"What are your interests?" I was asked this seemingly casual question on a casual Monday afternoon. For most people, the answer...
…my life was confined to my bed. I couldn’t get out of bed to attend my classes. I couldn’t get out of bed to see my friends. And I could barely get out of bed to see my parents. At the height of my mental illness, I made a google search for “how to get a gun.” That search was a culmination of many independent events that are each the byproduct of the competitive environment students, especially South Asian students, face while in college.
In order to understand the true nature of my mental illness, I am going to go ahead and briefly describe the three independent events that converged in my life during March of 2016. The first event involves a unique condition that presents itself in quiet environments. Since I was in the 10th grade, whenever I have tried to read in quiet environments, I have had music playing in my head. Constantly. The music would never stop. It’s very similar to when people get songs stuck in their head for a short period of time. Unfortunately, in my case, I could never get the song out of my head.
In order to deal with the condition, I would have to read over sentences about five times just to try to understand the main idea – understanding details was a luxury. I spent countless unnecessary hours in 10th grade reading over my European History textbook. Luckily, throughout the rest of high school, I rarely had to read a textbook. I excelled academically by paying attention in class and doing my homework. Coming to college, the condition still plagued me and my remedy was to listen to study, classical, or instrumental music while reading. In 2016, a strange thing happened. The music that muddled my mind while reading started to creep in during my efforts to pay attention in class. Now, even when I was trying to understand lectures given by my professors, I was hearing music in my head. At that point, class became a real struggle. Similar to my reading activities, class became a fight. A fight that I desperately wanted to avoid in March of 2016.
The third independent event involved my entrepreneurial failure. My friend and I had developed a prototype of our application, Queue Music, and pitched the idea to a startup competition at the University of Texas. Our pitch didn’t win the competition; in fact, we didn’t even advance into the final round. Out of all the teams in the competition, our team had definitely devoted the most amount of time to its idea, a fact that made losing that much tougher to swallow.
I hope now you get a sense of why I couldn’t get out of bed. I couldn’t study without struggling. I couldn’t hang out with my friends without struggling. And my precious startup idea, something that I mentally had attached an ideal of hope to, was rejected. And instead of acting further on that gun search of mine, I decided to seek help because I knew that I would not be able to get out of my mental state without professional assistance.
First of all, my recovery would not have been possible without the support of my family. After I had made that gun search, I talked to my sister about seeing a therapist and about possibly being prescribed drugs that would help fight my depression. I wanted to see a therapist and my sister, who has a medical background, encouraged it. In fact, my sister went ahead and told my parents about my desire to see a therapist, allowing me to avoid that conversation. For some reason, I thought that talking to somebody, who had no stake in my life, about my problems would help me out. The therapy sessions proved to be wonderful. I spilled everything. And when I got all of the stuff out, stuff that I had been bottling up inside, my therapist said something to me that I will never forget: “Vinesh, before we leave the session, I just want you to know that I am carrying all of this weight with you. I’m holding it right here (she touched her heart)”. I instantly felt that my therapist was someone who cared about me and who understood me. I would love to have gone to my parents with my mental problems because they really do care about me more than anyone in the world. Unfortunately, my parents just don’t really have a grasp of mental illness and its severe byproducts. And I don’t blame them one bit. My parents don’t really understand mental illness because it is a byproduct of the environment in which they were raised. On the other hand, if my parents did not let me get help, and if they did not encourage me to go see a therapist, I have no idea where I would be right now. And I might not have been able to write this testimonial.