24 Nov, 2017

When depression plunged its deadening claws into Sinjini Sengupta it was a downward spiral. How did she escape it to turn her life around and Thriive? Here’s Sinjini’s story in her own words.

Life in the calm waters

I’ve had a very conducive life all along. Agreeable and reformed parents who had put me on a pretty high rank on their list of priorities. Married to the same person who I had dated since I was nineteen. A strong academic background followed by an accomplished and quick-soaring career as an Actuary.

Soon after I qualified as an Associate Actuary, I had my daughter which, while doubtlessly being the greatest gift my life has ever known, brought with itself its own demands on my time, energy and emotions. So frankly, things always looked good but at the same time, the “business as usual” wasn’t an easy mountain for me to lift everyday. I was being depleted deeper inside.

A downward spiral begins

If we can term depression alongside a few of its siblings – fibromyalgia, spinal discords, resulting physiological and psychosomatic conditions manifesting in my life as some form of “adversity”, then I guess I can pinpoint to a time-line 2 to 3 years ago.

It was not really like I was well, and then on a certain date, fell ill.

A series of common conditions began to surface one by one: constant exhaustion and gripping body ache (that I’ll later come to know as Fibromyalgia), sleep disorders, anxiety, unexplained and prolonged sadness, lack of appetite and unwillingness to leave the bed (which doctors called Major Depressive Disorder), passing out on occasions, tremors, severe protrusion in cervical spine, burning and failing digestive systems (which then became NAFLD), piercing abdomen pains (gallstones) and so on.

The bone scans showed severe protrusions and osteophytes growing along the length of the spine. Many other painful tests called the nerves and muscles too weak. The blood tests showed many things out of range that I spent hours googling about. The medicines were prescribed in combinations that often didn’t agree. You see, none of these are exceptionally rare conditions or a particularly bad news on their own, and yet, they work in a downward spiral when put together, exaggerating and cheering each other and forming a gang against me!

“Take a break!”

I fought them back. From taking rounds of the many different departments in hospitals to surgery combined with daycare processes and several rounds of physiotherapy, I’ve done them all.  Intakes of food included several concoctions of analgesics, sedatives and alertness boosters apart from strong medicines. Scans and tests had become a routine.

Even as I was taking care of my work, there were a big number of people reporting to me waiting for me to guide them as well as an infant at home falling sick every other day. And at one point, I took this one month long unpaid leaves from work and went to Kolkata for the 16th, 17th and 18th medical opinion.

The doctors said, “Take a break.” These three words, I think, form the most important triad in the English vocabulary. For once, I listened to them. Or rather, my husband forced me to.

Relief despite clashing beliefs

Even though I was having too many tablets everyday (in spite of intentionally forgetting to take some at times), there was no real relief. I would spend a large part of the day reading up on their side-effects (if one part was getting healed there would be another getting hurt). At one point, someone suggested meditation. This erupted a whole lot of internal crises for me. I have grown up with a largely communist upbringing and turning to gods is not what we do! To me, the philosophical clash between spirituality and religiousness was acute.

Most of the things I came across in real life disagreed with my system of beliefs, and I sought a path where I could search for peace without compromises like lighting up incense sticks or offering flower garlands to deities.

After a long trial and error process, I found Vipassana. It is a cult of no-blind-faith, and the whole experience felt like it was just my thing on earth. So there I was, living out of a suitcase, ten days of Noble silence of body, mind and speech, deep into introspection and redemption.

I am not too regular with my daily practices now but yet – I must say this – there was no looking back from there, and there won’t be ever I hope!

I came back into acceptance of myself. I went on to become an award winning writer, columnist and public speaker, a Tedx speaker, novelist and so on… and all I can say now, as I look back, is that meditation was what got me back into myself.

I’m a Thriiver

I do not really feel I did anything message worthy. All I did do, when cornered and held up against the wall, was that I found my way back to myself. I stopped and allowed myself to take a break, something that was clearly unthinkable to me for the longest time. When I did that, and when I came around to accept my emotions, sensibilities and sensitivities, I gave them a channel through my pen.

I am honoured to have received quite a few accolades for my work, to have received many awards again nationally as well as internationally, and I am forever grateful for them. And yet… when these readers reach out to tell me about how my words brought them out of depression, that means a world to me more than trophies and certificates ever can.

I wrote a novel – ELIXIR – which revolves around the life of a woman as seen through two alternative realities. In it, I explored and tried to capture all the feelings, emotions and learnings that came to me in my journey over these twists and turns of life. I have tried to give words and expressions to the questions I had, the quests I undertook and the answers that I found myself.

I’d like to believe that the protagonist of Elixir is as much of a Thriiver as I am.

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