I’ve never been Un (Happier)
Author: Shaheen Bhatt
Released by Penguin
Genre: Mental health
Rating: Four and a half stars
“I’m silent but the screaming won’t stop, I’m calm but the restlessness goes on, I’m smiling but my frown won’t fade, I’m laughing but the tears don’t die away, I’m living but that won’t stop death from coming my way.”
Shaheen’s journal–Age 15 (2003)
Depression is real and not made up or imagined by a vulnerable mind capable of bursting like a pressure cooker at any moment. Speaking or writing about mental pressure shows there is no lack of spine and no vanity tale or fiction. Shaheen Bhatt is the daughter of maverick filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt and actor Soni Razdan and sister of the toast of the town Alia where one may well argue about an entitled life smeared with fame and money. The fault doesn’t lie in the stars nor does the unhappiness of being happy. Depression doesn’t select faces nor does it knock before entering.
Shaheen Bhatt’s bares her soul open on her struggle with depression and provides a heart to heart account about her father swearing by the bottle or leaving alcohol days after her birthday and mother confessing how the baby burst the childbirth romance. The instance about the photo shoot with sisters Alia and Pooja where she was edited out of the picture for not being spunky is telling. It provokes us to ask questions on depression where a smile doesn’t wear thin on the face and the feeling of being ‘unwanted’ and taking a walk outside the studio. The desire to go sleeping with this monster called depression for years is someone many of us would relate to and the dark, uninterrupted days or the pathos of an unfair life. The tale is compelling yet pierces the heart with the fleeting speed of an arrow. There is an unveiled truth in our understanding of depression.
From the romanticization of suicide, the author comes face to face with the death of a house help which the sisters grew close and fond of, shaking off the young girl, sucking deeper into this abyss called depression. I could identify what Shaheen has been through and wonder about the tiny voices of anxiety that keeps popping inside our heads which she calls Syl, a stark reminding that death is looming large like a running commentary, pretty much like in football or cricket matches.
“I imagine death so much it feels like a memory,”–Lin Manuel Miranda
The constant battle with sleep and the inner fear taking the form of an unvanquished monster looking to hit us hard is a real struggle. The lack of sleep is the mind disruptor compelling her to carry an inhaler for asthma when she doesn’t have.
“In other words, you can buy happiness off the rack-but sadness is tailor-made just for you,” –Shaheen Bhatt
Feelings often come alive as simple questions asked on identity, Who am I? on being alive or our purpose forming human consciousness which we often blithely ignore. The crux lies in the fact that these questions must push us to explore the inner self and Shaheen advocates not shy away but be aware of existence. In these questions is embedded the answers may be to address fears or predicament of death.
“It is this acute awareness of transience and impermanence that constitutes depression,” Andrew Soloman.
The best thing about writing is the quotes and notes from ‘Shaheen’s Journals’ about life, death or depression. Cognizant or self-awareness remain the central focus to people afflicted by depression which becomes our sole focus and intrinsic part of life like this pesky relative or friend we cannot chuck out. She advocates therapy as education, which is very important in today’s times where we still treat depression as taboo or personal shame. Shaheen drives an important point home on therapy not limited to someone being ‘ill’ but anyone. I feel it’s extremely important for anyone to seek therapy from time-to-time.
An entire chapter is devoted to the incapacity of loving, the anger or bitterness, negativity taking a toll on relationships. I know what the author is hinting on and there are still instances where I feel like burying my face with the bed sheet not to face anyone or sleeping forever, meeting new people or saying No to relationships and constant comparison to successful people while being held up by unforeseen circumstances. There is this sadistic pleasure of indulging in self-blame and one of my favorite pastime has driven oneself to the wall.
“Depression robs you of the capacity to love. This is because a depressed person is so often incapable of seeing, giving and receiving love.”
We need to address the issue that depression doesn’t choose its victims, whether you are born with a silver spoon of fame or a struggler for life. Your bank balance is not important nor being a constant flyer in the skies. The perils ‘to be the only person…who isn’t famous or a ‘famous family’! Life is a constant struggle and not a tiring award or the cultural reverence for fame and celebrity makes for convincing arguments that we are not enough the way we are. I am happy that Shaheen says it loud and clear for we are all shaped as products of ‘mass media’.
The book, I’ve never been Un (Happier) is a personal account of the author’s struggle with depression and shall refrain from pointing at minuses. We got to respect that and the author’s courage in flaunting not glamour but her struggles as a human being. The 12 step approach recommended by Shaheen Bhatt as a guideline helps to draw meaning is a must read and makes sense for anyone facing inner demons. The book has jolted me off my safe shell to seek professional help. Thank you, Shaheen. A short book and easy-to-read at one stretch with the author recounting her battle with depression makes this book comes alive, real and uncensored. Highly recommended.
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Love to ya