Destigmatizing my battle with mental illness-Nisha patel
I was 15 when I started exhibiting symptoms like ‘racing heart’ and ‘being worried all the time’. There was no mental health support at our school in India. I decided to confide in one of my teachers, hoping an adult would have an answer. He asked me to give him a week and that he needed to speak to his ‘Babaji.’ A week later, he came back with some orange Kumkum. He asked me to apply it behind my ear every evening.
My mental illness became a religious battle after that. I started sleeping with a picture of Lord Shiva, hoping it would be sort of like a double protection. When I experienced those attacks, I felt like I had no air to breathe, and I was going to die. My dad took me to our village doctor the next day. The doctor dismissed me, saying, ‘this was very common for girls my age.’ That explanation was enough for my father to decide for me that I was okay.
Two years later, I moved back to the United States, and my high school counselor used the words’ depression’ and ‘anxiety attacks’ as a response to my traumatic experiences. I know people do not like labels, but knowing there was a word for what I felt meant there was help. I did get the help I needed and also became a mental health professional. I started my Instagram page @browngirltherapy in hopes to destigmatize mental illness in our South Asian Community. Living with a mental illness was rough, but not being validated for my experiences and making me feel ashamed of it was harder. Those who are silently suffering, you are not alone.