I Thought Depression Was An Excuse, Till I Saw It Up-Close

This story is a part of Youth Ki Awaaz’s weekly topic #WorldMentalHealthDay to create a conversation about mental health in India. Share your personal stories of coping with a mental illness, trying to access mental healthcare or any experience with mental health here.

Admitting to one’s ignorance and sheer lack of willingness to understand something in the past, is probably one of the hardest things to do for someone like me. I have always been the one to question and seek answers by whatever means necessary. Existentialism and philosophy, in general, have always been subjects that have sparked the utmost intrigue. Yet, for reasons that I still can’t understand, the notion of depression was something that I always scorned upon.

I viewed it as an excuse. An excuse to be non-conformist, or to feel a sense of ‘not-like-the-rest-of-them.’ I often connected the idea of someone being depressed to their lack of drive to do better and just a lack of any form of ambition. I viewed it as an excuse for mediocrity.

I was so wrong.

Over the past few years, some of my brilliant and over-achieving friends fell prey to the dark clouds of depression. I have seen perfectly happy individuals struggling in their own skins. Crippled by the evils that their psyche was subjecting them to, they trudged along aimlessly. Initially, I thought pep talks and just off the cuff words of encouragement would suffice. But with their ‘forced’ smiles and baggy eyes, I knew I was not helping them at all.

And then it struck me. The stupidity that I reveled in, the ease with which I had dismissed something so profound and important made feel ashamed of the person I was.

I bore witness to their outpouring of self loathing and endless rants of the darkness within them. The people who were social animals and the lives of parties, slunk into endless chasms of self doubt. These were the people who had it all planned out and were cut out for nothing but greatness, but were now sinking.

Was it the pressure that they were forcing themselves to live up to? Was it the image that they had set for themselves, but fell short of? They drowned themselves in endless pools of misery and self hate. And I hated myself for it all the more.

I have learnt to be so much more sensitive, as an individual. I’ve learned that denial is unacceptable and acceptance is the key. Mental illness is for real and I now firmly believe that health is a term that is all encompassing. It is a unit that represents all aspects of one’s existence. In a society that claims to be progressive, the stigma attached to depression that I too was guilty of perpetuating, is more than just nasty – it is dangerous and is costing people their lives.

It’s high time we introspect, not as members of society, not as as friends or family, but as fellow humans.

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