“I’m depressed.” I’m sure most of us have used that phrase before or heard someone use it. So much so that it sounds so trite nowadays. Just another carping millennial using one of their millennial prerogatives. Although the phrase is threadbare, depression as an issue doesn’t even receive half of the attention it actually deserves. Now, when the problem has reached an epidemic magnitude with over 300 million reeling under this debilitating illness, the WHO declared depression as the theme of the 2017 World Health Day. The aim was to get more people ‘talking’ about their illness so that it could be identified and treated right at its onset, but how many of us actually know what it is like to have depression? So here’s a list of a few things we should know about it.
Yes, it’s a real disease. It might not show up in your blood tests or scans. You might not experience definitive symptoms that can be Googled but it’s still there. It can be experienced with all modalities of sense. It’s like a nonspecific ache that you can’t locate. It is real because it seeks validation. You end up making excuses for it. It takes control of all your being. It’s real but, but ends up being denied vehemently.
While sadness is a tangible emotion, depression is an overwhelming feeling of emptiness. Sadness is a feeling which you can talk about but depression leaves you numb. It can’t be traced back to a cause or explained in words. You aren’t depressed when your dog dies or your date didn’t go well. Things can be in perfect shape, everything can be figured out and you can still have depression.
Just like Diabetes Mellitus is the lack of insulin or decreased sensitivity of the cells to insulin, depression can be attributed to an imbalance in a variety of neurotransmitters, the chemicals responsible for the functioning of the brain. The most basic and widely accepted theory suggests a lack of serotonin, the chemical responsible for happiness, so to speak.
I’ve often heard people say that depression stems from a lack of spirituality and people who are depressed are often advised to spend more time in prayers. This is not true. On the contrary, the lack of spirituality could be a result of depression. A person who suffers from depression feels detached and worthless. They live under this constant guilt of being ungrateful and that leaves little room for spirituality. Spirituality might help but only after medical and psychological aids.
At least not for those who have depression. A person with depression doesn’t choose to be unhappy or difficult all the time, just like a diabetic doesn’t choose to be glucose intolerant. Or for that matter, an AIDS patient doesn’t choose to be infection-prone. It is an outcome of the disease. Some people are genetically predisposed to having depression, so a minor fault in their genome that’s leading to such drastic outcomes in their lives isn’t their fault.
Recently I saw someone post on Facebook that says a person isn’t depressed unless he doesn’t want to wake up the next morning. Most of the suicides are a result of depression but not all cases of depression progress to that egregious stage. Just like all cancers don’t progress to stage 4, not all cases of depression make a person suicidal. A depressed person does want to end their life but they often end up giving themselves another chance only to be thrown into another vicious cycle of hopelessness. Sometimes they don’t eat for days together, sometimes they jaywalk hoping to cut short their lives, even if by fluke.
No, depression isn’t my imagination gone wild. I don’t make it up. It’s a disease. Maybe a fault in my genome, maybe a chemical imbalance, but not a cooked up story or lack of motivation.
Yes, a person with depression makes sincere attempts to go about their life as normally as possible. Depression also comes with a dread of being discovered. It takes so many days, sometimes even months and years and a whole lot of pain to come to terms with it. Some professional help, some support and a lot of love can do wonders.