depression · mental health

The Star Gazer

DISCLAIMER- this piece is based on the tragic demise of an actor whose death hit me very close to home for some very unknown reason. I did not write this to disrespect the deceased or be intrusive but I literally could not control my pen when I sat down to write it. This is what I wished should have happened instead of what did.

The day that you bought me was the best day of my life. You probably just clicked a few times on amazon without knowing that you chose me. I felt my box being hauled off on what was probably an airplane. I’ve never flown before, in fact i have never stepped out of this cardboard box. I reached my new home in a couple of days and i saw you grinning excitedly while signing the reciept from the tiny crack in my box. I coudn’t wait to meet you. I could already sense we would have a lot of fun together. You beckon to your domestic help to help take me to your room. The two of you stuggle to lift me up. “Boy, this sure is heavy” i hear you mutter under your breath. 

You finally open my box and start lifting out my parts. You frown at the thickness of user manual and immediately start putting me together. Three hours later you stand next to me marvelling at your creation- a brand new Sky Watcher pro telescope. 

After that everyday was an adventure. Everyday we would look at the night sky together identifying new constellations and stars. You would read aloud from books as if you knew i was listening. I could see your eyes light up with passion every time we saw something new. You especially enjoyed Saturn’s rings and  thanks to you i knew all about their composition. 

The first couple of years passed like a dream. You even started taking me out to various locations to see nebulas. You would buy me different accessories and lenses and have never ending star gazing sessions. Sometimes you wouldn’t even realize the time until it was daybreak. You were happy and passionate.

Then one day something changed. I heard you arguing with someone over the phone. You seemed more angry than i had ever seen you before. In a fit of rage you threw your phone down and broke it in half. I had never seen you like this. Then you sat on your bed and cried for a hour. We didn’t stargaze for the first time in two years. The next day you packed a bag and left. I heard your driver saying you had gone out of town for work. You came back after a month but something had changed. That twinkle in your eye was gone, You no longer smiled as often. We still watched constellations together sometimes but you had stopped talking as animatedly about stars as you did. I could sense something was off and i wish i could ask you but i’m only a telescope.

There eventually came a time when you stopped using me altogether for over a month. You slowly got angrier and more withdrawn. I couldn’t fathom what you were going through but i knew that you weren’t letting anyone in. One day i heard you talking to a friend saying that you were depressed. He gave you vague advice like ‘be strong’ and ‘this too shall pass’ but didn,t tell you  how and when. What does it even mean to be strong, i wondered. Does being strong mean to disregard all the things that bother you and ignoring your feelings and continuing like nothing is wrong? I think strength is accepting that what you are feeling isn’t normal and knowing methods and resources to get better. Strength comes from unity. Strength comes from knowing that certain people are going to stick by you no matter what.  

Well, you took that advice. On the outside you put on a facade of having a perfectly happy life but couldn’t suppress what was happening inside where  depression had reared its ugly head. At first it was controllable andyou can still carry out routine activities without any visible  anguish but I still noticed the withdrawal and deviation from your usual demeanour. I hoped someone would detect this change but you were so good at hiding it that no one did. The one’s who did notice it simply wrote it off to professional stress. 

Gradually that gruesome head became increasingly difficult to control. It started to affect your work and personal life. Depression has now started to eat you up from within. I watched you sleep for 18 hours a day and the struggle you faced while pulling yourself out of bed every morning was almost cruel. You were at war with yourself and the worst part was that you didn’t know why. You started getting angrier probably at yourself. Often you would yell at your friends and family for hours or just sit and cry.  Your friend bizarrely asked you to ‘just snap out of it’  which is the most ignorant thing that one can say considering that depression is not some light bulb that you can turn on and off. IT IS A LEGIT DOCUMENTED DISEASE. Not surprisingly, none of them stuck around to see if you really did snap out of it or were still suffering. What i admired most about you was that in spite of this monster living inside you, you never let it affect your career. You thought focussing on your work would help you get away from it but alas that was not to be. You eventually stopped asking for help and started sinking deeper and deeper into the unfathomable pit your mind created for you.  In due course of time you began hunting for routes of escape. I could see you researching ‘most effective ways to die’ on the internet. You don’t suddenly kill yourself. Nobody does. I knew you had been having these thoughts for a long time now and just haven’t had the courage to act upon them because deep within you still have some bleak flicker of hope which makes you afraid to die.  I was terrified of the day that you would lose this fear and end your life. But how could i help? I am, but a mere thought. I hoped and prayed that one of your friends would pay heed to the quicksand you were fast drowning in and offer to pull you out. Finally your sister noticed and I heave a sigh of relief. You start seeing a psychiatrist and taking medication. It helps at first and then not so much. You start looking around for help. Most of your friends have already left you when you first started to fall. The few that were left are busy in their own lives and i know you don’t want to disturb them. So you swallow your issues and continue like nothing is wrong. You have now started believing that you deserve this pain. Each passing day makes it more and more difficult to even wake up. You have isolated yourself from your family who are absolutely clueless about the fact that you are still suffering just because you don’t want them to worry, after all you are a grown man and are perfectly capable of dealing with stuff on your own or that’s what you think. Sadly, depression is not something you can voluntarily control. Slowly, it took control of you. Now you are just a shell of the man you used to be, empty and broken inside. Your life has become this mundane routine of dragging yourself out of bed, plastering a fake smile on your face, swallowing a couple of pills and hoping that they work. 

You have started to cut yourself cleverly hiding the scars within the creases of your skin. You always were a highly smart man but I can still see them though. I can see you crying yourself to sleep every night and not knowing why. I can see you cursing yourself and asking god why you deserved such a predicament which neither lets you live nor die. I wish i could just hug you and tell you that it’s not your fault, nobody deserves this and it can get better if you ask for help.  I witnesss that last glimmer of hope slowly fade away.

 It is 8pm in the evening. Today has been a particularly bad day for you. You sit in your favourite chair staring at the ceiling. I try to read your thoughts but can’t. You pick up your phone and call a friend who doesn’t answer. Frustrated, you throw your phone on the side table and flump into bed and bury your face within the pillow. I see that lone tear trickling down your left cheek and i get a sick feeling that you have lost all hope now. 

Surprisingly, the next morning you wake up quite easily. With a cheery smile you go to the kitchen and drink your usual glass of juice. Then you come back to your room and lock the door. I see you putting on the bolt as well and then the horror of it struck it. Calmly you walk to your cupboard and take out a bed sheet. You climb onto the bed and effortlessly loop it around the fan and make a noose. I want to scream with all my might. I’m hoping one of your friends will miraculously call or someone would knock at your door. You sit down on your bed for and look around. I think you changed your mind. It is then when you break down. I can see the determination on your face behind all the tears. The suicidal thoughts that you had been having since a few months have now taken the form of an elaborate plan. You have the courage now, not because you want to escape but because that bleak glimmer of hope within your soul has finally gone out. You look towards the noose and shake your head. You look around once more as a bid to say goodbye and jump onto your bed. You climb up on the stool and slip the noose around your neck and wait as if for some inexplicable force to come and stop you. Then within a split second you deftly kick the stool. I look on helpless bursting with the desire to do something. Just then i hear the door shaking and people calling your name, i look towards the door and back at you again. You are struggling to breath, flailing your arms and legs. I realise that you don’t want to die. I can see the world fading from your eyes. Slowly the sounds get louder. People are trying to break the door. Finally the door gives way. A group of people rush in. I hear a high pitched scream and i look towards you. Your body has stopped moving but i can still see your feet twitch. Someone brings a knife and cuts down the bed sheet. Your limp body topples onto the bed like dead weight. I watch horrified as your brothers bend over you and try to determine if you are breathing. Somebody makes a phone call and paramedics rush in with a stretcher. They roll you onto it and hurry you away. I have a feeling that you may never come back. Weeks pass by. I gaze out at the night sky everyday without you now but it is hazy as dust has gathered upon my lens. Your sister comes sometimes and rummages in your closet. I can’t really see what she is doing but i hear her crying softly. She walked over to me today and ran her fingers over me, whispering that she wished you had called her. I wished that too. Then a few days later your house helps walk in and begin to clean your room. At last one of them polishes my lens and i can see clearly again. They talk excitedly among themselves “bhaiya ghar aa rahe hai, kheer banate hai aaj.” I get so thrilled that i almost move. One of the helps look around at me suspiciously before getting back to making your bed. That evening, i hear the doorbell and finally i hear your voice. I can hardly contain myself as i see you walk into your room. You turn towards me and give me a cheeky smile. ‘It’s good to be back” you say and plonk down on your favourite chair. Your siblings soon file in after you, all talking excitedly about who will stay with you for the next month. In the midst of all this humdrum, i try to catch a glimpse of your face. You somehow seem better. Your smile is more genuine with your yes actually lighting up. I hear your brother talking on the phone to someone about how you had been treated in a mental health facility for the past 6 weeks and they had now discharged you with an armful of medication and biweekly doctor’s appointments. Eventually they all leave and your sister retires to the guest room with a strict warning telling you not to lock your door. You nod in response. The mumbai sky isn’t usually clear but tonight for some reason it is exceptionally clear. I hear you chuckle as you walk over to me and clean my lens with that special cleaning liquid you bought last year. You rest your right eye on the eyepiece. I can see some scars on your neck probably from whatever the doctors did yo save your life. But for now, in this moment none of that matters. I am just happy to be gazing at the stars with you. Orion looks especially bright today doesn’t it?