A Short Story
Around early 2017, we were working on an early prototype of an online counselling platform. We were getting few queries every day. There was one client who stood apart.
A lady who was in her mid 30’s came to us saying that she recently discovered her husband was having an affair with his colleague by checking his Whatsapp. Her words signified that she saw her future was close to doomed. She was a housewife with no work experience and had a 5-year-old boy. She could not turn to her parents for help because she had a love marriage without their consent. She was financially and emotionally totally dependent on her husband and now without any of her fault, she was about to lose the love of her life.
She wanted to talk to her husband and confront him but didn’t have the courage to do it. What if he demands a divorce? She found us online and sought help. Our counsellor started talking with her. After a few days with this help, she got the courage to confront her husband. Though it was the most painful conversation she had with anyone in her life, she was happy that she could stand up for herself.
It was not an easy one. She had never expected her marriage would come to this.
The husband took some time. Things slowly started turning around. He came back and apologized – he said he did take her for granted. He promised her that he will work on the marriage together and came to us stating that his wife got help on our website. The couple started working with our counsellor together – they knew it is going to take time. But slowly, week over week – they started rebuilding it.
After a few weeks, the woman messaged us.
“Hi Askmile team, When I came to you, I didn’t know what to expect. I was depressed and scared. My counsellor supported me and brought me back to life when I had completely given up on me and my kid’s future. She became the pillar of strength for me when even my mother was not there for me. She made me believe that I can control my life and future. She not only saved me but helped three lives. No words in the world are enough to express the gratitude I feel for her. I owe my family’s future to you.”
Our heart skipped a beat. When we started, we never imagined the magnitude of impact we could have in people’s lives. Never in our any of the work we have done in our past we were able to derive so much of meaning and purpose. We felt like it was our calling. This is where we decided to focus on marital and relationship issues only, the ones that hurt us the MOST.
We believed if we are able to help someone in distress and pain because of problems in their relationship by giving them support – that is a legacy that we’d love to leave back.
If it bothers you, it is 100% important – however small it might seem to others
Many of our clients start their message with these lines, – “hey, it might seem like a stupid issue, but it is bothering me” or “it is a trivial problem, but…”. Some issues may seem very small to the outer world but in reality, it is causing havoc to the one suffering.
A young married lady in her late 20’s from Canada was head over heels in love with her husband and started talking to us “…It might seem like a stupid issue, but I am worried because my husband often goes to office trips and is accompanied by his female colleagues. I am not comfortable with this and it is bothering me a lot. …”. She felt guilty that she was over-suspecting her husband but at the same time her insecurity towards her husband was not letting her sleep. Setting her fear of being judged aside she reached out to us for help.
We think she was just being awesome. She wanted to take care of herself while making the relationship work. After a couple of weeks of talking, she realized that the reason why she was not able to trust her husband was an ugly breakup that happened a decade ago due to trust issues. She moved on with her life but was not able to move on with her thoughts and that incident was haunting her. Just imagine a few more years without addressing it rightly.
Point being -be it a small or a big issue – if it is taking away your peace of mind, it is important and needs to be addressed. We feel sad when people apologize for being themselves. But when they seek to counsel shedding the fear of being judged – it is a great sign because it shows they cared enough about their relationship to make it work.
But not everyone is able to do it easily. Ever wondered, why do people continue to suffer and sometimes even choose to end their lives rather than seeking help?
Stigma – the fear of being judged, is the evil
The answer is Stigma – the fear of being judged. It prevents people to ask for help and makes them continue to live a miserable and painful life instead of finding a helping hand.
Let’s take this issue. A 65-year-old man told us that he was physically abused by his family. He couldn’t speak with his friends, family or neighbours. He decided to seek help by using online medium by staying anonymous to let him speak out. If he had not taken the step, he would have continued to suffer. He was able to overcome the fear of being judged.
If only we are able to break the stigma around seeking help, imagine the number of lives we can change and the amount of happiness we can spread.
A lot of people ask us though – Is Counselling the Answer? How would breaking stigma around Counselling help?
Counselling is a life-changing experience – we have experienced it
When we have a fever or cold, we know what to do. We go and take a Paracetamol or drink a lot of fluids. We know our health 101. But do we really know our emotional 101? What do we do?
Counselling is that experience. Your counsellor is more of a teacher – by not giving you solutions, instead by asking you the right questions. You understand your personal psychology 101. When you react to a situation, you understand your triggers – you accept yourself much better, you become at peace with yourself.
Around a year and a half ago, we attended a workshop around emotional wellness and decided to give Counselling a try individually. Everyone has some issues and baggages in their lives at different times and so did we. For both of us, it was a life-changing experience. We didn’t tell about this to anyone until a few weeks and then anyone we would meet who’s under stress, we would encourage to seek help from a counsellor. Firstly, people would take offense but once when we share our experience around counselling and how we ourself tried and it really helped, the stigma would break in a second. People would ask us questions and in the end details and phone number of our counsellor. In the next 6 months, we referred 50+ of our friends to counselling. There are few friends who have been for more than 25+ sessions, no kidding. That is how much they felt value out of it.
We loved this experience. These friends started coming and thanking us for changing their lives, we just couldn’t believe that a small step could make such a huge difference and we decided to take it a step further.
We quit our plush jobs from Practo (which taught us a lot about importance of overall holistic health & wellness) and started Askmile. It was life-changing for us, we aimed to give the same to others. We wanted to put technology as a key driver in bringing best experience of counselling that is affordable and convenient.
We wanted to learn more about it and how it can help more people. A bad experience on our platform would take not only the trust away from us but also the experience of counselling – we were very cautious about it.
So we went back to school to learn and understand counselling – we went and took courses from NIMHANS and Monfort and took personal one on one tuition – so that we understand how it all works.
So that’s our story. Please help us out.
If you believe what we are doing is meaningful for our society and will give our existing and newer generations a better and happier world, you can really help us and spread the word by liking, commenting or sharing this article – it would reach someone who you wouldn’t even know might need help.
If you know someone who is going through a tough time in their marriage or relationship – please encourage them to seek professional help anywhere and in any mode possible. You may not believe this but It can really save lives.
Lastly, If you are someone who is losing her/ his peace of mind due to a marital or relationship issue, ignore the world, and do your loved ones a favour. Break the stigma around seeking help, talk to our relationship counsellor.
Thanks for reading till this.
Break Stigma, not Happiness!
– Abhinav and Alagu, Founders, Askmile.com
A bit about us – We are techies, product guys and entrepreneurs. For both of us, Askmile isn’t our first start-up. We come from IITs and NITs and worked with great companies like Yahoo, Zynga, Practo etc but nothing we have done in our life have had the same purpose, vision and passion that we have set for ourselves now.