‘You Are Smiling, How Can You Be Depressed?’

Posted by Alabhya Singh in Mental Health
June 4, 2017

Why is it that whenever someone says the word ‘depression’ the first image the pops into most people’s head is that of a person sitting in a corner, head buried in their knees, if it’s a woman, then mascara running down her face. Why is it that people always associate depression with crying?

I know people who have lost their ability to cry. Depression has dried their tears and they can’t find it in themselves to cry even if they want to. Why is it that people always assume that depressed people can’t even form their lips into something akin to a smile, let alone laugh? I’ve known people with the brightest smiles struggling to set themselves free from the horrors of depression.

These misconceptions make us blind. Blind to all those subtle signs and indications that your funniest friend keeps dropping to make you realize it’s a facade because he’s too afraid to talk. A friend of yours who’s always laughing, even at the silliest jokes, one random day, walks up to you and hesitantly but hopefully admits to you that he feels like he’s depressed. And that makes you wonder, how can he be depressed? Isn’t he the one who laughs the most? Isn’t he the one cracking the best jokes?

It’s not possible. It’s obviously not. I mean, haven’t we heard that people with mental disorders are standoffish and weird? But he seems perfectly fine. Of course, he’s not depressed, it’s just one of his funny pranks. You laugh because you think you know best, you pat his back and hold your stomach as you laugh at his ‘prank’“Good one!” You exclaim,”man, you can’t be depressed you’re always laughing.” His eyes flicker with hopelessness and fear. Fear for he knows no one understands, but you obviously don’t notice that, because come on, he can’t be depressed! He smiles at you and says “yeah, you guessed it right.” And he walks away.

It took him every ounce of courage he had in his body to walk up to you, it took him everything he had to confess about his mental illness to you. But now that you’ve made him realize that ‘people who laugh can’t be depressed’ he’s never coming back to you.

This happens so often. We end up ill-treating for friends just because we ourselves don’t know enough about mental illness. Which is something we need to fix. We need to spread awareness and try talking to people. Tell them that depression isn’t just about crying.

Not that we haven’t tried, it’s just that sometimes people don’t want to understand. A few weeks ago, our teacher was looking for topics that the class assembly could be based on. “Welfare of people?” came a suggestion. She smiled because helping people is what we’ve been taught to do. “Helping people with ‘physical’ diseases like cancer or AIDS, telling them they’re not alone?” came another suggestion and she smiled yet again.

Finally raising my hand, in a nervous voice, I spoke, “spreading awareness about mental disorders” To this she just laughed and cracked a joke because of course, mental illnesses aren’t important issues. How can we think that they are as serious as physical illnesses! I mean, physical illnesses kill you, but mental illnesses, eh? The maximum they can do is break you down, make you feel like you’re done with life, make you hate yourself, make you think you’re a failure and won’t rise up ever again. But that’s completely okay, because look at you, aren’t you still alive!

This attitude needs to change. We need to come forward and tell people it’s not about just being alive. I mean what’s the point when you’re dead inside? We need to tell them that breathing isn’t enough! Make them understand that just because I’m not tied to machines doesn’t mean I’m fine. Tell them being mentally healthy is as important as being physically healthy. Tell them mental illnesses are as fatal as physical ones.

Depression leads to the formation of various scary, unhealthy patterns. We cry for no reason, feel terrible because we cried and hate ourselves.We go on for days without eating healthy food because eating feels strange. The homemade food feels tasteless so we go out in the hopes of finding something that might not be as tasteless as those 23 other dishes we’ve already tried.

We go for days feeling blue with no one to talk to. We don’t understand why we are sad or why we are angry. It’s just the way we feel. But of course, you don’t understand, but the least you can do is make an effort? I don’t know if reading this helps but I want my fellow sufferers to know this, you’re not alone. Just be strong, when you can.

It has to be the most difficult thing you’ll ever do, but trust me it gets better. So what if you’re a little less productive or if you’re not working as hard as you used to? So what if you’re failing a subject or your parents are disappointed in you? So what if the one you loved left you because you are not the perfect size ‘they’ need you to be?

All I know is that you are trying your best. You’re going through a lot and barely showing it. A lot of people might not care about you but there always will be people who do and who love you. You’re strong and you’ll get through it. It might feel impossible right now, but trust me one day it will happen.

One day, you will sit in your own office or a clinic, one day you’ll have your own book published, your own album released, your own painting being sold at high price. One day you won’t be a disappointment for your parents. One day you’ll have that one person around you who’ll always love you irrespective of who you were. One day no one will care about your size/looks/height. One day you will be happy. And that day you’ll thank yourself for always being strong and never giving up. Just wait, that one day is just around the corner.