Renowned Essayist Anaïs Nin in her diary wrote, “What we call our destiny is truly our character and that character can be altered. It can be done so if we dare to examine how it formed us.” I firmly believe in this quote that helps me in working towards my betterment. It helps even more when things are not working my way.

It was December of 2016 when several unpleasant incidents took me by surprise leading to a series of anxiety attacks and finally leading to severe depression. I have an anxiety disorder, so depression was not something new to me. Over the years I had learnt to manage it well, but I was not aware that this time it would be different.

If only there was any metric to measure depression, I would have prepared myself before it spiked to such high levels. I went into depression in January and while I was trying everything that worked previously, it was already April. Over the next few months, I went numb, and I could not feel any emotion. There was no sadness, no pain, but a complete void. There was only frustration of not being able to feel anything. That is when the worst happened. I started getting suicidal tendencies. Not that I tried jumping off a bridge, but I tried self-harming ways to feel at least something. I hopelessly looked for a stimulus to get back my emotions.

I came across a friend at that time who would actively listen to me without being judgmental. I feel sorry for dumping so much toxicity into her. At one point, when things went out of control, she suggested I should take a break and quit my job. She believed maybe a change in the environment and a break from the mundane lifestyle would help me and asked me to explore different ways to redeem my lost self. So, I quit my job, packed my bags, and came back home.

After returning home, I tried various ways to engage myself. I found that nothing gave me happiness that earlier would do. Reading books, listening to music, watching movies or cooking, everything felt like a huge task. I was adamant that I could not let my dear ones down. I reached out to my friends whom I lost touch with. I did not tell them about my condition but I spoke about what they were doing in their lives. Perhaps I could find some happiness in their happiness. 

I felt that there was light at the end of the tunnel by doing so. It encouraged me to try different things that I did not know I would have loved. For example, I took a great interest in Politics and Philosophy. Politics helped in predicting things in business and made my decision-making better. Philosophy helped me understand that what I felt was nothing new and there were people who created classics, based on that feeling. 

It was the year 2020 when we witnessed the Pandemic. While there were many things that I felt sorry for, there was an opportunity that I did not know, waiting for me. The world embraced online meetings like never before. One day while speaking to one of my friends invited me to her Toastmasters Club. It was an online meeting. I liked it and attended a few more online Toastmasters meeting.

Soon I was introduced to an online club that had members from different parts of the world trying to improve their cross-cultural communications. It was called Inter-continental Advanced Toastmasters Club.

I was overwhelmed by the number of people who were helping me grow. People from across cultures, and multiple backgrounds coming together and sharing their learnings. Each person made me think in a different way. I was amused by the humility each person displayed. Each of them is a champion speaker yet they listened so intently to everyone including me.  I instantly formed a special connection with the club.

Every day I used to plan what I was going to speak in the next meeting and how I am going to word it. Post-meetings, I used to replay what everyone said in my mind. The feedback they shared was amazingly helpful. This sparked a process of thinking deeply.  It helped me develop that part of the brain that helps me feel emotions. It also helped me become an active listener, making me a compassionate person. Gradually, I was able to feel and express emotions among my friends and family.  It also helped me improve my relations with my friends and family. 

I was better than before, and I feel this journey will continue. Toastmasters has given my life back that I will forever be indebted to.

Written by: TM Pramathesh N. Borkotoky 
Intercontinental Advanced Toastmasters Club, D101