Can You Heal From Severe Depression? This Author Says Yes
Rosenberg: Did your dad's depressed behavior start after you left the house?
Ramprasad: Growing up in a patriarchal culture where a man’s temper is his prerogative, my father’s flare-ups were a mere fact of life. While my father is a very loving man, to this day, he regards the show of emotions as a weakness.
Rosenberg: Your recovery story includes the Twelve Step principles like surrendering to a higher power and powerlessness. Both self-help recovery and the advice to "snap out of it" that is often given to depressed people rest on individual self-reliance yet they are complete opposites. Can you explain the difference?
Ramprasad: I think the one word that captures the difference is "knowledge." When you don't understand what is happening to you, you can't "snap out of it." I finished college, married, emigrated to the US, had a child--I did everything I was supposed to do to snap out of it. But I lacked the knowledge. I did not understand how pregnancy caused my symptoms. I did not understand that I had the genetic predisposition to depression. I certainly did not appreciate how much early experiences had affected me.
Rosenberg: Your first depressive episode began when you failed math even though you were a good student. You discovered that a male student had maneuvered the failure because you had rejected his advances.
Ramprasad: Yes! And, as a young woman born and raised within the Indian culture, I felt utterly powerless to confront him, even when he threatened to rape me. Unfortunately, women continue to be victimized in India even today. And, despite all the media attention on the recent gang rapes across India, we as a culture are striving to ensure that justice is served.
Rosenberg: Was there a moment when your recovery from depression began?
Ramprasad: Yes. When I was stripped of all freedom and human dignity in an isolation cell. Until then, I blamed everyone else, God, my parents, my society, my husband, my culture. But in the cell, I realized I was the only one with the key to set myself free. I realized that I was not evil, an ingrate, weak, a drama queen, possessed or being punished--all the names I was called and had internalized. That is when I discovered the light within me – the light of love, wisdom, courage and compassion that has sustained me on my journey to wellness.
Rosenberg: In Shadows in the Sun you also discuss the people who helped you along your journey.
Ramprasad: Yes! I had never had a roommate other than my sister. My roommate in the hospital, Sanya, demystified mental illness for me. I could see myself for the first time through her. There were also women I worked with who shared their stories with me and let me know I was not alone or different by having mental illness. There was also a wonderful nurse I write about in the book. Probably the strongest influence was a woman named Aida, the wife of my husband's boss. She was a mother figure and she embodied everything I wanted to be when I grew up. She instilled in me the conviction that I could make it despite the mental illness and made me promise I would not kill myself.
Rosenberg: One thing that is remarkable about your story is how even though you were in the United States, it was Indian practices like pranayama and meditation that finally helped you.