I grew up in a suburb outside of New York City in a family that valued high achievement. As in many Indian families, I was taught that success is an external thing you pursue. An esteemed job you can brag about is like the Holy Grail for many in my culture, and I bought into that concept hard.
By age 13, I had full-on depression. Everyone else assumed I was simply sad. I soon began a love-hate relationship with medication at 14, taking anti-depressants, mood stabilizers, ADD medication, and sleep aids ... You name it, I took it.
I loved having a diagnosis; it was a label that could define me and explain the way I felt. It comforted me. It reaffirmed my victim mentality: that I had no choices and this was just who I was. Not surprisingly, things got worse. Beyond the constant adjustments of pills and playing the side-effects-balancing game, this strategy confirmed the belief that true happiness was an external thing I had to get. I felt flawed, broken, and alone.
Years, drinks, and many relationships later, I was ready to give up. But a small and frustrated voice inside me said, There has to be a better way. But what way could that be? I had already tried everything!
Unfortunately, a small, irritating voice is pretty easy to ignore. I needed a rock-bottom moment for that tiny voice to turn into a full-on scream. For me, that happened on December 31, 2010. I was raped. In my apartment. By someone I knew. The side-effect of my new medication virtually paralyzed my muscles during sleep. I couldn’t fight him off. I just woke up repeatedly and witnessed it. That was the moment when my dislike for medication turned into disdain.
For the next two weeks, I was numb. For the two weeks after that, I was drunk. That little voice came back and hit me over the head. I knew I had a choice: I could either allow him to ruin the rest of my life or I could take some responsibility and make a change.
I began boxing. It felt good to hit something. Exercise opened the door to other much-needed changes in my life. Changes that, had they been suggested before, I would have greeted with an overly-dramatic eye roll.
I had never believed in holistic anything. I always thought it was a bunch of granola-eating hippies who thought they could fix everything with herbal tea. Nevertheless, I had tried everything else. What did I have to lose? A Pilates instructor had introduced me to a health coach the year before and I finally made the decision to call her.
As a self-proclaimed know-it-all, it was a struggle to admit that maybe I’d have to venture into the world of nutmilk, super foods, and—dare I say it—kale. It was my aha moment. I decided not to be a victim anymore. At that moment, my health and happiness became MY responsibility; it wasn’t for a person, a pill, or a thing to fix. I wasn’t broken. It was the most empowering moment of my life.
Within two weeks, my life drastically changed. As I look back, hiring a coach, eating veggies, and meditating didn’t fix me. They did something much better: they allowed me to see that I was never broken at all.
Now, my vision of success is not an external thing you “pursue, ” but an internal state of alignment and bliss. Most people saw my external transformation, but the real change was internal. I no longer needed medication, things, or people to make me happy.
Now, as an Integrative Health coach myself, I can look back at the good, the bad, and the ugly. I have gratitude for the good in my life and for the struggles that brought me to where I am today. My story energizes me in a way I never dreamed it could. And it all started with a moment of surrender and the humbling admission that there had to be a better way.