I have no idea. I honestly don’t.
Let me clarify. When a person has a fever or a cold, they have a clear set of symptoms which either they or the people around them can diagnose accurately. After that, they can use some over-the-counter medicine or consult a physician to get better.
The vital difference between a physiological disease such as fever and psychological illness such as depression is that taking the medical opinion is the last thing on our to-do list, especially in India. In our country, the response to getting a brain related symptom starts from “You just have some stress” and “It happens sometimes” all the way to “You should just stop thinking sometimes” and “You don’t want to become crazy right?”
That’s like telling an asthma patient to breathe normally without any medical support by just ‘thinking’ that their lungs are fine. “You don’t want to suffocate to death, right?”
The taboo surrounding the whole mental health debate is so large and unnoticeable at the same time that any healthy (pun intended) discussion around the topic is generally very challenging. People are okay discussing the person they are dating or even their sex life with each other, but the second mental issues are raised by any person everyone behaves like they killed a cow in front of a temple. The speaker automatically becomes a ‘softie’ or ‘crazy’ person (a very negative connotation which shouldn’t be used at all) in the eyes of the listener. The listener climbs up on a pedestal and starts judging the life choices of a person who is confiding in them the matters closest to their heart.
We owe this inhuman behavior to the taboo that raises its head against people who dare, inspite of being too scared – scared shitless to be precise – to discuss something which might end up making them a social outcast. While they are crumbling beneath the mountain of their own thoughts, they are trying to battle a demon which is consuming their only weapon against that pressure: their brain. The expectations that people around them, especially the loved ones have from those affected become too great a burden on their shoulders and transform into a veil that segregates the patients from the only people who can support them in that difficult time.
I can give several examples of this. Renowned fiction writer John Green has dealt with crippling anxiety and OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) for a better part of his life. A thought like “Will a kiss give me a deadly disease because of the microbes I’m exchanging with my partner” might sound stupid or illogical to some people. But for people with OCD or related ailments, it is close to impossible to get their mind off of it because the illness -psychological or physiological – is stopping them from becoming healthy.
For a person standing outside a burning building, the escape might seem easy or even straightforward, but for the person inside the blazing inferno, it is not only the fire that he has to worry about but also the delirium that the extreme temperature causes. For a depressed person, depression is the fire, and the delirium is the negative train of thoughts that don’t allow them to think straight. Even people with very high fever suffer from a kind of frenzy, which doesn’t let them think straight. So why not an illness which itself has its roots in the brain?
I have no idea why psychological conditions are not taken up to be what they are – psychological conditions. A person has an ailment that may or may not be due to psychological concerns but has ended up almost crippling their daily life and is of a nature that certainly bends them to think that their brain is the culprit. Moreover, they can’t talk to someone, even ones closest to them, for the fear they might think them to be out of their wits or worse, confirm their suspicion. What is one supposed to do and what is one supposed to think?
If a person continues to be down with a fever for two weeks straight without any treatment, they might lose important bodily functions or even die. But being depressed for even two months or two years for that matter resolves to nothing but denial and/or some mean comments from the people around the patient. I use the word patient deliberately because that is what that person is. Those two months join together to become six months and then a year.
It is not long before the culmination of the time for which the ailment continues ends up making a tiny thing a humongous monster, living and breathing inside the patient’s mind; an illness they can’t get rid of by not thinking, simply because they didn’t ‘think’ to create it.
To answer my own question, I have no idea why am I depressed. Not to self aggrandize, but I have a stable job, parents who love me, and a whole lot of things which should theoretically keep me happy. Being unhappy in such circumstances is close to impossible, right?
Before answering the question, think whether you’re really concerned about me or just projecting your personality onto me and then explaining the query on my behalf.
I talked about being successful and wealthy and loved, but therein lies the problem. It doesn’t matter how successful or well-to-do you are in comparison to other people because if you have an ailment called clinical depression, it doesn’t matter how much you try to think it away it won’t go away just as you can’t think a hernia away. Having said that, I want to acknowledge that my previous declaration doesn’t mean depression is not a mental illness.
The disease, after all, starts from a psychological trigger and along with our lousy life choices, our thought process is also responsible for making us depressed. But we need to understand that once the illness enters the physiological stage, it is simply not possible to make it go away the same way it came.
Going back to the example of fever, just because you got a temperature by sitting out in the cold doesn’t mean exposing yourself to the same weather will make it go away. You have to change your lifestyle and if required, take prescribed medicines regularly and without a break to make sure that every trace of the disease is removed from your psyche and your body.
You may not know why you’re depressed but you sure as hell know how to become healthy again. And that is by taking an initiative.