Breaking the Mould of Peer Pressure

A question that sometimes drive me hazy: am I or are the others crazy?

Since as long as I can remember, I’ve been aware of the realisation that most of the time my likes and dislikes are quite different and distinct from the people around me. It would appear as if the whole world is obsessing over a certain fad at the moment while I’m unable to see any charm in that particular thing. More often than not, I absolutely abhor or despise it.

Time and time again, I’ve tried to ascertain the reason behind this discrepancy, because, like everyone else, I wanted to fit in or felt pressured to do so by peers. I failed to understand if I did not want to follow the beaten path merely because so many others were doing the same or was there some other factor involved? Would I have given the object/substance/matter in question a fair chance in vacuum without knowledge of the fact that people were going bonkers over it? It was baffling and somewhat disconcerting.

As of yet, I have no answer. Over the years it had become more and more difficult to define my own choices, to choose my own desires. It was easy to get swayed by popular opinion because of the tendency to be one of the flock. Any deviation from the ordinary is usually looked upon with scepticism and I really did not want to draw attention to myself. Was I being true to myself, however, was an entirely different question. All the lines had gotten blurry.

What I do know, today, is that it’s alright to be different. It’s alright to think differently, to choose differently and to decide differently. Peers are just that. Peers. They are not you. You’re your own person. It does not matter why your wavelengths don’t match those surrounding you. What matters is being unperturbed by their existence and concentrating on your own. So many children buckle under peer pressure. So many college kids get goaded into doing things they don’t like to the extent that it they end up ruining their lives. It is important to learn to say no. To put your foot down and draw the line between what is acceptable to you and what isn’t. No one can take the right away from us. All that’s needed is a simple assertion from our end. Within no time at all the notion of fitting in would look like the smokescreen it actually is. Sooner or later, invariably, everyone ends up finding like minded people. Thus, it is imperative to thrive in your individuality rather than to suppress it, to let yourself grow into what you’re meant to be and not what others would like to see you as.

At the end of the day, and also to answer the questions I posed earlier, remember the words of the good ol’ Cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland – “We’re all mad here”.

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More than Breath and Bones

They will remember for a year,

They will talk for a month,

They will mourn for a week,

And they will weep for a day.

You’ll become a name

To be taken with a sigh

Till their minds are shattered

By another tragedy.

They might hold a wake,

They might create a memorial,

They might build a sepulchre,

They might even sing an ode to your sorrow.

Yet, in the end,

It does matter.

The life you’ve lived, the memories you’ve created, the love you’ve given and the love you’ve received.

You’re more than the sum of your parts. You’re someone’s hope, someone’s inspiration, someone’s support, someone’s desire, someone’s family, someone’s entire life.

So when you feel you’re falling,

When the future seems too bleak,

When you feel like giving up,

Take a long hard peek,

At the pages of your life,

At the imprints left by people,

At the threads interconnected,

At the lives interwoven.

Then pull upon the spirit of human resilience,

And show your demons

That they can’t get you down

Because you’re not alone in this battle,

You’ve got an army by your side.

Then rise,

Rise again,

From dust and dirt

Because you’ve undergone a trial by fire

And proven to be more than just

A whisp of breath and a skeleton of bones.

The world is still reeling in the aftermath of Chester Bennington’s suicide. I, for one, am yet to come to terms with the fact that Robin Williams, the quintessential joker, suffered a a similar end after battling depression. There are thousands of other souls who have given up or are in the process of losing their hold on life. Every day is a struggle, each moment, an insurmountable challenge. I wish I could do more to help them. I wish there was an instant cure, a remedy that could take away all their ailments. There isn’t. But what we, each one of us, can do is spread the word on the importance of mental health. Break the taboo surrounding mental illnesses. Uplift these tribulations to the same level of concern that our physical well-being is regarded with. Because, for lack of a better comparison, mental illness is akin to cancer, a tumour that gnaws at us from within. A parasite that lives within us and thrives on us. And in the end, it eats us whole. An early diagnosis and apt treatment, however, is still our best and safest bet. So reach out, recognise mental ailments, get their victims/patients the help they deserve. Do not undermine their pain, alleviate it. Do not make them pariahs, their own minds do that enough. Every step, be it counselling, therapy, or medication, helps. So let’s vow to open our eyes and gently, but surely, in the words of another troubled soul, heal the world. I am urging everyone because more often than not the victims of mental illnesses will be unable to identify their symptoms, but the people around them can very easily notice red flags. So let’s all do our bit and help our fellowmen.

To read more on the importance of mental health awareness and a poetic description of some illnesses and how they affect victims, click here.

I would also like to thank Christine Ray, who has a wonderfully inspiring blog – http://www.braveandrecklessblog.com – for the title and last line of this poem. “Breath and Bone” was a writing prompt challenge hosted on her blog and although I’m too late to submit an entry for it, I do wish to thank her for coming up with words than can be interpreted in a myriad ways and depict the struggles faced by us.

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Pop! Goes the Weasel (Mental Health Awareness #5)

All round the mulberry bush

The monkey chased the weasel 

The monkey thought ’twas all in fun

Pop! goes the weasel.

If you’re a reader, a fan of books, passionate about words, you know all too well that a nursery rhyme is never just that. Right from Dame Agatha Christie who very creatively incorporated lines from rhymes as book titles to set the stage for her mystery sagas (A few notable examples of Christie’s titles being One, Two, Buckle My Shoe, A Pocket Full of Rye, Three Blind Mice, Hickory Dickory Dock – Please feel free to treat these as book recommendations), to Sidney Sheldon whose use of the nursery rhyme quoted above still sent chills down my spine.

In continuation of my regular series aimed at spreading Mental Health Awareness, today I shall be basing my post on a novel titled “Tell Me Your Dreams” by the aforementioned Sidney Sheldon. If you’ve already read the book, then I do not need to fret over revealing spoilers. If you haven’t yet, then, really? why haven’t you?! And do I really need bother about revealing details to such people? Eh, No!

Jokes apart, I wouldn’t dream of spoiling any book for anyone, yet, the topic that I intend to cover today is more important than any of this. So, here it goes. (Please read on, I assure you, you will still enjoy the book even after this.)

Continue reading “Pop! Goes the Weasel (Mental Health Awareness #5)”

Mind and Body

So I haven’t posted anything in a while. I’ve been slightly busy with family engagements. However, today, during the midst of a family dinner, a thought struck my mind and I haven’t been able to shirk it off till now. So here I am, getting it all out.

As some of you might know, I was recently doing a regular feature on Mental Health Awareness. I discussed the importance of breaking the taboo surrounding such issues and to always get appropriate help in this regard. Then I proceeded to pen down my own interpretations of some mental health issues like depressionanxietyself-doubtMaladaptive Daydreaming. Today I realised how I missed out on a very important aspect of mental health. This is my rectification of the same.

This happens to be the physical aspect of mental health. No, no, hear me out. I get that common understanding dictates mental and physical health to be two different categories albeit that go hand in hand. What I’m trying to propose here is that they’re one and the same. You cannot have without the other. Hence, you need to strive to have both.

A case in point being my own journey in the past two years. Working long hours as a corporate lawyer takes its toll on not just your sleep, time and peace of mind but also your physical fitness. Most days I could not take out any time to eat and survived on black coffee. No meal was ever on schedule and we all know how harmful that could be. Late working hours also ensured that home cooked food became a luxury I could no longer afford. Ordering food to be delivered to my office became the go-to resort. Needless to say, all such food was very detrimental to health by virtue of being very heavy, oily, fried, unhygienic and nowhere near about fit for regular consumption.

Resultantly, I ended up gaining 20kgs. It didn’t help that I’m also short. Thus, there was nothing to prevent me from looking like a football. Thank god for gravity and friction or one strong kick would have had me rolling round the universe for eternity.

These two years have also been my lowest as far as mental health is considered.

Since the past six months, however, I’ve put my heart and soul into taking back control of my body. I’ve lost 12kgs and have 8 more to go. I feel fitter, lighter but most surprisingly, happier. My outlook has become more positive not just towards life but also things that invariably used to pull me down. So without even having to put an effort into bettering my mental health, improvements in my physical health led me to an unforeseen and way better emotional headspace.

Thus, I reiterate, even though mental and physical health go hand in hand, they’re not two sides of a coin. In essence, they’re much the same. A healthy mind would prefer to reside in a healthy body and make sure that happens. A healthy body will do all it takes to provide a mental workout to your mind. Either way, health will Triumph

It’s not mind over body, you all. Its mind and body. Be healthy, be happy, take back control of your lives and live long and prosper!

Also, if any of you need any motivation or tips to achieve fitness, mental or physical/mental and physical, I’m always available to help in any manner I can to the best of my ability. Please feel free to comment or drop a mail at varnikajain92@gmail.com. I promise to respond within a day with the best advise I can muster!

[P.S. – Wish me luck for the remaining 8kgs. A little support goes a long way 🙂 ]

A thing of beauty, is in pain forever

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Her eyes crinkle as she laughs

A full-throated, soulful chime.

Her expressions flicker across her face,

Betraying her thoughts every second of the day.

They come and go with each word she says

A little before and a little behind.

Her hair are a golden brown,

Like sunshine dipped in cinnamon,

Falling in gossamery wisps to frame her face,

The curls bouncing with every breath.

Her skin all honey and caramel,

Contrasting against her peachy lips,

That carve a bow with such a perfect arch,

That even cherubs would fail to match.
Then in an instant all that beauty dissolves

When she smiles in utter melancholy,

Over a pain too great for her eyes to contain,

As she pays a price far too dear

For a man’s thoughtless folly.

If you’re happy in a dream, does that count?

If you’re happy in a dream, does that count?
Even if reality is full of hurt,

Where dreams turn dull and ambitions turn to dust.
If you’re happy in a dream, does that count?

Even if you desperately need an escape

Because in this world there is no place for hope.
If you’re​ happy in a dream, does that count?

Even if you’ve lost track of the last time you smiled or had a hearty laugh

When the tears in your eye were only of pure joy.
If you’re happy in a dream, does that count?

Even if the world around you pulls you into abject misery

Where men become beasts and lose all humanity.
If you’re happy in a dream, does that count?

Even if you’ve lived through terrors untold

That no person should ever have to see.
If you’re happy in a dream, does that count?

Even if you never want to wake up.
If you’re happy in a dream, does that count?

Illusion

The downside of Walter Mitty (Mental Health Awareness #4)

We have all come to know and love the harrowed, milequetoast of a man by the name of Walter Mitty. Be it through Ben Stiller’s portrayal of him in the movie or through the written word of James Thurber, we have all taken an unusual amount of delight in his escapades from the real world, especially from the browbeating of his overbearing wife.
For the uninitiated, Walter Mitty was an avid daydreamer to the extent that he hallucinationed about his daydreams. From a war-time pilot, to a world renowned surgeon, to a roguishly carefree murderer, Walter Mitty became all, albeit in his own mind. He  took no time in creating an Imaginary, idealized, heroic persona of his meek self at the slightest of emotional triggers.

We have all laughed at his antics. We have also sympathised with the poor chap when he invariably got pulled out of his reveries just seconds before his moment of glory. Yet, behind this obsessive facet of the character lurks a deeper, important issue.

It is imperative to not overlook the fact that his daydreams were vivid with great detailing, idealized, to the extent that in them he became the exact opposite of himself, and, lastly, lengthy. Furthermore, on reading between the lines, it becomes quite easy to see that he was a depressed, lonely soul, isolated from most wordly and social interactions.

This isolation and substitution of social interactions with daydreams portraying a glorified sense of self is what I want to bring to your attention today. Coined as Maladaptive Daydreaming (MD), this mental illness has highly debilitating effects on sufferers. Spending hours at a stretch inside a dream, while real life continues, people ailing from MD lose their grasp on reality. While inside a dream, they are oblivious to the passage of time in the real world. They might also not be able to identify their emotional triggers and not be prepared to face them, thereby spiralling into dreams at the most unexpected of times. There have been instances of patients who’ve kept on walking till their feet bled because they’d started daydreaming and did not realise how long it had been. Thus, in effect, it is quite easy to lose oneself if you’re suffering from MD.

This is precisely why it is necessary to spread awareness about this Mental Health issue so that affected persons or their well-wishers can get the required help. I believe every person is beautiful in his or her own right and no one should have to feel so down in the dumps that they have to end up imagining a better version of themselves, a better life for themselves, better friends, better job, better everything rather than actually working towards it. Let us make sure no one gets subjected to such abject misery.

(This is post is a part of my regular feature on Mental Health Awareness. I have previously written on the importance of disseminating awareness on mental health issues here, on depression here, on anxiety here and on self doubt here. If you like and support my efforts in this venture, please share and spread the word. I shall be eternally grateful for this act of kindness on your part. Thank you 🙂 )

Look! Do you see? (Mental Health Awareness #3)

“Look! Do you see?”
He asked as he turned her to face the mirror and removed his hand from over her eyes.

Perplexed, she gazed up and down. It was just her, as she usually was.

“Do you see how beautiful you are?”

He asked her while holding her from behind.
That’s when she realised what he was trying to do.

Every time he called her beautiful, she’d smile a condescending smile. Of course, she knew better. He was blinded with love, but she, she could see. All her imperfections, all of her flaws.

Every time he admired her confidence, she could only manage a smirk. Pfft, it’s all a facade. She’s always a nervous wreck inside.

Every time he complimented her intelligence, she’d just absently nod along. Second guessing her every decision, thought and action was second nature to her by now.

Every time he’d be left flummoxed. Wondering how an amazing person could be so crippled with self doubt.
He’d call her resplendent, radiant, ethereal and hoped that she’d believe. She’d only hug him back and hoped he’d stop speaking.

Every word of praise just made her feel like an imposter. She knew of all her failings. She was never worthy enough, she could never deserve enough, she was not bold enough, she was not smart enough, what she did wasn’t enough, she was just never enough. She was never enough.
“Look!” She cried, as she turned away from the mirror. “Don’t you see?”
(This post is a part of my regular feature on Mental Health Awareness. Self doubt, coupled with anxiety, eats away at the very core of a person. They may look confident and poised and, yet, be riddled with the worst of fears, with the least of confidence and the most of undeservedness. I am trying to do my best in spreading the word about mental health issues to break the taboo surrounding them. The aim is to help people recognise warning bells and seek proper help for themselves or their loved ones. If my efforts strike a chord with you, please spread awareness around you as well.

I’m also providing links to my previous posts hereinbelow:

  1. The importance of spreading Mental Health Awareness 
  2. My personal experience with depression – In all things beautiful
  3. My perspective on anxiety – Where do you go to, my lovely?

Thank you)

 

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Where do you go to, my lovely? (Mental Health Awareness #2)

Where do you go to my lovely?

When you’re alone in your bed.

Won’t you tell me the thoughts that surround you?

I want to look inside your head.


As the haunting tones of the song wore on,

I thought if someone really knew,

What it was like to be,

A victim of your own mind?

A prison of your own making, where you’re eternally entrapped.
Can anyone really comprehend what it’s like

To have a mind that never rests?

During the day or at ungodly hours

The wheels, they keep on turning.

Till you go crazy trying to calm down

A mind that’s always churning.
Your eyes turn red and swollen, your body goes all slack.

Because sleep, the rest for the weary, oh, sleep is something you dearly lack.
You think of this and you think of that,

Of things long gone,

And the ones yet to come

Or even of what may go wrong.

What if, what if, the questions go on

But the irony is, one has nary a clue

Of answers to them

Because there can possibly be none.
Do you comprehend what it’s like,

To live in all pervading anxiousness?

There’s an inner voice that doesn’t stop speaking.

Some people say it’s best to ignore it.

But I wish they could see

How it’s the only one I can hear.

I know of nothing except it,

For my anxiety is my guiding light

How do I function bereft of it?
So, now do you know what it’s like

To be a victim of your own mind?

 

(P.S. :This is a part of my regular series on spreading mental health awareness. To read more on it or to spread the word, please click here. To read my previous post on a struggle with depression, click here.

Also, the song quoted in the beginning is a personal favourite and comes highly recommended so I’m sharing the link here. Enjoy!)

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Mental Health Awareness Post (Regular Feature #1)

Hello, everyone!
We can change the world, one word at a time. On this note, today, I’m going to do my bit by spreading awareness about mental health issues. I may not be qualified enough to decipher the intricacies of functionings of the human mind. However, I’m acutely aware that mental illnesses are still considered taboo in our society.

No one recognises, addresses, discusses or resdresses these problems. Yet, you’d be  surprised to know that mental illness is not a dirty secret to be always kept under wraps.

I have previously written about my experience and learning from my struggles with depression. There are many more such ailments like anxiety, insomnia, obsessive compulsive disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, attention deficit disorder, disassociative identity disorder, even kleptomania, to name a few.

Surprisingly enough, these conditions can be plaguing even the most, to be politically correct, “normal” of people around us. Outwardly, they might appear to have a handle on everything while inwardly they may be falling apart.

The irony of the situation is that these, unlike severe forms of cancer, AIDS, etc, are either curable or controllable for the most part. It is only the lack of awareness about them or the fear of facing social stigma that prevents us from seeking help.

So, I urge you to not take your mental health lightly. You are not crazy. It does not matter what the world says as long as you have a healthy mind and body, am I right? Your problem might be small, manageable by way of counselling; big, requiring therapy; or severe, requiring intensive therapy and medications. Yet, no problem, big or small, should be left unattended. Get it checked, get it treated. It is way more important than fretting over a pimple on your face, for sure!

I also urge each and every one of you to look around your for signs of mental problems in the people around you. Read up on mental health. Learn to read and recognise the signs. See if a person is only an introvert or is cutting himself off from society. Then, wherever possible, reach out and provide assistance. Let the person feel like they matter. Give them the encouragement to get the help they so badly need.

Mens sana in corpore sano – a healthy mind in a healthy body…let this be your motto.

Also, if this post strikes a chord with you, then please keep an eye out for this space. I shall endeavour my very best to provide as much information as I can on this issue on a regular basis. Next up will be my take on Maladaptive Daydreaming and its implications. Meanwhile, this post will shed some light on this malady.

To read my previous post on a personal struggle with depression, please read In all things beautiful.

Thank you for your time!

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