I grew up in a large joint family with a business background in manufacturing and retail of footwear in Mumbai.
Living in a joint family has its own benefits as you grow up with a stronger emotional bond with your cousins, uncles and aunts until the time for property distribution arrives. God has been kind and the family was blessed with more than enough resources for every sub-family.
Even though the shares were fairly distributed among my Dad and his siblings by my grandfather, differences started to arise when two of my uncles unfairly demanded a sizeable share from us and each other and refused to contribute to my grandfather’s medical expenses. They even abused him. Conflicts due to property distribution is common in India, but this kind of abusive behaviour was something I had never witnessed before. I was, however, hopeful that things will get back to normal as we had some mediators talking to all the concerned parties.
A shock comes knocking
The year was 2013 and I remember one afternoon a man in formals knocked at our door and handed my mother an envelope. I thought it was the monthly bank statement or some letter from the insurance company, but to my surprise it was a legal notice from one of my uncles!
I was 18, clueless and scared as to what will happen now? Will my Dad be arrested? Will we be forced to succumb to my uncle’s unfair pressure? These thoughts started to come in my mind but little did I know, this was just the beginning of the negative turn my life was taking.
The period of 10 years from 2013-2022 was the toughest and darkest phase of my life. My family was burdened with a number of civil cases in the Bombay High Court, a false complaint in the Mumbai Crime Branch, another false complaint of forgery without producing any valid proof and threatening calls by a couple of well-known anti-social elements. All of this started to take a toll on my mental health, about which I was unaware. I was just 20 at the time trying to study hard, build my own business and make my parents proud. I was unaware of what anxiety and depression actually meant.
As tensions mounted over the years, I began to lose faith in humanity and started to question why God is making me go through such tough trials even though I pray religiously and have never intentionally hurt any soul. Constant high levels of stress and draining financial resources due to unnecessary legal battles pushed me to such an extent that I gave a serious thought to converting to another religion.
We decided to move out of that toxic environment and rented a flat in a decent society but when your stars are not aligned, nothing goes right for you. One of the uncles sent a legal notice to the society we were living in asking them to forcefully evict us or he will take the society to court. All these events left me hopeless and suicidal.
In 2019, I lost my grandfather just before Covid took over the world. Covid was a curse for many but a boon for us as the courts were shut, which meant a pause on the legal proceedings and hence a pause on unnecessary expenses as lawyer’s fees. But there wasn’t a pause in the deterioration of my mental health. Due to many years of adversity, I always found myself stressed and often anxious about the future.
Lockdown ended and in 2022 we won all the legal cases filed against us! But one thing continued to grow in me: Regret. The regret of losing time, energy and money and for that I blamed my parents who were too soft with these money-hungry relatives. Men tend to hide their feelings and struggles with their mental health but it’s very important to have a healthy outlet for their emotions. That didn’t happen for me as I lashed out at my Dad one day and went out on an all-out verbal war.
My sister, a dental surgeon noticed that I was growing aggressive and suffering from depression since the last few years and that I needed support. She has a lot of health professionals in her circle, one of whom was a psychologist. She asked me to go for counselling but I was hesitant at first. However, upon her insistence I thought of giving it a try and that was the best decision of my life!
Therapy helps and how!
My therapy went on for five months, which immensely helped me to stop overthinking, not lose patience over petty things, overcome suicidal thoughts and let go of the past mistakes. Most importantly, it made me realise the importance of mental health and the need to heal from past traumas.
Today, as my uncles continue to fight among themselves, God has blessed me with a home I couldn’t have ever imagined to own in one of the posh localities of South Mumbai. I’ve managed to mend relations with my parents and left my past to where it belonged: In the past.
I feel working as a mental health professional is a very noble job as they give a new life and help people to reclaim their power and that’s the reason why I love working with mental health professionals as it gives me an opportunity to create awareness in the space of mental health.