Growing up in the 70s & 80s in Calcutta, the city was pretty orthodox. Even being seen speaking to a boy was considered taboo. I met my husband just once before getting married when I was 20 and then moved to Mumbai, a completely different city culturally. I was not aware of what marriage meant and did not yet understand my role in it. Back then, there was this belief that parents shouldn’t call their daughter at her sasural because staying in touch would make it even more difficult for her to adjust to the new surroundings. So I didn’t speak to my parents for 3 months after I got married.
Soon, I realised that it was impossible to gauge what my in-laws’ expected from me because whatever I did always fell short of their expectations. I was taught everything by my parents – cooking various cuisines, even international ones, making the perfect roti – everything that made me a pro in the kitchen. But nothing was ever enough for them. They would constantly complain that I wasn’t competent with household chores and that my parents have failed in their responsibility to get me ready for the duties of a ghar ki bahu. They would call my mom and complain to them about me. My mom would dread coming to see me because, during all her visits, she would inevitably end up being at the receiving end of endless complaints that my in-laws harboured against me. I would be constantly compared to my sister-in-law or any new daughters-in-law in the extended family.
Every single day proved to be a nightmare. If I called my parents, my father-in-law would give me an earful about how much money I spent on that STD call. So I would get scared calling them up. I kept mum about my ordeal at my new home thinking it would worry them. I would try to talk to my husband about it, but he too was immature back then. Instead of lending me his support, he would side with his parents, justifying their actions with the excuse that I was not getting tortured physically. If it wasn’t physical abuse, it meant all was good.
I had not seen the world from my home before I ended up here. I never had many friends in Calcutta and even the outings with those friends were very low-key. We barely got out of the house. But, shockingly, after getting married, I was accused of playing politics and filling my husband’s ear with hate against his parents. My husband could never stand up to them.
After two years in my marriage, I gave birth to my daughter. My father-in-law refused to speak to me for several days because the child was a girl. After that, I was forced to try artificial methods to conceive a male child but none of them were successful. I was repeatedly mocked for raising my daughter in a certain way and compared to those who were raising their girl children in a way different from mine. Instead of supporting and teaching parenting tips to a young new mom, I was being put down for whatever I tried to do.
I was constantly told I was good for nothing and I ended up fighting all my battles alone. I tolerated all the odds against me for 12 years and after that, I was diagnosed with depression. Even then, the sneers didn’t stop. I was taunted by people questioning the reason behind my mental health condition after 12 long years. They often jeered at me commenting whether the diagnosis was my way of seeking attention. My parents begged my sister-in-law, a doctor, to speak up for me for the sake of my deteriorating mental health and my life, but she shirked it off saying that she does not want to get involved in it.
After that, it was all a downfall from there– physically and mentally. I was put on heavy-dose medication, I ended up putting on three times my weight, which made me feel worse. I refused to go out or meet people. I resorted to comfort eating and I would end up crying myself to sleep every night. I felt like I didn’t have anything to live for. My husband slept peacefully through it all, totally unmindful about my struggles. He rarely woke up and even then, there were no words of support from him – something that I needed and hoped for to make myself feel better. Despite my diagnosis, my mother-in-law didn’t stop harassing me, egging me on towards trying to commit suicide twice.
My daughter was completely neglected during these years. If I didn’t take care of her, no one else did. Her academics got hampered and she started performing poorly in school. Not only that, but my relationship with her also suffered because I couldn’t give her the love and time that a child needs. My husband used to come with me for all counselling sessions but it didn’t feel like enough support. We even took my daughter for a few sessions. But after years of therapy and fighting back, the dose of my medicines was tapered down.
After my father-in-law passed away, I got pregnant by chance with my second daughter, 13 years after my older daughter. I hadn’t healed yet, but I decided to go through with the pregnancy. I cried throughout my second pregnancy but I started noticing some changes in my husband. He started becoming a little more attentive and slightly more supportive. I finally came out of depression after her birth. My mother-in-law’s words weren’t affecting me anymore. I grew stronger, I could find just enough courage to speak up now. I wasn’t going to let anyone make me feel degraded. I had to go through severe pregnancy and postnatal issues as well but I fought them one after the other.
After a few years, I got the willpower to lose most of the weight. I became physically fitter and mentally stronger. During and after the birth of my second daughter, my husband lent me his support like never before. My older daughter rose to the occasion and assisted me with whatever help I needed. It took patience but our relationship gradually healed with time.
A family’s support is so important for someone battling depression. And for anyone reading this – anyone who may or may not have a support system, I would just like to say, keep fighting. It may look like it’s the end of your life but I promise you it’s not. Get the necessary professional help even if you have the support of a great family. Just keep fighting every minute of every day, and you will see the light at the end of the tunnel. And it’s just not a light, it’s the beginning of a new life. A happier and more positive life. Do not give in to depression, it may feel like the easier choice and you may feel like you don’t have the strength to fight it anymore, but you do. The strength comes from within from the moment you start seeking it. You have just the right amount of will and determination in yourself to get out of it, and you will get out of it gradually. One step at a time.
This article has been contributed by an author who wishes to remain anonymous.
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