Mental Health Special: 99 strong people tell all about how they fought back depression...

And show you how you can too!
It’s darkest before the dawn(SHUTTERSTOCK)
It’s darkest before the dawn(SHUTTERSTOCK)
Updated on Jun 23, 2018 10:16 PM IST
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Hindustan Times | ByTeam HT Brunch

In the murk of depression, you are in such darkness that you literally see no light. So you don’t really know what’s happening around you. You may not even be able to see that you’re depressed. Because some people do feel sad all the time, don’t they? Or tired all the time. Or comfortably numb. Or angry and anxious. And unnecessary to the world. Right? It’s normal, right?

99 achievers pour out their tales of hopelessness, and show you how to fight depression and win!
99 achievers pour out their tales of hopelessness, and show you how to fight depression and win!

This is why we asked these 99 people who’ve been where you might be to tell us how they saw the light. So even if you can’t tell that you need help, family members and friends reading this will recognise symptoms you may have missed. Sometimes you can’t recognise solutions until the solutions begin to work. But there are solutions. At least 99 of them.

Here they are.

1. “I lost my parents not too far apart from each other. So I went through grievance counselling for six months and it helped clear my mind.”

—Namrata Soni, Celebrity make-up artist

2. “When my failure in the 2016 Olympics depressed me, I spent time by myself, telling myself my future plans for which I needed to work harder. This method has really helped me each time.”

—Mirabai Chanu, Weightlifter

3. “When 30 years ago I had to leave my eight-year-old son behind at my husband’s house, I was numb. My brother made me watch A Beautiful Mind to understand that I have to focus on getting on my feet to be able to get my son back. A friend gave me a book called Thought For The Day, each page with a message of hope.”

—Anju Modi, Fashion designer

4. “As Stephen Hawking said, ‘However bad life may seem, there is always something you can succeed at.’”

—Dipannita Sharma, Supermodel and actor

5. “During a particularly depressing winter in California, I carried Kashmir like a wound within me. I went to see a friend from home in New York. He cooked for me. He talked to me in Kashmiri and pulled me out of the morass.”

—Feroz Rather, Author

6. “In my difficult times, my close friends and family guided me.”

—Ananya Birla, Singer, Songwriter and Entrepreneur

7. “A project I’d been working on for two years fell through. I decided to put my energy into something better. Problems give you confidence.”

—Aastha Atray Banan, Author and Poet

8. “For six months, I cut myself off from the rest of the world. I decided to build everything from ground zero.”

—Sahil Khattar, YouTube star

9. “The first step towards curing yourself is recognising that you’re depressed.”

—Nachiket Barve, Fashion designer

10. “Me and my friend got through many difficult times in our lives just by being there for each other.”

—Saheli Sen Gupta, Executive lead at Chayn (A women empowerment project)

11. “I concentrate on doing positive things like talking to my parents, doing DIYs and grooming my pets.”

—Aien Jamir, Founder, Fashion & I

12. “Taking care of my body and “following my routine has had a positive impact on me.”

—Adarsh Kumar, Engineer at Qualcomm

13. “Tasks as simple as cooking a nice meal for myself help.”

—Dolly Haorambam, Photographer

14. “There are always people who look up to you and you might not even realise it. I feel responsible for my two-year-old and know I must set an example for my kid.”

—Madhurima Singh, Fashion designer

15. “Let go of anger or stress for at least 10 minutes every day.”

—Anushka Mulchandani, Stylist and fashion blogger

16. “Focus on what’s to come rather than what has happened.”

—Bhumika Sharma, Semi-qualified company secretary

17. “During the shoot for Sainik (1992), my right foot was crushed and I was hospitalised for nearly a year. Even though people didn’t take me despite promises, I continued to do whatever work I was offered. Today I am happy with my life.”

—Pankaj Berry, Actor

18. “When I decided to walk out of my first marriage, I had to give up all my assets and suffered an unbearable loss of relationships. I moved to Kolkata with just Rs100. But I focused all my energy on dance. It rescued me from addictions and suicidal thoughts.”

— Sanchita Bhattacharya, Dancer

19. “Playing football with my friends always makes me feel better.”

—Aakarsh Naashier, Student

20. “Depression is when your mind blocks you from doing anything. The only way I could snap out of this was by forcing myself to try new things.”

—Aanchal Nagar, Luxury brand consultant

21. “Four years ago, a relationship ended badly. Two months later, I was 44 kilos, hadn’t eaten a proper meal in days and hadn’t slept in a week. My doctor told me I was depressed. It took two years of intense therapy to get myself back. My family made rules. We hug each other every day. We tell each other everything. If any of us has had a bad day, we have family cuddles and spend quality time.”

—Mansi Vakharia, Special educator for learning disability

22. “When you are at the bottom, use all your force to push yourself back up with your feet.”

—Dhruv Kapoor, Fashion designer

23. “When I feel down, I focus on self-awareness and try to make sure I am treating myself reasonably. If there is something to change, I work on that, or I accept things that are out of my hands.”

—Mitali Gupta, Student

24. “I was once let down by a romantic relationship. Eight painfully long agonising months followed. But one has to always be able to look oneself squarely in the eye in the mirror and love the person looking back at you. I trust in the healing of time, and in the love of strangers.”

—Elton Fernandez, Celebrity make-up artist

25. “I suffered from post-weaning depression which comes from hormonal fluxes when you stop breastfeeding. I spoke to people instead of keeping my feelings bottled up, and learned I was not alone. That helped the most.”

—Nainika Karan, Fashion designer

26. “Doing something nice for someone helps me feel better about myself.”

—Jahnvi Bansal, Stylist

27. “When I go for a swim, I go underwater and try to hold my breath for some time. That’s when I feel calm. Everything else is gone, there’s just silence. I do this at least once a month.”

—Varun Dhawan, Actor

29. “When I felt under-appreciated and overworked, my friends helped me see that there was a way out.”

—Rosemary Maguire, Researcher

29. “I meditate. As my breath slows, I feel calmer.”

—Sonal Sachdev Patel, co-author of Gita: The battle of the Worlds 

30. “Life turned into survival when I had self-critical, self-isolating thoughts that made me numb. I realised I shouldn’t succumb to this voice. I read about it, kept my mind busy with work, talked to people and practised meditation.”

—Apoorva Negi, Marketing professional

31. “Four months ago I met with an accident. Meditation has given me strength. I choose thoughts that uplift my spirits and let go of the ones that shackle my soul.”

—Shivangi Singh, Student

32. “When overwhelmed by my emotions, I met a professional, or figured out how to cope. Exercise or a good long run has pulled me out of a funk many times. Changing my perspective has also helped.”

—Mandira Bedi, Actor

33. “I long ago made my ‘aware’ self the caretaker of ‘vulnerable’ Rajeev. So whenever I am on the brink of slipping into a negative emotional space, my caretaker pumps up my self-esteem.”

—Rajeev Khandelwal, Actor

34. “In the past one year, everything just felt pointless. My solution was to disconnect for a while, analyse myself and then share my problems with my loved ones.”

—Mandana Karimi, Actor

35. “When I feel really low, I ask myself, ‘Do I need to change?’ And then write it down.”

—Gaurav Gera, TV actor

36. “Patting your pet dog makes you calmer.”

—Cyrus Broacha, TV anchor and comedian

37. “I’ve been seeing a therapist. It helps me think clearly.”

—Gurmehar Kaur, Student

38. “Spirituality helped me learn acceptance.”

—Shashank Vyas, TV actor

39. “I watch Friends when I’m feeling low.”

—Deepti Latwal, Banker at ICICI

40. “I try not to think about stuff I can’t control.”

—Anuvab Pal, Stand-up comedian

41. “My mother suffered from depression for 10 years, and a close friend committed suicide some years ago. Some good friends helped me. Reaching out, asking for help is the best thing to do. And Vipassana really helped.”

—Rohan Shrestha, Photographer

42. “I spend time with my daughters, travel, watch a movie, rehearse. And cook!”

—Vinay Pathak, Actor

43. “I try and anticipate the next best thing in my life after accepting the way fate’s going to shape my future. You just have to keep your chin up and move on.”

—Sarah Ishtiyaque, Writer and stylist at Nicobar

44 .“Being funny, experiencing funny things, laughing… these are my survival tools.”

—Aditi Mittal, Stand-up comedian

45. “Writing saved my life. It was my idea of owning my body.”

—Rupi Kaur, Poet

46. “I try to focus on staying positive and bringing my A game to the table. Fortunately, in our business, gratification is quite instantaneous.”

—Riyaaz Amlani, Restaurateur

47. “I’ve seen a fair amount of ups and downs. The virtues I learned early on were patience and resilience.”

—Ishaan Khatter, Actor

48. “Gratitude helps me get through a rough spell. As do family and friends. And above all, an anchoring in spirituality.”

—Richa Chadda, Actor

49. “It’s very human to dismiss depression. Things like exercising regularly, eating right, enjoying me time keep the symptoms in check.”

—Dr Aneesh Sheth, Cosmetologist

50. “It’s hard to think good things when you feel like you’re at the bottom of a well. Reaching for the next better feeling thought literally means focusing on a thought that is just slightly better than the current thoughts in your brain – until you begin to believe that thought and feel marginally better.”

—Rashmi Daryanani, Executive Scriptwriter/Video Content Strategist at

51. “Family and spirituality help me focus on what actually matters.”

—Shamita Shetty, Actor

52. “Travelling, immersing myself into a state of the unknown helps me snap out of feeling low.”

—Kubbra Sait, Actor

53. “Your faith in yourself and your support system keep you going.”

—Vikrant Batra, Restaurateur

54. “When you look at things from a different light, there are often solutions and new directions that you can take. Give life a chance.”

—Raghav Sachar, Singer, composer, music director

55. “Stress is part of our lives. So laugh as often as possible.”

—Kunal Kapur, Chef

56. “I lost my dad three years back and my mom is yet to recover from that shock. She is today a patient of dementia. So whenever I go to meet her, sometimes she recognises me and sometimes she doesn’t. Every time I meet her I become an emotional wreck. But then I try to meet up with my friends and talk it out. There is nothing shameful in being sad. Everyone is equipped with a way to fight the lows. Look inside and find it.”

—Rasika Agashe, Actor

57. “The lowest point in my life was when I lost my father. How I got out of it was to make sure I make him proud every day.”

—Keshav Suri, Hotelier

58. “Years after an attempted sexual assault, I broke down and told my family about it. The way they supported me made me realise we should always talk to those closest to us.”

—Jasmin Bhasin, TV actor

59. “Loneliness is a choice. We must connect to soothe others and heal ourselves.”

—Divya Sheth, Fashion Designer

60. “What helped me come out of my dark phase was an active realisation that with every one thing going wrong in my life, there’s always a counteractive right thing happening simultaneously.”

—Akanksha Sharma, Designer at IKEA

61. “For a while after my miscarriage, I wasn’t sure if I should let my friends know that I still need to talk about it. I was always on the cusp of darkness. And then at yoga class: a breath in, a breath out, a particular posture, the sound of ‘Om’ – and something shifted, released. Only a beginning…”

—Jemma Wayne-Kattan, co-author of Gita: The battle of the Worlds

62. “I always feed my mind with good things.”

—Gauri Arora, Model

63. “To ‘let go’ of a few things helps. Listen to Baz Luhrmann’s song, Sunscreen. Avoid negative people. Move forward. Stay connected to family and good friends.”

—Vikas Khanna, Chef

64. “A session of meditation and telling the universe to help me makes me float in the air and know that I am much more than my physical self.”

—Anuradha Prasad Dhawan, Designer

65. “I was told by a friend that energetically stepping on earth grounds you. For me, walking barefoot on soil worked wonders.”

—Rick Roy, celebrity stylist

66. “Having a pet really helps! And when you ask other people how they are doing, you forget about your problems.”

—Ranveer Brar, Chef

67. “When I lost my mother-in-law to cancer two years ago, I had to question myself if I wanted to feel sad that she passed away or happy about the wonderful life she led. One needs to see where one stands in the current situation, and that helps you get through anything.”

—Shankar Mahadevan, Singer

68. “Sometimes I just feel low and can’t really explain why, so I don’t try to snap out of it or give fake affirmations, I just watch it and accept it. Slowly, the hidden reasons appear.”

—Achala Sachdev, Model and choreographer

69. “In my teens, I rebelled, but since that meant letting down my family, I just put my head down and dealt with my problems.”

—Johnson Thomas, Writer

70. “The suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain brought back memories of the day Jiah Khan hanged herself. It was such shocking news. My father, Alia, Shaheen and I were sitting together and the conversation veered to suicide.

Shaheen and I talked about how we’d wanted to pull the plug on our lives on occasion. Alia couldn’t believe it. My father was also shocked, but he said, at least we can have this conversation as a family. I read somewhere that as long as you think about it, talk about it and air it, you won’t do it. But there will always be people who will sit in judgement.

It was similar when I started talking about my struggle with alcohol. There was a gaping hole in my heart that I thought could be filled by love or alcohol. But now I realise instead of quenching my thirst, they enhanced it and made it stronger.

Depression has been in my life since I was a little girl. My way of coping was initially by eating, but after I crossed 30, I slowly became an alcoholic.

As I grew older I realised that the only thing I can change is myself. This happened after a text from my father in December 2016. I had sent him a simple text saying, ‘I love you, dad’, to which he responded: “If you love me, then love yourself, for I live in you”. That message hit me so much that I decided to become the best version of myself.

—Pooja Bhatt, Actor

71. When I am low, I practice yoga. It is magical. It helps me feel a certain self-assurance from inside. It makes me calmer, helps me analyse my situations better.... The closer you are to yourself, the more at peace you will be with yourself. And once that happens, you are automatically at peace with a lot of other things around you.”

—Juhi Chawla, Actor

72. “I didn’t know who to talk out my depression with, so I talked it out with myself. Sometimes, all we need is someone to listen.”

—Jyotishka Paul, Writer

73. “I learned that we know little of the magnitude of our actions; how our everyday lives affect the people around us. Instead of falling off in life, pull people up.”

—Sahil Kakkar, Actor

74. “Invest your time on things that matter. Learn the fact that there’s still a lot to learn.”

—Riddhindra R Chaudhuri, Entrepreneur

75. “I had the unconditional support of my friends and my mother.”

—Rajanya Banerjee, Teacher

76. “It’s important to love yourself irrespective of the things you feel are not right about you.”

—Prachi Sharan, Public relations professional

77. “I seek help from a psychiatrist friend, go swimming, read books, make new friends.”

—Somenath Ghosh, Photographer

78. “Positive thinking and belief in God kept me going.”

—Monika Mishra, Software engineer

79. “Between 2010 and 2015, I went through the worst phase of my professional life. Then I decided to throw myself back into work, and managed to get out of that state of mind.”

—Maxwell Ian Agacy, Entrepreneur

80. “Repeating positive messages to myself daily is what got me out of depression, nothing else.”

—Sudipto Chanda, Photographer

81. “Press the alarm, talk to people freely about it, tell them you need their help.”

—Mouli Bhattacharya, Copywriter

82. “Family bonding has cut through the darkest hours.”

—Amol Gupte, Film-maker

83. “Always remind yourself that you are unique, you deserve goodness, and most of all, there is a purpose in your life.”

—Evelyn Sharma, Model and actress

84. “Years ago when a big music label told us we’d have to change our music, we ignored them. I’m glad that happened. It gave me self-belief.”

—Amit Kilam, Drummer, vocalist, Indian Ocean

85. “When I was told, ‘Life does not depend on ifs and buts,’ I learned to move on.”

—Nishant Choubey, Chef

86. “When criticised, I react with kindness or be self-deprecating enough to neutralise it.”

—Durjoy Datta, Author

87. “Tell yourself, ‘let this time pass. I will come back’.”

—Rahul Mishra, Fashion designer

88. “There are always other opportunities.”

—ShivKaran Singh, Restaurateur

89. “A little lick and cuddle from my dog Tia makes it all better.”

—Sophie Choudry, Actor and singer

90. “When I started to talk about my pain, I began to believe the darkness was only temporary.”

— Apurva Asrani, film-editor

91. “Know for a fact that har raat ke baad ek savera zaroor hai.”

—Kailash Kher, Singer

92. “Be thankful and make the most of opportunities.”

—Hussain Kuwajerwala, Actor

93. “Buddhism helped me build resilience.”

—Manav Gohil, TV actor

94. “The best thing I did for my depression was to acknowledge it, because you can only deal with an issue when you acknowledge it.”

—Priya Malik, TV personality

95. “During a bad career phase, I kept working. When the tides started turning, I had a good body of work.”

—Danish Husain, Actor and poet

96. “I have experienced darkness within me for years. In 2012 I took help. I worked with a life coach for two years. Therapy cannot be just talking to a shrink. I was ready to be helped.”

—Neha Bhasin, Singer

97. “I have seen two suicides very close to home. Both people didn’t have guidance towards mental care. If they had, things would have been different.”

—Priyanka Bose, Actor

98. “Two years back I didn’t want to do anything, meet anybody, go out. Then it hit me that this was not the usual me. I made a conscious effort to get back on track.”

—Rajit Kapur, Actor

99. “1. Face your sadness. Let it engulf you. Then cry your heart out. Once you reach rock bottom, the only way left is up.

2. Sharing helps. Psychotherapy helps big time. 3. Know this too shall pass.

4. Define what gives you joy and invite that. If God has chosen you to be alive, then trust in God (or the universe, or life) that you are safe.”

—Manisha Koirala, Actor

(Join the conversation on twitter using #99ShadesOfGrey)

From HT Brunch, June 24, 2018

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