A close family relative has had mental health issues in the past, so my family has always been well aware about mental health concerns and how to cope with them - and that’s something I’ve been really thankful for.
I am an ex-restaurateur. I had this great restaurant chain called “Too much drama” which was a barbeque chain run by employees that were hearing-impaired. Here, customers used sign language to order their food. Within about 2.5 years, we’d opened three outlets, and everything was pretty great.
The first shock I received was when one of my partners decided to quit, and I had to manage all outlets by myself. At that point, I didn't really know how to deal with setbacks - more importantly, how to talk about them - I wasn't sure if there even was a need to do so. I later realised that no matter how much knowledge my family or I had about it - when it hits you, the experience will always be unique.
I used to stay with my staff because I wanted to create an environment where they felt secure because they’re more vulnerable to mistreatment from others. In fact, I had to shift from my house to stay with them - which created a huge lifestyle change. I ignored my discomfort only because I felt that in the larger scheme of things, it seemed to be the more practical option.
Sometime in July 2019 at around 1:30 am in the night, I was at one of my outlets doing some inventory work when a really drunk man beat the daylights out of me. It was a highly traumatizing experience (I was completely unconscious) and a police officer came and saved me. This incident seemed to be the final blow. I was convinced that maybe 2019 just wasn’t my year. I was doing everything alone, and now to add to all of that, I had become physically incapable of working for a while because of all the injuries.
My friends helped - they got the police report filed but it was already too late - the trauma had already happened. I just wish at that point I had recognized that both mental and physical trauma needs an outlet.
By this point, I feel like I’d hit rock bottom. My business wasn’t doing so well and because I was injured (and travelling from home), there was that constant guilt of not doing the best for my staff. I really struggled with the fact that I was put in this situation by factors beyond my control, and despite giving it my best effort, there was constantly something or the other coming in the way.
I feel like all my thoughts and feelings that I experienced during the time started building up, and in hindsight I wish I had been a little more aware that I needed to get help for my mental health. I was living on autopilot mode while being at an absolute low - there was no motivation to work, my sleep was affected, I was consumed by worry and started getting suicidal thoughts. Eventually I fell into the cycle of self-blame and started convincing myself that there was something wrong with me.
By December 2019, Covid-19 started becoming a serious issue around the globe, so my investors started to back out predicting that the virus was only going to get worse. Soon after, I had to start closing down my outlets. I had put my heart and soul into that business, there was so much of myself in every nook and corner of every outlet. I still vividly remember the signboard coming down - it felt devastating. Despite my mental state, I managed to sell the outlets and the equipments. In hindsight I feel proud of myself for having done a decently good job but at that point of time, it felt like the world was conspiring against me.
By the start of 2020 I was still at rock bottom - my mood was always low, and I didn’t feel enthusiastic. Everyone who met me could also tell that I wasn’t doing so well. I’ve also been diagnosed with ADHD when I was in 4th grade. I went to my homeopath - he seemed concerned too. Infact, he assured me that I could call him anytime. I thought to myself - ‘he’s 85...how can I relate to him?’ but I gave it a shot anyway - although it didn't help.
But some good came out of it. The medication he had prescribed helped me manage my anxiety and function better. Around that time I started to accept the fact that I’m going through something that I can’t explain and I’m going to need help for it.
March 2020 was when the first lockdown was announced, I was unemployed, had lost a little bit of money and had no idea what I wanted my future to look like. At this point I was also talking to my friends about wanting to find a therapist. This process took a while, but in the first session itself, I opened up about how I was feeling.
Simultaneously, we also launched a Covid-19 hunger relief campaign called ‘Feeding From Far’. It also helped me get out of the state of mind I was in - at first, it acted as an escape. It gave me something to do with my day and something to look forward to. It was a huge success - it's still running. But at that time it was nevertheless an escape for me, I was waiting for the right kind of help. I met 3-4 therapists but it didn't work. My parents told me that I was being too picky but I kept in mind that people I knew had wasted a lot of their time because of therapists that weren't right for them, so I was being very cautious.
My colleague recommended Priyanka at The Thought Co. In the first session itself, I knew we had an energy match. That’s something I’d advise everyone - make sure you vibe with your therapist. I’ve been in therapy for about a year now and I’d describe it as a process of breaking everything that’s inside and addressing every small thing that’s in my mind very, very patiently. I started by going once a week and eventually the frequency became lesser, but each time it was a conscious, intentional decision on my part to go.
For me (and honestly for anyone who is going through a mental illness), there will be a day where you can recognize that, yes, this is how I was before and this is how I am after, even with the mental health concern at least heading in the right direction. You will definitely get to know yourself and you will know when you get better.
Reaching my lowest taught me so much about myself, it’s kept me grounded - and that’s a beautiful way to live.