Slipping into darkness

The Asian Age.

Life, More Features

Feeling dreadful but don't exactly know why? It could be the Anniversary Effect. We speak to a psychologist and try to get to the bottom of it.

Still from the movie Game Over

Pallabi, a 25-year-old NGO worker, comes home every day from work, tired but still upbeat and enthusiastic to spend some quality time with her family. But, recently, she came home and straightaway shut herself in her room without having dinner or even uttering a single word. The next day, the girl was gloomy again and her mother had to ask her if there was something that bothered her from the previous day. She said that she’d been feeling low. But she couldn’t explain why or give any concrete reason for her behaviour.

It is not a rare thing with people like you and me when a day or two doesn’t work out well. It can be a perfect day with no mind-boggling traffic, no boss’ harsh words, no dull lunch, not even pressure from family to get married and, yet, the day seems to be a not-so-motivating one. Sometimes, one can even struggle to get themselves out of bed. If we medically try and explain the situation, there is a major possibility that these cases would be of an ‘Anniversary Reaction’ to any traumatic event. What happened with Pallabi was the same psychological effect. Her dog, Robin, passed away around this period last year and, in spite of being so close to her furry friend, she couldn’t be there for him during his last couple of days. She was out of station and by the time she was back, everything was over. Tanvi Malick, a psychologist and founder of The Bare Talk, elaborates on the same. She says, “Usually, the triggers can be anything in relation to the specific trauma. For example, seeing the date on a calendar or the season/weather or certain music, clothes, etc., which remind you of the incident. Even though we call it an anniversary, it’s not really 100 per cent necessary for it to happen at the exact date every year.” “This trauma could’ve been due to anything like death in the family, a miscarriage, an accident or assault, etc.”, she adds. In Pallabi’s case, it was just a song, which made Robin fall asleep.

The psychological condition is prominently evident around the tragic date. But as it is not like the menstrual cycle, with the easy date calculation method, tracing Anniversary Effect is not that easy a thing. The most observed obstacle would be lack of awareness. When talking to people about the same, it took at least 10 minutes to explain the concept and then only they could relate to the whole matter. However, Srabani, a 32-year-old teacher, says that she has faced such things every time she is reminded of her grandmother’s death. But it is not a calendar thing for her. It is the mention of her grandmother by someone and it all starts. “I have been trying to cope up with the death and I am a bit better now as I feel that time is healing my pain and maybe a couple of years from now, I won’t be reacting to every mention of her. But, I don’t think I’ll be able recover

fully from her loss ever in my life.” Though, Tanvi begs to differ, saying, “To treat, it’s important to deal with the trauma-related feelings themselves and then only healing comes into the scenario. Some people do it themselves over time and some might require therapy. Talking to someone with a shared experience and good self care can also be useful. There are various therapies available as well to deal with trauma. The type would be person specific, though.”

Whereas, a person is obviously not consciously behaving low due to a horrific past, a glance through the calendar will clarify that the subconscious doesn’t let us forget after all. “It can be a normal part of grieving also, like if we lose someone in an accident, every year around that time, we’d miss them or think of them more. But the uneasy feelings, anxiety, irritability should ideally fade with time,” shares the psychologist.

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But it is to be duly mentioned that it is not necessary that every low phase is caused due to past event or rather a person who has witnessed sorrow in the past will surely be a victim to anniversary effect. So every time one feels low is not necessarily, a bad experience but a bad day itself. But once in a while keeping oneself under check before slipping down the darkness won’t be much of harm. Would it?