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by Kavya Hemmanur

Kavya Story pic_0.JPGBecoming a scientist, having a doctoral degree had been my dream since I was a kid. I fought really hard, convinced my family that I would take up biotechnology as my majors in my Undergrad. They were little skeptical about my decision but on seeing how determined I was, they agreed. Back then, either becoming a doctor or Computer science engineer were the only career options we had in India. Studying biology in engineering was out of scope. But I did it. I struggled, worked hard spent most of time in labs and finally published a paper right after graduating. Having a very good academic track record, I wanted to apply for PhD in USA and so did I. I took a year off after my graduation, gave my GRE applied to various universities across US and I was all prepared to pursue my dreams.

But then, it all changed when I got my first rejection from University of Wisconsin, Madison. But I had hopes on the other universities as I had applied to 8 of them in total. Within next 3 weeks I got rejections from 6 other universities. I had completely lost my hope by then. Not knowing what to do next, I felt all my hard work, my determination was in vain. Then again in March 2016, I got my final decision from UTD. It was a rejection. So, me taking off for a year, giving up on my offer letter from a company I got placed in college, spending my days writing and reading about various research ideas was all wasted.

I still remember the day, while I was coming back to my apartment from my internship, I had crossed half of the road and stood there for almost an hour not knowing to where to go or what to do. I felt like I was nothing. Looking at my condition, my parents wanted me to come back home and spend time with them. I agreed and went home, soon after my parents started pressurizing me to start a new relationship in life hoping that would help me. They started looking for suitable matches for me but to me I merely existed. I wasn’t eating or sleeping regularly. I was in my room all the time. I had nightmares and panic attacks. I really had to pull myself out to say NO to every guy they want me to talk to because I knew that was not something I wanted back then. I wanted to study, do research and work on new innovation. Soon, I realized I can’t stay home longer so I wanted a proper job to get out of my home. I applied to very job I thought I would be a good fit. I even gave my entrance tests so I could at least go to a grad school in India. To my surprise none of my efforts seemed to be working. I was literally stuck. 

Until one day, I got a call from my brother. He asked to apply for grad schools in USA again but this time for master’s degree rather than PhD. So, did I. I had just applied to one University as most of them had their deadlines crossed by then. Shockingly I got the admit with scholarship. My life which was still for a year, finally found a way out. It all happened in 2 weeks, me applying for college, my acceptance and my visa approval everything. And I was in New York within a month. Life was upside down. All this while, I was so focused on making something happen in my life, that I never realized I was actually depressed. I started my schooling here, I wasn’t going out with my friends, spent most of my time alone in my room thinking about the rejections I had, I missed my family and was financially unstable. I felt something was not right with me. I wasn’t like this in my life. I was a woman full of hope and positivity. I was a person with good sense of humor.  I was very cheerful, always pushing myself to do new things, meeting new people and financially well planned. 

It was until one afternoon, I was sitting in my room, watching “13 reasons why” that I thought I may be depressed. I tried talking this with my friends, but they never took me seriously. So, I went to Walgreens and bought myself a pack of anti-depressants and very soon I was addicted. All I did was just take the pills and sleep for 2 months. When I flew to India in summer, I opened up in front of my mom. She was shocked and broken. Soon, my family wanted me to have counselling. I did. I was diagnosed with cognitive depression. After 2 sessions, I didn’t feel like going there anymore. Simply because I was not interested. I came back to the US, started working part time and concentrating on my research, hoping not having the time to think about it would cure me. It only made my health worse. In December 2017, my parents started the whole arranged marriage thing again. To them, I was back to normal by then, but I wasn’t, and I knew it. So, whenever they sent me the contact details of the guy, they thought would suit me I would call up the guy or he would call me, I would pretend that I was open for a relationship but then found reasons to say no.

I had issues trusting people until one day, I spoke to someone to whom I am married today. I don’t know why I liked him, or why did I even say yes to him. I was still depressed when all this happened. He loves me very much. He dealt with it all very smoothly. He took care of all my mood swings and dealt with me with affection. Maybe I was missing that in my life. Someone whom I can rely on when I need the most.  We got married in August 2018. I couldn’t even enjoy my own wedding as I was lost. I was really worried. I had graduated by then, got a job as a research tech but I was not happy. Recently in January 2019, I finally sat down to think where I was going wrong because I couldn’t just see my husband suffer because of me. I can’t treat someone that bad when they are willing to risk everything in life just for me. So, I started again with my counseling. Rather than going out to doctors, I did it online this time. Actions I took to overcome my depression included reading articles from various blogs including ADAA, listening to podcasts, watching YouTube videos. Taking online classes. I tried hard to get out. I had to learn everything from the beginning. How to talk to people, how to dress up and even how to smile. It felt like I had lost my personality. 

All I wanted was to never hurt my husband again. I did everything I could just so he could be happy. He deserves it. I still get panic attacks sometimes, I still have to push myself to get out of the bed every day. But I know one day I will get over it. I will be a successful woman as I always wanted to be. Whenever I feel low, I think of all the great things I wanted to do. I was finally able to say no to the offer letter I had from grad school for my PhD. That took a lot of courage. I don’t know why I did it, but I just felt it was not right for me. After 3 years of suffering that is what I learned in life.  I realized true happiness does not lie in an ideal life that I always dreamt of, but in little things.  I learned what it truly means to be human and experience the lows and the highs. I learned depression can be overcome, if you commit to never giving up on yourself and your purpose. 

Comments

Hi Kavya,
I have just finished reading your story - and all I have to say is WOW. I think your words are so empowering to others, I know they have been to me.
Depression, anxiety, mental illness, are such isolating conditions but you have handled yours with integrity, strength and you haven't given up. Be kind to yourself, just from reading this I can see the kind of lovely human being you are.
Thank you for taking the time to be honest on such an important issue. I hope that you know reading your story has helped me. Sending love, Z