First Story Positive: This IRS officer’s valiant battle against Depression

Shubhrata Prakash was diagnosed with depression after the birth of her first-born but she fought her way out of a mental illness largely considered a sign of weakness

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2002 batch IRS officer Shubhrata Prakash was diagnosed with depression five years after the birth of her first child. In 2006, she needed a caesarian section for the delivery of the child. She was elated on seeing her newborn. But she did not understand why she was sad and kept crying again and again wishing, that she was not alive. Being a first-time mother, she did not have any awareness about postpartum depression.


Overtime, Shubhrata tried to distract herself with her work but for some odd reason, she did not feel like her old self. She recalls that there were days when she could not even get out of bed or even brush her teeth. If anyone said any kind words, she would break down. There was nothing physically wrong with her, but she could not understand why this was happening to her.


Eventually, people started comparing her to others who did not have a good job or a supportive family like hers and yet were ‘happier’ or performed better than her. This would result in even more stress for her.


This all culminated into a pivotal moment for her in 2011, when the 49-year-old suffered a severe panic attack. She recalls that her heart was beating very fast and her hands and feet were sweating profusely. She was trembling, the incident bringing back her fears from a time during which she had undergone a heart surgery two weeks before her UPSC interview. 


Emotionally flooded and fearing for her life, she managed to gather enough courage to go to the hospital from her office. Having had enough, she decided to meet with a psychiatrist who diagnosed her with depression, five years after the birth of her first child.


Treatment and antidepressants brought her some temporary relief, but she suffered from side effects. Sometimes she would experience tremors in her limbs that kept her awake at night. Wary of the situation, she felt like the medicines were not working for her, so she decided to stop relying on pills. She used other methods such as Cognitive Behavioural therapy, mindfulness meditation, yoga, and swimming. With these, slowly Shubrata started to feel like herself again.


Today, she still suffers from a periodic bout of anxiety and panic attacks, but she does not suffer in silence. She openly talks about mental health on social media, and shares her experience so that people do not see it as taboo. Her struggles and experiences are well documented in her book, ‘The D Word: A Survivor’s Guide to Depression’. It is okay to not be okay. Life poses challenges to all in different ways, but we all deserve a happy and peaceful life, she says.