“Opening those doors on the top floor of my college building, I didn’t know if it was relief or fear. I’m terrified of heights, but when the sleeping pills didn’t work, that was my only option. I don’t know whether to call it fate.. it was by far the most horrible thing I’ve ever seen happen. Somebody jumped right in front of my eyes; it’s still frozen in my mind. I recognized his face, he was from the same university.. I saw him fall to the ground. That could have been me.
I come from an extremely education-centric family, I began preparing for my IIT JEE exams in Class 7. Then of course, I went to Chaitanya in Nizampet and scored well there too. That was expected, considering I studied 50 to 60 hours a week. I began to notice changes in my behaviour, losing memory, losing interest in everything I used to do. I played football, drew, did graphic designing and videography, but now I could barely remember anything I was even studying. I didn’t have a lot of friends and I considered my girlfriend to be my best friend. For reasons unbeknownst to me then, she disappeared one day. When your social circle is that small, losing one person is a great loss and it hit me quite hard.
One day while crossing the road, an auto hit me and I twisted my back. That led to months upon months of lying alone in a hospital bed, injections in my back and nobody to talk to. I was sixteen at the time. Despite all of this, I managed to top my intermediate exams and cracked my JEE mains. When my girlfriend popped back up out of the blue, I didn’t ask where she had been, I was just happy she was back.
I was then diagnosed with eosinophilia, which is a disease that affects your immune system and in turn, your memory. At the time, I was in my first year at NIT Agartala, and there had already been 7 suicides. In a place that has only the cream of the crop, the realization that there are people that can outdo you is very overwhelming.
I started to get depressed, the pain of surgery was unbearable. Just to paint you a picture, I had 40 holes in my nasal passage down to my throat, with cotton in each one to stop the bleeding. All my glands were filled with some kind of infection; I distinctly remember looking at the vials of green fluid the doctors had pulled out of me, it made me sick to my stomach.
During all of this, my ‘girlfriend’ not only refused to visit me in the hospital, but also admitted to talking to me only to make her actual boyfriend jealous. All of this was getting increasingly difficult to bear, and I ended up taking several sleeping pills to try to end it all. Although I was upset that it didn’t work, in hindsight, I am glad. After a lot of throwing up blood and other unpleasant side effects, I recovered. I cleared my SAT with an amazing score and was ready to leave the country and start afresh. However, we could not afford a loan and I went back into my shell.
That was the day I decided I had no way out, yet again, followed by watching one of my peers fall to his death. The experience of seeing somebody end their life in front of you is difficult to put in words. Humbling is an extreme understatement. But it was the day I realized the actual number of people going through this struggle, and I wanted to do something about it for others, if not for myself. To be honest, seeing that guy jump scared me enough to back off and run downstairs. Before this, I thought my family would be happy to have me gone, since I was a failure anyway. But at that moment, I realized that dying would be the true failure.
I began taking care of myself again, putting on some weight, exercising, and researching. Over the span of a year and a half, I taught myself the workings of business until I had enough to launch my start-up. In May of 2020, Find Hope was launched. We are a start-up that provides you with a place to speak with a trained counselor without any judgement. It is completely free, and our counselors are all final year psychology students who are ready to begin their own journeys are counselors. It is kind of a win-win situation as it works as an internship and exposure for them, and as free support and a helping hand for those in need.
When we receive clients with serious illnesses or need for medication, we direct them towards the right professionals that can treat them for a reduced price. In essence, we do all the dirty work for you. We have about 15 professionals all over India on board with us right now that have assisted us with decreased prices of treatment. At the end of our clients’ periods of counseling, we have the option of an Emotional First Aid course that we charge only Rs.199 for; it is extremely helpful to have that knowledge once therapy has ceased and at the end of the day, I cannot continue this venture unless I can sustain it. However, in the past few months, I have only managed to collect 10,000-15,000 a month which is definitely not enough to sustain the company. We are extensively looking for investors now, but it is impossible to convince anybody to give a 20 year old from a non-medical background any funds, regardless of my motive or belief in the start-up.
I genuinely hope this story reaches people, and they know that there is a safe space for them to let out their thoughts and issues. We have a website through which a counselling appointment can be booked, with almost-professionals from all over India, who speak several different languages. All I know is that when I needed help, I couldn’t afford it, or have the strength to approach somebody. My only goal is to try and ensure nobody else has to feel that way.”