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Of Anchoring my Mind at Sea, Over a Cup of Berry Tea

Charvi Jain is not just a therapist. She has been my saviour and now is my life line and anchor, keeping me from wandering across that thin line into insanity. I discovered my mind plays tricks on me a few years ago plunging me into the depths of darkness and lifting me into dizzying euphoric highs. It all came to a head when stresses at work and at home collided and my mind caved in leading to my first episode. The psychosis that I experienced, I can't bring myself to remember, let alone describe in any detail. It's a painful nightmare, that I lock away as it fills me with terror and shame. Am grateful to have family and friends who stood with me and saw me through to the other side despite my absurd conduct.

To temper down the episode, I was immediately carted off to see a psychiatrist who put me on pills, sedatives and mood suppressants that numbed my mind and led me to sleep through days on end. Another tragedy followed and I found myself gaining weight rapidly, binge eating. I knew the drugs were for a life time, being put on lithium, a maintenance med, and was drawn to despair when I chanced upon "Over a Cup of Tea".

At first the therapy was to control the binge eating. My mind looked to fill a vacuum, and found it in food and my body bore the brunt. I'd meet Charvi and pour my life's woes and she'd listen patiently and offer me her salve which included exercises in mindfulness and strategies to help me sleep. Then on, I was more aware of my surroundings, listening and feeling my breathing, being alive to the sounds and smells, and not entirely living inside my head anymore. I'd sense the urge to binge, was more in control of what I ate, as Charvi would remind me, that it was my choice to eat or to not eat and that I wasn't entirely helpless.

And slowly as weeks passed, I felt like I finally was getting a foothold on my life. Charvi then switched me into "Cognitive Behaviour Therapy" to help address my mood disorder. One week, I'd be raring to go wanting to take on the world and a zillion project buzzing with ideas. The next week, I'd be down in the dumps, drowsiness and heaviness overtaking me. At first, I struggled with my own perception of me, my sense of self. I frequently wondered aloud, asking Charvi who the real me was. Was I the manic me or was I the depressive me. This inner battle would tear me up constantly. Charvi helped me separate my identity from my mania and my depression.

Whichever phase I was in, I'd always carry an exaggerated sense of my emotions be it joy or sorrow or helplessness. Every week, Charvi would help me see in a fresh light, changing my perspective showing me that the glass is always half full. She would constantly remind me that I am in control and I shouldn't pay overt heed to the voices in my head, helping me deal with the demons I was battling in my mind.

Over time, over a year, my emotional pendulum has narrowed down its trajectory slowing down from wild, frantic, sloshing about. Charvi and I still work on keeping that emotional pendulum gentle and slow. We identify triggers and work on eliminating or minimizing them. At this stage, am free of any psychiatric medication. There are times, one as recent as last week when the pendulum starts to swing again beyond the acceptable limits we've set, but firmly and gently Charvi weeds out all the noise and helps me see clearly amidst the cacophony. She arms me with a small manageable task list I can work on, so I don't end up adding on more, upsetting the delicate mental balance.

At present, I see Charvi every week. Charvi tells me that the next stage for us in therapy is to help me help myself. To take away the crutches that is her and to develop a mechanism to deal with my mental turbulence and manage them on my own. Not a phase I look forward to as she is a float in a stormy ocean and she is going to try and get me to swim on my own.

The therapy takes place in the cozy comforting setting of her therapy chamber where I sit relaxed on her cheerful couch with butterflies fluttering over me. There are the good weeks, when I forget I am in therapy and the conversation flows easily, when I remember to ask about her life and her week. When it feels like we are just two friends catching up over a cup of berry tea. I have seen other psychologists and there is truly no one like her. To bring in a mainstream comparative, I can safely vouch, that her sessions are far more enriching than the ones Dr. Khan holds, filmed for Dear Zindagi.

- Story of APP: She likes to describe herself as Black, White and a Few Shades of Grey

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