From vagabond to settler

From vagabond to settler

I have always been considered somewhat of a vagabond when it comes to my career. Every time I met somebody after a long time, they would ask,

“Are you still organizing concerts?”

“No, I actually work for a radio station now and DJ on the side.”

And then a year later,

“Are you still DJing?”

“No, I’m a freelance graphic designer now.”

I never stuck to one job or even the same field for more than 6 months. The only time I did was when I was running my own business. The list of jobs I did were varied; I had dipped by toes in event management, journalism, advertising, artist management, radio production, DJing, creative activism, content writing and graphic designing.

In 2013, I lost my mother and my mental health began to decline from unhealthy to crippling. I began psychiatric treatment and got on medication. After taking a six month sabbatical from work, I realized that I could never stay rooted in one job for more than six months. I gave up the idea of working full time and began freelancing as a writer and graphic designer.

Two years later, in 2015, I lost a friend to suicide. Having dealt with my own demons of suicidal ideation, I was shaken by the response of those around me—blaming it on debt, alcoholism and even an unfounded rumour of an extramarital affair. Nowhere in these efforts to reason out the tragedy did anyone speak of mental health.

So with the help of my psychiatrist, Dr Sandip Deshpande, I created a booklet on mental health called ‘Turning 30’ on account of my thirtieth birthday. It described the most prevalent mental health issues in India: depression, anxiety disorders, suicidal ideation, self-harm and alcoholism. I wrote, designed and crowd-funded the entire project. Whether it was working on the content, meticulously designing the booklets or explaining to every second person why I was doing this, I felt a passion like never before. Even the most amazing bass solo couldn’t bring out that fire in me.

Over the next few years, I became more inclined to working in the field of mental health. In 2018, I ran into a dire financial situation. I began to hunt for full time jobs despite not feeling ready to leave the comfort of my freelance life. I interviewed with White Swan Foundation for the role of program coordinator but did not land the position. I then spent a year working with a wildlife conservation organization designing educational content for them.

In 2019, a position opened up in the content department of White Swan Foundation. I applied again and this time, I made it. I still remember the glee with which I screamed after the phone call where Pavitra offered me the position of content creator.

Today, it has been one year, five months and two weeks since I joined White Swan Foundation. The vagabond has finally found a home. I did struggle at the eight month mark - my enthusiasm began to dwindle as mental health issues engulfed them. But with immense support from the organization, I was able to find my stability and get back up on my feet.

I switched to a freelance position where I could choose my own hours. My manager, Pavitra found the ideal balance between accommodating my shortcomings yet pushing me to work harder, take on more tasks and be an integral part of the team.

The team has grown to become a family - lending an ear when I need one, sending me a meal when I can’t make one and celebrating milestones of my mental health progress with me. I have never worked with a more talented, passionate, hard-working and encouraging team.

My journey with White Swan Foundation has shown me just how much of an impact the organization you work with can have on your mental health. After all, we spend eight hours a day together. We break bread together everyday (or we used to before COVID came around) and share a significant part of our week together.

When I joined White Swan Foundation, I felt intimidated by the goal of “sticking to this job.” But I lost that fear rather quickly because of how supportive the environment at White swan Foundation has been.

I realized that having mental health issues doesn’t make me any less of a content creator; and that with adequate accommodation, I can contribute to the future of a company despite the debilitating nature of my mental health issues.

Was I lucky to have been in an organization that works in the field of mental health and therefore understands and prioritizes it? Absolutely. But with reasonable accommodation for mental health, any organization can bring the best out in their employees.

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