The Fearless Lion Who Lost Its Roar: My Brush With Mental Health

Last spring (almost to the year), I received a sudden phone call from my father. "Chitra, I need to tell you something. Please don't panic, your mother suffered a heart attack last night." I was just ending my mat leave with my second baby; I had a rush of panic, faintness, dizziness rush through me as I heard those words. The next three weeks were one of the toughest times in my life. Although I realize that my parents are aging, these things are going to happen, I just was not prepared to fast forward my brain and heart to a place where I may be saying goodbye to a force so significant in my life. I am a mother of two young children, I have a demanding career in Tech and am a part time doctoral researcher; yes, a lot on my plate. I basically put stops on everything in my life - work, research and had to hand my kids over to my husband simply because I could not deal with it.

After three very very difficult weeks, my mother pulled through, slowly recovered and came home. She had to change her life; this meant diet, exercise and lifestyle. I am the glue in my family, I have always assumed this role, so now, this was my job, I took it on - designing her menu, work out regime, daily routines to ensure that she maintained a positive state of mind. I had to return to work and continue with life; the summer was spent checking in with her 5xdaily, even if I was travelling for work or my studies. I was completely preoccupied with it - it was my job and I was convinced that it is my responsibility to make sure nothing happens to her again, that is if it is in my control.

What I did not realize was that the impact of what happened was yet to be felt on my mind and body. In the fall my husband and I learned that we were expecting our third child. Something inside me knew that this time I did not feel strong, it was different and 10 weeks later I miscarried. After this, my body shut down; I could not sleep, eat, care for my kids and found myself in the hospital four times. I went to see my doctor and she looked at me and said, "Chitra, stop. You need to give your body time and space to heal." Something simple, something I knew but I neglected for the longest time to really tap into my mental state. I practice yoga, I run, I do the physical parts of it but I rarely took the time to connect with my mental state because I was always going so fast. My mental state was causing physical anxiety, nausea, distress, inability to focus, be in the moment...a whole lot of stuff. I knew that I had to get my heard around it because life will dish out more, and I need to find a way to cope and handle the stresses. I used to be this fearless lion and for some reason the lion lost its roar. I did several things after this pivotal moment and continue to work on strengthening my spirit; here are just a few that I have started with.

1. Identify what elements of your life you can control; focus on those and let go of the rest. I realized that I am not in control of my mother's health, I can only influence, coach and inspire. I have to accept that there are greater powers than me and let the universe dictate what those are, it is not up to me.

2. Balance your thoughts. When crisis strikes, particularly when it is close to your heart, try to have more logical and rational thoughts. This rationale will help you regulate your feelings and emotions.

3. Do things in life that fill your soul. Somewhere along the way I stopped doing things that I love, simple things like listening to music, laughing with friends, doing races, reading other than academic books. Make your way back to your passions and do things that give you genuine satisfaction.

4. Be in the moment. I was so preoccupied with getting that phone call that when I had play time with my kids, I was constantly staring at the phone. I now put it right away and tell people to not call during certain times

5. Create space for yourself. This is the time be meditative, pensive or even to just take the time that you need for yourself so that you don't find yourself overwhelmed.

6. Practice Gratitude. We forget in this life of ours what we are so lucky to have; food, shelter clothing, loving families, the ability to work. Every night before bed, I practice gratitude; first with my kids before they sleep, then on my own. I account for all of the wonderful elements in my life and remind myself first thing in the morning.

Every day, my deep belly breaths fuel my senses. The biggest lesson for me during this whole thing is that even the strongest become weak and it is ok. The worst part about being strong is that rarely people ask if you are ok. I encourage you, be mindful, tune into your body...your body sends signal, listen, learn and respect them.