We are right in the middle of the ninth month of a year which will leave an indelible mark in history. Globally, the year 2020 will naturally be remembered for the pandemic, but close home, there are many issues that are giving COVID-19 a tough competition. On a personal level, I find it disturbing how the issue of mental health has been derailed for instance, in the wake of Sushant Singh Rajput's death. One of the less-discussed aspects of mental health is how often do we tend to jeopardise our mental health, our struggle with depression, for the sake of keeping those around us happy.
Putting ourselves last
While mental health problems don't know limits of gender and age, us women have this specific tendency to put others above ourselves. Ever since childhood, we are conditioned to be sacrificial. We are trained to be selfless wives, daughters-in-law and mothers. The essence of womanhood is rooted in our ability to keep those around us happy. The more discomfort it causes us the better. We take this attitude into our kitchens, our bedrooms and into our parenting style. We also apply this attitude to our understanding of mental wellness. Keep others happy, and you'll be happy as well. But does that happen?
How many women can confidently say that sacrifice on any level, be it the last roti in the casserole or your career, has always brought us bliss? Even if it has, is it because we have been tuned to derive happiness from sacrifice? This attitude can actually be harmful when one begins to push back their mental health care needs, for the sake of the happiness of those around them.
In many households, discussions on mental health remain a taboo. Besides, mental healthcare is expensive. It is a privilege only a handful can afford. In middle-class households, where every penny is accounted and planned for, would a woman dare to demand a hefty sum to be set aside every month for her wellness? Would it even be deemed necessary by her family? Unless women learn to accept that their mental wellness is a priority and that there is nothing wrong in seeking healthcare for the same, things won't change.
For this to happen, the first thing that we need to do is to switch off news channels and start real, factual and intimate mental health conversations within our family and friend circles.
Depression and addiction cannot just be fodder for gossip, these are real issues, and often plague people close to us. The only thing that keeps us from acknowledging them is the fact that we see them as things that happen to others, or rather to celebrities, and not one of us- the regular folks.
Bearing other people's burden
Another aspect of pushing our mental healthcare needs back is having someone around us who refuses to deal with their own baggage.
In June, after Rajput's death, I saw numerous people sharing messages on social media, asking their friends to reach out to them to have a "chat" if they are feeling "low". I didn't post any such message. Why? Because despite being an advocate of mental healthcare, I know that carrying other people's emotional baggage will break your back, especially when you have your own struggle with depression or anxiety.
If your partner or friend or parent is not happy, does it mean that you are not liable for self-care? Must keeping others happy and healthy come at the cost of your own well-being? Is it selfish behaviour to put your foot down, or take a breather to care for yourself?
Again, we tend to sacrifice our needs that come into play here. In our bid to care for others, we end up neglecting our need to be cared for. But each one of us is important and special. We deserve love, pampering and attention as much as the person next to us does. So by all means, care for your loved ones, help out those in need of mental healthcare. But in that ordeal, don't forget that your well-being matters too.
The views expressed are the author's own.