My tale of depression started on January 2, 2014.
It was the day of my first heart operation in a hospital in Delhi, India, and also the day when my depression got worse.
This operation was scheduled to treat two of my heart diseases, medically known as Pulmonary Stenosis (a heart valve disorder) and Atrial Septal Defect (a hole in my heart).
On the evening of that day, when I woke up from anesthesia, I found myself in a recovery room where nurses informed me that the operation was completed.
As soon as I began celebrating the success of the operation, a team of doctors entered my room and informed me that the operation wasn’t completely successful. Despite their efforts, they couldn’t fix the hole in my heart. And now, they were planning major open-heart surgery. It was scheduled for 15 days later, which I wasn’t mentally prepared for—at least not so soon.
I had big dreams, and my diseases seemed to be wasting the golden years of building my career. The person who was supposed to be with me had moved on with someone else.
I was pretending to look brave in front of everyone, but inside, I was dying every single moment. The second surgery was done on the fixed date, but I came home along with a few post-surgery drawbacks (tinnitus, abnormal heartbeats) which made me anxious and depressed. I was on six-month bed rest, and something was constantly eating up my brain.
Despite being a survivor of two heart surgeries, life seemed to me as though it had come to an end. I used to cry for hours. The depression had captivated my soul.
I was so lost in my puzzling thoughts that I often experienced fast breathing and dizziness. Even during bed rest, I used to get up from the bed and walk through the room with severe anxiety.
One day, when my mother found out about my abnormal heartbeats, she began crying for the fear of losing me. This was the big moment that made me open my heart to her and change my lifestyle.
Here is how a lifestyle change helped me fight depression:
1. Time with nature
I started to spend time with nature. With the help of my mother, I came out of my room even when my depression was making me hide in my bed. She made me sow two plants and asked me to water them daily. She used to give me updates about the growth of the plants, and this developed an interest in me to go see and water them daily. It was my first healthy activity after surgeries.
2. Eating habits
The second thing I did was changing my eating habits. Due to anxiety, some days I was skipping all meals of the day, while other days I was eating all day. It led me to put on almost 12 kg extra weight on my body, which ended up making my depression worse.
So, I visited my dietitian and tried to follow the diet plan given by her. It was tough. I was irregular in my initial days, but the exercise helped me to take timely meals, which further helped me to shed some kilos. I felt light and fresh.
3. Exercise as a coping mechanism
I read somewhere that exercise helps improve mental health. So I decided to engage in fitness activities but failed multiple times.
At first, I started brisk walking, and later yoga. I used to go outside for a walk—but the days when my anxiety was at a peak, I couldn’t even move my body and couldn’t stop crying. This irregular schedule didn’t help me much but showed some good results—like the days when I exercised, it was easy to cope with anxiety. Therefore, I decided to invest in fitness equipment and accessories like a fitness band, yoga mat, and some outfits to increase my interest and frequency in fitness activities.
Gradually, I could engage myself almost every day in an exercise. It eventually helped me to sleep better without getting anxious.
4. Happiness in small things
Other things that I tried were going to a beauty salon and shopping, even if I didn’t want to. I also watched comedy videos, listened to funny childhood songs, and downloaded live wallpapers of birds, butterflies, and waterfall. Though these activities used to relax me only for a short period, they were an integral part of my coping strategies.
5. Focus and analysis
While making other efforts, I started writing my problems on paper to analyze them carefully. I set several big and small goals, which gave me new hope and channeled my energy toward productive things. Following this lifestyle, issues weren’t completely gone, but the small successes each week gave me enough to not focus on my worries.
In the span of two years, from 2015 to 2017, I applied for several competitive exams and passed a couple of them as well.
As I said above, I wasn’t mentally prepared for the second surgery, and I often wondered, “Why me?”
But nobody is prepared to face a fateful situation. Life is like that. It imposes itself upon us, and we must find a way to accept it. When we fail to do so, which is quite normal, we get trapped in a state of anxiety and depression.
My word of advice for my readers is to not run away from depression. Face it, instead.
It won’t be easy—but remember it’s okay to feel lost. Life is above all your successes and failures.
Take your time. Cry if you want to, but come out of your room and shout it out to the world. Don’t suppress your emotions.
You are the owner of your life. You have the right to do all the things you want to do and refuse to accept what you don’t want to. But try to find those things that can make you happier.
Depression is real, but if you don’t exercise, eat unhealthily, and sleep all day, it is going to be worse.
Reach out to a friend or a health professional, or join classes if needed. Mental health is as important as physical health, and, with efforts, it can be improved.
Just keep fighting and keep shining.