"I started pulling my hair out."
Mental health is determined by an individual’s psychological, behavioural, cognitive and emotional wellbeing.
It is essentially how an individual feels, thinks and behaves which can, in turn, affect their relationships, daily life and physical health. This was the case with Rita Mahal.
Unfortunately, mental health is often overlooked and somewhat dismissed in the South Asian community.
This is because it is believed that a health worry that is not physical is usually non-existent.
However, Rita Mahal is a survivor of mental health and has bravely shared her story to raise awareness of mental health.
Rita spoke exclusively to DESIblitz about her mental health journey, alcoholism and how it is not something to be ashamed of.
I have bipolar, suffer with anxiety and depression and am a recovering alcoholic.
Who else has these words after their names? It would be better if I had PHD or Dr instead, much more respectable.
But I have over the last decade managed to make these words work for me.
They are illnesses where I will never get better. It’s more of a daily reprieve. I live my life differently now, one day at a time.
My childhood was idyllic, unquestionably. I was incredibly spoilt and loved by my parents and siblings. If I wanted something, I got it.
Maybe this was the problem. I was always looking for the fastest route to everything.
Always rushing, my mother would tell me to slow down more than once. I remember experiencing mental ill health even when I was young.
I would get overwhelmed and kind of shut down, it’s hard to explain but I was always frustrated.
It was around this time I started pulling my hair out. It’s called Trichotillomania and is an anxiety disorder.
I looked like a monk for a while as I only pulled out the hair at the top of my head.
Not only did I look ridiculous, but I felt ridiculous too, yet no help was sought, as my parents thought my hair was falling out due to Alopecia.
“I was unable at that age to articulate to them that I was doing it to myself.”
As I got older, I hid my anxiety and depression through being loud and the class clown and inevitably alcohol. Alcohol was the answer to all my problems.
Or so I thought. At first, we were besties, me and the booze, but slowly and surely like most alcoholics, it got me in its claws and I spiralled for many years.
I had the night sweats, shaky hands, nausea and red eyes. I looked terrible and felt even worse.
I managed to hide it for a while but eventually, everyone caught on and I was ordered to residential rehab for a month.
Accepting Mental Health Support
Rehab was my saviour. Yes, at first I was scared, especially when I had to do the detox process, I was worried and didn’t know what to expect.
Once I had got through the detox, I attended therapy sessions every day. Where I spilt my guts out and felt cleansed and free.
Meeting other ‘sick’ people at rehab made me realise I was not alone and that everyone had their stories. I attended AA meetings and found ‘my people’.
I didn’t feel alone anymore. I felt part of a gang, a good gang! Thanks to AA, my higher power and me, I am now currently six years sober.
Long may it continue. I thought all in my life was great and things were looking up until bipolar came for a visit.
I wasn’t that aware of what bipolar was, it wasn’t on my radar. But it was on mine.
It crept up slowly on me, I was working at the time in a male-dominated environment, constantly getting hit on, and heavy workloads, which caused my brain to snap so to speak.
The day my family and I knew things were bad, is the day I ran away and broke into my neighbour’s home.
The neighbours were incredibly nice and supportive and rang my sister and brother-in-law and I was scooped up and plonked in a Mental Health Unit in my nearest hospital.
“Once again, it was the best thing that ever happened to me, I felt seen.”
My consultant and psychiatrist were on hand and diagnosed me with Bipolar Affective Disorder (BAD), the word ‘BAD’ was not lost on me.
I was given meds (medicine), a place to rest my head and new friends who were as crazy as me, if not more.
Whilst I was in the hospital, I was taught to cook and read books by the dozen and exercised. I remember feeling sad when I was allowed to leave.
Once again, I was part of a gang who understood what it meant to be different.
Survivor of Mental Health
But now, to the present day. I feel strong, I feel supported and I feel well, which is a little ironic. I am used to my little friends, alcoholism and bipolar.
I know what to do if things get bad and I have good friends and family who are there for me.
Yes, I may have those words after my name, but I should also add four more. I am a survivor.
As Rita Mahal has shown, mental health is an issue that cannot be ignored, rather it must be acknowledged and treated accordingly.
Rita’s decision to share her journey is truly inspiring and it must be encouraged to freely discuss the benefits of seeking help as a mental health sufferer.