferiority complexes and was very terrified of passing even one more day alive. I used to have and do still have quite severe painful sensations in the brain, resisting even the simple attempts of focussing on anything. I felt isolated as I had come from a small town and the people I met here were mostly out of my league. I could not relate myself to them and was very very hesitant to share my problems with others as for my entire life before joining IITB, I always got to deal with people bullying, trolling, judging and isolating me.

I was obsessed with solving my problems on my own and terrified to take help from anyone. Along with the loneliness that followed, I developed serious levels of OCD (Obsessive and Compulsive Disorder), anxiety attacks and depression. In addition to these and muscular pains in the brain, things went to the level where I even started losing the ability to read and write comfortably. Every word, every symbol started to tease me like hell. Many images concerning sexual orientations of people, any form of untidiness in surroundings, any violent images etc. became unbearable to me. This still happens to me. Even small, small symbols start rotating, expanding and creating painful and irritating sensations. My ability to focus was almost lost. With my OCD growing and taking various painful and unimaginable patterns, many times I had to walk the streets with my eyes nearly closed to avoid catching up any such irritating images in my mind. I dealt with different addictions like TV series, movies, constant eating and constantly worrying over irrelevant issues.

REACHING OUT 

I approached my parents and brother but they were too sensitive and insecure to refer to any medical treatment and tried to fill me in with several home remedies and general ways of staying happy. I respected that at first, but it didn’t happen to bring even a slight of a change. Rather the symptoms worsened. Since they were too oversensitive and caring, and especially insecure to any medical supervision regarding my mental illness, I stopped telling them further as I could not afford to go on with their solution, and neither could I let them feel so insecure and afraid about me. 

I also approached the Student Wellness Center. At first, it didn’t go well. Maybe I could not make myself clear and was also quite full of hesitation rooting out of the level of social acceptance these cases have. I even approached my ISMP mentor but couldn’t get any significant help from him as he himself was too busy during those times. Ultimately, I just stopped telling anyone about it and for about a year, fought it by myself, only to have it in a much worse situation than ever. 

Eventually, though, I am under treatment from a psychiatrist for my muscular migraine-like pains and severe depression and am regularly consulting SWC counselor for changing my depressive, self-destructive habits and indulging in a much more positive scenario of life.

UNDERSTANDING THE CAUSES

The causes, yes, were many. The foremost cause is the way I used up my brain. See, I didn’t even know how to find LCM/HCF in 9th class, and couldn’t even do the simplest of logical reasoning. Being highly ambitious, I pushed myself very strongly!

The absence of people I could openly talk about my problems was a reason that worsened the situation. Even if everyone boasts of acceptance for diseases like mine, believe me – from inside there are rarely any people who help you without judging. I got demotivated by sharing with people by the very response of my ISMP mentor, who didn’t bother to check on me for even a single week!

The non-acceptance and insecurity about such diseases among my family was also a reason. I suggest IITB should at least hold a special orientation for parents to make them understand and accept such diseases before admitting their children to higher education.

One of the most important cause was my own terrible fear and hesitation of not sharing my such problems easily with anyone. I honestly think, had I got a different set of people around me, I would not have gone so deep into my illness rendering me almost handicapped. 

CURRENT STATE 

Currently, I am on the path of recovery! I still have strong painful sensations whenever I try to focus constantly even for 10-20 seconds. I have still almost no or very little control of thoughts. A random set of thoughts strongly flooding through my brain and causing unbearable pain is something I am still recovering from. Now, however, I have many people with whom I have shared my situation. My parents and brother, even if so late, have finally understood the situation and are supporting me in the right way. I am consulting a counselor from SWC. I am regularly meeting a psychiatrist for various issues. My response to the situation has now changed a lot and is improving every day. I finally have people who can understand me and talk to me whenever needed. Since all this took such a tragic turn at the end of 2nd year, I have of course been very disturbed regarding my internship, my career and all that I have lost. But yeah, I will not make previous mistakes again and shall not let my fear ruin my life. I am trying to stay as calm and as much focus as possible at the present moment.