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How I dealt with depression and suicidal thoughts

Shankar Ganesh

 Shankar Ganesh

I’ll begin by quoting Jonathan Rodrigues who wrote this piece on suicide in The Hindu:

“Many teenagers die of failure of what I would call an ‘attempt to threaten suicide.’ Their main intention is to deliver a message or a threat demanding attention and love, but they eventually succumb to the tortures they force on their bodies. Suicidal behaviour whether attempted or threatened must be taken seriously and dealt with maturely. It should not be treated as taboo anymore. There is need for discussing the concept of suicide in schools and colleges.”

I come from Tuticorin, India. Growing up, I didn’t know of any gay people, let alone role models. I wasn’t out when I was in high school, but I got bullied for a host of other reasons. During my final years there, I felt lonely and aloof and  I sat through the day, imagining things to write about when I was at home. Computers were my escape from reality. I wrote about technology. I had a personal blog. I connected with tech enthusiasts from across the world. Although my life then was filled with purpose, I still felt alienated as I couldn’t find anyone like me in school. By the time I was done with high school, the awareness of my sexuality had existed in me for years and I was able to fully understand and accept my identity. I thought I was all set for the life ahead of me.

And then I moved out of my town to go to college. The first two years were fine. I made good friends along the way. Then, I fell in love with someone straight and that ripped my heart apart. That was my first real taste of rejection and it was painful emotionally and physically. At that age, love that isn’t reciprocal can make you want to kill yourself. I fell into depression in my last two years of college.

I thought I spent those years wandering around doing nothing, but in hindsight, I actually did a ton of things to put myself back together. I thought I’d share them with you, because you might find them useful when the going gets tough.

 

  • I built a personal support system. I’ve never had trouble finding friends (despite my own bouts of loneliness in both high school and college). By the time I finished college, I was out to around 20 people, including my Dad. I did not plan on building such a circle, but it happened. I had a straight roommate who was also my 4 AM counselor. I had a classmate who was aware of my sexuality and offered reassuring advice when I needed it. Whenever I visited home, there was a childhood friend who stood by me. A lot of others were always there for me no matter what. I actually have a WhatsApp group for my best friends and that’s my go-to place for venting. I know it seems like overkill, and I am sure I’ve taken too much of their time, but truth be told, I wouldn’t have survived if they hadn’t listened to me. Trust me: you’ll also find people like them whose support is priceless.

  • I jumped at every chance I got to socialize. Until college, I always kept to myself, and there’s nothing I enjoyed more than being alone and contemplating random things. But after my depression episode began, every time I got invited to hangout with my friends, I forced myself to go. I made sure I wasn’t alone and that helped me put off suicide. The idea is to surround yourself with people you love, and trick your brain from going down that road.

  • I sought professional help. Though I tried everything I could, sometimes things went way out of control. I’d be depressed one day but feel deeply elated the next and I wondered if I was doing irreparable damage to my mental health. Just being with friends and leaning on them wasn’t enough, so I found an LGBT-friendly counselor in Chennai and sought her help. Although she didn’t have a magic wand, her advice helped and she connected me with organizations in the city that worked on LGBT issues.

  • I read ‘It Gets Better.’ The book had real-life accounts of LGBT people from across the world. Granted, I’ve read a lot about queer issues online, but there’s something that stood out among the anecdotes in the book: ‘it doesn’t get better; you get stronger.’ I couldn’t agree more. I don’t think there was a huge change in public perception in India of LGBT issues; what changed was me. I’ve grown stronger. You’re might encounter homophobic laws like 377, but you’ll grow a thick skin and learn to deal with hate like I did. Just remember: what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger :)

(On a side note: if you’re a parent or a friend of someone who is constantly feeling suicidal, I urge you to read this piece from March 2013 that was published in The Hindu. The real reasons why people try to do what they do, are clearly laid out in this article. I also suggest reading this comic on depression by Hyperbole and a Half because that I am sure it will resonate with you).


Orinam editors’ note: This is one of a series of articles on Orinam that discuss living and coping with depression. Also see Pink Me’s essay No Matter What Happens, and Vinodhan’s essays Storms Without Warnings and Spells and Charms.  For readers who would like to learn more about coping with depression, a guide on mental health for LGBT people developed by Ireland’s Health Service Executive mental health project is available hereAdditional resources are being developed by Orinam and will soon be available here.


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  1. Good article, depression and mental health issues can involve as much stigma as queer issues. I’m glad that you were able to come out of it, many people do not realize the difficulty in fighting the black dog, and instead so easily consider it as a form of ‘weakness’ or playing the victim.

    However, I also think the attitude of handing out steps to deal with depression and meaningful advice can have unintended negative consequences in the absence of mental health awareness in society. This is something that took a long time for me to realize. Not that it shouldn’t be done, but it has the bad side effect of singling out the depressed person and placing the entire burden of change on him while the background causes like life circumstances, social attitudes etc remain totally ignored.

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