I remember a few years ago when I was working for the magazine, I used to edit my own copies thrice after writing them. After which, I used to print a black and white dummy and proof-read the entire magazine. I corrected the pages on screen, and then took another colour printout and edited and proof-checked again. And before signing off the final dummy, I would read the entire magazine again till I had each headline, intro, and blurb at the back of my mind.

I was the butt of many jokes for my “perfectionist” attitude. Until it reached a stage where my boss actually told me, half in concern and the other half in exasperation, “Okay, Rekha, let a mistake go. Let’s see what happens when we have to print a corrigendum.”

That would perhaps have been an ultimate blow to the walls of perfectionism I built around me. So I read some more… till I was diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder.

With the death of Kate Spade last week, and Anthony Bourdain yesterday, one feels gutted, shortchanged, and helpless.

There’s so much we talk about mental health… yet the stigma remains. We are afraid to seek help… and give help.

I’ve spoken of my experiences with anxiety disorder and depression time and again, and I still get those surreptitious glances and fake smiles. A very good friend, who I reconnected with after 30 years just said, “Don’t tell me anything. You are okay now and it’s all that matters.”

Why don’t we want to talk or hear anything to do with mental illness? The most educated are perhaps the most ignorant.

The term “depression” is bandied about quite loosely. If you are sad, it does not mean you are depressed. Yes, if the sadness lingers and takes over your life, it’s time to ask for help. Look up terms like Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia… there are plenty of mental health disorders that affect people. You can’t simply wish them away by denying their existence.

What one can do is quite simple. Listen and observe your loved ones. Don’t judge them for what they are going through. If you are the person suffering, listen to yourself. Go to a professional for help. Understand that medicine and therapy go hand in hand. And no, you won’t get addicted to anti-depressants if you follow what your doctor says and she will help you to taper the dose whenever required. Incorporate exercise into your lifestyle. Get your doses of serotonin and dopamine by making some small changes.

No one said life is easy. It can be underwhelming, overwhelming, difficult and bizarre. It’s okay to feel what you are feeling.

There are helplines and organisations and some wonderful people who have made it their mental health their mission. Personally, I have been blessed to be a part of Sayyida Basma Al Said and Whispers of Serenity’s Not Alone Campaign in Muscat. Closer home, in Bengaluru, I know Nelson Moses’s Suicide Prevention Foundation of India is doing brilliant work in suicide prevention.

Remember, you are not alone. This is my promise… I may not be a counselor or therapist… but I will give you my patient ear, understanding and confidence.

I have been there… and that’s why I talk of depression, again and again.


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