Having confronted my fear, the next step was to confront my Mental illness. And it then that I am came across two words – Unconditional love.

Unconditional love is the hardest form of love yet it is the only real love. Unconditional love does not mean liking everything about a person. It does not mean wanting to be with a person always or not having any disagreements. Literally, it means to love a person without any conditions. To me it means firstly acknowledging the whole person – the good, the bad and the ugly. It means acknowledging that a person is also all the things that you don’t like about them.

And that they are not just their bad or good parts but the whole. When you love someone unconditionally, you love them even in the moments that you don’t like them.

Its quite hard I think. Yet unconditional love exists and I found it recently. Truth be told, it was around me always. I just didn’t realize it. It has been with me for the longest time and yet I only truly discovered it now. It came in the form of MI.

No silly, not a spy from the British secret service agency. I am referring to my mental illness, duh! I have realized that apart from my parents and siblings, my mental illness (MI) has been longest with me – more than the oldest friend I have and definitely longer than any love relationship. It (MI) has never left me really! I used to think that MI was really like a fling or a fleeting affair in part caused by external circumstances. Now I think differently. Now I think that like a trusted friend MI has never left. At times it’d be on a vacation and sometimes even on a long vacation. But I suppose MI was already always there. I must say it has been very loyal to me!

Loyalty, unconditional love, faithfulness, complete acceptance are some of the qualities, that I really admire and look for in friends and lovers. And to be honest these qualities are very hard to come by in people. And yet here was a friend that stood by me always, never left me, may have taken a back seat but was always there. Apart from my 3 parents, 3 siblings, 1 nephew, 1 deceased best friend, 1 current best friend, a dedicated group of friends, may be like 2 long distance friends, a recently acquired member of the family (we are yet to sign the family contract called marriage between the said person and a member of our family but the negotiations are on) and a lover, I think MI is really the only one that has loved me absolutely unconditionally with no exceptions. It was there with me at biggest points in my life – when I moved abroad, when I came out, when I ended a relationship or even most recently when I started one. MI loved me unconditionally. For instance, even though MI does not enjoy happiness, love, humour and joy – things I like the most, MI really stood by me, hiding in the shadows even in those happy moments – in fact MI always visits me in every happy moment. What more can one ask from a friend – I feel truly blessed!

And all this while I was neither aware of MI’s presence nor I did really give it due credit. I really did not make any effort to get to know it better – well I thought MI was a fleeting affair not like my life companion. But I now know better and so I have decided to get to know MI better, be friends with it and really just give it the love it deserves. Here I am thinking I am all alone, but truth be told I had this friend always with me and I didn’t even know it.

So I am going to spend more time with my new best friend who is actually my oldest friend. I have discovered a few things about MI – it is made up of part depression, part anxiety and a bit of PTSD. I have to find a nick name for it because depression & anxiety with symptoms of PTSD is too long a name!! I have also discovered that ‘MI’ can be very irritating and annoying. MI just shows up even when I don’t have time for it or I need space. Like if I am on a date or if I have a travelling adventure with my partner or at home or in a crowded party or when I am at a yoga retreat. And MI always comes unannounced. This is quite normal for MI – I cannot blame ‘MI’ as it is in its nature – MI is only being itself. And friends are supposed to accept you and love you unconditionally, right? So I must do the same.

But friends are also supposed to be a mirror and show you your shortcomings and help you learn. So, I have decided to begin by starting to teach MI some manners and explain the concept of space – after all it is my responsibility as a friend to do so, no?

And my next step is to start finding hobbies or things that we both can do together. It is a little difficult because ‘MI’ likes the following things:

1. To spend time in isolation (I only like it only as antidote to boring people or when I have to be productive or while reading a particularly engaging book a.k.a. Harry Potter)

2. MI really enjoys crying (I enjoy crying once in a blue moon but it likes to cry at the drop of every hat even though its summer in India and hats are so out of fashion and then likes to cry when there are no hats to drop because it really misses hats – must be very difficult for ‘MI’ to be ‘MI’)

3. Screaming – (I don’t want to scream because I don’t want to ruin my vocal cords in case I get picked up by the next singing reality show – there are so many of them these days – they are bound to run out of real singers, no? When that happens I really want to come to their rescue. I may not be able to sing but I chose positive thinking and thinking about my strengths. I always tell myself that I have all the potential of a reality show contestant – drama, drama and DRAMA. But I digress)

4. MI also enjoys messing up brain at times so I feel confused – and because I am not an engineer, I have to spend a lot of time and money with these brain engineers called therapists who have to rewire everything – and engineers are always expensive!

5. MI loves to eat fear and hopelessness – but I like to eat more of dreams and hope and most menus don’t have both these opposite things on offer.

6. MI also quite likes aggressive sports like boxing and wrestling. Since I am its only friend it ends up beating and boxing me. Trust me it’s not fun and I really don’t like violence. So I tried Satyagraha with MI but I think it works better with British colonials than with ‘MI’. (an afterthought – it seems voting is an easier and quicker option to make the Brits leave than Satyagraha – if only Gandhi new)

So now I have to find other activities. I know that we both love watching movies and we also both love Harry Potter – for different reasons of course. MI finds solidarity with Dementors while I take life lessons from Dumbledore. Movies work as a lullaby for MI (even the good ones like Avengers or Finding Nemo or Zootopia) and they wake me up. So therefore we have an understanding that at least movies and Harry Potter is good for us.

Now I will go and think of a nick-name for MI and keep you posted on all our activities together.