Mental health stigma, Mental Illnesses

What is Depression?

Photo by Raphael Brasileiro

“It is a coward thing to kill yourself. We all have problems in life but you don’t see us going around killing ourselves. You stand and face things. There is no such thing as a problem-free life”. This was a statement from someone very close in my life surrounding the subject of depression. To this day, these words still ring over in my head and break me every time I play them back. I don’t hold anything against them, because they obviously didn’t know talking with me then that I deal with my own mental illness issues. I understand that to them, it was just a conversation and not to be insensitive to me. The problem I have with this statement, however, is how common and accepted it is in our society.

I try not to write much about depression because honestly, it’s still a niche I can not claim absolute trauma. Still, I have sufficient experience to understand that its something I cannot wish even upon my worst enemy (if I had any). After I learned about my anxiety and how it has been manifesting in my life, I took time to study this “taboo-disorder”. I was on every site about anxiety, read countless medical journal and research on anxiety, and I studied the different kinds of therapies (holistic and medical) that treat anxiety. Honestly, all that I’m missing is an official signed document, but I believe I have a Master in Anxiety Disorder by now *jokes*.

My years of research into anxiety has led me to understand that the culprit in anxiety disorder is honestly just one’s thoughts. These thoughts are so powerful to influence this massive eruption of emotions and chemical imbalances in one’s body that manifest physical symptoms that affect your daily life. Imagine that, it is merely the words from our inner voice that sets apart “normal” people and people who “suffer anxiety”.

When I finally came to this conclusion, I began a quest to study my mind. To master what it likes to think about, what it is afraid to think about, and what it is mostly resistant to think about. Imagine my surprise when I got up one day, and I couldn’t hear my mind at all. It wasn’t quiet because it was giving me that blissful stillness, instead, it was just gone. Lost somewhere (I kid you not, “loosing my mind” is not just a phrase). I don’t have a long history of battling with depression, so at first, I wasn’t aware that it was depression. For so many years, I would anxiously get up every morning before dawn to declutter my mind on a piece of paper and run to do things because that’s what anxiety is. It is being in this constant state of needing to get things done because of this unreasonable fear of death if things aren’t done (Don’t ask me why would I think I would die if you don’t return someone’s call. I have a gifted mind like that😉)

I was in unchartered territory to wake up on the opposite. Instead of anxiously waking up to do things because of fear of dying, all I wanted to do was continue sleep to die. Absolutely no reason but just this overwhelming persistent sense of sadness that started consuming me gradually.
Feeling sad is not an odd feeling for me, I don’t think it is for anyone. We all go through moments of loneliness and sadness at various points of our lives for whatever reason. So usually when I feel sad, I never run to talk to a friend, seek counselling, or even try to get into a self-reflective state of “why”. I would usually just let time pass and gradually, I know I will be “me” again. But I learned the hard way that depression isn’t your next-door sadness. When you are sad or lonely, you can still plan a future. It may not be your favourite thing, but waking up in the morning is still a task that can be done, maybe with a little more effort than before. When you are sad, you still have goals and dreams; when you are sad, you still have friends; when you are sad, you still feel loved and worthy; and when you are sad, you can still laugh 5minutes into watching The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Basically, when you’re sad, you can still feel a purpose for your life.

Depression is defined as a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest in regular activities. It affects how the individual feel, thinks and behaves that can disrupt one’s daily life. The exact cause of depression, like many mental disorders, is yet to be defined. But the most commonly accepted theories include distorted chemicals in the brain, an unhealthy/toxic living environment, a family history of mental illness, and significant life changes.

I still don’t know how to articulate depression in its full glory. But every day I opened my eyes, I would curse the day instead of showing gratitude. I would be so disappointed to wake up. Although at this stage, I obviously understood that I was depressed, I didn’t want help. I didn’t want to get better because I felt like if I got better, it would mean that I had to live. Living and depression do not sit next to each other. I then realised that my society could not grasp so much as the surface of this horrible disease unless you experience it yourself. While “normal” people frowned upon those who take their own lives for being cowards and weak for not facing their problems “like everyone else”, I actually felt weak that I didn’t have the courage to take my own life. I remember crying and asking God for courage, so I could just “try”. When I felt like I wasn’t strong enough to take my own life, I started to turn to God. Not to heal me, but instead for him to take my life instead. I would beg Him so that I don’t wake up the following day. And then I got so angry with Him when I would come to see a new day.

Depression in itself is the feeling of being alone, which further causes people to isolate themselves. This is additionally accompanied by immense pain. When someone is going through unimaginable pain AND ALONE, the last thing on their mind is strategising “how to solve my problem”. What they want is for that pain to stop.

I will get in another post on how I eventually overcame my depression because I’m not trying to write a book here. With all that people are going through this year, I just want to encourage our society to start talking to people instead of assuming life is what they see in their rear-view mirror. The way people react to the same situation is not universal. Many have dealt with depression and overcame it and living happily. But for many, death was the only solution.

The coward thing is not those that kill themselves, the coward thing is the society that we live amongst that doesn’t offer grace to people. Doesn’t accept differences. Doesn’t want to acknowledge the hurt they inflict on others. And doesn’t want to believe in the actuality and presence of mental illnesses.

I’m sending love and light to anyone in a dark place today. I can only hope that your guardian angel finds you and helps you to get the help you deserve. You are not a burden. You are not unworthy. You are loved. There is a purpose to your existence. I hope you will realise that soon enough.

Leaving you as usual with some of those good-good mental health vibes😊


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