Life Is Hard and I'm Going to Fight It Hard - Ruchi Bakhai

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1. Tell us about your background and journey.

Hello, I am Ms. Ruchi Bakhai, Psychologist and Founder at EduPsych.

"Sometimes the worst thing that happens to you, the thing you think you can't survive... it's the thing that makes you better than you used to be." - Jennifer Weiner 

I believe, 'an Entrepreneur is made and not born'. Before talking about my entrepreneurial journey, you must know that I am a Depression survivor turned Psychologist, and now an Entrepreneur. Yes, you read that right. My story is similar to a phoenix rising from its own ashes and shining brightly for everyone to see. As a teenager, I was judged and ridiculed for not conforming to societal standards of "beauty" and bullied for not being "feminine" enough. I was pushed around for being naive. As a consequence, I became more of a loner, not by choice but by force. I had stopped growing and evolving as an individual and was on a path of self destruction. I then knew that depression had sunk in full force but I did not know how to help myself because even saying the word "psychiatrist" was considered a taboo then. As is mentioned in the holy book of “Bhagvad Gita”, “with every problem, a solution is born”, - thus, was the initiation of my professional career through the path of personal healing. 

In 2015, I enrolled myself for a P.G. Diploma in Psychological Counselling as I didn't know that help was available in the form of a Psychologist/Counselor/Psychiatrist, and moreover, I thought to myself, "let's engage in my favourite hobby - studying!". It was then that I started the process of self healing. Discovering my self worth, I started to resonate with positivity and build the muscle called "resilience". I realized that the world was full of baseless stigmas - passing judgements, gender inequalities, and ignorance towards one's most important organ - the brain. It was then that I decided to help people seek help by educating them about mental health and eradicating the stigmas associated with mental healthcare. It was not a hobby alone, this time I was on a mission. 

Staying determined to fulfill my mission led myself to branching out from a solo practitioner to an Entrepreneur in November, 2016. This was the birth of EduPsych - a safe haven for seekers and healers, alike. I have combined my passion for education and desire to make mental health a coffee table conversation. I had to wrap up EduPsych in March, 2018 as the cancellation of my wedding at the 11th hour, not only won myself the title of a "jilted bride", but gave way to a relapse of my age old depression. This time, a therapist had to seek help from another therapist and I felt no shame! I wanted to breathe - AGAIN. That's why I smilingly say, "I am a Therapist and I have a Therapist". Yet again, I proved that I am stronger than what was happening to myself. I took time, and rose again. I battled Depression strong and hard, like I often say, "Life is hard. And I'm going to fight it hard". No, none of this was easy! With regular therapy, help from family and friends and putting my self-knowledge to work, survived a phoenix that rose from its own ashes. 

The Psychologist in my head made me want to seek the support of a community, as now, being a victim of patriarchy, I had none. I needed support and my search led her to Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook. I resonated with Sheryl so much so that I started reading her books and began my hunt for 'lean in community spaces' to belong to. As luck has it, I only found a Tickr on the website that said, "If you can't find a circle, start your own." and I did because I realized that, "I am my own saviour", and started the, 'Lean In Kolkata' Network. To read about this trial in my life in my own words, click here.

I relaunched EduPsych in January, 2019 - this time with an added mission of helping women continue to pursue their career irrespective of the patriarchal society's demands of relocating after marriage or taking a sabbatical or break from their careers due to their call of motherhood, and the like. Currently, I shoulder the responsibility of being the Founder & Owner at EduPsych, as well as being the Founder and Leader of Lean In Kolkata (a network under Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s It is a growing network of women who choose to grow, support each other and #leanin. Since then, I have never looked back and have continued to grow taking 'baby steps', like I have always said. 

I have won numerous accolades and recognitions such as : 

I have also been felicitated by various organizations: 

I have also enrolled myself for the second Master’s Degree in Psychology (my first one was in English, completed in 2013) so that I can become a Clinical Psychologist - a transition from a Counselling Psychologist.

Today, with 12 other experts onboard, a team of 5 people managing the backend, and an ongoing hiring of experts, professionals alike - I am proud to say that I have created a system that is surviving the pandemic and even helping those hit by it, with jobs, free sessions, and free community spaces. Here, everyone is on a mission to eradicate stigmas associated with mental health because it's not just professional, it's personal. We are Mental Health Warriors. 

I call myself 'passionately curious'! The curiosity, the desire, the thirst for wanting more, the challenge to try the 'new' so as to experience what my schema can bring to me, has become one angle of the life that I live. This is exactly how I have cultivated my 'jungle gym' like career.
Here's what I have been creating:

1) I'm a Psychologist and I help people train their mind for mental excellence. 

2) I'm an unshakable optimist who believes in a bright future and our ability to build it together. I achieve this dawning the role of a Transformational/Keynote Speaker. 

3) With a vision to change the way businesses think, act, and operate, I am working as a Corporate Trainer to help transform company culture and create a better working world. 

4) I've Founded 'EduPsych', a Psychotherapy platform offering a safe space for all your mental health concerns. As an experienced Psychotherapist, I have discovered remarkable patterns about how people think, act, and communicate. I envision to inspire people to do the things that inspire them. 

5) Constructive Change is the mantra that helped me become a Change-Maker and Lead the Lean In Kolkata.

This space looks like a jungle gym of my career graph because I believe there isn't a single role or an upward ladder in career. It's a jungle gym puzzle! I'm growing. If you are pro growth, feel free to reach out. Uncertain? It's Ok! If you've got problems, I've got ears. 

By the way, I don't prefer to write conclusions so there isn't any to this piece because, "I've only begun...".

2. What led you to take up this career path?

Life happened. It was when I realized that I was pinned down to rock bottom, when I couldn’t breathe anymore that my survival instinct acted up and led me out on a search for help. Not knowing that Psychological Counseling was the possible way, I ended up enrolling for a P.G. Diploma course in Psychological Counseling and it was during the course that I started my journey of healing, realizing the stark reality that many, like myself, are unaware of this life-saving path of counseling given the ignorance as well as the stigmas associated with mental healthcare. Thus began the mission of educating one and all about the need, importance and easy access to mental healthcare. Moreover, when I look back, I find myself as the “Agony Aunt” for all my friends and classmates back in school - they would often confide in me and would love talking to me as I was an active listener and probably a shoulder to cry on! So, maybe, without me even knowing or getting a Career Test done, this career path chose me instead of me choosing it.

3. What are some common myths in the society about psychology?

Unfortunately, there are many. This is likely because people often have very little direct knowledge and experience with the science of psychology. Majority of the time, their first (and usually the only) experience with psychology happens when they take an introductory course on the topic in school. No wonder there are so many different misconceptions about ‘psychology’. I’ll only highlight the most common ones: 

  • Most people think that as they have a lot of experience with human behaviour they are natural experts on the subject.
  • People think that psychology is just common sense.
  • Psychologists get paid lots of money to listen to people talk.
  • Psychology isn’t real science.

There are many more myths related to psychological counseling as well! But, that’s for another time, maybe?

4. How can people practice mindfulness?

This is a different ball game altogether! There isn’t any ‘one size fits all’ method to practice mindfulness. As you’ve enquired, all I can say is - focus on your breath. This one step alone can help you bring your focus back to YOU and shall allow you to look within. I must emphasize on the fact that most people associate mindfulness with “good feeling” emotions such as joy, relaxation and happiness. 

While mindfulness can lead us to experience the good things in life more fully, this only tells half of the mindfulness story. In fact, becoming truly mindful and aware means that we are also able to see, name, and more fully experience things when we are angry, sad, jealous, anxious, vulnerable, or lonely - this too, is mindfulness. 

Therefore, we have to redefine mindfulness as more than feeling good, and instead see it as having an increased capacity to sit with the full spectrum of being human, experiencing it all - the good, the bad, and the ugly - and learning to be less reactive so that we can make better choices each day.

5. What do you think are the most important qualities of a successful entrepreneur?

When you believe that you are an entrepreneur, you are an entrepreneur. This self belief is the starting point and the rest of the qualities can be acquired as and how one grows. Moreover, a successful entrepreneur is someone who is emotionally intelligent, is a changemaker, a team player, and a failure - it’s only when one can embrace her failures that one has the metal in her to begin everytime it says, “The End”. It’s always about the mindset and not about the bank balance alone.

6. What are some of the most important factors for running a successful business?

There isn’t a ‘mantra’ that you can follow to run a successful business, rather you can create your own. I can share what I have been creating, everyday, to ensure I keep transitioning my “The End” ‘s into “ be continued” - that’s how I have been building my muscle called ‘resilience’, a very important element to be an entrepreneur in the first place (let alone a successful one, as success is quite subjective!). Here’s what I’ve been creating - 

I’m aware of the fact that I’m not good at everything I need to run a business. Hence, I hire and collaborate with experts. I’m aware of the fact that these experts too, would prove faulty, at times. That’s why, I’ve been learning the art of ‘letting go’ because it’s only human to make mistakes and it’s the law of nature to let go of people who can no longer grow with you or can no longer receive your support to grow. I’m constantly reminding myself to not ONLY focus on things that don’t work well, money that I’ve lost or lended, so that I can focus on what’s working for me and the revenue I’m generating. This makes me feel abundant and it generates more abundance. 

Rest is no different from what any other entrepreneur does to grow and be successful, because I too, follow. Why? Because success leaves clues.

7. How according to you can one manage stress?

Try being real and authentic; be near to nature and be natural - so that you focus on the ‘necessary’ and not keep running after the ‘needed’. If you can achieve this, you’ll be insusceptible to stress. If you cannot, then let’s talk about managing stress, which takes us back to maintaining a low profile. Please understand that maintaining a low profile doesn’t mean that you cannot go after your dreams and that you aren’t supposed to accomplish all 

that you can. It only means being content with and grateful for whatever you have. If you can inculcate a habit of practising gratitude, you would never feel stressed or even if you do, you’ll be able to sail through it easily. 

8. Which is your favourite book and why?

This is the toughest to answer! How can one ever pinpoint one book? It’s like picking out one favourite strand of hair. If I may, I’ll only suggest that you read “Lean In” and “Option B” by Sheryl Sandberg. Both talk about some of the most important aspects of leading a good and happy life - equality, support, community, love, resilience, empowerment, and so much more!

- Ruchi Bakhai

Interview by - Abhirup Dey

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