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‘I Was Breaking Down & People Called Me Strange’: IRS Officer On Fighting Depression

A 2002 batch IRS officer Shubhrata Prakash was diagnosed with depression five years after the birth of her first child. She shares her heart-wrenching story of coming out of a mental illness that is largely considered a sign of weakness.

‘I Was Breaking Down & People Called Me Strange’: IRS Officer On Fighting Depression

In 2006, when IRS officer Shubhrata Prakash got to know that she was going to have a caesarian section, she was left terrified. Although she was delighted to see her newborn, she kept weeping and wished she did not have to live.

Being a first-time mom, she did not have any awareness about postpartum depression

Over time, Shubhrata tried to distract herself with official work but she did not feel like her old self again.

“There were days when I could not get out of bed or even brush my teeth. If anyone would say a kind word to me, I would break down. Since nothing was physically wrong with me, I could not understand what was,” she says.

Eventually, people started comparing her with others who did not have a good job and a supportive family like hers and yet performed better than Shubhrata. This would stress her out even more.

In 2011, the 49-year-old experienced a severe panic attack.

Shubhrata documented her struggles in the book The D Word: A Survivor's Guide to Depression.
Shubhrata documented her struggles in the book The D Word: A Survivor’s Guide to Depression.

“My heart was beating very fast, I was sweating, and my hands and feet were trembling. This incident brought back fears of the period when I had undergone heart surgery two weeks before my UPSC interview. This fueled my anxiety further,” she recalls.

“I was emotionally flooded and I feared I was about to die. Yet, I gathered courage and went to the hospital straight from the office. This was enough. I decided to meet the psychiatrist. I cried all my heart out to the doctor,” she adds.

Shubhrata was diagnosed with depression, after five years of the birth of her first child.

The treatment and antidepressant pills brought her temporary relief. But she suffered from side effects. For instance, she experienced tremors in her limbs that kept her awake the entire night. “Personally, I felt medicines did not work for me. So, I decided to stop relying on pills,” she says.

Later, she chose cognitive behavioural therapy, mindfulness meditation, yoga, and swimming – activities that made Shubhrata feel like herself.

Today, she still has anxiety and sometimes experiences panic attacks still, but she chooses to no longer suffer in silence. “It is okay to not be okay. Life poses challenges in different ways, but we all deserve to have a peaceful life,” adds the IRS officer, who also documented her struggles in the book The D Word: A Survivor’s Guide to Depression.

Edited by Padmashree Pande.

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