At the peak of his career as an entrepreneur, Vijay Nallawala had no hint of how life would confront him with a depressive illness and put him into a phase, which he today defines as ‘a very tough time’.
Nallawala, a Mumbai resident, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2003, at the age of 48. The illness forced him to shut down his firm to avoid financial losses.
“My life changed that year. I could not understand what was happening to me, but my sister noticed these changes in me. I was in a manic phase at that time and my psychiatrist advised immediate hospitalisation. That was a very tough time – financially and mentally – for me,” said Nallawala.
Nallawala found it difficult to cope with the never-ending depression. Consequently, despite sleeping for 14 hours a day, Nallawala felt tired, his social interactions had stopped and there was no motivation left in him to do any task.
“When I was diagnosed, there was not much awareness about it. The stigma is so stifling that people do not talk about their symptoms, even to their close relatives. I also had to hide this fact from my relatives,” said Nallawala.
Describing the phase as the most difficult time of his life, 54-year-old Nallawala says though he could overcome his disorder with positive outlook and a strong willpower, there are many who need to be counselled to tackle such mental disorders. So, after defeating the manic depressive illness, Nallawala decided to help others battling with depression and dedicated his to spread awareness on the same.
“We talk so much about cancer, diabetes and heart diseases, but we must also pay attention on mental health. In this era of quick development, everything has become exhausting, but mental health issues like depression need to be considered on a serious note,” said Nallawala.
Depression is the leading cause of disease in the world and 350 million people of all ages suffer from it. It has now become a global burden and can lead to suicide.
World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that by 2020, depression will be the second biggest cause of lost healthy years. At least 20% of the world’s children and adolescents have mental disorders and schizophrenia affects 21 million people worldwide.
There was one constant that helped Nallawala’s process of healing – family support.
“A loving family, supportive friends and exceptionally kind mentors have helped me in my journey so far. My family is the biggest source of my courage, my determination and belief. To treat any mental illness, emotional support and love is as important as medication,” said Nallawala.
Bipolar disorder is a debilitating mental illness, which although treatable, has no known cure. A mood disorder, the person afflicted by it goes through extreme swings of mood from manic highs plunging to lows (depression) with periods of normalcy in between. It is treated mainly with mood stabilisers, anti-depressants and antipsychotic drugs as the condition might warrant. In most cases, these medications need to be taken over one’s lifetime.
“Many depressed people either don’t seek treatment or quit midway. I diligently adhered to my medication and that’s not easy to do, because the side-effects are nasty. Initially, my hand tremor was so bad that I could not sign a cheque. The medication had left me daytime sleepiness, lethargy, feeling groggy, headaches, hypothyroidism and impact on my liver,” said Nallawala.
Nallawala endured all of this for 10 years and today, strong enough to say that he defeated the manic depressive illness. Now, he is happily married with a 12-year-daughter. He has set an example of how a depressed person or any mentally-disabled person can lead a normal life after receiving treatment.
“Poor medical facilities, inability to afford treatment and stigma are the major hindrances that prevent recovery. We must address these shortcomings on a warfront to reduce suffering of not only patients but families along with them,” says Nallawala, who is currently working as a Personal Branding and Digital Storytelling Coach as well as is a blogger.