Depression is a word people use callously. But what is it exactly? It is nothing compared to being sad. Most people fail to understand the difference. They often use sad and depressed synonymously. Depression is not about sadness, crying or feeling down. It is more like a numbing feeling that just does not go away. You cannot look at someone and say if the person is depressed or not; people who are affected by depression can hide their state exceptionally well. And yet, their thoughts are so loud, they are unable to really hear and feel anything else. Suffocation is all around them even when they are surrounded by trees and open places. Depressed people tend to wear masks wherever they go, everyday. Their reactions are appropriate to the situations, whilst they feel constant pain in the inside.
Depression is often accompanied with acute anxiety. A deadly combo between feeling numb and caring too much. The person’s mind is torn apart with paranoid thoughts about what the society would think about them if they came out and talked about their condition and wanting to scream out loud and let out the pain they are feeling inside. Depression, unlike other diseases does not present physical symptoms; instead the person corrodes and tears apart inside out until they do not know what they want in their life. It is possibly, the worst thing that can happen to someone.
Having gone through a bout of depression myself, I remember waking up every morning and not wanting to ever get out of bed again. There was this constant haze around my head that made me miserable all the time. I remember calling my mother and crying to her on an everyday basis about topics that were not a big deal. I started losing weight almost by the day. It was not like I wanted to starve myself, but nothing I ate would taste like food in my mouth. My sleep had run to the hills. All night I would shut my eyes and stay awake with awful thoughts about my life, careers; there were some horrible memories that I had somehow put away and gotten over when I was young, had suddenly overwhelmed me. It seemed like nothing had ever been good and nothing will ever be better.
When I expressed these thoughts to my friends and parents, they would talk about being positive and about a silver lining that I couldn’t see. I would nod and pretend to understand, and yet nothing they said ever made sense. Nothing really mattered anymore. Emptiness had taken over.
Another thing that came along with it was irritability. I would get angry at the drop of a hat. And this affected my relationship with the people around me. I do not blame them. They did not understand what was happening, and to be honest, neither did I. I knew I was overreacting, but I just could not stop myself from snapping at people at every small thing. The feeling that I have never achieved anything, worthlessness would eat me from inside. I would often cry and ask my mother “What have I ever done in my life?”. I would blame myself, them and every other person for feeling this way. I was lonely, but I never wanted to be around people either. I would stay holed in my room, behind locked doors because I did not want people to know what I was feeling. They would ask why I was feeling that. And I did not have an answer. I did not have one thing to point out one thing that led me to be this way.
When I thought it was all depression could do, I started having constant migraines and unbearable physical pain. I went through series of medical tests until the doctor diagnosed me with fibromyalgia. Depression has weird ways to present itself. It affected not only the mind, but even the body. I started taking anti-depressants, and for a long time it did not affect me for the better. I will be lying if I said I did not think about death and the ‘point of life’ a lot.
The reason why most of us do not talk about being depressed is because we do not have an answer to your ‘why’ and ‘how’. In India, depression is still a stigma and most people refuse to believe that such a thing exists, especially in such a young woman. ‘What do you have to be depressed about? You have so much! People in Africa are dying out of hunger’. Yes! I know. And that is why a depressed person would stop from sharing anything.
No one likes to be called weak. No one would like to be berated for feeling a specific way.
The thing with depression is, people know that they are loved, that they have things to be thankful about, but none of that matters. And it is not their fault. Depression is not something that one can just forget. Positivity is not something that a depressed person can be. It is mutually exclusive.
Sabrina Benaim, the author of ‘Depression & Other Magic Tricks’, wrote a poetry called ‘Explaining My Depression To My Mother’. It goes:
Explaining My Depression To My Mother-A conversation
Mom, my depression is a shape-shifter
One day it is a firefly on the palm of a bear, the next, its the bear.
On those days I play dead until the bear leaves me alone
I call the bad days, ‘dark days’.
Mom says, ‘try lighting a candle’
When I see a candle, I see the flesh of a church
The flicker of flame, sparks of a memory younger than noon
I am standing beside her open casket.
It is the moment I learn every person I ever came to know
Will someday, die.
Besides mom, I’m not afraid of the dark
Perhaps that’s part of the problem.
Mom says,’ I thought the problem was that you can’t get out of bed’;
I can’t. Anxiety holds me a hostage inside of my house, inside of my head.
Mom says, ‘where did anxiety come from?’
Anxiety is the cousin visiting from out of town,
Depression felt obligated to bring to the party.
Mom I am the party.
Only I am a party I don’t want to be at
Mom says, ‘why don’t you try going to actual parties, see your friends?’
Sure, I make plans. I make plans but I don’t want to go.
I make plans because I should want to go, I know sometimes I would have wanted to go.
Its just not that much fun having fun when you don’t want to have fun, mom.
You see mom, each night, insomnia sweeps me up in its arms,
Dips me in the kitchen in the small glow of the stove light
Insomnia, has this romantic way making the moon feel like perfect company
Mom says, ‘try counting sheep’,
But my mind can only count reasons to stay awake, so I go for walks.
But my kneecaps keep stuttering like silver spoons, held in strong arms and loose wrists.
They ring in my ears like clumsy church bells, reminding me I am sleepwalking,
On an ocean of happiness I cannot baptize myself in.
Mom says, ‘happy is a decision’.
But my happy is as hollow as a pin-pricked egg
My happy is a high fever that will break.
Mom says, ‘I am so good of making something out of nothing’,
And then flat-out asks me if I am afraid of dying.
No! I am afraid of living.
Mom, I am lonely!
I think I learned when dad left, how to turn anger into lonely and lonely into busy
So when I tell you I have been super-busy lately
I mean I’ve been falling asleep watching SportsCentre on the couch,
To avoid confronting the empty side of my bed
But my depression always drags me back to my bed,
Until my bones are the forgotten fossils of a skeleton sunken city
My mouth a boneyard of teeth, broken down from biting down on themselves,
The hollow auditorium of my chest, swoons with echoes of a heartbeat.
But I am a careless tourist here,
I will never truly know , everywhere I have been.
Mom still doesn’t understand;
Mom, can’t you see that neither can I?
There are too many people in this world who are victims of depression, and yet only a few brave ones come out and say it. Sabrina Benaim happens to be one of them. There are stars like Deepika Padukone and Angeline Jolie who have gone through depression and recovered. It is not as uncommon as we would like to think. Depression can occur due to many reasons. Genetics, post traumatic stress disorder and even hormones. No one is to be blamed for having this disease.
Depression is often accompanied with the tendency to self-harm. Suicide rates increase by the year and all of these because they are depressed. While we are quick to call someone idiotic, weak and selfish.
But in reality, “The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.” – David Foster Wallace.
Depression is a disease. It is and never was a choice. So if you are low for more than two weeks or if someone around you projects symptoms of depression, be sure to get help. Talk it out. It is nothing to be ashamed of. If the person is uncomfortable in telling anyone close, he/she can avail one of the numerous suicide helplines. Therapy should be an essential part of a depressed person’s schedule.
Follow the link for a list of Helplines that help people struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts:
List of Helplines That Help People Struggling With Anxiety, Depression and Suicidal Thoughts