It was June 2017 and my daughter was only 6 years old. We had just come back home to Mumbai after spending a lovely time in Himachal, where my husband is from. He had stayed back there and it was just my daughter and I, back in Mumbai.
I had been on antidepressants since my awful stint with depression in 2011.To this day I have no idea of what came over me but all I know is that on a whim I decided that since I was feeling so good, (which I was), I should just stop my medicines. Although I clearly knew that to stop antidepressants, you need to taper them down very slowly over a long period of time. I paid no heed to the voice in my head, which for a change, was telling me to do the sane thing. (normally it always tries to pull me in the wrong direction) And one fine day I stopped them! And to make matters worse I completely forgot to watch out for any side effects or withdrawals I would feel.
Slowly the nightmare began to unfold. I realised I’m unable to do regular day to day things, not able to think coherently, not able to finish any task I started, and all this while I was working and looking after my daughter and trying to pretend none of this was happening.
I struggled even with basic chores like cooking a simple breakfast for her before she went to school, something I was used to doing everyday. I am ever so grateful for the sweet lady who used to cook the other meals in our house at that time. She realised something was amiss and helped me, in whatever way she could.
I called my husband and told him the situation but he didn’t comprehend how badly off I was and instead suggested I should come back to Himachal because he couldn’t leave due to work commitments. I also of course called my psychiatrist who was most supportive and he put me back on the medicines. But like some kind of a cruel twist in the tale, I had an adverse reaction to the same medicines that I was used to taking, for so many years. Within an hour of taking the meds my anxiety used to quadruple and I started and stopped the medicines many times without reaching out to my doctor. Since there was no one else in the house I was taking my own decisions using my ill mind’s judgement!
Three horrendous months passed like this and finally I flew with my daughter to Himachal. I wonder how I managed to travel. And I thank God everyday that I didn’t lose her or some such awful thing didn’t happen during my travel or during those months of me being in Mumbai alone with her. When my husband saw me he realised how ill I was. By then I had lost a lot of weight and had dark circles under my eyes.
My husband lives in Kinnaur which is a tribal region and they believe that when someone is sick one of the reasons could be an evil spirit possessing them!! And that’s exactly what they thought when they saw me.
They took me to Mariyog which is literally a few kilometres away from Swamiji’s ashram! And no! I didn’t know about Swamiji at that time.
So we reached this person’s house and since he was busy with some other people he told me to go and wait in a room while my husband, his brother and my daughter waited outside. I distinctly remember that day, that room I was waiting in. There was a ceiling fan in the room and I remember looking up at the fan and looking around for something to hang myself with. I remember scanning the room with my eyes, remember the waves of anxiety just coming and rising higher and higher till I thought I would drown. I remember feeling completely hopeless, thinking I would never feel normal again so what’s the point in living anyway. At some point my husband walked in. He saw me looking around with my eyes glazed and realised I should not be left alone. We did some ritual at their house which I have a vague memory of and needless to say it didn’t help.
Finally I came back to Mumbai, this time with my husband. We visited my doctor immediately and he put me back on the same medication and asked me to not stop it however unbearable the side effects were. I was given more medication to make the side-effects bearable. All psychiatric medicines take a minimum of 45 days to start showing results provided they are not stopped in between. My husband stood by me like a rock and finally after two months of starting the medicines I crawled back to normalcy.
I often think if I knew Swamiji back then he would have surely said to me, “Don’t worry Gauri, everything will be fine. I am there with you through this.” And that thought fills my heart up with love and I know now that I (and all of us) can rest easy knowing He’s got our back.
You can read part 3 Here