I jumped from being suicidal to 80-hour work weeks in the last few years. That journey is helping me survive the Coronavirus lockdown

I stepped into two years of extreme work to get away from two years of depression. The learnings from that episode are keeping me sane in the time of the Coronavirus.

I am an Indian English literature graduate, and an MBA aspirant. I had always been a very happy and ambitious person, who derived self-esteem and identity from the work she did and the titles she earned. I was the person who would smile at random strangers on the street – however, in 2017, my world was coming crashing down.
I was studying a subject in which I felt trapped, with no particular interest, or career pathways to build the kind of life I had always dreamed of. Even my dreams of a career in English academia looked impossible due to the kind of marks I was getting at college. The person I had believed to be my soul-mate had turned abusive towards me.
I wanted to die. I was not resilient then. I wanted to live with a passion, but the pain looked harder to handle than death would be. On the resolve of one moment, I switched streams to enter the competition of the Indian MBA. With success rates of less than 1%, in a field overloaded with engineers who insulted my presumed ability due to me being a woman and a non-STEM major, I made my way two years, working about 12 hours a day, six days a week, most weeks of the year. I found my way too.
Currently, I am anything but sad or mentally unhealthy. And I found my way to the school of my choice that would help me build the career of my dreams. The lessons I learned are helping me survive this Coronavirus crisis too, mentally. They are:

  1. Go out on a limb and work very hard: this might not work for everyone, but I am someone obsessed with working. Even if I had not been, I was grasping at straws to save my mind and life in 2017, and grasping onto working instead of being sad was the alternative that worked for me. I do not recommend working as much as I did, but keeping yourself busy takes your mind off pain, and almost always improves your life.

2. Fall more in love with other people: I have been a skeptical and aggressive person from as far back as I can remember before 2017. That was shaped by some abuse I faced as a child, and the flipside of being mean to others was a debilitating paranoia I gave myself. I trusted no one, was afraid of men and generally unfulfilled.
That changed in my hard work phase. I dressed in lighter colours, and got talking to more people. I got lucky, four fifths of the experiences I had were excellent. I grew far more extroverted and comfortable with myself, and was positively rewarded in B-school interviews for that. I also got into paying it forward, and began writing for intersectional activist website Feminism In India, an activity that has filled me with joy ever since I started in April 2019.

3. Get a role model: I randomly chanced upon mine. I began to diligently follow football during my MBA preparation, and happened to find a ‘calling’, if only in a fan-capacity. The game drew me intuitively, and now I have Lionel Messi as my laptop wallpaper and Cristiano Ronaldo is the one whose videos I watch after every setback. I cannot explain in words how much motivation I have drawn from the spirit of those people, and I recommend finding a personal ‘hero’ to everyone.

4. Believe in a God: this is something I know will be contentious. However, I do not do this because I am a fanatic. During my time of ‘struggle’, I often had to do things I wasn’t sure of the implications of. I needed someone to forgive me. I chose God. I also believe the motivation I required in this journey was of superhuman levels, and I hardly trusted a mortal with it!(Some parts kidding). Also, as a student of literature, beautiful religious prose always tugged at my heartstrings. For all the reasons above, you can find your own source of spiritual anchoring. I chose the Divine.

These things combined helped me get out of that depressive rut and make a better life. They helped me take a reckless grand dream and make it into reality. In the time of the Coronavirus, like in my journey, you only have yourself for motivation, stuck alone at home. I am hoping mine(my thoughts) helps you and yours too.

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