21:48 hrs, Walking In Cold Rain And Darkness

Helplessness

Hopelessness

Worthlessness

 

These are the three words handed to an undergraduate medical student as the markers of depression.

As you grow up and enter the post-graduate world, you learn that there is more to depression than just these three catchphrases. But, the actual blow falls when you realize that even after graduating from the 2 mark answer to the 10 mark answer, you still meet the brief.

I had my suspicions; and now, with a whole 1 month of specialised experience behind me, I’ve confirmed those suspicions. I was, indeed, in a state of depression most of the last two years.

This post however, is not about that period. It’s about now, when I’m in the process of kicking off the cobwebs and really, truly, undeniably re-entering the fully functioning world. I’m realising now, that it’s not such an easy process. Of course, the cardinal symptoms of low mood, insomnia and binge-eating are not in evidence now. But, they are not so far off either.

I know that it’s an on-going struggle from the moment I open my eyes to the moment I open my eyes again the next morning. Until I stop asking myself, do I really need to do this or go there or talk to that person, I’m in the warzone. And the moment I let my guard down, I fear they might engulf in their web again.

I think it’s the first time in my life that I’m enjoying living in fear; because as long as the fear exists, I know I haven’t given up and as long as I haven’t given up, I’m winning this game of tag.

I can relish the feeling of happiness again. I can laugh again without feeling guilty. I want to hold on to this feeling of wholesomeness with everything I’ve got. So, I’ve decided to push aside the disappointment in my heart at not achieving my dream. I’ve decided to stop putting myself down over unfulfilled goals and start writing up my new goals. I’ve decided it’s time to look forward and if I do happen to look back, I want to remember the new friends I’ve made, the special memories I’ve collected with my family and the unique experience that life has given me. No more. Nothing else.

My life is within my reach again and this time, I’m not letting it go.

 

**

17:00 hrs, It’s Raining!

Today I did one of those perfect things.

It’s raining here. Earlier it was a beautifully breezy evening and even as I extended my walk back home by going to buy milk from across the road, the first drops began to fall. My glasses got foggy, then blurred. My kurta caught in the wind and flapped against my legs with a dancer’s grace and my pace slowed down even more as the melody in my ear synchronised with the falling raindrops.

I climbed the three floors to my room today without it making me feel like I’m 80 years old. Then, I hung on the parapet wall unwilling to leave these bountiful clouds and swaying trees. It’s past 4 PM on a weekday and usually at this time, I would be panting with the effort to keep my lungs inside my chest while my keys play hide and seek with my fingers in the bag. But today…today, I was smiling because my lungs were where they should be, my keys were in my hand and I had a milky sweet coffee to look forward to.

So, what was the perfect thing I did?

Steaming coffee in hand, I dragged my chair out into the corridor. As the rain spray painted it’s art on my glasses, I sipped my coffee, ignored my burnt tongue and looked out into a misty view that promised new memories and better beginnings.

Maybe ending up by the roadside on a highway is not so bad after all. 

🙂 

08:49 hrs, At The Start Of A New Day

I was standing in front of the mouse-pad sized mirror I’d acquired for my room, my compact in hand, precisely dabbing away at my dark circles, when I realised how much I’ve changed.

My morning routine used to be one reminder to brush my teeth and another to run a comb through my hair; and the second one was optional. 

Over the last five years however, it has gradually undergone a change without me really noticing.

I used to wake up at 7:45 and be in class by 7:55. Now, I wake up at 8:00, brew some green tea, wash my hair, try on clothes till I find one I like, apply “make up”, straighten the violent curls of my hair and finally, rush out in a panic because it’s already 9:00 and I’m late.

So, this morning when I suddenly glimpsed myself in my size 8 shoe-sized mirror holding up a compact to my face, the realisation hit that I’m no longer that scatter-brained teenager with only the thoughts of the current season of Castle and no responsibilities. 

Somehow, when I wasn’t looking, adulthood crept on to me and made me think about how I look and how I present myself. Things I never considered, like decor and cleanliness, have been taking up my time. I wash my jeans; I iron my clothes; I clean my floors and I bought a shoe rack for my shoes rather than just shoving them under my bed.

So, this morning, as I stood gobsmacked in front of my Agatha Christie novel sized mirror, a single question was knocking against my brain: 

When did I grow up?

**

10:33 hrs, Walking Down The Hospital Hallway

It’s my first Sunday morning here and it’s beautiful! On the outside at least. On the inside, there’s no water in the faucets and I’m going stir crazy. 

The view I have from my 3rd floor shows me a road that goes on and on. I want to be on that road. I want to be able to drive down to the city and then, drive away from it. It’s Sunday, I have nothing to do and nowhere to be until 8 in the night and I want to get out of this campus.

This is all due to the bad habit I picked up during college and then, reinforced later when I was at home for the last 3 years. I would go out every week. At least once a week. Sometimes, more. Of course, it’s not a bad habit, per se. But, when you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere and the most reliable mode of transportation you have is your own two legs, you tend to curse all those friends who indulged your crazies and went along with your unplanned outings for not being here, with you, right now.

So, dear friends, new and old, you’re in my thoughts this lovely Sunday morning, and I curse you all to hell. 

Now that that’s off my chest, I’m going to go enquire into those beautifully rickety auto rickshaws I see standing outside the gates. Happy Sunday, y’all!

😀

08:10 hrs, In A Mirror-less Room 

My new room has a door, a window, a bed, and nothing much else. I’m living among suitcases strewn across the floor because there’s a closet-sized bathroom, but no closet and I have an extra 30 minutes to sleep in every morning since there’s no mirror to get ready in front of. 
But this morning, I woke up before my alarm went off, I washed up an hour before I had to and I had so much extra time on my hands that I finally decided to reacquaint myself with my face. Hence, came out the little compact with its tiny mirror and me, feeling like quite the diva holding it up to my face. 

While it’s no fun trying to apply kohl single handed, there’s yet another reason to dislike these teeny-tiny reflective surfaces, I realised; they show your face in agonizing detail. I could spot every little testosterone-y strand of hair on my upper lip. I could see just how bushy my eyebrows had gotten. I could study in great detail the dark hollows beneath my eyes where shadows seem to have taken up permanent residence. 

Along with all of these newly-acquired concerns, my hand stopped and my face rushed close to the mirror when I noticed these little pockmarks guarding my nose from either side. Remnants of an adolescent battle with acne that, obviously, I lost. I poked, I prodded, I stretched the skin between my fingers and admired the tenacity of a little pocket of dirt in the scar that it left behind on me. 

And then, I couldn’t help it, I laughed. This entire exercise of looking at my face, pointing out its many faults, studying my perceived defects…it rushed through my head in one shot and I felt like I was in the middle of a Bridget Jones’ movie. So, I laughed. 

Why are we so afraid of looking like we do? We want to change this, tweak that. Well, change is constant and shouldn’t be feared, I agree. But, that goes both ways- change that’s apparently good and change that’s apparently bad. Laugh lines, wrinkles, grey hair and even pockmarks left behind by an earlier bout of acne.

This morning, my mirror helped me take a walk down memory lane into those times when exams meant a pimple blooming on my cheek and summer was heralded by another one under my eyebrow. It reminded me of all those arguments between my mother and me over things that apparently needed to be applied to my face. I remembered shared commiseration over teenage issues in college- a discussion that started with pimples and ended in women’s lib during those days of idealism and greasy food. 

So many memories rushed through my head in a moment all due to a few pockmarks and a mirror. See, I’ve lived for 25 years on this planet. Six of those were spent being a teenager. These marks on my face- they are reminders of a time when I cried dramatically in a locked room, of when I fought tooth and nail with my mother against every little thing, of a time when friends meant everything. They remind me of times that make me laugh fondly when I look back at them now. 

These tiny scars that showed up in my mirror are all part of and signs of a life well-lived and memories made. So, in that moment, I grew rather fond of those pockmarks on my face. I hailed their good job in guarding my nose and blew myself a kiss. 

😀

13:39 hrs, In An Empty OPD

So, I’ve started my residency in psychiatry as of yesterday in a hospital that’s smack in the middle of a highway. I could walk up and down the road for as far as 5 kilometres without coming across one store that would sell me chips.

So I thought, when I was moving here, that’s good. With my weight hitting an astonishing number on the scales and my mother seeing a blob everytime she looked at her daughter, it’s a very good thing that my school is in the middle of nowhere. With no options, I’d have to eat whatever they serve in the college mess and they definitely wouldn’t serve me chips or instant noodles. The time felt finally ripe for a junk food detox and I decided this was it.

A decision that lasted for a grand total of 30 minutes after my mum kissed me goodbye. 

You see, I hadn’t reckoned with the tuck shop packed beneath my hostel. I hadn’t reckoned with how fond I was of dinners with my laptop. I hadn’t reckoned with the strength of my reluctance to go to the mess alone. Try as I might, I couldn’t bring myself to mingle with the crowd talking over a shared dinner.

This almost irrational fear of a potential awkward meal trumped the rumbling of my stomach last night. It even trumped the knowledge that I’m going to wake up in the middle of the night aching for a snack that I don’t have because of that imagined detox. My options narrowed down tragically to live on water or go, buy that packet of instant noodles from the tuck shop.

Well, you can guess what I did. 

I’m not hungry anymore. But, two meals have gone by since then and I haven’t gone to the mess for either of them. But, I’m an optimistic person. So, I have high hopes for sociability quotient. One day it’ll improve and that day, I’ll go to the mess, alone and confident. 

Until then, I’m seeing a potential new friend in the tuck shop guy.

😀

08:06 hrs, In a new city

Well, city might be a stretch. It’s more of a town that’s still in the process of becoming a city. And into this confusing mass of cement and flesh, I moved!

Well, again it’s a stretch to say that I moved into the city… because the school that I got into is about 25-odd km away from that place. But, I can’t​ bring myself to care. Because I’m getting to start my residency in psychiatry and I don’t really want to look beyond that.

Beyond that, you see, is a shitty room at an exorbitant price, weather that melts my face off and my car that I left behind at home. 

So, let’s not think too much, I tell myself as I get dressed this morning. Let’s ignore the running nose that I developed last night due to the amount of dust in my new room, let’s ignore the fact that I think a bout of gastritis is just round the corner and let’s also ignore the butterflies and excitement in my belly as I head to the first day of work.

Wish me luck 🙂