A woman says Bollywood dancing became her form of medication after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder in her late teens.

Sonita Mitra, a mum-of-two, first fell in love with the star-studded stories of passion and tragedy seen in Bollywood films as a child.

But when she began facing struggles with her mental health aged 16, Bollywood became her escape from the world.

“I’d watch Bollywood films and get totally mesmerised and copy the dance moves,” the 49-year-old said.

“I’d look at the bright colours and they’d make me feel better. Dancing is a form of medication for me. It’s within my soul.

Asian Image: Sonita Mitra, picturedSonita Mitra, pictured (Image: Newsquest, Mike Simmonds)

“From being a child, that was my escapism.

“Bollywood films are three hours long, there’s lots of powerful songs in them, the music’s very uplifting.

“When I have been ill, music and getting moving helps. Healthy body, healthy mind – it’s all connected. It gives you hope there’s light at the end of the tunnel. It gives you something to look forward to.

“In depression you feel like there’s a cloud over you the whole time. But you have to talk yourself out of it.”

Sonita moved from Ilford, East London, to Bradford in 1994, but described feeling “isolated” in her new city.

She left school with low GCSE grades and, soon after arriving in Bradford, she gave birth to her first son.

On a mission to find her purpose, she booked herself onto several different courses.

“I took control of my life and went on any course I could find that had a crèche,” she said.

Asian Image: Sonita Mitra, picturedSonita Mitra, pictured (Image: Newsquest)

She began with small courses and ended up completing an NVQ level two in business admin and IT.

In 1997, she began working as a civil servant and never looked back.

Sonita said: “In between all this time with life’s troubles, I lost both my parents. I was hospitalised as well and sectioned. But I always managed to come out of my breakdowns quite quickly because of my resilience and passion for dance.”

From Pakeezah and Sholay to Shaan and Qubani, these iconic dramas are now set to inspire the next chapter of her life.

In the year she turns 50, Sonita hopes to help more people through dance after decades of free workshops and dance-based volunteering.

Her volunteering has already seen her host classes with Bradford PHAB Club and Ascendance and showcase her dancing at the 2007 International Indian Film Academy Awards.

Sonita has also appeared on a Channel 5 documentary about how dancing helped her with symptoms of manic depression.

“The love of Bollywood never, ever stopped - it’s always been there,” she said.

“Weddings and parties, I’m known for being the first one on the dance floor and the last one off the dance floor.

“Music and dancing just brings out me. It brings out the best in me and I’m very bubbly and happy.

Asian Image: Sonita Mitra, picturedSonita Mitra, pictured (Image: Newsquest)

“We’re very lucky in Bradford, there’s a lot of resources you can tap into. For people with mental health issues, it’s a need of reaching out, making that call, accepting you do need help to get out of that dark place.

“You need the positive mindset to move forward. It’s only you who can do it.”

In a message to others, Sonita said: “Never give up on yourself, always believe in your dreams, always listen to your inner voice. If you’re passionate about anything, never ever walk away from it - always have it in your life. Creativity is paramount.

“Life is not just about bills and stress. We’re here as human beings. We need to look after ourselves. That’s where creativity comes in, don’t forget your passions - you lose yourself.”

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