Aparna Piramal Raje is a prominent author and columnist. An MBA graduate from Harvard Business School and the CEO of BP Ergo, Aparna talks about her new book at the Women Writer’s Fest and shares her story about bipolar disorder and mental health.
Aparna’s new book Chemical Khichdi recollects her encounter with Bipolar Disorder and how she dealt with it. However, coming out and telling her story about her mental health was not an easy task. She explains that she has been thinking to write the book since 2015 but she wasn’t able to, however, the pandemic brought her a time of stability in which she was able to concentrate on developing the book.
Chemical Khichdi Aparna Piramal Raje’s Book On Mental Health
Talking about the timing of the book, Aparna said, “I think this is the right time because frankly, I think during the Covid who hasn’t had a mental health issue. I think that we are all dealing with so many difficulties that I think this is a book not just about being bipolar, its a book about mental health and ways that I think are quite universal in tackling it.”
Aparna recognises that people are still not comfortable about sharing their mental health problems publicly as she would receive private messages where people confining her their problems. Talking about the taboo around mental health issues she says, “I think we have a long way to go and we have to understand that these conditions are normal”. She believes that our vulnerabilities make us real, people cannot be perfect all the time. She feels there is a need to create spaces where people can freely discuss their mental health issues and other vulnerabilities.
Lockdown came with stability for Aparna as she was at home, had no other distractions and hence, could freely focus on writing the book. She worked at a comfortable pace, keeping in touch with her doctors and medications so that she can remain stable during the process. This book became her purpose during the lockdown. She shared her drafts with her close friends who liked reading, her writer’s club and her book club and got some valuable feedback on it that helped her a lot.
In her book, Aparna not only talks about her experiences but also tells seven therapies or rather, as she calls them, ‘aspects of life’ that might help people to cope with mental health issues. These seven therapies are drug therapy, love therapy, allies, workplace, conversations with yourself or self-therapy, spiritual therapy and lifestyle. Talking about self-therapy, she says that people believe that medications can solely treat bipolar disorder. However, it is really important to understand that mood swings are generally triggered by a psychological situation and self-therapy helps people to understand what those triggers are.
Aparna says that writing helped her in self-therapy. She calls it her sadhana, her breath because it is always with her. She talks about how women are not treated well in society when it comes to mental health. They find it difficult to come out and express their mental health issues and often ignore them but Aparna believes that women should be considerate about their mental health. They are key builders of society and it is important for them to be happy and healthy before they worry about anyone else’s health.
Covid 19 brought mental health issues to many people and now that we are slowly starting our normal lives again, there is still some residue of anxiety that is left and is stopping us from going ahead.
Sending out her message to the caregivers of people who deal with mental health issues, Aparna says, “I have a simplified 3 T formula which is that I think the first T is trust”. She says that it is important for the caregiver and patient to trust each other as coping becomes easier and the caregiver can help the patient. The second T, she says stands for trigger management. The caregiver needs to determine those triggers. The patients must trust the caregiver so that they as well can tell them what triggers their emotions.
“The third part is the therapy. I think that you know, the caregivers might think that therapy is only for the patient or the person with the mental health condition but caregivers have so much burnout that they also need someone to talk to”, says Aparna. She believes that formal therapy is really important for mental health. People have to accept the fact that their issues are not going away anytime soon and can be triggered anytime. So it is better and completely normal to be in touch with your therapist and doctors even when you have got stable because that’s what makes you stronger.