Imagine it’s your child’s birthday and they are very excited about it. But it starts raining unexpectedly. The remorse feeling your child may experience due to this unforeseen reality is what normally adults describe to others as ‘depression’ or ‘grief’. If you are a student and giving an exam, if you fail to achieve the marks you intended, the down-casted feeling you may experience is what you might recount to your friends as, once again, ‘depression’.
The small, gloomy incidents we go through in our everyday lives are normally what are misunderstood as depression. What we fail to understand is the difference between ‘sadness’ and ‘depression’. The concept of ‘sadness’ is defined differently from ‘depression’ in psychology. Sadness is an emotional state characterised by feelings of disadvantage, loss and helplessness. When sad, people often become quiet, less energetic and withdrawn. The fact about ‘sadness’ is that it’s short-termed and only last up to a maximum of five days.
‘Depression’ is defined and expressed in an entirely different way. Depression is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed. And it’s long-termed. It could last your entire life if it’s not treated in the right way. The symptoms and outcome of depression have a lot of variations too.
We must avoid comparing it with regular sadness. Going deep into the psychology of depression will only make it harder to understand it for yourselves and others. Depression is a mental illness that is a lot harder to understand than biological causes such as high cholesterol or diabetes. If you are a person suffering from depression or have a relationship with someone who is facing it, what’s important to know is that it is not a weakness or personality trait. Depression is a mental illness that can be healed easily, just like a fracture in your bones.
In It was not Death, for I stood up, legendary poet Emily Dickinson conveyed the feeling of depression through words. Francisco de Goya portrayed it through his famous artwork ‘Giant seated in a landscape’. The fact that people could convert such a traumatic illness like depression into beautiful poems and artworks can truly change the way we look at depression.
The opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality. And the journey to the state of vitality for a person suffering from depression is harder than you might think. For a depressed person, the first thought they may have when they wake up is ‘what am I exactly doing in this world?’
The phone ringing on the table next to you may seem like it’s kilometres away. They can’t imagine eating food as they process the thought of walking up to the table, taking the food, keeping it into their mouth and swallowing it. Every single of our routines and chores may seem like climbing a mountain and that you may never be able to accomplish them. The feeling of coping with sadness that has an unidentifiable cause to a questioning of your existence is what people who suffer from this terrible disorder go through.
And it’s worse. A lot worse. No one knows the exact causes. What researchers do found in common with people who are depressed is that there might be some kind of trauma or unpleasant experience they’ve had in their past. But at times, this experience doesn’t need to be the cause of depression. Other times, deprecation from other people may have a massive impact on our mental health.
Body shaming, verbal abuse, cyberbullying etc are just a few of the many ways that make us think less of ourselves. Body integrating disorder is another such traumatising disorder, which leads people to have a desire to cause self-harm because of the deprecation of their body by other people and society. And most of us, sometimes, don’t even realise that we might be the cause of someone’s depression. This arrogant nature of us may even result in the loss of someone’s life. This is the reason why we are taught not to be harsh on someone.
Psychology says that most mental illnesses can be cured with therapy or self-discovery. The same applies to the case of depression as well. Sure, therapy might work, but a more effective way of healing from depression is through self-discovery. A prominent scientist interviewed people who have gone through depression in their past. Over 90% of them indeed went for therapy and took medications, but they claimed that the actual reason they got cured is through little things they did that made them happy.
A woman said that knitting yarns helped her through depression. A mother of seven kids claimed that doing homework with them every night was what helped her through her dark times. Little things, though little, can make a huge difference. This can be related to the ‘Butterfly effect’, which states how small things, like a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil, can cause a tornado in Texas. This is a powerful example used as a metaphor to depict that even small things matter and here, in the case of depression, small little things that we do for short-term happiness might be what gets you through the darkest times of your life.
If you go deeper into psychology, an effective method psychologist always recognise is a concept called ‘psychoanalysis’, which was first mentioned by Dr Sigmund Freud. It literally means that our personalities are shaped by our unconscious motives, or in simpler words, we are profound by mental processes we are not even aware of. This is why they advise the method of talking therapy, also discovered by Freud. He noticed that his patients felt a lot better once they rant out their traumas to him. This practice is widely advisable and effective, and you can find a lot of talk therapy centres around the world today.
Depression is bad. But in the middle of a pandemic, it can get worse.
From the kid who misses going to his school and meeting his friends every day, to the teachers who find it hard adjusting to the new schedule and system of online classes, to the families who had to postpone their son’s marriage, to the endless goodbyes many of us had to give to our loved ones, each of us had to face some hardship or the other during this lockdown. Yes, families are at last spending time together and finally able to enjoy in these dark periods, but for some of us, it’s not the same.
Unemployability is a major issue that has resulted in economic crises for many families and countries. Women have to face severe pressure, endure domestic violence and household burden. Suicide rates are increasing in every corner of the world. Why? This pandemic has increased the overall depression rate around the world. What’s worse is that they are not even getting proper treatment because not all hospitals and therapy centres are active.
Online therapies started off too late, increasing the number of patients diagnosed. People with unfriendly families and relations had to go through extreme pressure with depression. And to ‘complete the circle’, depression has become a trend today. Every little matter is considered ‘depression’ because it ‘sounds cool’. People are bombarding posts on social media on ‘how depressed they are’ because their favourite artist delayed the release of their new album or because their ‘new recipe failed’.
The word ‘depression’ has become so cliche that people have stopped giving attention and consideration to the people who are actually suffering from depressed. The false allegations made a wrong sense of idea in people’s minds and now, nobody cares about the real victims of depression. Surviving or experiencing depression is not a child’s play and people should stop mocking it and spreading misconceptions about it.
Online therapies are a great method for people this time. You can also have therapy calls and find therapy games online. But as aforementioned, instead of just relying on medications and therapies, try self-discovery. It’s truly magical to understand yourself more and love yourself for who you are.
An article alone can’t explain every single thing about depression. But we are living in a world today where online sources just exceed our expectations every time we do some research. Go through reliable sites and make use of helplines to learn what you can do to heal from this disorder and help others who are going through it. Depression is not a weakness. It is not a personality trait. It is not your choice. But you can get through it. Life is too short. Don’t try to wait ‘just one more year’ for ‘it to pass’.
Depression is curable and lots of people are ready to help you. It might be hard to find them, but once you do, you are going to go in a different direction from the road you were travelling all along. I know it’s easier said than done. But talk. Talk to people you trust about what’s troubling you. Remember Freud’s discovery. It was a breakthrough for him and it will be a breakthrough for you in your life.
Love yourself and appreciate yourself more. Self-love is the most valuable love of all loves. If you want to love others and be happy, love yourself first. You can get through this because this is just a phase. You are courageous and the fact that you get yourself up from your bed every morning, even though you feel bad and upset, just proves your bravery. If you know someone who is going through depression, help them. They desperately need your love and support but are too quiet to ask for it. Help them in a way they find comfortable. Sometimes, a hug is all that a person needs.
There are wounds that never show on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds.