Taking care of oneself is not as easy as it seems. More so if you are in a social environment where mental health is neglected and mental health issues ate looked down upon. Once you fight your way out of this, you are unbeatable and you develop the wings that hold the potential to share the burden of others. Today we have one such soul who fought her way up against her family, relatives, and friends to ensure her mental health is taken care of. She extended her hands to hold others’ and share their peace stories with the world. Meet Swarnali Nath, founder of The Peace Stories Initiative. She is an Author, Blogger, Content Creator, and a Wellbeing Researcher when she shared her struggles and why is mental health important.
Swarnali Nath – Warrior of Womanhood
Welcome, Swarnali. Thanks for joining WoW as our first Warrior of Womanhood.
Thank you for inviting me to your WoW Initiative. It’s an honor to be a part of this wonderful endeavor by you.
The world knows Swarnali Nath as a successful award-winning blogger. Behind that blogger, deep inside there is a child who has fought for happiness and peace. Would you wish to introduce her to the world?
Yes, I indeed have a child in me and I never want her to grow up. She has fought for happiness and peace falling under the trap of mind when she was left all alone in the darkroom of despair. But when she saw the sunbeam peeking from the window, she realized that life is beyond this small room. And thus, she started her journey to bring smiles to others’ lives as she wants to spread hope, love, and peace in this world.
We are in the 21st century but People still don’t know why is mental health important. Did you ever find it difficult to speak about yours?
Yes, every time. My parents don’t understand my mental health issues as these problems can’t be seen. I keep shouting about my problems but this only end up having a series of misunderstandings with them.
Lack of awareness
The foremost problem in recognizing a mental health disorder is the lack of awareness in people to identify the symptoms of mental health disorders and how to take care of mental health. These symptoms are more to be felt, to suffer in silence, and sob the pain inside because nobody understands what they don’t see with open eyes.
Even people who have been there once, refuse to understand your problems and they want the solutions at the soonest, as anyhow. They will keep pointing at everything you do and consider them as your faults. They will keep discouraging you, hurting you, and instead of stretching their hands to hold you in the dark tunnel, they only leave you alone. Grieving, breaking, and shrinking to the abyss, all alone. Suffering from mental health issues like depression makes the person undergo a situation that is equally painful, frightening, and alarming. The person seeks help to live, but every breath is choked so life can show its ugly side to him/her. This time, all he/she needs is love, empathy, and compassion from his/her dear ones, but unfortunately, he/she rarely receives it.
Here comes another important aspect of calling mental health disorders a taboo. Many people still don’t want to open up in public or consult with a professional in the fear of society and their judgments. This is disappointing and heartbreaking at the same time. The more we will be vocal about our mental health problems, the better will be the situation in the future. I really hope people understand the sufferings of mental health fighters and deal with them with empathy and kindness so the scenario changes in the coming years. I hope people will understand why is mental health important.
Warrior of Womanhood – Struggles of Swarnali
We all have our own share of struggles. My fight with mental health started in the second semester of my Engineering but then I was not aware that I was stepping into a deep hollow of darkness. From the leader girl in school, I turned to a timid girl who never questioned her lecturers or enjoyed her college days. Rather, I was never a free-spirited girl during my college days and slowly I started shrinking inwards. Additionally, even when I did well in my higher semesters and grabbed the highest marks on tough papers, I was never appreciated. Instead, when I failed to grab a job in college placement, I was cornered as a loser by my fellow professors.
I met with an accident in my seventh semester and that made me immobile for months. Even when I recovered, I was walking with pain in my ankle. After a year of pain and despair, I discovered that I was taking treatment for a wrong diagnosis. Further, the proper treatment commenced but it was very late so I couldn’t get my ankle back to normal and will never be able to. This was enough for my parents not to allow me to go to another state for a job. They told me to find a suitable job in Kolkata. I saw my friends grabbing decent jobs in MNCs and me, struggling hard to get a job. I started preparing for PSU sector jobs then.
The next lap or the desperate sequel?
Initially, it was all good until we shifted to a new city, Durgapur. In my native town, Chittaranjan, there was an entirely different atmosphere of dreams and ambition. Although a small town, my native town itself proudly finds its place on the map of India as the railway town of Bengal.
But in the new city, Durgapur, in the neighborhood we moved to live, everyone was concerned about my marriage. A twenty-three-year-old girl, unmarried, seemed like a burden to her aged parents. On a daily basis, their nose was poking into our household, and even my relatives who lived in the neighborhood started taunting me for my ambition. I was always busy in my preparation for the PSU jobs, spending most of the day in my study room, practicing with mock tests and inventing my own methods to solve the problems in a quicker time. Even when I spent time with my younger cousins and played and laughed, the situation became such that I started feeling guilty about laughing my heart out. Even now I can’t smile from within; don’t know when I will be able to smile like my teenage self who smiled from the heart.
But they never understood. Moreover, they always spoke to me harshly, celebrating my failures in passing the exams, and not being able to grab a job. I paid no heed to them and continued appearing for exams and interviews. But destiny had a different game with me. Every time I could not succeed with only a 0.5 or 0.25 deficit in the passing marks. I have always wanted to be financially independent and never thought of a life otherwise. Even though I appeared for many interviews in private sector jobs, the same thing happened there too.
The friend in need
Meanwhile, I lost all my friends. Some of them stopped talking to me with an excuse of being busy with their work, some of them stopped talking to me as I was lagging behind them in life, and some of them considered me as their competitor in the competitive job exams. There was another lot who were never genuine and later when I came to know the truth, I disconnected from them. Gradually I became alone and for the entire day, I was confined in the small study room and spent my days with the desktop (later my laptop) and books. At that time, the only friend I had in the real world was my sister.
But here is one good thing amidst everything bad. After some time, I befriended some gems of people who are still with me through thick and thin. They have their own struggles but they teach me the true meaning of perseverance. Since then, I started believing that spring comes only when you let go of winter.
My old friends left me but I connected with the new friends who taught me the real meaning of life, hope, dreaming, resilience, adventures, and whatnot! Here I want to mention that not everyone in my new circle was genuine, but I became more cautious about whom I allowed to stay in my life and whom I let go.
Sometimes I used to get bored with studying all the time. Then I listened to music, and here sprouted a new passion for music. However, along with music, I started reading online articles, downloading pdf versions of books, and reading a lot in my free time. In 2017, I started blogging to express my unspoken words through the written word.
It was in 2017 when I realized that my inner world was meeting unexpected turns and twists. One year prior to that, I only started realizing the inner transformation but this time, though I valued my new learnings and the new world of music and writing, my frustration for not being able to start my career made me devastated.
I know, it is not fair to call someone a failure who does not have a bright career. There are many people in this world who don’t prefer to do a full-time job. But you know what, it is all inside the mind. For an ambitious girl like me, getting a decent job was everything that I dreamed of since my childhood. All my classmates were well-settled in their lives. Be it a career, be it marriage, be it owning a car, or be it making their parents happy, they were succeeding in every sphere of life.
Slowly, this fuelled an inferiority complex in me. My parents were not happy with me. Deep down, I was broken and shattered. Still, I gathered all my courage and energy to continue my preparation and give exams and interviews. Life is not as ugly as it seems when you are living in despair. But, at the same time, it does not seem beautiful either, when you see your dreams are lost. When you see those childhood dreams that you planted in the deepest of your heart’s garden and water every day to flower when you will grow up, are lost in oblivion, the world becomes a standstill for you.
I sacrificed many things, the enjoyment a twenty-something loves to have, and the fun-filled life a young adult wants to live. And all my efforts and hard-works and sacrifices went in vain because I could not succeed in my goals. In 2020, I was all prepared to see my name in the final selection list. For the global pandemic, the result was delayed. When it went out, I went to check my name, and it was not there.
My name was not there in the last exam I gave for getting a job in the government banking sector. This twenty-word sentence seems like an ordinary sentence placed in this article, but for me, this is the root cause of my trauma. I went into deep trauma after that result.Swarnali Nath
I spent sleepless nights, and in the daytime, when I tried to sleep, within a few minutes of closing my eyes, I woke up crying, shouting, and howling. My body started shivering, pulling my hair with all my strength, I wanted to become deaf so no sound from this world I could hear. I buried my head in my folded knees and cried for the whole day.
Many a times, I attempted to set my grade sheets ablaze, but my dad stopped me anyhow. I questioned myself, “What is the need for these scorecards showing my academic excellence when they can’t fetch me any decent jobs?” Many people tell me hearing my mental health issues, “why are you getting affected so much? You are in your late twenties, unmarried, and living with your parents, you don’t need to panic much.” As if I am living in heaven and I am panicking to take me to hell.
They tell me I don’t have to worry about the daily chores to do, meals to cook, and children to feed and teach and take care of. My dad buys the groceries and vegetables, and my mom cooks the meals and serves them on my plate. According to them, that’s why I can’t have any mental health issues. More precisely, I shouldn’t.
We, the young adults, can have our own share of grief, loss, heartbreaks, failures, deceives, and each of them is enough to trigger mental health problems.Swarnali Nath
Is mental health important?
In 2020, I could recognize the mental health issues that I had been suffering from since my college days but I could not identify them before. At that time, I was suffering from social anxiety, panic attacks, frustration, stress, anxiety, and despair. At some point in life, I started having anxiety attacks twice a day. After every attack, my body became heavy like a rock mountain. I felt too tired that I couldn’t even move in bed. I felt sleepy but couldn’t sleep. It was hard for me to open my eyes as my eyelashes seemed very heavy. But soon after having some attacks, I decided to watch a soothing video on my mobile and walk bare feet on the porch to reduce the anxiety attack duration.
I should have ideally met a professional expert and consulted my problems but as my mom was just recovering from her anxiety disorders, we two sisters were busy in making her involved in craft therapy at home. It was just a few days when we saw my mom smiling after many months of suffering. Seeing her smiling face, I decided to sob my pain and preferred to divert my mind to somewhere else.
Slowly, I recovered from that worst state (as I believed so). This is when I started my Mindfulness studies and gradually, I started working with the mind because I realized everything was in my mind, only in my mind.
And this way, after two years, now I have become a well-being researcher. Among the various genres of my works, one of the main subjects that I aim at working for my entire life is mindful living. I work towards bringing moments of calm in everyday life and making a deeper connection with your inner self so you can have some peaceful moments amidst the hustle of life and spend some time with yourself blissfully. Empowered by my own story, now, I run The Peace Stories Initiative to spread messages of hope, love, and peace to the world.
Which is that moment when you decided that “This is it. I no longer want to suffer.”
In 2021, I started learning digital marketing and then I got a job as a content writer. But there was something that I was missing badly. Soon I started suffering from remote work burnout. At the end of 2022, I resigned from my second job and decided to give myself that much-needed break from my ever-stressed mind.
There is another reason for choosing this relaxing life over making my career in the field of digital marketing. I know I have upset my parents in every decision I have taken for myself, but my health left no other choice for me. At the beginning of 2023, when I was searching for a new job to do something more interesting than my previous roles, I could identify my trauma, my fear, my anxiety, and my depressed thoughts that were coming back to me. Slowly, at the beginning of February, I reached the same state that I was in mid-2020.
I could sense something was not right inside me, and I realized that if I did not stop it here, there is very less chance to get recovered from this trauma ever in the future.Swarnali Nath
I realized that the failure in getting the desired job roles was making me fall under the trap of mind again and that was triggering that trauma to make my life a living hell once again.
This is when one spring morning, I decided to put an end to my suffering with that pain. Now, I am enjoying my break, rarely taking up freelance projects, reading, listening to music, watching movies, and writing. Currently, I am not worrying about building a bright career or getting married as I am enjoying my freedom from stress, anxiety, and despair.
I am waiting to bring a new self of me whom I wanted to see for a long, and now, I am sketching her in my inner canvas, one stroke at a time.
If there is one person or instance you would call the turning point in your life, who/which would be it?
2016 is a life-changing year for me. In March 2016, I started realizing my inner transformation and suddenly the whole world changed for me. Life’s perspectives changed, life’s meaning changed, and the way I was perceiving life totally changed. It was the year when I entered a different world of thoughts and experiences. So, I would like to say the year 2016 was a life-changing period for me.
Moving forward what is one thing that you would continue to do, for yourself?
I want to continue my research on the subjects that intrigue me. Apart from this, I want to continue working towards bringing hope, love, and peace to the earth through my writing endeavors. I also want to continue working in the niche of wellness.
What is the definition of wellness for you?
Wellness for me is taking better care of yourself so that you can keep working along with living life to the fullest. When your health is not well, you can’t focus on the important things in life, whether it is your work, family, or other things. Therefore, wellness for me is aligning my mind, body, and soul to the center of bliss so that I find peace in every step of life.