Young actress Archana Kavi who made an impressive debut with Neelathamara has entertained the Malayali audience with a handful of roles. However, the actress, who has taken a break from the big screen, is now in the news for a different, yet relevant reason. She has been active on the social media, opening up about her depression and creating awareness about it. Archana speaks to Manorama Online about her ordeal and how she came out of it.
You have opened up about your depression. Why did you think you need to share it with others?
I revealed it as I wanted to create a conversation among people. Lots of people have the misconception that you should hush up about mental illness. They feel embarrassed seeking professional help from a psychologist or attending counseling sessions. Won’t you treat your body if it is ill? Your mind too deserves the same consideration.
What was your mental health issue? How are you now?
I was diagnosed with Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) which is a severe form of premenstrual syndrome. Hormonal imbalance that happens during the menstrual cycles is responsible for extreme and uncontrollable mood swings. I would suffer up to 15 days a month. I didn’t understand what was happening to me. For some days, I would be happy and cheerful and would suddenly suffer bouts of depression and anger. Sometimes, I felt like committing suicide. I have been suffering from this mental illness for the last four years. However, I have been seeking professional help and treatment since three years. Now, I have regained control over myself. That is what gives me the courage to speak to you.
Did you have this problem when you were active in the movies? Did it affect your acting?
People might have noticed something unusual in my behaviour when I was on the sets. More than me, others should tell about it. Sometimes, I couldn’t transform into my character while filming the shots; and at times I over – acted to compensate it. I may have sat aloof, without speaking to anyone on the sets. Some people might have mistaken my mental illness for arrogance.
You are very active on the social media. How can someone who has been suffering depression be like that?
The society thinks that a person who is depressed should always lock themselves inside and spend their days weeping. However, that is wrong. The happiness that some people show is just a façade. They pretend to be joyful so that others wouldn’t know about their depression. They would always be active and vibrant in order to hide their inner emptiness. We should confront that desolation and seek treatment. Else, things might get out of hand. Haven’t you heard what the society say about someone who has committed suicide? There would be people to lament that the person who died was a happy and joyful soul. Who are they to judge our happiness? What if the happiness that we show is fake?
Did your marriage end in divorce due to your illness?
No. It was a mutual decision when we realized that we couldn’t be together and make a world of our own. Moreover, two people who truly love each other wouldn’t separate if one of them is suffering from mental illness that is curable through medication and therapy.
How was the response when you opened up about mental illness?
The response has been overwhelming. Many women wrote to me sharing their experiences dealing with mental health issues. Some women courageously sought treatment. I felt happy listening to those stories. However, it is true that some people tried to hurt me saying that PMDD is something that only the rich people complain about. They mocked me asking why ordinary women do not speak about it. But, even ordinary women suffer from such mental health problems. However, they hide everything inside without letting others know and suffer silently.
How many women, who bear the responsibility of their families on their shoulders, can say that they are relaxed? The mental health issues that women suffer during menstruation often go unaddressed. My story grabbed attention only because I am a celebrity. Others will hide these issues as they unable to open up.
What are your latest projects after recovering from depression? What are your hopes for a new life?
My mind is slowly returning to its calmer self. I wish to start a mental health campaign via social media. People should feel that mental health issues aren’t something that should be hidden. Why should we ruin our and our loved ones’ happiness because of mental illness that could be cured through timely diagnosis and treatment?