When Deepika Padukone spoke out about her depression, she also spoke about the woman who had helped her through it. Counsellor Anna Chandy provided guidance and friendship to the star, and later became the chairperson of Padukone’s Live Love Laugh Foundation, an organisation that aims to reduce the stigma around mental health. Chandy’s new book Battles In the Mind is a deeply personal story in which she talks about how she conquered her own emotional pain, and about her journey as a transactional therapist.
We speak to her about the book, what it’s like baring your soul to the world, and why we need to have more conversations around mental health.
What did you hope to achieve through the book?
It took me 3.5 years to write the book. My goal was to provide a feeling of hope to those who are feeling hopeless. I was a living example of how to pull through. In my twenties and thirties, I felt life was bleak and dark, and I always wondered if I would ever come out of that. I want to show anyone who feels like that, that it is possible to come out of it.
I was fine with baring my soul, because I had a purpose with the book. That goal governed me. I am sure that my narrative will help other people who have personal struggles — who feel that there is just no way out
What did it feel like baring your soul in the book? What was the writing process like?
When I started writing the book, something inside me told me that the time had come.
I had done so much work on myself that for most of the part, it was easy. However, there were one or two parts of the book, that caused me deep sadness. It took me a day or two to get back to normalcy after finishing those parts. I wept for the child in me — what it must have been for me — the fears — more than the fears, there was such a need to fix my parents’ marriage. The need was there all the time, and it became a motivator for my day-to-day existence.
The other part that made me feel sad was when I talked about the abuse. Remembering incidents, and revisiting those phases caused me to feel a lot of pain.
But I was fine with baring my soul, because I had a purpose with the book. That goal governed me. I am sure that my narrative will help other people who have personal struggles — who feel that there is just no way out.
Another thing that helped me speak about my own journey was my own experience in therapy. Because I have been in therapy and have worked in the counselling space, I was able to distance myself from my own story in a way that I could tell it.
In the book you speak about women who find themselves falling into prescribed gender roles, and the toll that takes on them. Why don’t women take care of themselves? Why are women’s needs silenced?
I think a lot about this. In a context like India, right from birth, the way a girl views the world is from a lens of relationships. She sees the world through the lens of her mother, and never separates herself from the group. When I started voicing that certain things were not ok for me — that took a lot of energy out of me. At that point, I was excluded and punished. All humans want to connect and to relate, so it takes a lot of energy to be different, and to retain that sense of uniqueness.
Are women hesitant to seek help?
More women are coming out and speaking about their issues. But the time between their acknowledging a problem and making a decision to take action on it is long. They are afraid of the consequences, and they really need to reach the point when they are wiling to face the consequences instead of continuing the way they have.
Feature Image: Mind Check