“It's important to be kind to yourself and trust that you are going to get there”

Lest we lose ourselves in the race to reach the top, Shaheen Bhatt makes a case for slowing down and focusing on what’s most important

Faisal Magray

Earlier known as Bollywood actress Alia Bhatt’s sister, Shaheen Bhatt found her own identity when she released her book I’ve Never Been (Un)Happier, in which she bares her heart out about her fight against depression since the age of 12. In a candid chat with Outlook Business, Bhatt talks about her journey as a writer and the challenges of being a millennial. 

How did you develop your writing process?

I always wanted to be a writer. As a child, I would journal my emotions, which later evolved into script-writing or helping others write. My father is a good writer, and I have learnt a lot from him. Additionally, I have always been a voracious reader. 

As an author, my process has been quite erratic. I would start writing at 5 am and stop at noon. But sometimes, it would get too overwhelming. So I would write for the first two days straight and then feel drained for the next three days or even a week. It takes a lot of discipline to push yourself on a day-to-day basis. But I feel like my next book will be easier to write. 

You were also dealing with bouts of depression while you were writing. How did you overcome that? 

I was writing about painful memories from the past, and that plunged me into a six-month depression phase. I had gained almost 10 kgs as the entire process took me to a really dark place emotionally. But on the flip side, it has given me so much. The book has changed who I am. Because until then, I was hiding who I am, my insecurities and all the things I was afraid of. Now, everything is in the open and I am just what I am. Today, if I am nervous or scared, I’ll say it instead of hiding it from the world. So, writing the book has been like a healing process. 

Tell us something about your on-going mental health campaign. How is it helping people battle mental health issues?

My campaign is called ‘Here Comes the Sun’. Currently, it’s an online awareness campaign through which we are trying to disseminate as much information as we can. This is being done through fun posts, and we are also putting up lists of counsellors and professionals one could reach out to for help. Soon, we will expand from social media and start on-ground activities.  

In the process of ‘hustle’, this generation has become more intolerant towards criticism. How do you view this scenario with respect to mental wellbeing? 

We, as a generation, are talking less and less. So, criticism hurts a lot. Everybody wants to be perfect and reach their full potential, and that's really lovely. But, people are forgetting that things take time and setbacks happen. There is no one perfect trajectory. It's a journey. Hence, it's important to be kind to yourself and trust that you are going to get there.

On top of that, there is social media anxiety, too. There is FOMO due to the endless information we are being fed. When we were younger and didn’t have cell phones, there were no points of comparison. Today, we are constantly comparing ourselves with others, and that’s why we are all unhappy.

So, what’s next for you in the pipeline?

I am working on my next book, which will also be a non-fiction. I am going to be a writer as long as I have things to write about.