The Bipolar Saga

I was at home today, working on my photography while hours of SSR’s videos played in the background. My obsession with him is not voyeuristic, it’s very personal. As I mentioned before, my mum suffered from Bipolar Disorder. She was diagnosed after her first suicide attempt, when I was around nine. In those days people were given electric shocks, kept in psychiatrist’s make shift rehabs and given lots and lots of pills.

In her case, akin to what we hear about SSR’s she also had an addiction, to cough syrups. So we rarely saw her awake growing up. When we did, like it is the case with patients of BPD, there were extreme highs and extreme lows, with multiple suicide attempts over the years. Her husband and sister played Rhea’s part in my mum’s story and took her to the doctors and gave the pills. My aunt mostly sent the servants too and kept a tab on mum by calling them up, to find out what she was upto. The analogy is true, only if this lady is telling the truth.

But like all relationships, the one’s you have with people with mental illnesses, still work on barters. My Amma, played the ‘bad guy’ as beautifully as I do and my aunt, played her rescuer, while my father was free to do as he pleased, since he was such a ‘good guy’ for providing for this wasteful woman. For the longest time, i thought, my dad’s alcoholism was triggered by my mum’s illness, to only realise later, that my uncle too, was one, so who knows how that would have played out, under different circumstances?

Anyhow, I grew up to be like my mum, passionate, crazy and unsurprisingly suicidal. In forty one years, there have been four attempts, which lead to three hospitalisations, where my stomach was pumped for the pills I had popped; all three between the ages of 15-18. And the last one one at the age of 31 or was it 32? I’ll have to ask the person who saved me. That one would be have been worth, recording, for how filmy it was! So, I had been under tremendous pressure, since the brother’s death to get married and bring my father, a male heir, by marrying one! One has always been very stubborn, so no one could actually ‘ make me’ do anything. But there was this thing hanging over my head all the time. The relationship which I was in or not, no one can say, was on or off at any given time other than the first two years, was not going anywhere and was never going to lead to anything.

There were no promises, no commitments, not even a ‘this is my girl friend’, kind of an introduction to any of his friends. There were never any public displays of affection and he’s probably the only person, who I ever seriously dated, I have no ‘couple type’ pics with. Someone said to me the other day ‘but you know that’s the way he is’. Yet there are enough images on fb, that prove otherwise. Anyway, we would speak to each other everyday, hang out once a week and make out a few times in a year at that point ( he wasn’t particularly attracted towards me). Now I realise, it was a replica of my parent’s marriage! But we had the same friend circle and we were great friends. We both also had other people in our life at that moment in time ( mine was more public and something I had told him about, his was a big secret, which was denied till the end but like I say, you can vilify a woman but there’s no fooling karma) but for neither of us, at that moment, it seemed those were serious, either.

When I look back, I know, it would have fizzled out much sooner, had I not clung to it for dear life. He was my closest friend and probably the only man I never tried to guard myself against. He was generous to a fault, stable, raw, so kind, absolutely hilarious, he was everything I wasn’t and hoped to be but he looked at me like my dad does, with the same kind of indifference, like it wouldn’t matter if I existed or not. The masochist in me was hooked and how! There was this constant pressure at home, to marry him. He was perfect- a nice, younger, good looking Sikh boy. ‘ How had this crazy girl found such a boy?’ my relatives would wonder. ‘It’s because of the family, due to us, where she comes from, that he’s with her!’ they would say. I can’t count the number of times, I would hear my dad telling, someone or the other, ‘the boy is not agreeing to marry her!’ and then these conversations would be repeated to me, over and over again. Till I snapped! I just couldn’t take it anymore.

I sent my assistant, who was working in our company, back to Kashmir and I cracked. At some hour like now, I was restless, like today and I started planning how to kill myself. I wasn’t going to od on my mum’s pills again, since all my previous attempts had failed, so I took a plastic bag and tied it around my neck. I’d read, it would do the deed in my sleep. Unfortunately, God has put someone in my life, who has taken it upon himself to save me from, myself! So, my assistant who was on his way to Kashmir, thought there was something odd about the way I was speaking, when he had called. Since, he was the only one, who had witnessed how, I was coming apart at the seems and he had a hunch. The pressure was driving me crazy. I knew, what I knew and it turns out so did God. So my assistant came back that night and sat outside my house, till sunrise and then rang the bell. Long story short, he saved me. He says till today, that sight when he found me, scares him.

If you see my pictures from that time, no one will be able to guess that, I was going through anything. I was exhibiting, traveling, working, going out, meeting friends and loosing my shit completely, all at the same time. Other, than my assistant and this boy, I could fake being fine in front of everyone. It’s only if you ever read my messages, which never got answered, that you will realise, the level of desperation and hopelessness, I felt at that time. When people show SSR’s pics where he’s smiling and ask how a person who looks happy, would want to kill themselves, I wonder how dumb they are!

Now, as I type this, I worry, what if someday, someone throws me from the terrace or strangulates me and then uses the preexisting marks on my body or this post as evidence to call it a suicide? Why would such an absurd thought enter my mind, you ask? Well, till I was twenty seven it seems I was me- Saadiya. The men I met saw some version of me. Then my brother died and I suddenly became, my parents ‘only child’ and suddenly there was a shift in the way men looked at me. I can’t really put a finger on it but something was different, that maybe why I wanted to cling to someone who knew me from before. You will call it my paranoia ( which is the only thing that I don’t suffer from) but something’s changed more drastically, since mum’s passing. Maybe it’s my dad’s voice which plays in my head, all the time or if you hear, ‘anyone who will be with you, will be with you because of all this and men are really bad, they can do anything’ , enough times, you start to believe that or maybe you actually start to realise that money does make the mare to go and actually people can do anything for it. ‘ By the way, we don’t have that much money in the first place’, is what I would tell my dad, until SSR and mum. To only realise, it ain’t about how much you have, it’s about being a little frail and coming with an exceptional amount of baggage.

P.S- This fearfully, the chances of finding someone look rather bleak. Blast from the past, someone from my teenage years messaged, today. When I tried to turn down the proposition politely, by saying ‘sorry, you’re married!’ I was asked, ‘are you that righteous?’.’ No just too lazy! Married men require too much work!’ I replied. ‘ I guess they all also assume different versions of me.

S.S.R

A 34 year old actor, commits suicide and the stupidity of humans, becomes so obvious to me. On every platform, I read the same hypocritical nonsense, feigning shock and asking a question that drives me crazy-‘ do such people not think about their parents?’. What a myopic view of the world, we all have! The assumption that everyone’s relationships are the same as our’s, that everyone deals with pain, angst , frustration, failure exactly as we do.

I came back home to a burnt, Jaipuri kurta. My brother and I had been dropped back home, we had spent the day at a relative’s place. The maid picked it up dramatically and showed the nine year old me, what my mum had worn, when she sprayed perfume on it and lit herself on fire. My mum came from a large family, was married and had two kids but in that moment, nothing stopped her. That was the first time she tried to kill her self but the permanent scars she was left with, didn’t stop her. She remained masochistic her, entire life. The means changed but the inherent loneliness, she suffered from always haunted her.

Did people not love her? They did! But no one saw her, not even I, for the longest time. Anyone can love the idea of you but to be seen for who you are and be accepted, that is the tough part. Especially, when you are not run off the mill and woh, was she made of a different grain, or what? I think, other than one sister and her son, I never really saw her, be totally at ease with anyone, despite her jovial nature. I saw her struggle with people her whole life, always wanting to return to her aloneness. I’ve struggled with people my entire life, forever feeling, like being an ‘outsider’, not belonging to anything or anyone.

That feeling got so amplified after my mum’s death that, now, I wonder how I survived. Everyday, I wanted it to end, feeling totally lost. To feel like an outsider in your own house, is not a nice feeling. To be alone, in your grief is almost as heartbreaking as the the grief itself. People are mean, the sooner we accept it, the better it is. It is in your weakest moments, that they will say and do the harshest things. They will judge you, your life, your choices, your personality and have discussions about it, then, because they can. Jab waqt burra ho, to har kissi ne PHD kari he aap pe. But shine and they will shut up…nothing succeeds like success.

You can either learn from it, somehow, learn to totally count on yourself or succumb to the pressures! What that young boy, must have struggled with, only he knew. How did his struggle play on his mind? How his mother’s death impacted him, only he must have known! When people talk about how brilliant he was, I’m reminded of what my mum’s shrink said. ‘ Only a person whose mind works more than other’s can be depressed. Her intelligence is the cause of her depression! ‘ I’m sure in his case too, it was because he was so sharp that he was depressed. The burden of being different, is a heavy one, to bear. Some carry it better than other’s. Sone try to fit in and some just bow out. Sushant Singh Rajput’s death doesn’t shock me. The hypocrisy of this society does.

P.S- I have to wonder though, how do we know, how much our mind and body can take? Sometimes we survive the biggest things and sometimes, the smallest things make us feel helpless. Maybe suicide is just the fault in our stars! We go when we have to and exactly how we are meant to.

Notes for the suicidal teen

There’s something about being on the road for long periods of time, that is meditative in nature. Of course, there are many fleeting thoughts that catch one’s fancy, memories hang from a tree somewhere and faces appear and disappear with the sprinkles of rain but all in all, there is mostly inner silence.

On my birthday, I saw a video on an acquaintance’s wall…something about plastic. I don’t recall the video, just the first still. A plastic bag covering a man’s face. Reminds me of the last time I tried to kill myself, something I had found on Google and watched in a film, where the killer suffocates the victim with plastic and then chops her up. Fortunately, I was discovered by someone who has made it his mission in life to get my ass out of trouble. It was a nice reminder of how low, low can feel, on the day I was born-it was a lovely birthday present. Like Javed Akhtar says-‘Khudd khushi kyaa dukho ka hal banti…maut ke khudd sau jhamele the. Hum to bachpan mein bhi akele the. Sirf dil ki gali mein khele the.’

Suicide! It’s funny when Dharmendra yells, ‘Mausiji suicide!’, in Sholay. In real life, I can’t begin to describe the mix of desperation, loneliness and courage it takes. Ya, I know people always say it is an act of cowardice, but people say a lot of things like parrots, thoughtlessly repeating something they heard, read or were fed, without feeling or thinking, much. Is it a cry for help? Sometimes, but in my case I think it has been conditioning, something I learnt was a solution when life got tough.

I was nine when my mom tried to kill herself. She has bipolar disorder, I won’t say suffers from because it makes her who she is-unlike anyone I have met! Her entire life has been one long attempt at trying to destroy herself, through drug abuse and suicide attempts, a punishment she induces on herself for not being like everyone else. I learnt the tricks of the trade, early. By my adolescent years, I was a professional masochist (my celoids are a good reminder of those days)
and before I turned 18, I had been hospitalised twice for overdosing on pills. Two stomach pumps and a loving boyfriend and his family later, I calmed down. I discovered the one thing that saved me and continues to till date-photography. Shrinks? Well, a few did make some failed attempts on me but I am my mother’s child! Besides, no outsider can teach you self worth. 

It was in my early thirties, when I felt the same kind of thing. It’s like being an alcoholic, you got to admit that you are one to deal with. I somehow managed to forget. I somehow believed that if I had not done anything after my brother’s passing, I had miraculously become so strong that life could not bring down. But bang, I was there in the same spot. 

Over the past few years, I have thought many a times about this. I recently saw a video where the orator, an actor was talking about his life and trying to reach out to people, especially children who feel so alone that they want to kill themselves. It made me think- If I was asked to tell a child not to want to kill himself/herself what would I say?

If you have thoughts of suicide, it’s probably because are in a situation that you feel you can not handle. Know that it’s okay to not know where life is taking you. It’s fine. We don’t always need to know. The adults don’t know either! If they do, it’s something that was scripted for them by their loved ones. If you’re lost, you will find your own way.

You are alone! Learn that as quickly as you possibly can. You came alone and you will die alone. In between you will find people who will walk with you for a while. Don’t wait to not feel alone. Infact, embrace it. That’s where you will derive your strength from. But don’t let yourself get lonely. Aloneness is the ability to embrace your own self, loneliness is a sadness about being on your own, a hole nothing can fill.

If you have these thoughts, it is probably because you don’t feel who you are is enough or that you are not living upto the expectations of your loved ones. Your loved ones are human beings not demi gods! They are flawed like you and I, they are selfish like you and I and they make mistakes like you and I. The world doesn’t owe you anything and you don’t owe the world anything, either. Don’t let people’s expectations weigh you down! No one owns you! When you stomach is being pumped, they will be thinking about police cases and not your life. When you are dead they will be thinking about how difficult their life is, not yours, you will be reduced to being just a body a minute after you pass away. Before, you start thinking how terrible they are, darling, you would be thinking the same thing if when you were in their position!

If you have had a tough childhood and you look at other people and wonder why? It’s because God wants to give you the courage to be your own person. Most people I know who come from loving homes find it harder to take a stand because they don’t want to hurt their loved ones. They find it harder to deal with rejection. Turn all the crap that has been hurled at you into something great. If you have been told you are not good enough your entire life, if one more person says it, it shouldn’t make a difference. When people say something terrible to me now, I just think, ‘join the que. ‘ If they say you can’t, I think ‘wait for it!’

A boxer was being asked recently on a British talk show, if he won a particular game because he was younger? In his answer lies the truth about survival, ‘ I am a fighting man and at the end of the day I think you have to have spite. That’s what makes you go for a few more rounds.’ It isn’t anything other than spite that made me get up from bed, otherwise I was gone. Despite, all of my Mom’s tangos with Death, when it really does come close, she fights like a champion.  

Find something that you love. Not like- love. Channel that excessive passion into something else, preferably not a human being. That’s just suffocating for the other party and not sex because it  does tend to get messy. Academics, sports, music, art, take all your broken pieces and turn them into something beautiful.

And finally, as I drive from one city to another, meeting all sorts of people, chasing rainbows and laughter, getting more blessing than I deserve, I find myself thanking God for this life. There are too many experiences that are waiting for you to embrace them, too many more heartbreaks to feel and too much more love to give. Don’t give up just yet! Life is waiting for you just around the corner. Faith and perseverance are all you need.