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“I woke up to see that half my face was not moving... I was diagnosed with Bells Palsy,” film editor Apurva Asrani opens up

#99ShadesOfGrey The film editor and writer had documented his battle with the disease on social media, now for the first time he opens up about the depression that the partial paralysis led to

brunch Updated: Jun 29, 2018 23:22 IST
Apurva Asrani
Apurva Asrani
Hindustan Times
Apurva Asrani,Bell's palsy,Shahid
Apurva Asrani is on the path to a full recovery

Last year was a difficult one for me. My parents were both in hospital and my father was battling for his life; my closest collaborator and I fell out; and my career hit a really rough patch. I became angry and I became afraid. To make matters worse, I also broke my foot.

Six sedentary weeks later, one fine morning, I woke up and saw that half my face was not moving. I was diagnosed with Bells Palsy—a bilateral facial paralysis. To have a distorted, frozen face while one is dealing with so many challenging emotions can lead to nights of self-pity and worry. I often cried myself to sleep and started to feel like I was sinking into a black hole. That is when I became acquainted with depression.

“I started to share distorted pictures of my face so that I would have nothing to hide. I stopped fighting what was happening and allowed myself to just be sad when I felt sad”

Depression can feel like heavy weights tied to ones feet and it makes it really hard for someone who is suffering from it to find motivation of any sort. So, I didn’t get out of the house much; in fact I stayed in bed as much as I could. I was filled with dark questions about my mortality and I slowly started to lose my self-esteem.

But the day I started to talk about my pain, things began to change. I decided to write a blog about my condition. I started to share distorted pictures of my face so that I would have nothing to hide. I stopped fighting what was happening and allowed myself to just be sad when I felt sad. Slowly, I began to believe that the darkness was only temporary.

I started grabbing onto to every sliver of brightness that came my way...that phonecall that cheered me up, that friend who made me laugh, the unconditional love of my 11- year- old pet dog! I started to get out of the house more. I began exercising again and that really helped me get rid of some of the toxicity.

But the challenges hadn’t ceased. When my dog got diagnosed with a malignant tumour, I decided to get up and find us a new life. I got off the rat race, where a fiercely competitive energy never allows one the time to reflect, and I moved to a place that is quieter, stiller and closer to nature. I now try to focus on good food, good conversations, and exercise, and on making art that is not dictated by sales.

As of today, my facial paralysis is 80 per cent gone and my foot has fully healed. My dog is stable and appears grateful to wake up to bird songs and chirpy squirrels peering at him inquisitively. I am still recovering from the wounds of the year gone by, but I tell myself that all these experiences are lessons meant to strengthen my character. I try to replace thoughts of ‘why me?’ and of self-pity with an acceptance of what has happened.

There is a quote by Oscar Wilde that has become my mantra; ‘To become the spectator of one’s own life, is to escape the suffering of life.

(Apurva is a National Award-winning film editor and screenwriter. He is best known for his work in films like Satya, Shahid, Aligarh and City Lights)

From HT Brunch, June 30, 2018

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First Published: Jun 28, 2018 20:03 IST