I went home to India last December after 5 years of being away. I spent an emotionally intense 4 months there and upon my return plunged into nervous exhaustion, anxiety and depression. All three have now abated. I feel differently still than “my old self.” I can’t tell at this point whether the illness still lingers and is making me feel differently or whether it has gone away leaving me a totally different person who will never be the same again. At any rate, I’m ok. I wrote this entry in my journal while I was in the eye of the storm a few months ago. I’m laughing at myself for thinking it was a “bad reaction to antibiotics.” A profound comment on the state of medicine in the age of the Internet which I have a lot to say about, at some later time.
April 8, 2014
I’m sick. Its about time too. I often tell my friends that I basically never get sick. When I would say these words, some voice would warn me at the back of my mind that it is arrogant and boastful to do so. I would ignore this voice, tagging it as the voice of primal fear that masquerades as quack morality. My particular illness has some mysterious cause. The doctor within me says that I’ve reacted badly to antibiotics that were prescribed for a sore throat. This view is corroborated by forums on the Internet but is being opposed by eminent members of medical community. There is a guy on the Internet somewhere who, symptomatically and experientially, could be me. At any rate, investigations are to follow and the verdict yet to be proclaimed.
The major symptom of this illness is depressive episodes that last up to 4 hours. The depressing part about them manifests both physically and mentally. Physically I feel a pressure around my temples and at the back of my head right above my ears. Mentally I feel what is termed on the Internet as derealization. It is a real treat. You basically look at things and you see and understand them perfectly, that is a tree, this is a birthday card; but you feel disconnected from the world as a whole. The continuum of existence that includes the self and the external world is fractured. It is like seeing the world through a glass box or a fog perhaps. The sharp awareness of the present-moment and spontaneity of emotional response is lost, made sluggish rather. I often find I smile at something a microsecond too late and then remain smiling while others have moved on. Quite understandably it leads to negative-spiral thought process and frustration.
I’ve noticed that the faculty deep thought, if you will, has remained intact through all of this. It appears as if the thing that we call “wisdom” emanates from a part of the brain entirely separate from the one that enables what we call “presence.” That a being not physically connected to the world can still reason about it. In fact, during these episodes I find myself endlessly pondering my existence.
In this pondering, I am brought face to face with my sense of guilt of not being grateful enough for my family, for being narcissistic in my belief that I am destined for something special and a sense of longing to return to the ordinary. I believe we make our own religion, each of us. Mine tells me that the reason I’m sick is because it is a strong message and incentive to open my heart to accept dramatic changes in my life. For a few days I was haunted by the thought that this will never end, that the depression would consume me and leave me unable to do anything but the most rudimentary menial tasks. Then one day I broke through and felt a sense of deep bliss at the thought that perhaps I will have to survive the rest of my life not being an engineer, an actor, a writer, an improviser, a blogger and what not. That maybe I will live out the rest of my days doing stonework or painting billboards. This feeling of bliss is most likely what we all call gratitude. The gratitude that is masked by the frustrated ambition of the over-stimulated mind.
Crack the shell of the mind
To unlock the light
During my sickness, I took to drawing with crayons. I found it focused my mind in a way that was not frantic.