Are you mentally healthy? How often do you ask yourself such a question and how often do you avoid answering it? Mental problems don’t always mean insanity and a deranged expression on one’s face, as some may expect. Mental illnesses are a huge plague of the 21st century, one could even call them a kind of civilization diseases. Why? Too quick pace of life, too high expectations towards both our private and professional lives, as well as lack of goodhearted people around can be some of many reasons why mental disorders such as depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts emerge. Most of the times it’s a combination of the above-mentioned factors which can lead almost everyone to the edge of a cliff and the only way of finding their rescue is to start a proper therapy, treatment and to find the right support of their close ones.
Mental illnesses are still a kind of a taboo, people often think that they are a reason for shame, that’s why families and sufferers fighting their own inner demons often hide the truth for years. Why shouldn’t we talk about things that worry and hurt us? Is there another way of finding help we need at a given moment? While commuting by bus, I’ve had a chance to listen to hundreds of conversations led by my fellow passengers, most of them I cannot recall today, but there are some which I can still remember, because they reveal the enormity of the problem I am interested in, namely mental disorders. As I’ve mentioned before, I had the opportunity to listen to some interesting facts, for example that depressions, anxieties and other related disorders affect a massive amount of people, and the age range is quite huge – from little children to the elderly people. Why don’t we speak out for these people? Such problems can really affect everyone, depending on how their lives work out and what kind of factors they are exposed to.
Today, I’m pleased to introduce you to Gaithri – a woman who has experienced a mental illness and some related to it disorders. Now she is a mental health advocate. In this conversation you’ll get to know a little bit more about my interviewee, as well as how her life has changed when she took control over it.
Passion Piece: Could you tell my readers a few words about yourself?
Gaithri: My name is Gaithri, I’m 27 and born and raised in Sweden. I am bi-racial, Swedish and Indian. My greatest passions in life (besides being a mental health advocate and fighting for women’s/human rights) are music, dancing, food, travel and animals.
Passion Piece: One of your greatest passions now is educating people on mental health. What’s the background to your present activity?
Gaithri: My background is being a survivor, and also growing up with a parent with mental illness and with that experience came a lot of trauma in my life. However, it was mostly my own personal experiences, as well as prejudice from society that sparked me to be an advocate. I don’t want other sufferers to feel as lonely and isolated as I did. I want them to KNOW they have the support they need/want.
Passion Piece: As a survivor and an advocate you are familiar with such notions as mental health and mental illnesses. What is the scope of these problems? How early do mental disorders start being visible?
Gaithri: I think each individual has a different experience. Even though both my dad and I are bipolar and we are on the same medication, our experiences with the diagnosis may manifest differently. However, if sufferers don’t get the right help and support early on, they more likely then not will spiral. Because we don’t know how to deal with our experiences. People cope differently. It could be via addiction/self-medicating, seeking unhealthy attention, being reckless or even feeling suicidal. How early they start being visible can vary too. Depending on genetics, environment, culture, support system etc. But in my experience it was something that appeared already as a young child, but not being able to verbalize or understand what I was feeling or experiencing caused me to suppress, which added another toxic layer for me in terms of addiction, recklessness, self harm, etc.
Passion Piece: Do many kids and teenagers suffer from mental problems such as anxiety and suicidal thoughts? What can trigger such states? How can we recognize these types of mental disorders?
Gaithri: I believe so. Anything can trigger them. Sometimes it’s genetics, sometimes a specific incident (or several), sometimes it’s a combination – like in my case. I think doing research, recognizing any behavior that is a cause for concern. Anything that makes it hard for an individual to function in society. Or if you just feel like someone isn’t being “oneself”, show them that you see them and care.
Passion Piece: Where may untreated anxiety and suicidal thoughts lead to? What kind of behavior do they provoke?
Gaithri: It may cause things like addiction, self-harm, recklessness, self-medication, even suicide.
Passion Piece: What traumatic experiences made you behave in such a particular way? How long did you believe in the fact that it was the right way of acting?
Gaithri: It was a domino effect: emotional and mental abuse in my childhood – dating abusive, manipulative people – having an unhealthy attachment to people because that’s where I found my worth etc.
Passion Piece: Where did you find help? Where should young people and not only look for support in difficult situations?
Gaithri: Therapy and medication, as well as support from my loved ones. I think it’s important for parents/guardians to have an open discussion with their children. Not making them feel like they can’t share certain difficult things or like their feelings aren’t valid. Not having a stable home life causes so many issues.
Passion Piece: What can a person struggling with mental health do for oneself? What are your favorite tips and tricks?
Gaithri: Self-care. I’ve learned that my feelings and experiences ARE valid. I listen to my body and my needs. If I want to sleep I sleep, if I want ice cream I eat ice cream. It’s important to be unapologetic and listen to your needs. This is extra important for me who has been burnt out in the past. To not relapse I NEED to listen to my needs and wants. I never feel bad about it. Also surrounding yourself with positive energy and people. Be creative, enjoy the sun, listen to a good podcast. MEDITATE.
Passion Piece: Can people get out of their traumas for good? Or just on the contrary… Is it a lifelong healing process?
Gaithri: I think it’s a combination. For me they no longer affect my daily life. I used to have extreme panic attacks almost daily, EVERYTHING was a trigger. I’ve learned to heal myself for the most part, but sometimes my traumas resurface. My demons no longer scare me, and when they resurface I treat myself like a scared little kid and I give myself so much love and comfort, I purge. I DO however believe it is a lifelong process, every time they resurface I heal just a little more and it affects me less.
Passion Piece: What do you love doing in your free time? Is there something you just can’t resist?
Gaithri: DANCE. I was a dancer for 20 years. I also love music, I’m an aspiring artist (follow me on Instagram: @likeparapaparadise and @gaithrislife – for my music content). Other then that just spending time with people I love, I also love being in nature.
Passion Piece: Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?
Gaithri: Hopefully as a successful artist/actress, a public speaker and advocate, a wife and mother. Just being happy and loving life.
Passion Piece: Which motto would you like to share with my readers?
Gaithri: That we can ALWAYS choose happiness regardless of our circumstances, I’m living proof of this. IT will be hard and painful, but self- love is the most beautiful and empowering thing. They are more than welcome to message me if they need support.
Passion Piece: Thank you very much for this truly inspiring conversation and I wish you continued successes in your further work and in making your dreams come true.
Mental illnesses are not only a matter of genetics and inheriting a given disease, but they’re also a matter of too quick pace of our lives imposed by the modern world. Let’s not be ashamed of talking about the things which worry and hurt us, as well as the ones which we are unable to cope with. Only then we can find the right help and support that we need so much!
See you around!
Photos by: Gaithri