Today is probably the most weird anniversary- 12 months of being diagnosed ‘Clinically Depressed’! I believe I am 80% better and 2017 will be the old happy me with loads of wisdom and weight gained in 2016. The above image was taken in Halvas, Gujarat – the focus was cotton cycle and this was our first shoot of a 13 shoot series project. It was just perfect …till I boarded the flight back home. I felt so much anxiety that I wanted to deplane and figure out other means of transport.  Though I did calm down later, I was baffled at my own behaviour.  Then of course such behaviour became patterns and I stopped meeting people and stopped shooting. I retreated into the comfort of my dark room and discovered the new unsocial me.  And then followed these crazy 12 months.

Looking back at these months fills me with a myriad of emotions. I shiver with fear as I remember the darkest days and I smile at the brave efforts I kept making even then. I cry for the precious moments lost in my dark room and I feel tremendous gratitude at amazing friends and family who still are trying to make me deal with this.  So today’s post is about everything this year meant for me…and in no particular order (read at your own risk, as always!)

1. There is nothing that is NORMAL for EVERYONE. There will be something that a majority might expect you to do or have, and call that normal.  And that same behaviour might be abnormal for the non-majority.

For instance, I would say grey hair is normal for people above 40 while if you look around, you will realise most women around you don’t have grey ever (except on bad non groomed days, thanks to the ease of hair colouring options available these days).

I have learnt that I just need to listen to my heart and do what I believe is right without judging others.  And I am trying to have the relaxed freedom of not minding what anyone else thinks of me.

2.  For general peace in life, you need to learn to love yourself. It’s way more important than anything else on your to-do list ever. Be kind to yourself, take steps for fitness, cultivate meditative practices for mental health, pamper yourself like you would pamper your loved one, take time out to look in the mirror and say “I love you” to yourself.

I have learnt I can be a better daughter, wife, mother, friend, photographer by just loving myself more. When I take care of my happiness, I automatically am better geared to play all the roles.

3. Clinical depression is not an infection which will go away after a week of antibiotics.  It is unpredictable as it is different for each one and it refuses to follow any form of time lines. So please don’t expect to recover in a month or a year – everyone has a different journey. However it is like a cult – membership by experience only. It amazes me that every time I hear someone talk about depression from personal experience, I feel a special bond with the stranger because all of a sudden I know he/ she gets it.

The other day when I was listening to Leonard Cohen’s interview, I instantly felt his pain when he said “I’m trying to describe clinically like an acute depression. It’s not really depression, it’s a kind of mental violence which stops you from functioning properly from one moment to the next. You lose something somewhere and suddenly you’re gripped by a kind of angst of the heart and of the spirit.”

4.  I would love to say it’s been a horrible dark 12 months and I wish I had never experienced it –  but I know that will be unfaithful to the new ME! For me this one year has been like a crash course in “growing up” and it’s kinda cool with all the reiki, meditation, therapy, self-help books, fitness focus. I have had the opportunity to read amazing books and understand a little about gorgeous beauty of this madness called life-the following are the ones am definitely reading again:

a) The Mindful Way though Depression -Williams, Teasdale, Segal, Kabat-Zinn

b) A deep breath of Life – Alan Cohen

c) I can make you Happy – Paul McKenna

d) The Book of Joy – Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, Douglas Abrams

e) You can Heal you Life – Louise Hay

f) The Magic – Rhonda Bryne

g) Your Handwriting Can Change your Life – Vimala Rodgers

h) The Life Changing Magic of Tidying up – Marie Kondo

i) Loving what is – Byron Katie

j) The Power of Now – Eckhart Tolle

5. The most important lesson learn – The Call to Presence. It can be expressed in various ways of Mindfulness, The Power of  Now etc. For me it is to say that RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW is all I have. Every time my mind wanders and tries to ruminate, I try to pull it back to the present as much as I can – and just that makes every thing better. It’s not that I don’t worry about the future or cry for the past, it is just that now I usually know exactly what I am doing and label it as ‘thinking’, ‘planning’, worrying’.  So the mind is not wandering aimlessly and getting stuck in sad corners but I have the power to pull it back to the present (OK not all the time but I am getting better!)

I am probably just rambling and totally appreciate your patience to read till now. I guess all I am trying to say is that am torn between hating this year and loving these 12 months.  And since I am intrinsically the optimist, I know all this is for a greater good and have absolute hopes of as fairy tale present and future. Thank you for reading.