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Guest Editorial : I'm Not Okay, Are You?

April 9, 2020
- Anonymous

Today had been a bad day. But then every day felt like a bad day. The professor admonished him again for being listless, preoccupied, inattentive. His girlfriend accused him of not “getting her” while she ranted about her day. The disappointments didn’t end there. His parents continued to worry; he hadn’t spoken to them in the last two weeks. His friends felt neglected and shut off - they were pissed at him because he kept bailing on every plan they made.

But our protagonist is used to this. He’s used to the pretense. He’s probably sitting in his room right now, again, smoke in hand,blaming himself for something that probably isn’t even his own fault. But he knows that he needs to keep up the pretense. The pretense that everything is okay. That he’s not fighting his demons every day.

“I murmured a vow of silence and now I don’t even hear when I think aloud Extinguished by light, I turn on the night Wear its darkness with an empty smile.”

           -Wearing the Inside Out, Pink Floyd

While we tend to flippantly quote Tyrion Lannister and claim to “know things”, there are an incredible amount of things around us that we know shamefully little about. Mental illness is one of those things. It is unfathomable for most of us to digest the fact that a person, seemingly normal on the outside, could be dealing with an apocalyptic melee of thoughts on the inside - all the while cracking “that’s what she said jokes” reflexively and nonchalantly.

(Before we proceed any further, I would like to state that mental illnesses are very complex, and I am not professionally qualified to give any sort of advice. What follows is based completely on personal experiences.)

For a lot of us, clearing the JEE and coming to Roorkee was a chance to finally experience the good life that awaited us on the other side, after what seemed like a lifetime of slogging to clear one of the most gruelling exams in the country. For me, coming to Roorkee was a chance to start over.

It clearly didn’t turn out the way I hoped.

On most days, I was lost. I didn’t know how to deal with my emotions. Okay, who am I kidding? I still don’t know how to deal with my emotions. I was in love with what I was studying here and that has ever so slowly diminished and faded away, almost to the point where now I just do what I have to, to get my godforsaken degree uneventfully, and just leave. I tried to distance myself from people in general, which also meant shirking whatever responsibilities I had towards the groups I am involved with. I found solace in going to Divine or heading off to JD after the classes ended.

Despite all of this I had a group of really nice people around who put up with most of my bullshit when all I wanted to do was push them away. In retrospect, I’m glad they stayed right where they were.

Roorkee can be a sloppy mess, a dark cesspool and an incredibly depressing place. In this small world of ours, it is often surprising and terrifying to learn about the number of people who are dealing with a large number of problems. You’d say everyone is dealing with issues of their own, and that’s true everywhere, and of course you’re absolutely right. So what makes Roorkee special? What sets Roorkee apart is the people. The same aforementioned people who are dealing with a truckload of issues, but will drop everything if you need them.

A lot of people will come to you and tell you that it will all be okay and that you will be completely ‘normal’. A lot of them preach the power of self-love and how it can heal you. Look, if you can love yourself, I envy you. Self-love isn’t just a switch that you can just flip on and feel great about yourself. It isn’t about looking for the good in yourself, it’s about acknowledging the screwed up bits about you and getting to know yourself - what makes you tick and what pisses you off. Just like you need time to fall in love with another person, you need time to fall in love with yourself and you can’t force that, no matter how hard you try.

We tend to underestimate the helplessness that comes with mental illnesses. One cannot claim to completely understand the plethora of emotions that someone else might be going through at any given moment, so one can never ever fully empathize with anyone. Axiomatically, it’s unfair to expect someone to empathize with you. While people around you will be there to support you, it’s not wise to depend on them for that. From whatever limited experience I have, we are all jigsaws waiting to fall into place, but we can’t look for the pieces that fix us, complete us, in other people. (Yes, that should be a tshirt quote, I know; also the Radiohead reference is on purpose)

I found a friend, a constant companion in the form and shape of our campus. Whenever life gets a little too much to deal with, I take a walk around IITR. Nothing can match the beauty of Roorkee late at night. When you need it, even the tacky, strangely familiar lights of the ECE tower can give you solace. I often find myself strolling off to different spots around the campus, just to spend time with my thoughts. You do need that sometimes - ample amounts of time and an appropriate place to be with your thoughts and nothing else. You need clarity, to put things in perspective. In that sense, I feel that Roorkee has always been what I wanted it to be. I don’t think I can put that feeling in words, but think of the Room of Requirement from Harry Potter, except here it’s the entire campus.

It’s taken me almost a year of therapy to realize a simple fact : it helps to do things that give you temporary happiness - even if it’s for a fleeting moment in the entire day. And you can hope that time makes you a better person than you are at the moment.

If you’ve stuck around for so long, I would like to leave you with this: Life is unfair. We have to play the hand that we have been dealt. I can’t tell you that it gets better. I can only tell you that it gets easier, ever so slightly.

“In this terrifying world, all we have are the connections that we make.”

        -Some Random Dude on Some Random Show