I know at least three people battling depression right now, in their daily lives. For the longest time, none of these people spoke about it with their loved ones, let alone a mental health professional. Why? Because not only does this disease, this incorporeal beast, reduce you to a lump of self-doubt at best and the harshest kind of self-loathing at worst, but it also gently coerces you into a corner of isolation. And if these people did manage to muster enough courage to reach out to someone, the societal stigma attached with depression and mental health would likely have pushed them right back into this corner anyway. You may have heard of Hannah Hart, the YouTube personality and author. She wrote something about depression in her memoir Buffering: Unshared Tales of a Life Fully Loaded that hit me so hard, I forgot how to breathe for a few moments. Here’s the quote:
[Depression feels like:] A wordless whisperer telling you that this feeling is the true feeling and that every other feeling you’ve had was only temporary. This is your lasting reality. Those moments you called happiness or peace were just distraction, but this is you at your most real.”
Why did these seemingly benign words steal my breath away in the most dreadful way possible? Because they were true. I felt the truth of these words in my bones as well as I knew my own name. And the realisation that this ugly thing we call depression — grasping at my hair and hands and happiness — would always be my reality, scared me more than anything else. I was terrified. I was lonely. But most of all, I was exhausted.
Despite convincing you that more sleep will fix everything, depression leaves you exhausted to your bones. I’m glad for the fact that this is the conversation that is happening right now — about depression. And yes, many will sneer at it and say, “Oh, it’s just the latest trend. The internet makes a big deal about everything.” To these people I would say — disregarding mental health is not only ignorant, but also dangerous. Depression is not a trend. It is not a thing you can be flippant about and “fix” if you go out more, laugh more, exercise more, or just “change the way you think.” It is a big deal. And to someone actually suffering from depression, this one conversation over the internet from an entirely different part of the world might mean something; something that very much resembles hope.
I’ve lived with my depression for around nine years, I think. It’s hard to remember when exactly it started. Unlike some of the other people I know, it wasn’t triggered by abuse or trauma, but the realisation of its existence hit me belatedly one day several years ago nonetheless. Like Bharath Divakar poetically puts it in his spoken word piece called “Letter to Depression,” this disease will be your “oldest friend” and the most faithful one. And over time, festering and feeding on your insecurities, it will bring along its friends – anxiety, self-hate, and mania, amongst other grotesque things.
So to you, who is suffering like so many others and to you, who undoubtedly knows someone who is, I say one simple thing. I don’t have all the answers, but after years of fumbling in the dark, I now know that there are a few things that will help me float above the gravitational pull of depression. One of them includes coming across things like Hannah Hart’s memoir or Bharath Divakar’s poetry. Knowing that you’re not alone makes you feel marginally lighter, if not hopeful. The other is seeking support and communication. You may have been told this time and time again. Each time, the concept may have seemed foreign — even incomprehensible. Talking! If only it were that easy. But the thing is that sometimes, it is that easy. Finding the strength to receive help is the hardest part. It won’t magically fix everything — few things do. But sharing your pain, with an expert or simply with a loved one, can sometimes relieve you of it. To quote Hannah Hart again,
Dealing with depression isn’t about trying to run away from the feeling; it’s about learning to walk alongside it.”
And the very last thing — no matter how hard it tries convince you, depression is not your reality. Fight the instinct that tells you you’re not good enough to live your life. Sometimes things will get better, and sometimes they will get worse. But if you must believe in something, believe in your ability to get better, instead of the toxic whispers of depression. I know at least three people battling depression right now, in their daily lives. I also know that these people are getting better every single day, and some of them can even say that they’re happy most days. I know, because one of them is me. And I know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that if we fight this isolation together, we won’t be so isolated anymore. Depression is not my reality, and neither is it yours.
[If you’re feeling overwhelmed and/or are thinking about hurting yourself, contact AASRA for assistance, or talk to a close friend/family member and ask for help. You can also get in touch with the author here. Remember that this is a temporary problem; don’t look for a permanent solution.]
[Featured image: Lauren Hughes/Flickr]