Battling depression can be a tough experience, especially if one is all alone in a foreign land, surrounded by strangers. Ajinkya Kolhe had to leave his studies halfway and return from the US, but once back in India, he decided to fight his way free from depression.
Ajinkya, a 26-year-old guy, resides in the city of Pune, Maharashtra. He is one of the rare people who have come out openly about suffering from depression. As mental health is still a hushed topic in most settings in our culture, this was a brave step on Ajinkya’s part.
A bright student since his early years, Ajinkya completed his undergraduate engineering course from one of the most prestigious institutes in the country. Post that, he appeared for competitive examinations for future studies, and got selected in a high profile institute in the USA.
Subsequently, he moved to the USA for his Masters in Engineering. Like most bright students, he had high dreams and aspirations, for which his Masters was an important step. But, moving to the new country proved to be much more difficult than he had imagined. He found it difficult to make new friends, and also found it tough to connect with his old friends and family too. The loss of his support system made his situation worse. Unknown to him, depression began to set in for him.
He pretended to be okay when things were going downhill for him. He felt scared and stressed, and suffered from a lack of sleep. All this affected his performance at the university. Even after warnings about declining performance, he couldn’t study. He resisted all support that his friends and colleagues tried to offer him.
Finally, after feeling deeply exhausted, he decided to move back to India.
While returning home should have been easy, it wasn’t. Ajinkya found it difficult to adjust to the people around. His friends back here were supportive, but family, relatives, and acquaintances judged him harshly and thought of him as a failure. They had their own hypothesis about his return. There was gossip about him, and he was always interrogated about his return. Overcoming all this became more difficult because of his condition.
However, Ajinkya decided not to give up this time. To distract himself from the monotonous justification about his return, he renewed his old hobby—reading. While browsing for something interesting to read, he came across depression. All the symptoms were identifiable for him. That’s when he realised that it was depression he was battling.
Ajinkya decided to introspect, and spent a lot of time understanding himself. He began tracing his thoughts and behaviour patterns to identify what had caused the depression, and worked on his thought processes and channelized his energy in the right direction.
He read many, many books, and spent time with people who were supportive rather than judgmental.
Ajinkya’s state of mind improved gradually, and he began to find things exciting as before. He joined a Masters course in an Indian University and also tried his hands at new ventures like photography. He fought over the judgement that other people attached to him for coming back to India without a degree or a job.
Now an M.Tech graduate from a reputed university of India, Ajinkya is also advancing in his career, working as a technical lead at a young start-up. Additionally, he also actively contributes to open-source projects. He is currently preparing to become a software development trainer.
Personally, this young man has overcome his anxiety of speaking to new people. He made new friends during his Master’s course here who also act as a support system for him. He realised that he had some deep-running trust issues due to which he could not open up to people, even when he needed to. Now, he has worked on them and improved.
Ajinkya looks back at depression as an important chapter in his life. Battling depression has been the most difficult phase of his life. But it taught him several memorable lessons. He learnt that it is better to accept your pain instead of ignoring it. The rumours about him helped him to learn to see things as they are without exaggerating their intensity. Depression, a dreaded word, made him a better person.
He has become more aware of himself.
Ajinkya’s message to anybody going through a similar experience is simple, “I would advise anyone going through a hard time right now to pause and reflect. Struggle is nature’s way of strengthening. Depression can truly be avoided if we trust family and friends and have honest conversations with them.”