The last one year, hasn’t been an easy one, and no matter how strong one can be on the outside, we all are vulnerable somewhere within.
How are you doing? The common answer that I have given to this recently is – ‘the best one can currently be’. That’s true and false at so many levels at the same time. Normally, I have been good but that hasn’t been the case every time I gave this response. And then a friend recently went a step further, isn’t the current situation fucking up with your mental health – and I told him, I just try and keep myself busy to not think about it – I lied, because that’s what we do right?
I having been living away from family for almost 14 years now, and most of the time alone; with occasionally family and friends being my flat mates. So being alone, isn’t a new way of life for me. I may have 3000+ friends on Facebook built over the 3 odd decades of my existence, but I am that extrovert who will go on random trips, attend random sessions and make random friends everywhere I go (and ofcourse add them to FB and never talk/ meet them again) and I’ll be that introvert who will go on a long planned trip with friends and then decide not to be with them during the trip – you may chose to call me ambivert or any other term of your choice. Sometimes we try to simplify personalities of an individual with one word, let’s accept it we are more complex than that for sure. There are days when I want to be away from everyone and there are days I want all the attention to myself.
Back in 2013, I quit a well paying dream corporate job to venture into a failed startup; what followed was failed friendships, failed support system and it broke me down as an individual. I was at a point when I got used to having people around me, used to talking to friends for hours on a call and still having more to speak about, watching every bollywood movie, regular dinners, outings – basically having friends and family around me at the touch of a button. But when 2013 ended, suddenly a lot of this changed or probably it was already on course but I never noticed; I had no clue whom to speak to, whom to reach out to and more importantly – what next – the support system crashed.
We are all so used to having someone around, looking up to for advise, mentoring and guidance. For me, I have navigated most of it on my own and when you are down, there is no one waiting with a rope to pull you out. And that is where it got worst in 2013; it was probably the first time in 24 years when I had more questions than answers – I have always been the guy who would say let’s do it and then figure it out later – but at that point I had no idea what was I upto. I contemplated returning to the corporate job as well as moving back to the family home. For some reason, none of these two options happened and I took up a temporary consulting role. Ofcourse, I spent a lot of time anti-socialising, partly locking myself in my room staring at the flickering lights and rotating fan.
When I returned to a little normalcy in 2014, my first resolve was to not be dependent on any external influences – be it family or friends – I once again began pushing myself inside the closet. And at the same time ensure that I am available whenever somebody wanted some insights – only inflow and no outflow. Till 2013, I used to be damn impulsive and possessive about everyone and everything around me. Not only did I want attention, I wanted to know everything and be in the thick of things. I felt that if someone missed to call or text me a particular day/ week or time – they’ll forget me – I used to be that insecure as a individual that I wanted to be a part of every ‘cool’ group and dinner scenes. I would normally pretend to not give a fuck about everything around me but within me, I actually did (I was a damn good actor or con artist maybe). Repercussions – my anxiety levels kept rising multifold.
I could be really good friends with someone I have met randomly at an event or maybe a colleague I never worked with – it was that easy for me. Gradually, with a lot of effort I withdrew myself from that system. I start ditching things I loved such as being around with people, staying connected with family and friends, always being available, catching up on the worst Bollywood films, random plans, etc. I reduced making new friends or acquaintances. My outbound social calls reduced to maybe a call a week and between 2014 and 2020, I may have lost touch with 100’s of friends or people I met – and gradually I became okay with it. I started becoming so comfortable with myself that I became more and more distant from the people around me. And somehow, I started enjoying the mystery in my life and I felt more in control of how my life was being navigated. I curbed the urge to regularly stay connected and that definitely over the years help bring down my anxiety levels.
But last year, changed it all and the last few months have brought me back a lot of trust issues and anxiety levels. Initially, when the lockdown was imposed, I felt nice about having a break. I have not been into any professional activity for more than 3 years and the current startup is already at 4+ so that was a much needed breather break and my first anxiety attacks came in when the third set of lockdown was announced. I was trying to keep myself busy with books, shows, food and Toastmasters but that urge to get out was real. I wasn’t missing people to be honest but I did not want to stay confined anymore. I love my solo trips.
Despite trying not to be dependent on people, I used to always be available to anyone who wanted inputs/ insights/ wanted to catchup/ needed any help – and I used to be rather spontaneous in getting things done. I wanted to be that catalyst in the lives of people which I was missing in my own life. But last few months, my procrastination levels have reached another peak. I would tell people I will circle back to you but I couldn’t always keep my word. I would kind of forget milestones and conversations until reminded about the same. It wasn’t that I did not intend to but I kind off started loosing track and forgetting things. I wasn’t my best version and took me a real long time to realise I was drifting off and there were few clear indicators in last 3 months which I couldn’t help but notice.
While I had avoided all sorts of travel in 2020 including my annual teerth yatra to Goa, in December when my brother decided to fly down from US, I planned to join him as well at Dubai. While there, I still wanted to take all precautions and stay at home but my family had other plans. So they would not tell me what the plan was but expect me to tag along – normally I am all in for unplanned itinerary as long as I am broadly aware of what’s happening and I can control and change the plan – but here it wasn’t possible; and moreover I wanted to remain cautious. So I would loose my cool often as I couldn’t control how my day would look like. And then, one of the days I backed out from a zipline adventure because they were going to hang me down and I wouldn’t be able to control or navigate for the next 3 minutes (despite the fact that I have done both bungee and reverse bungee) – I did not have control and that is about it.
And then in February I had another trip to Jaipur with a few friends I hadn’t met in ages. It was supposed to be a grand reunion and it indeed was. But then a few discussions went haywire and the atmosphere became a little tense. But the problem was the aftermath. One person came back and said that I don’t show empathy as an individual and another friend called me days later to start with a statement – ‘I wasn’t sure if you would speak to me or not’. I am normally very vocal and upfront in calling a spade a spade and during the trip a friend commented, ‘from when did you have to think so much before speaking to someone?’ and then in another episode where I had to have a conversation with someone; I took another friend as a tag along – never in my 30 years I have needed that. This wasn’t the person I was or supposed to become and I did not know how and when I was becoming this unknown individual. Suddenly I noticed a lot of changes or probably it was already on course but I never felt it earlier.
I am known to be very reclusive and it’s largely because I have serious trust issues. I may know you for years but still not trust you. I am not the easiest person to understand and it will take you several meetings to probably decipher me – normally, you’ll count me as a snob the first time we interact. I was getting better at this when an election campaign went wrong in 2019 and I was back to ground zero and I haven’t even really recovered yet when another news of a friend with a split personality surfacing this week is now going to put my trust factor to the burial ground.
I am not the most expressive types and normally not a big fan of groups. Even within a group, I’ll have different conversations and equations with different people. But I can have one on one conversations on various topics for hours with you. I try to manage my emotions and have been fairly successful at it so far. I always try to prove that I have control over everything that’s happening around me and mature enough to handle any crisis or conversation. Because when people look upto you, you got to put up that face and smile through it.
It is not that I am having sleepless nights. It’s just that I am gradually becoming a lot more selective of the people I like to be around or stay connected with and honestly the dropping number’s aint looking good. And it’s not a constant feeling, it’s random and erratic but my efficiency has reduced and focus on conversations has seen a drastic drop. There will be days when I need to drag myself out of bed and no, I am not talking about the regular monday blues, it is more often than that.
I haven’t been available to friends and family as I would have normally liked to be because I was trying to be available for myself. Don’t get impulsive after reading this blog – I am doing the best I can currently be doing. It’s not all that bad; and for me writing is therapeutic, my way of giving my emotions an outflow.