Depression is like a math equation, where you have ‘n’ number of ways created to help you achieve the same answer. If you don’t quite understand this analogy, let me explain it to you.
Depression comes in different forms and has distinct signs and symptoms that vary from person to person. Some might suffer from suicidal thoughts; others may not. Some victims may suffer from rage and drastic mood swings, while others might constantly feel one monotonous emotion.
Does this make depression ‘real and valid’ for some – while for others, it is ‘just a phase that they need to snap out of’?
The answer is no. At the end of the day, they all are depressed.
When we think of the causes of depression, we often link it to extremely traumatic incidents, an emotionally scarring past or life-changing scenarios. In fact, most movies and TV shows fail to show a character suffering from depression leading a perfectly normal life with a happy family.
On the other hand, you could have the world’s wealth, luxuries, a happy and healthy relationship with everyone around you – and yet be severely depressed! You could be the comic relief among your friends, a happy-go-lucky individual full of life – and still be a victim of this disease.
We live in a society where mental illness is still treated as a taboo. Hence, opening up to someone is not an idea we’re completely comfortable with.
People around us, especially our parents, are still very new to this and not properly equipped with the knowledge to deal with it. Truth be told – most of us are sailing in the same boat as our parents. It’s just that we’re more aware about the issue but do not have ideas as to how we should correctly address it.
With such a complex scenario at hand, deciding what to do next can be tricky indeed. So, we start overthinking about the issue and turn to the internet while searching for answers.
Being a ‘victim of the circumstances’, we decide to settle down and ‘self-diagnose’ ourselves to help us arrive at a concrete diagnosis – like a ‘bawse’.
Before I begin to narrate my self-diagnostic journey, I’d just like to remind you that there is a reason why WebMD is a site most despised by doctors. There is also a reason why doctors go through a hardcore 6-12 years of medical training and education.
A site on the internet lists ‘abuse, medication, death/loss, conflict, genetic make-up, major events, personal problems, serious illnesses and substance abuse’ as the causes of depression.
My first self-diagnosis, based on these causes of depression, came out as ‘not depressed’.
Even after clearing myself as ‘depression free’, I still continued my self-diagnostic journey – this time, based on the signs and symptoms of depression.
While I was going through the same list, out of the 11 signs and symptoms, I could only relate to around three or four of the listed symptoms.
My second self-diagnosis, based on the signs and symptoms, told me that I may probably be depressed.
On reading further, I came across another list detailing the signs and symptoms of depression with suicidal tendencies. Of these, I ticked off around three of the listed signs.
My third self-diagnosis therefore revealed me to be a depressed and with some suicidal tendencies.
But, here’s the funny thing – while I was diagnosing myself the second time, I had very confidently crossed-out the ‘feeling suicidal’ check box. The third diagnosis, however, made me question my previous set of conclusions.
After a long and hard conversation with myself, I convinced myself and concluded that I was not depressed. This was primarily because I wasn’t a victim of any of the causes that had been listed.
Back then, I was living a very normal life. I was enjoying my undergraduate course. My parents and I were also on good terms – they had always provided me with the basic necessities and had even spoilt me. Moreover, I was in a happy relationship and had admirable friends.
How then could I have been depressed? But, my prescriptions and hospital bills of the therapy sessions have a completely different story to tell.
I don’t really know what triggered me to go for a therapy session. In fact, I’ve seen a few of my friends not willing to go for therapy sessions for various reasons – the most common being that they weren’t ready to talk.
In my case, however, I had to talk! Somewhere at the back of my mind, I knew I was depressed – even though all those articles on the net had informed me otherwise.
You see, I was desperate for one proper, legal medical consultant to reinforce the fact that I was, in fact, depressed. Perhaps, I sought assurance and assistance from a trained medical professional, because I find it way easier to open up to complete strangers than to people I know.
I’m sure you must have heard people state that you don’t necessarily need a therapist or medications to cure depression. All you need is a chat with your family or friends! I am no trained medical professional – so I really don’t know to what extent that statement is true or not.
However, I can confidently tell you that clinical depression can definitely not be cured by having an intense two-hour-long talk with someone you’re comfortable with.
Clinical depression is more than just feeling low for more than two weeks. It’s an illness. More specifically, clinical depression is an imbalance of neurochemicals in your brain.
When your blood sugar level falls, you don’t talk to a chocolatier. You grab a bar of chocolate, unwrap it and gobble it up!
With the number of myriad articles and suggestions on how to treat this condition, questions are bound to rise. One of the most common is how do we know the appropriate ‘combination’ (of treatments) that we need to fight depression – ‘coffee and friends’ or ‘therapist and meds’, for example? However, if you ask me, I think it’s all of them.
I didn’t really open up to my family and friends because I just found it really weird and uncomfortable. Besides, I’ve always had the reputation of being happy-go-lucky, fun-loving, affectionate and talkative. Maybe I didn’t want people to change this perception about me.
If you’re feeling low – regardless of whether you suffered a big loss or are stuck between your parents’ divorce (or not) – pick up your phone and talk to someone. Remember that your job is to talk, and not to sit and decide whether your problem is big or real enough.
If the feeling ‘goes away’, well and good! I would still ask you to visit a local counsellor, though. If not, I urge you to seek medical care as soon as possible. Your brain could be severely and critically ill.
We’re the generation that are the first ones to rush to a dermatologist for an acne or pimple-outbreak, but the last ones to knock on a psychiatrist’s or a psychologist’s door!
I know that it’s really difficult to walk up to a medical professional. Trust me I do! Going to a psychologist or psychiatrist can be scary. Somewhere at the back of our minds, we are terribly afraid of being diagnosed with depression. Nobody wants to feel worthless, pessimistic, deprived of happiness for a reason or without reason. It can be confusing – really confusing!
But, depression is such a tricky illness, after all! You can’t insert a thermometer and check whether you’re depressed or not. It’s not a disease you can confidently diagnose yourself based on online articles.
Depression is a disease that cannot be seen.
It takes away little bits of you – until there’s nothing left. It has the power of turning perfectly healthy relationships into living nightmares, and brings your life to a standstill.
I know you’re confused, lost and scared. I know you’re tired and sick of feeling this way. The future seems very unclear and happiness seems distant. You feel trapped in a pitch- dark room with no hope of escaping.
It’s suffocating, scary and frustrating. You miss the ‘old you’ and you would do anything to go back in time to feel what it felt like, back then.
And you know what – it’s completely alright to feel this way. But you know what isn’t okay – suffering alone.
Talk to your friends or loved ones. If you aren’t comfortable with that, call a cab or walk to the nearest counselling center.
Let it all out!
Please don’t be afraid to seek medical help. Undergoing therapy sessions and taking anti-depressants are not signs of weakness.
Depression is a disease like any other and you should use medications to fight it! There is nothing wrong with that. It’s okay to be depressed, and it’s more common than you think it is.
Remember that you are loved and cherished. You are also irreplaceable.
More power to you!
P.S.: For the last time, psychiatrists are not some creepy, evil humans ready to electrocute you! And no, psychiatrists don’t treat insane/mad individuals only!
The only difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist is that a psychologist is not clinically authorised to prescribe medicines, whereas a psychiatrist is.