Depression Is Not A Piece Of ‘Baggage’ That Can Be Put In A Corner

Posted by Prahi Rajput in #LetsTalk, Mental Health
April 7, 2017
This story is in response to Youth Ki Awaaz’s topic for this week – #LetsTalk to start a conversation on the stigma around depression. If you have an opinion or personal story of dealing with or helping someone else deal with depression or suicidal thoughts, write to us here.

A quick google search reveals the meaning of ‘survivor’ – “a person who survives, especially a person remaining alive after an event in which others have died” or “a person who copes well with difficulties in their life.”

Is being alive enough? Does the trauma, that plagues you every single minute of your life, make it easy to live? When depressive patterns dictate all the choices I make, it becomes a little tough to “cope well” in life. I have lost my ability to remain sane, I am vary of the mania that hits and threatens to swallow my short-lived imposed numbness; the numbness that blocks emotions.

My vulnerability is not a mark of surviving. I don’t want to just survive, I want to live. I want the changing seasons to move me, I want the sunset to move me, I want love to move me; but sadly, the trauma makes me shut my heart to all of these. 

Six years ago, you walked into my life, and I projected all my baggage onto you. It was too much too soon, and you crumbled. It was unfair of me (or was it?) to expect you to give me the love I clamored for; to give me stability and a whiff of normalcy. The delusion that led me into thinking I had found that normalcy with you, that normalcy everyone loves to talk about. What are these dichotomies of normal and abnormal, and who gets to decide?

We all crave acceptance, we all crave for someone to tell us that we matter (this validation for just existing in a world that’s going downhill), that we aren’t asking for too much. We are more than our “baggages”. This word, baggage, undermines our struggle. Why do we call it that? Sure, it’s a monster on our backs, a shadow that refuses to change form, irrespective of time, but whose baggage is it really? Carrying someone else’s baggage on our backs, of societal structures, of parental abuse, of the lost childhood innocence because someone else had the upper hand, but we are still not allowed to complain about our tired backs.

It is a part of me, this depression, but it isn’t a baggage that I can keep somewhere in a corner. It’s not tangible but, an unseen presence that haunts me and those like me. I wish I could un-baggage myself but keep it where? On that therapist’s couch? On my employer’s desk? On my mother’s expectations? Let’s not belittle depression by calling it a baggage, that’s juvenile and rude.

I am glad your “baggage” is lighter than mine or that you don’t carry one at all, but simplifying my depression as a load on my back that only I can unburden, if only I tried, is bullshit. The clinics are quick to misdiagnose, they rush to “enable” you to function, to not complain about the society we live in because that’s just how it is. But in this day and age of capitalism, breaking down and admitting that we need people, that we need compassion as human beings to survive, is supposedly a flaw in our psyche. The chemical imbalance in our heads makes it easy for neurotypical people to pat themselves on the back for being the sane ones, for slogging it out just fine.

“We” need to fix it, and stop our crying, they say. All of us have internalized this dictum of capitalism, that we are self-sufficient and anyone can “make it” if they try hard enough. Nobody takes into account the disparities of class, caste, religion, cultural and economic capital that give too much to the ones who already have a lot.

The race for that elusive success has desensitized us. Dependence and vulnerability might affect anyone but they hold special significance for me, for my ilk. It makes it difficult to sustain myself alone when I am sedated for the better part of the day, without support from my employers, who see my failure to meet deadlines as laziness. Everyday activities like taking a bath have become a chore. A disheveled head with bags under the eyes that have seen too much and refuse to look at things any other way except with disdain; a disdain for people.

A woman lying in bed.
For people battling depression, normal everyday tasks like bathing become a chore.

Does that qualify as surviving? Does repeatedly being told that you aren’t doing enough, qualify as happiness? I have lost faith in the concept of happiness. It’s too much to ask for, and we get scraps anyhow. I want to wipe my history clean. Histories give people their roots and their subjectivities; mine led me into victimizing myself. I want that history, my story to not mean anything; it only leads to re-victimization.

Depression is often talked about as something for the “privileged” lot, something for people who have too much time on their hands. The doers are too busy getting things done. The movers don’t have time to stop and reflect upon the predetermined structures that can lead anyone, who isn’t benefitting from them, to mental exhaustion. The onus of one’s depression is squarely put on that person’s shoulders, like you are to be blamed for your suicide.

The victim-blaming doesn’t stop even after death. I am talking about the suicide of Rohith Vemula, of J. Muthukrishnan, of the nameless men and women who don’t make it to the newspapers because their lives don’t fit the grand narrative of able-bodied “workers” contributing to building this great nation.

Our amnesia makes us forget that things happen to people, that they die because of our indifference. We live in our bubbles that shouldn’t be broken because of someone else’s misfortune. “Tough luck,” we say and shrug it off. They might not happen to you, perhaps you are too cushioned, or life has been too kind. That isn’t the same for everyone. People struggle, like they should, in this age of mechanical reproduction. But it’s easier for people to other us.

See, their privileged selves are living just fine, so the fault lies “in our stars.” When there is so much stress on a culture of individualism and self-love, I wonder why depressed people aren’t considered individualistic enough to have an opinion on their own “madness”?

Is it the “deficiency” in our brains that makes it easy for others to define us because we don’t do such a great job at describing it ourselves? Because we talk in rushed tones that sound like a garbled monologue? I can’t even lay a claim on my depression, its defined by well-intentioned relatives. My well-wishers want nothing but the best for me, even if it is lying comatose on a bed, with pills that smoothen out the rough edges to make others comfortable.

I was fired from my job because I don’t “integrate” well with others, because I have to “leave my issues at the door.” They don’t understand, they listen, but they aren’t really paying attention. That resumé on their desks make them look at me all narrow-eyed, and point out the gaps in my years. They get the power to do so because I am the one who’s at their mercy. They ask, “Why did you only stick it out for a month at that job that you took up in such a hurry?”

They don’t stop, to consider that I might have taken that job only to fit in. Only to have these voices around me to stop with their incessant nagging of how my “insanity” was a result of being unproductive. That’s another word I loathe, unproductive. For what? For the money I can’t make? Unproductive, like I don’t give back to the office that gives me three cups of coffee a day to keep my frayed nerves, while I work at top-notch speed?

The questions during interviews are even more harrowing now. Why didn’t you find work immediately after graduation? Why did you drop out? The power with which they measure you is disheartening. I have started “othering” myself, as a result. I walk with caution lest I brush someone the wrong way and they point out how my hand tremors, making me less of a human than them.

This inadequacy one feels is indescribable, it has led me to believe that there is something lacking in me. This has led me further into my cocoon, I can’t interact with people without feeling like I am hiding a secret, that they will see my “whole” self and judge me. I crave acceptance but don’t give two hoots about it at the same time. How can I? When they talk in hushed whispers about the “baggage” I carry?

Why is there such a need to classify people, to fit us into boxes? We are too much and these boxes are too stifling, they can never contain people who have had too varied an experience to be condescendingly defined as mad. Such a gross simplification to make it easy for “them” to see the world as black and white, good and bad, to make it less chaotic when life is anything but. None of us can be neatly packaged like that but we still are, sane and insane. Never both, never more.

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