"Mental health unfolds differently for everyone. I can’t entirely articulate what I went through, however, what I do know is that this journey has made me understand what I truly want and to that extent, I am immensely grateful.
I’m a 32 year old corporate lawyer and you may think that facing issues and dealing with stressful situations is a part and parcel of a corporate lawyer’s life; you’re definitely not wrong about that. For the most part of my career, I worked with some of the leading law firms of our country until I reached a tipping point and decided to take a long break in order to work on my mental health. The work culture that I was a part of demanded a lifestyle that entailed working around the clock on high pressure deals which eventually took a toll on my physical health and more importantly on my mental well-being. Every waking moment at work felt like I was moving from a state of oblivion to utter chaos and panic – all taking place simultaneously in my head.
What seemed like just another day at work, wasn’t exactly one. I would have bad breakdowns in the middle of the day. It almost felt like I had lost all control of my body and mind which in turn started to affect my emotional stability and confidence. Every task felt like a tedious chore and screwing up was just not an option. I started to have really bad, recurring panic attacks several times a week and finally, there came a time when I just mentally collapsed. That is when I introspected and decided that I really need to take a step back and work on my mental and physical health. In a nutshell, this is what living with anxiety looks like.
Mental health wasn’t of utmost importance back in the day and any illness to do with it was always kept under wraps. Given this, it took me a while to come to terms with the fact that I was depressed. After taking a break for a considerable time and seeking therapy, I realised that up till then life had only been about chasing professional aspirations and running on the hedonic treadmill. I decided to take a step “back” although in hindsight it turned out to be taking a step ahead to assess what was that I truly wanted and to accept my delicate state of mind.
After starting therapy and seeing a psychiatrist I was diagnosed with borderline clinical depression and anxiety and was prescribed antidepressants. That is when I realised that anxiety has been a part of my life for a very long time. My parents have always been very ambitious on my behalf. I spent a large part of my life chasing one challenge after another to make them proud; only to realise later the kind of toll it took on my mental stability. To give you an example, I didn’t ever really want to pursue law. In fact what I really did want to study was psychology. However, my parents were of the opinion that studying psychology may not really get me anywhere and studying law was ideal for me - the reasoning given to me was that I was argumentative and I could put that to good use if I followed the said career path. Now that I look back, I feel like I should have thought it through and should have tried to explain my standpoint to them, but I always felt a void within and felt that anything I did or tried to do was just not enough. Hence, this was just one of the several attempts to make my parents proud.
It was when I hit rock bottom - after quitting the law firm life - I realised how much I had compromised on up until that moment. Given my anxiety, I have always had sleep issues which in turn affects my gut health. After quitting, I really had to pull myself together to work on a plethora of issues that affected my physical, mental and emotional health.
It was a difficult time - waking up every morning felt like a tumultuous task sprinkled with a feeling of absolute disdain for myself and my existence. I felt like I had failed every single person in my life. However, slowly and steadily, therapy started to work and I started to feel better.
After a long and much needed sabbatical, I decided to get back to work. But this time I was certain that the law firm life was just not meant for me. When I started work again, I realised that chasing professional dreams is one thing but taking care of your mental well-being & health is paramount.
Today, I am confident, true to myself but still a work in progress. I still have bad breakdowns and continue to live with anxiety. My journey has been filled with strong and weak moments and I finally understand that all of that is mine and all I need to do is be sure of the person I am.”