This article is written by Ramanuj Mukherjee, CEO, LawSikho.
I want to share with you something very personal today. Earlier I never spoke about this to anyone. I have begun to open up on this topic only recently.
It was in Law school that I encountered depression for the first time. I didn’t even know what it was back then. I had no name for the feeling in my body that told me not to get up from my bed. I thought I was just lazy. I went to classes because I needed attendance to pass. In one semester I missed so many morning classes that I got almost debarred from writing the exam.
But I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I didn’t know what to say.
I wanted to run away.
I wanted to hide.
I would just sleep for hours because that was an escape. I did not have it in my heart to even step out of my room to get a meal.
I stopped talking to people.
Of course, it had an impact on my studies too. I didn’t do too badly, but I knew I wasn’t doing enough. I had entered law school having topped the entrance, but I was hovering around 12-15 ranks in various semesters. And I cared about my rank back then (now if you ask me, I would say spending time to get a better rank is a big waste of your youth).
I was spending a lot of time with books. At least trying to learn. But it did not work. I was not learning. Not enough anyway.
It sent me into a depression spiral.
I also saw affluence around me. And I didn’t have access to the social life my peers had because I didn’t have the pocket money to go for a dinner or cafe or even a movie. I felt left out. Undervalued. Unimportant. Cut off.
I had many insecurities too. I studied in a vernacular medium school up to then, and my English knowledge is mostly self-taught. People laughed at the way I spoke English. Some kids from big cities made fun of my small town mannerisms.
I wasn’t daunted, but I couldn’t adjust with the new realities either.
I didn’t know what to do. It felt like I am not enough. It felt like I don’t have a way out. I wasn’t sure how to thrive in this world.
But I wasn’t going to lose. I knew I am a winner, I was going to find a way to win.
One day I found the way. You would not believe what it was.
It was running.
I discovered if I go for a run I feel amazing. Initially, I could just run a kilometre and then I will be done. Exhausted.
But I realised that’s only a mental limit I put on myself. My body can take more! I kept pushing. Soon I was running 5 km. Then 10. Then 15. Then 20!
It was a marvel! I didn’t have any clue about the amazing power of this human body. It can take so much, it can do so much. And that I have no idea about what incredible potential I have in me.
I used to think I could run only 1 km. But the moment I started stretching myself, I could do 20. Maybe with time, I could do 100!
But running wasn’t my passion. It was my medium to get out of depression.
As I ran, good hormones were released in my body. I felt better. I grew stronger. Appetite came back.
Then my mind started to function at a high level again. And I found ways to deal with my social and financial situation when my mind was fully functioning again.
I started earning. I started learning about skills that help to socialize and connect with other people. I became good at it because I deliberately studied and practiced what people only take for granted.
Depression disappeared. But not before it took away 2 years of my life. No regrets. I attacked my life with new zeal and charge, and everything changed.
But depression came back two more times.
I recognised it as depression when it happened to me while working at a law firm. This phase lasted for about 6 months. Everyone would have found me normal, but I was dying inside. I wasn’t happy with or interested in the work I was doing at the firm. I wanted to do something else. I wanted to do what I am doing now.
Again, as two realities of my life clashed, I slipped into depression. I started running again. I started taking care of my bodily health. I left the firm and started working on what really mattered to me. I was all smiles on my last day. People were like you look very happy today, don’t you?
When it happened the last time, in 2015, the odds were stacked in my favour. I was wiser, had access to therapists and coaches, and I knew running can save me if it happens again. I was surrounded by a community of loving and caring people. I am invincible by this point. Depression lost the battle in a month.
Now I know what triggers my depression. I stay away from those things. And at times, I come very close to a depression. I can sense it. The moment I sense I am nearing it, I begin to take action. I talk to my coach, therapist, friends who know me well about whatever is triggering me at the moment.
I also learn languages. It keeps my brain active. Engaged. I have noticed that it helps a lot.
Life has been good. The tryst with depression gave me an opportunity to learn a lot about myself. I am lucky that I never had to take any medication, the running and working out was always enough biochemical kick to shoo away depression.
The victory over depression and it coming back, lurking around, humbled me because I know no matter how strong we make ourselves, there is always a bit of us that is essentially fragile.
Depression is the plague of our times. It’s an epidemic. Almost everyone I shared this story with told me about their own stories.
Recognise it in yourself. Recognise it in people around you.
Stay active, physically and mentally. Don’t judge people with depression. Don’t try to motivate them either. It doesn’t work. Depression is not lack of motivation.
Be kind and tolerant to them. Give them a non-judgmental space to talk to you. Or not talk at all.
Encourage them to work out their body and their mind. Slowly. Baby steps if necessary.
For physical exercise, there is a gym or roads and fields to run on. Or cycle. Don’t ignore, don’t postpone it.
For a mental exercise, keep learning new things. New skills. New subjects that interest you.
We have a few amazing courses coming up that will engage you, keep your brain on its toes for months and ensure that you are ecstatic at the end about all the amazing things you have learnt!
Here are the details:
Executive Certificate Courses