Interview Of The Week: Mental Health Is Like Breathing

Arouba Kabir is one of the nominees for The Restore Awards® that recognise and provide a platform to make mental health mainstream and those connected with it are celebrated on a global stage. With 8 years of experience in Mental Health, Arouba proactively campaigns for the importance of mental health via offline & online mediums. She works with individuals, couples, families and corporates. Arouba runs Enso Wellness where she and her team impact the changing perspectives around mental health via CSR and non profit activities. The Unhurry® team interviewed her, excerpts below:

Arouba Kabir, Mental Health Therapist,
Founder- Enso Wellness

What inspired you to begin your journey?

Since childhood I wanted to become many things-a teacher, doctor, pilot et cetera but finally I chose to become a doctor and took medical subjects in my 10+2. And when I arrived for my MBBS admission, after speaking to the college counsellor I was told that I could be a good journalist. Barkha Dutt was a sensation back then and I had short hair so I thought why not. My passion for travelling, stories, exploring new cultures-made me fit the criteria for becoming a journalist. So I did my BA in journalism and psychology. And after my graduation I actually worked in different media houses in India for almost 2 years including the internships. It was during that time, I was unwell and I got diagnosed with a medical condition called Cystic Fibrosis. That was a life changing moment which made me lose my job, relationship, and kind of identity. That was the moment when I was told I might not live beyond 27 years of age and I was 21. It took me many months to recover physically but my mental health journey began. I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression and was put on medication alongside my dozens of other medications needed for Cystic Fibrosis. That was the time which introduced me to Mental Health as a profession. Being unwell and visiting so many therapists, psychiatrists and spiritual places made me see the value of mental health. Then there was no going back. After feeling better by myself, I got myself trained in numerous therapies and did my masters in Counseling Psychology as well. 

What were the difficulties you faced on your way?

There have been many challenges such as being diagnosed with a progressive disease that I have to this day, but more than that was the reaction of people when you tell them you are seeing a psychiatrist or a psychologist.

The reactions and responses I have received from people when they got to know I work with people who have emotional or mental health challenges. The stigma and taboo was way bigger than it is today. Though my family and friends have always been supportive, but my mom would sometimes ask me, When are you getting the real job? I smile and tell her, “Mom, I give the jobs.”

Could you mention 5 ways in which you are impacting or giving out to the community.

  • We are taught how to read, how to dress up, how to talk to people but we are never taught how to talk to ourselves, love ourselves and respect ourselves-we are not taught emotional resilience. The work I do is based on teaching people it is alright to be not okay as we are human beings and ups and downs show that we are alive and kicking but it is not okay to be in that state, or feel stuck.
  • Creating awareness on mass levels about emotional and mental health and why we need to prioritise it.
  • Being able to create jobs in my company.
  • Changing the way we look at relationships, with ourselves and with people around us.
  • My team and I conduct various CSR activities where we give awareness talks or consultations to underprivileged people.

Today when you look back, is there anything you would have done differently

This is the one thing I have never felt. When I look back I don’t see that I could have done anything differently or I don’t even want to go back or relive that time. I feel I did my best given the resources I had back then and I am doing my best given the resources and knowledge I have now. I am proud of my younger self and I am proud of myself today.

What is the message you would like to give to people out there who want to walk in your shoes in impacting the health of others?

Before we extend our help professionally or personally to others, we need to be capable of taking that responsibility. Work on yourself before you want to work on someone else.

This profession is very fragile and if you do not work on yourself you won’t realise when other person’s biases, emotions, judgements will engulf you.

Mental health to you is…

Like Breathing – it’s as important as breathing to me. It helps me accept, love and respect myself no matter what condition I am in. 

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