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7 Quotes That Help Us Understand Mental Illness Better

Shreevatsa Nevatia uses his own life experiences as a 23-year-old diagnosed with bipolar to narrate his remarkably eye-opening debut novel, How to Travel Light. Not only does he give us an insight into the inner workings of a mind of someone suffering from a mental illness, but also uses his first-hand experiences to warm our hearts enough for us to rethink the treatment we reach out to these individuals - with equality and an abundance of love and respect! All in all, Nevatia’s inherent humor makes the novel the much desired and required “spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down.” Here are some quotes that dive deep into our hearts churning it along the way. 

“Pain, for me, had strangely become the remembrance of pleasure.”

It is unthinkably easy for all mentally healthy people to differentiate between pain and pleasure. Pain- when your insides seem to be squealing in discomfort and pleasure - when you can’t but help flash a grin on your face. Since both pain and pleasure are predominantly psychological and have to do with the release of epinephrine, norepinephrine, and endorphins in your brain, it is not always easy for a patient suffering from a mental illness to draw a fine line between those two seemingly extreme sensations.

 “You have a lot to be happy about..."

Furthermore, it often becomes painful for one to remember fleeting, much desired and long gone feeling of pleasure. And so it is not okay to tell them - “You have a lot to be happy about, take your mind off the pain and you’ll get over with it.” 

“Much of my late adolescence and early adulthood had been spent devising a death that would be novelistic.”

Depression for the mentally ill is not just a bad day at work, a fight with a friend or a day when you seemed to have woken up from the wrong side of the bed. Depression can be attention-grabbing, insomnia-inducing, suicidal, self-destructive, devastating and severely painful.

The University of Washington reports that...

The University of Washington reports that “of those who die from suicide, more than 90 percent have a diagnosable mental disorder.” Once again, borrowing from Nevatia’s How to Travel Light - “When one is manic, even the most ordinary meal can come to seem like the Last Supper.”

“It’s like pain doesn’t matter anymore, and my mind feels like it has realized what it had always wanted to. It has no need for sleep, no need to rest.”

Mind overpowers body - and this can work for or against us. The mind of a patient suffering from a mental health illness can often ignore the body’s requirement of basic necessities - like food and sleep.

Lack of sleep is often a direct result of a disturbed mind.

This results in self-consuming behavior - detrimental to living a physically healthy life. And hence, it is inconsiderate of someone to accuse the patient of being mentally ill due to lack of sleep because lack of sleep is often a direct result of a disturbed mind. 

“Depression seldom gives your hopelessness a narrative, and without a story to tell, your improvisations, you find, are as awkward as the smiles you manufacture. It becomes hard not to ham your way through the drama of despair.”

It is easy to say, “He is so awkward, I don’t want to meet him again,” without understanding why he might be behaving that way.

Hope is a gift to man that keeps him kicking himself out of bed every morning.

Hopelessness results in a disarray of every other emotion culminating in a 'weird' or 'awkward' behaviour. #acceptall #stopthestigma

“I wanted to tell her how I did not want to become an object of pity or ridicule. I wanted to say all I want is respect and, if I am lucky, some worth.”

Why do we tend to concentrate only on the shortcomings of the mentally ill and deprive them of their cure - an itty bit of respect they deserve.

Let’s think before we label?

Calling them 'psychotic', 'retard', 'mental case', 'crazy', 'lunatic', or 'demented' does nothing but punch them hard on the face and dig them into a burrow deeper than one they already might be in. 

“The term 'abuse' immediately offered a consolation. The anguish of my private experience could now be explained publicly. ‘Abuse’ itself suggested a narrative I would not have to detail.”

Mentally healthy individuals should be grateful for their well-working minds and understand that the mentally ill may undergo trauma worse than they can imagine.

Seeing is not always believing but feeling is!

Making remarks like, “we all go through this phase, you’ll get over it,” makes it harder for the sufferer to make you relate to the unfathomable discomfort they might be going through.

“I wanted someone in my room, sitting opposite me, laughing at my puns, wowed by my repartee… I wanted acknowledgement and applause. Sadly, I’d met a rather tough crowd.”

When Aristotle said, “Man is by nature a social animal,” he meant every human - be it the healthy, the physically disabled or the mentally ill. We seek to fill the holes of what we lack in life, and the mentally troubled crave to fill those gaps - one of the biggest being that of societal isolation.

Let’s love and laugh together!

And all those who label them 'weird' and avoid their company on the basis of their 'eccentricity' are to blame. Let’s love and laugh together irrespective of race, caste, sex, gender, and health because "there is nothing a good company cannot fix" - not all cliches are true, but this one definitely is.

The above story you read is an excerpt from the book 'How to Travel Light' written by Shreevatsa Nevatia and published by Penguin Random House.PS: Content is originally written by Aradhita Saraf.