During my school years, I remember wanting to be a veterinary doctor at one point, then joining the hotel management industry and finally deciding to become a psychologist. It wasn't something that came to me suddenly but was silently brewing within me for years.
Having a mother who is a psychologist meant knowing about and understanding mental health back when it wasn't so commonplace, back when being a therapist was an ‘easy chatty job.’ When I heard my mother talk about her life as a therapist - that was when the seeds for my interest in psychology were sown.
While I enjoyed listening to case studies and seeing how psychologists navigate a client's concerns, I was unsure if this was for me. But all of it fell into place until I started studying psychology in high school. Everything I had heard from my mother was substantiated when combined with textbook learning at school. Things began to make sense; it struck me that I have always been interested in human behaviour, and that's what I want to pursue further. This awareness allowed me to apply for my undergraduate degree and proceed to complete my master's and a specialised diploma - all in psychology.
However, simply knowing what I wanted to study and studying it for seven years wasn't enough as a mental health professional. One of the more important things my education and practice have taught me is to speak up about mental health.
Being a psychologist, the need to destigmatize mental health concerns especially increases. While speaking up and creating awareness, I also like to share my journey with mental health. I was diagnosed with clinical depression around five years back. With the help of medication, regular therapy, and an amazing support system, I could deal with it in eight months.
Those eight months felt like I was fighting a battle where the scars were internal. I was fighting an illness that most people don’t consider to be anything more than feeling sad. A lot of people do not understand that depression is more than sadness. It is a feeling of emptiness and nothingness, like wanting to be ‘at home’ even when you are. Because that home is the old you who doesn’t sleep all day and night, binge eats at odd hours, and cries most of the time.
According to the WHO, India has the highest rates of depression and suicide worldwide. Despite this, embarrassment and stigma are still attached to mental health concerns. People look down upon those who speak about it or experience it differently from their outlook on physical health.
Don't tell people experiencing mental health concerns how "it's just a phase" or "try to distract yourself." Instead, ask - and help - them to seek help. Help can look like talking to a psychologist or a psychiatrist, building a strong support group, and openly discussing feelings and emotions.
Depression and other mental illnesses are battles fought by many. They need to be told not to give up because life is a roller coaster ride where you aren’t in control of the speed or the curves and drops. It all comes down to giving yourself time and care, because eventually, you’ll be okay!
Many psychologists will tell you they are in this line of work to help people, and that's their source of motivation. But what motivates me is my constant passion for knowing more and understanding better how the human mind functions and how different experiences shape someone's mind and behavior.
My journey with a mental illness has made me feel more connected and passionate about my work. I find my career as a psychologist to be enriching. Despite being emotionally exhausting at times, I enjoy and value every aspect of it - active listening, validating, empathizing, empowering, holding space for another human mind during each session, and witnessing the process of transformation and learning.
Seeing my clients progress toward a better future while being more self-aware of their challenges, difficulties, and strengths is my greatest motivator to keep learning and to grow to be a better psychologist each day.