By Saurabh Gandhi:
“It’s hard to answer the question, ‘What’s wrong?’ when nothing’s right.”
It’s statuses like these that get the maximum likes on Facebook. Sad songs not only reach the top positions in music charts but also stay there longer. All of this is fine but how do we find that fine line between sadness and depression? Let’s try and decode some little known facts about depression:
# 1. Depression can happen to anyone, at any time.
Whether one is “weak” or strong, it knows no bounds.Â “Depression and mental illness happen to weak, crazy people.”
This is common thinking. You have cancer and no one will judge you. But you say you are getting professional help for depression or some mental illness, and all of a sudden there’s a stigma attached to you. This is not it. According to the account of a person who recovered from depression in the Health magazine, “If you associate with people who think your illness is taboo, you will too.” This is known as self-stigma. Patients (we even fail to call them that) often think that their illness is a sign of character weakness or incompetence.
Consider this: “I am now the most miserable man living.” Do you know who said that? It was Abraham Lincoln. Not exactly someone who fits the “weak” tag.
#2. Depression is not gender-biased.
Surveys around the world have shown that more women than men are diagnosed with depression. Also, suicide attempts by women are more than men. This leads to a common misconception that depression is only for women.
But the same surveys also show that men have a higher rate of successful suicide attempts than women. The fact is that not many men report depression. Not surprising, considering that we use expressions like, “Men don’t cry”.
#3 Depression will not go away on its own.
It is common to hear people saying, “Just go back to work and you will be fine.” Moving the attention away from depression is not the solution. In fact ignoring the symptoms of depression will only increase the risk in the long-run.
What can be helpful (apart from anti-depressants which are necessary in certain cases) is a combination of exercise, healthy diet and enough sleep. But then, even I feel that this ‘trinity’ is difficult to practice when one is dejected. But it need not be hard core exercise. Even a regular walk with a friend in silence can lift you up. The word regular is important here, as getting into a routine is the biggest anti-dote to depression.
#4. You may be depressed and not know it!
Now this one’s scary. Most of us confuse depression with sadness. Sadness surely is a part of depression but not the only one. Other symptoms of depression include lack of interest or enthusiasm in normal activities, reduced or excessive sleep, feelings of hopelessness.
Depression is not merely a mental thing. It also has physical ramifications. It can lead to increased pains, decreased appetite leading to loss of weight. It can also affect the immune system.
Let’s end on a positive note.
#5 . Taking on a responsibility helps to a great extent.
This one’s from personal experience. Often, there are times when we don’t know what to do with our lives. What should be our next step? Are we any good? These questions capture our mental and physical energies to a large extent.
At times like these, if someone really close to you asks you to do something for him/her, which only you can do; it really gives you a break from all the negative energy. Trust certainly acts as a good motivator. When people trust you for something, there cannot be anything negative that can get into your mind.
“The greatest degree of inner tranquility comes from the development of love and compassion. The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being.” ~Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama
#6 — Depression can help you!
I know it sounds crazy. How can depression help you? Obviously, like all diseases, prevention is better than cure and no one should ideally get depressed, but what happens once a person goes through depression? It has been seen that people who successfully overcome depression become much more positive in their outlook, become more sensitive to the feelings of others around them, think more and are less judgmental.
P.S — Considering that I mentioned Lincoln earlier, it is only fair to share how he coped with depression. According to an article in The Atlantic, “He told jokes and stories at odd times–he needed the laughs, he said, for his survival.”