We are moving :)

Hi everyone,

 

Thank you for following our blog and contributing to shatter the stigma surrounding mental health. In order to have more independence in the format of our content and the reader experience, we have migrated our blog to http://www.lonepack.org/blog.

 

Happy Couple In Their New Home Concept

We are eagerly looking to engage with every one of you who have supported us, on our new platform.

Do follow our new blog, guys! Your love and support is what keeps us going 🙂

 

Let’s shatter the stigma!

 

-The LonePack Team

Life with Neuroticism

I scored in the 92nd percentile on neuroticism on the Big 5 personality test. Normally, I wouldn’t care, but this score was a bit too extreme.

92nd percentile. I was among the top neurotics who ever attempted the test.

Intrigued, I took similar tests on other websites.

80th percentile. 88th percentile.

I was scoring pretty high on these tests. So, I did a bit of reading.

The Big 5 test, or the OCEAN test, or the Five Factor Model (FFM) test is a metric that rates various aspects of your personality into 5 broad factors – Openness to Experiences, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism.

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Image Source: YouBeauty.com

I’ll go over it quickly

 

    1. Openness to Experiences is your willingness to explore and having it in yourself to enjoy things outside of your comfort zone

 

  • Conscientiousness is a measure of how well you listen to yourself, and your accountability to yourself
  • Extraversion determines your gregariousness, if you consider others important to your happiness, and what you derive from company
  • Agreeableness determines your ability to be compassionate, if you put others’ needs before yours
  • Neuroticism is a measure of the effect of unfavourable conditions on your mood and your stress-levels.

 

I’ll elaborate. In the style of cheap personality tests and BuzzFeed-like clickbait, I’ll write a bunch of sentences, what you feel about them, you must retain in your head.

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Image Source: CNN

If I text my friend and she doesn’t reply immediately, it’s probably because I did something.

Overthinking is second nature to me.

I get tense really quickly.

I am easy to stress out.

I always have something to be worried about.

If I don’t constantly worry about something, it is bound to screw up in some way.

I frequently feel blue.

My boyfriend/girlfriend will be the first to break up with me.

It’s not as simple as saying, “If you answered ‘yes’ to most of these sentences, you’re probably neurotic.” Most people face bouts or prolonged periods of negativity, but what classifies as neuroticism is if the mindset specified above has somehow found itself in your daily life. If you automatically decide to blame yourself even before you know the full side of the story, you might probably have some degree of neuroticism.

As far as I know, neurotics aren’t portrayed glamorously in the media. I don’t have many instances in Indian media, but think Chicken Little, or Woody Allen in Manhattan, or Woody Allen in Bananas, or Woody Allen in Annie Hall, or Woody Allen. Ted Mosby from How I Met Your Mother, Ross Geller from F.R.I.E.N.D.S, basically any great nerd on TV can be diagnosed with neuroticism to some extent.

As far as neurotic women go, I don’t have many ready examples, but think Annie from Bridesmaids, Holly Golightly (in a few scenes), from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the titular Annie Hall from Annie Hall, and Iris Simpkins from The Holiday.

Agreed, pop culture has decreed neuroticism as a pretty uncool mental state of mind. All the hot guys have either amnesia or are psychopathic, and all the ladies are well-adjusted people from Planet Babe.

Neuroticism is characterized by low self-esteem, some self-pity, and some variants also come with victimization and aggression in unfavourable situations. Potential factors can be constant pressure to do well, letting society’s expectations of you get to you, or if your expectations of people don’t match with what they can offer you. Some severe neurotics tend to act out when they are denied things, and their self-deprecation only gets worse when people say no to them.

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All this being said, there is a slight silver lining to the cloud. All this over thinking has led to this Zen place of hyper awareness, where you are easily aware of everyone else. Being generally mistrustful of people makes you less susceptible to being taken for a ride, and helps you out in relationships too, where your partner earns your trust, as opposed to blindly being led by their good graces, only to be let down later on.

Decision-making will be a rewarding experience, because each choice will have been analyzed a minimum of 971 times, worst-case scenarios will have been evaluated before the decision is made, owing to a greater sense of owning up to mistakes, and more happiness, if it turns out to be good. (Notice how I put the bad scenario first. This is what I meant by neuroticism being a palpable element in the brain)

This constant self-analysis is a tool for perfection and betterment. Most neurotics think before they talk, which, in my opinion is better than going in, guns blazing. (Looking at you, Donald. Staring hard, and cold at you.)  Neurotics can learn to channel this worry in a positive way, by caring for themselves more. By worrying about one’s health, social standing, intelligence, and interpersonal relationships, your neuroses can help in fine-tuning the kinks in life.

I am yet to personally improve myself, but I am definitely working towards channeling my neuroses into increased conscientiousness. I worry I will fail at life, so I worry myself into doing a good job at work. I worry my friends will abandon me, so I put myself out there and connect with them, I initiate conversations, I make plans to go out to lunch and dinner.

I am yet to reap the benefits of what I sow, but if shit hits the fan, I have a Plan B for my Plan B.

The optimist invented the airplane, and the pessimist, the parachute.

 

-Sanjana Mahesh

 

A Helpless Spectator

I have been a helpless spectator when my close friends suffered. Despaired at their pain. Grieved at their inability to function. These are feeling you would know if anyone you know suffers from or had suffered from depression. Depression is a demon that casts a gloomy shadow on the person’s life. There is no easy way out of it. Once somebody is in its grip, it will take tremendous amounts of support, help and effort to get back to normal again. These are some things I have seen first hand from their experience.

 

It is hard to know what to do when your loved one is going through this. So, I would like to share my thoughts.

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In the time I spent with my friends I have made quite a few mistakes. The most important thing we should avoid doing is making them feel worse than they are. Even if we feel that might spur them on to do better, it must not be done. They might respond temporarily, but in the long run this is something that needs care and attention, not a guilt trip. This is a mistake I am guilty of.

 

It hurt to see my buddies in that state of limbo, not really doing the things they should. It is hard I know. But we need to realize that addressing and tackling the issues they face should take priority rather than academics, work or anything else. Another mistake I made was trying too hard sometimes. There are times when we try to talk to them but they don’t feel like talking. People going through depression and other issues would have phases where they are withdrawn and avoid conversation with people in general. We need to give them their space .

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They will get back in touch when they feel ready to handle contact with others. We need to understand that their not wanting to talk to us isn’t really because of either of our “faults” but rather a need imposed on them due to their issues. Trying to force them to talk to you when they are not ready to will be counter productive and do neither of you any good.

 

There are quite a few things we should NOT say to someone who is going through depression. A few of them would be “Just get better”, “Stop making it more than it is”, ” “Why are you depressed?” . This not only destroys their confidence, but also makes them feel like it is their fault they are going through this. But the fact is , it is definitely NOT THEIR FAULT that this happened to them. Nothing we ever say should imply that. The best thing I found I could do for my friends was JUST BEING THERE FOR THEM. Although it took me time to realize it, all they wanted was to have someone by their side that they could count on. Somebody who made them felt wanted and give them the feeling that they were worth it. Different people would have different needs.

 

Some just need someone to be with them. Some need a person to talk to. Some would need a voice of reason. Irrespective of whether we could be what they want, your mere presence and care can go a long way in helping them overcome their issues.

 

Each and every one of us can help the people around us overcome their mental illnesses. If we realize that someone around us is having a tough time, just be there for them. Help them in every way you can. Learn what makes them better and show them you care. This way we can do our bit to help them in their battle. Let’s do our bit to shatter the stigma around mental health issues and make it easier for affected people to seek and get the help they need and deserve.

 

-Anonymous

A diary entry of sorts?

Where do I begin? How do I try to make you understand what it feels like to live with something that you refuse to even acknowledge exists. Something that is perhaps even more mythical than unicorns or leprechauns. Yet, I shall try; try to convey what I feel as best I can in the faint hope that at least one of you will understand. I stand in a crowd; happiness, laughter, sarcasm and wit all melding together to form a misty shield of normalcy that hovers around me shielding my own personal cloud of darkness from your view. I have good days and bad – Good days where I laugh and smile; and bad days where I can’t seem to feel anything at all. I have friends who care, and a family that loves me. Yet, on my worst days, even they can’t seem to help me. On those days, I hide and wear a mask. I clamp down on those emotions, those fears and try to go through the wooden mechanical routine actions like a puppet on strings.

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There’s emptiness; there’s limbo. There is no feeling – no sadness, no joy, no anger; nothing. The distractions, the mechanical routine actions do nothing to stop the numbness that’s creeping in. I feel helpless and frozen, locked in a silent scream for help; unable to do anything until the dam bursts, the tears flow, the blade slices and the blood drips.

 

-Does it even matter?

(The anonymous author gave this as their pseudonym)

Dreams to Emotions

Do you know how it feels, when you are tied on a rope, clenched tightly on your neck, pulled from both the sides and the only way you can escape is by letting one side win? Wanting both, and struggling in the middle – you’re gonna choke and suffer. The struggle is hard. You eventually end up dead, but death is not an easy or instant one. Torture blows on you. Your blood stream fastens and it just wants to rush out but it can’t. Tired of choking, you decide to go to either one of the side, which again, gets you to a dead end: to live without your soul. Death at every step, cornered, fate, fate, destiny, luck, god and hope laugh at you. You fall down. You cry. Wanting the rope to silently fall down, but it doesn’t. Both sides have hold it tight. You are stuck. You chose either of the three options put forth to you. You lose yourself. Once and forever.

Do you know how that feels? To beheld up tightly, choking, wanting for air,wanting to breathe, wanting to live.

I lost. I gave up. Stuck in the middle of the rope of life I never wanted to be in, Crushed in between emotions and dreams without which survival is impossible. To chose between who I want to be and who made me, I lost my tug of war with destiny, I lost myself.
It is okay to have dreams, it is okay if you couldn’t conquer. It is not fine, enforcing someone else to live it for you. Let your little bird fly high with its dream. It’ll learn to fly on its own. It will fall, but it will get up. If it can’t, it knows what to do.
I respect those who give up dreams for their family. I also respect those who give up family for their dreams. For those who are stuck, wanting both, we know we lost a bit of our souls, wondering what will be, our purpose of life now.

Don’t let your child lose its life or soul.

Sincerely,
A dead soul with chopped wings getting tamed to be someone’s slave.

Image credits: https://in.pinterest.com/explore/bird-sketch/

Sometimes I wish

 

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Sometimes I wish

The notion about depression amidst the masses turns true

Sometimes I wish

I could snap out of depression as my friend urges me to

Sometimes I wish

My mother’s lap could heal depression like magic

Sometimes I wish

My mind would clear through the traffic

Sometimes I wish

Suicide rants weren’t my brain’s beseech

Sometimes I wish

Serotonin grew on trees that were within reach

Sometimes I wish

Pills and Shocks led me to survival

At other times I wish

Depression didn’t kill me

Long before any of these wishes made their arrival.

-Anonymous

The Broken Men of Breaking Bad: Why men need to open up

“Why are you crying? Are you a girl?” piped up a voice brimming with confidence at having the attention of the kids gathered around in a circle, and pride at his display of strength. The voice belonged to my classmate in kindergarten who had just smashed the sand castle that I had been building on the playground. He had followed it up by pouring fistfuls of sand all over my head from where they flowed down my body ruffling the crisp, striped shirt that my mother had ironed so painstakingly a few hours earlier. By now, a swarm of my fellow kindergarteners had gathered around, attracted by the commotion. And like any good mob, they looked on at the commotion in amusement and burst into cackles of laughter at the scene unfolding before them. Ashamed and embarrassed, tears streamed down my face which is when the boy who stormed my castle, asked the question which led to more peals of laughter from the crowd, louder than they were before. The laughter that reverberated on that pleasant Chennai morning and numerous other incidents ingrained the idea in my conscience that hiding your vulnerabilities was essential to being masculine.

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For those who haven’t watched it yet (I highly recommend that you do), Breaking Bad follows the story of a struggling high school teacher, diagnosed with cancer who turns to a life of crime selling crystal methamphetamine to ensure his family’s financial independence. The series ran for five seasons and achieved widespread critical acclaim and popularity. One might be tempted to ask as to what the series has to do with the incident that I just explained, mental health or men.

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“Because he is a man”

(SPOILER ALERT : The succeeding paragraph contains information which might be considered mild spoilers. If you haven’t watched Breaking Bad and want to avoid any information about the show whatsoever, skip this para. You have been warned :p)

Let me explain. Something that struck me while watching ‘Breaking Bad’ was how the men that the series followed steadfastly refused to open up about their troubles,  holding onto the images of strength that they had so carefully cultivated. Take Gus Fring, the ruthless, calm, Machiavellian drug kingpin for instance. As a young Chilean immigrant he was emotionally devastated by the murder of his best friend at the hands of the Cartel. The depth of his loss can be judged by the way he spends the rest of his life building a drug empire to rival the Cartel and finally eliminating every single person he held responsible for his beloved friend’s death. Or consider Hank Schrader, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent. He is an incorruptible agent and a thorn in the flesh of drug traffickers till the end. To his family, he is as an emotional support and source of strength. Yet, he closes himself out from everyone when he experiences PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) or when he is seriously disabled after a brutal assassination attempt. Who else to best illustrate this than the primary protagonist, Walter White (a.k.a Heisenberg) himself. Battling cancer, feelings of insecurity and notorious criminals, he refuses to completely open up to his loved ones on multiple occasions – and these lead him down a path of death and destruction that devastates everyone around.

Why is it that these characters refused to talk about their emotional scars and mental burden? Why did they not share it with the people they loved? Why did these men cut off themselves from so many sources of help? These questions are perhaps best answered by a character in the show, Gus Fring whom we had mentioned previously. When trying to convince Walter White not to leave the drug business, he tells him:

“ ..They (your family) will always be your priority and your responsibility. And a man, a man provides. He does it even when he is not appreciated, or respected, or even loved. He simply bears up and he does it. Because he is a man.”

These words echo true in so many of the messages that our patriarchal society feeds to young boys and men. “Man up “, “Be a man and suck it up”, “Boys don’t cry”. We would have all come across these at some point in time. From a very young age, we raise men to be take pride in their independence and urge them to provide for their loved ones. While these are noble ideals in themselves, what is problematic is the rigid gender roles that accompany them and the notion that being “strong” requires sweeping all our vulnerabilities and weaknesses under the proverbial carpet.

The effect of this conditioning is raising a generation of men who believe that talking about their mental demons is for the weak. Men who are emotionally expressive and open up are looked down upon as less “masculine”. From stories, legends and religion to movies and commercials beamed constantly, we are fed with a barrage of messages that the ideal man is a picture of flawless physical and mental strength with not a chip in his glorious armour.  The men we look up to and consider our heroes are often portrayed as decisive individuals with no insecurities or doubts to speak of. In our age where (thankfully) superiority in physical violence has largely been condemned by mainstream society, the onus of patriarchal notions of manliness has fallen on being the ultimate “provider” – either to people they lead or those they love.

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The fact that men don’t talk about their emotions results in very serious consequences. The refusal to speak up results in countless men carrying on with their lives while dealing with undiagnosed mental illnesses. The statistics paint a grim picture. Men are more than twice as likely as women to die from suicide and about half as likely to seek mental help. In many First World nations, suicide is a leading cause for death among men. This is a highly distressing phenomenon and it is time that we take steps to reverse the trend.

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A very dear friend of mine once told me that it takes a lot of strength to open up about one’s weaknesses. While I can’t claim that I have completely internalized it myself, I deeply agree that this is a message that ought to be shouted from the rooftops to shatter the shrouds of stigma that hinder open discussions of mental health. Unlearning millennia of social conditioning and prejudices is not going to be an easy task, but perhaps we can make a dent in those notions, however small, if we tried. Perhaps, we can learn that being strong and feeling weak need not be mutually exclusive. Perhaps, we can talk about how the heroes that we lionize and glorify went through mental torment of their own. Perhaps, we can tell men that it is perfectly normal and healthy to talk about their emotions. Perhaps, I can tell my kindergarten self that it is OK for boys to cry.

 

-Siddhaarth Sudhakaran