I generally stay away from personal posts. But, I thought I would make an objective post from a personal experience out of which I have learnt a lot in the last few months, and still am learning every single day.
Before you read on, dear reader, I have a request: After reading this, please don’t have sympathy for me; I shall rather be very happy if you take this as a lesson to make yourself more aware about your surroundings and the issues affecting the people around you. I don’t need your sympathy; the world needs more of your awareness.
I am clinically depressed.
For the past few months, I am under medication for depression.
Depression is a serious disease, falling under the ambit of mental health rather than physical health. The symptoms are not just outward, but also behavioural.
My depression, thankfully, was diagnosed in a mild stage. When I reached out for help to a friend who had herself gone through it all, she immediately suggested me a visit to a psychiatrist. The conditions were so bad that day that it was the first time I was going out of my immediate neighbourhood during that week. I will never forget that Saturday, and the week before that.
Things had been bad for a while, and then there was a trigger. I had been reeling under a lot of pressure in the personal front of my life. As well as professional, where I was not making much progress; moreover there were failures for reasons not in my hands. A lot of factors contributed to the steady decline of my mental health over those months. And then, there was a trigger.
I have previously written a post on the feeling of depression. It is a poem, and it didn’t intend to portray the factual world of depression. Of which people has asked me about. Hence this post.
To put it simply, depression is a general apathy towards life. Consider not being mentally aroused by anything. Now take that feeling and magnify it. You don’t feel like getting out of bed. Forget going to work, you don’t feel like brushing your teeth. Every little task that you have to do becomes a pain. Taking a bath takes an hour. Putting on the shampoo takes telling yourself twenty times that just standing beneath the shower isn’t enough. You need to do something. You need to stretch your hand. You need to reach that bottle. You need to open that cap. You need to turn the bottle upside down. You need to squeeze it now. A bit more? Good. Now turn the bottle straight again. Close the cap? Good boy. Now what? The bottle…yes, what do you do with it? Keep it back on the tile, do something. Okay, now rub your palms and apply them to your head. Brush your hair with your hands. Can you feel the foam? Good job! Keep rubbing. Yes, do you now feel the dirt on your head?
You feel like there is dirt in your head.
When you are depressed, time runs slow. Dreadfully slow.
And you are sick of yourself.
You are mentally tired to think, of anything. You have time, but you don’t have the energy. To speak, to interact, to do anything. You feel like sleeping all the time. As problems pile up, you ignore them. You do nothing about anything.
As for me, I have a thousand reasons for going into depression, but I won’t go into all of them. Let’s just say, I have identified each of them, and the way to deal with them. Here’s a broad outline:
- I tend to get too affected with the bad things in the world. There is too much news about all the bad things, and I am very sensitive to these. I think about them over and over again, I make these problems mine. The frustration of not being able to do anything, and a thousand other frustrations — build up over time. They don’t let me sleep. I have bad dreams. My eyes swell up on the mention of something that I have a soft corner for. I am too sensitive. It’s a good thing to be sensitive. However, one does not need to care so much about the world. The world does not care so much about you. It’s okay to live in a bubble, not being up-to-date with each piece of sad news. It’s okay not to care about the bigger pictures of the society all the time. It’s okay to be a bit selfish for a while.
- I am very much a people’s person: what you say to me or how you treat me, matters. I tend to remember everything you say, every little thing that you make me feel. As someone told me, I am “neurotic.” Yes, I am. And it’s not a bad thing. It’s just that not everyone deserves to be in my sphere, not everyone’s opinions about me should matter. I have realized that the real problem lies in giving more importance to a lot of people than they actually deserve. No, you don’t matter that much. I am learning to draw my boundaries. Not every solution is easy, but slowly, I am moving in the direction where the importance that I give to people in general is kept within the limits of what they deserve.
- I have lost friends. I have been through breakups, but none has affected me more than people whom I have thought as friends suddenly deserting me. The stark contrast of the apathy that they show today with the depth of their involvement with me yesterday — have left me in a dizzy. Utterly bewildered. Was it just me who got so involved in the friendship? I have come to realize that these thoughts have no value, they lead you nowhere. It takes something to do what all I have done for these friends, and I do mean to boast here — I deserve a pat on the back for being a good friend to the individuals. If they decided to give no value to that, it is their loss. I should know better about the world — it is selfish. And that’s okay. Yes, even such apparently deep friendships are not permanent. Permanence is not the only way friendships (or relationships) succeed. Let them go. Be happy about the past, cherish the good memories, don’t think too much about the end.
- I became overly ambitious about my career. The weight of it all became too big to handle. When the things to be done to get what I thought I could achieve had become much more than what I could actually do, I started procrastinating every little thing, shying away from real work and mental exercises. I fell into the vicious cycle of not doing anything and work piling up. It took me a while to realize that the work I thought was piling up was unrealistic for me to do. Someone else could have pulled it off, but not me. And then I started seeing my ambitions in my own light. I started re-evaluating what I can do and what I cannot do. I became real. And then started taking small steps to get there, by doing one thing at a time.
There were times when I would sleep for hours, and no one would get to know. Not the usual hours. In the day. I have had a lunch, and I am supposed to go back to work. The drowsiness makes me come back to my room, and I plan to get a nap for half an hour and return to work afterwards. But I dismiss the alarm and go back to sleep. To deep sleep. Sleep that speaks volumes of a human’s abject apathy to living. I would sleep so much that I would wake up when it was then time for me to actually sleep. And unlike before when I would then start working at odd hours, I would instead go have a tired dinner, tired from sleeping too much, and then go right back to sleep, hoping that tomorrow would be better. After a while, I had stopped hoping that too.
The feeling of not doing anything piles up. It makes you feel really shitty. You feel you will catch up tomorrow. But the weight of it pulls you down, and you end up not doing anything. And it makes you feel more guilty. The feeling of not doing anything piles up.
The feeling of being away from anyone to call your own, weighs down. The feeling of loneliness. The feeling of not belonging anywhere. The feeling of neither here nor there. The feeling of an outsider, as well an insider. An insider, but still, somehow, an outsider. The feeling of not being really wanted. The feeling of not being really loved. The feeling of having loved ones away from you. The feeling of being alone.
I have written about this feeling in another poem. It is always around. It is a part of existence. It is with me when I am in a crowd. It is with me when I am with the only people that I can call my own. The only people I can claim to love, the only people who can claim that they truly love me. This feeling has always been around. But sometimes in life, it just magnifies. It catches up on your existence and throws you off-guard. No matter what you do, it gnaws back in to your thoughts. It holds you by the collar and tells you, “You are alone.”
Today, I am not just going to tell you about it, or remind you of it if you have felt it. Today I will tell you how to deal with it. Listen to me very carefully.
Acknowledge the fact that you are alone.
It is alright to be alone! Really. It’s okay. It’s really okay. Aren’t you too much to handle, at times? Can you tolerate yourself at all times? How do you expect another flawed human being to be okay with all your flaws? The age doesn’t matter. No, it doesn’t, whatever you think about it. It is okay to be alone when you are 20, it is okay to be alone when you are 30. It is really okay to be alone with your family. Find happiness in that loneliness. Find individuality in that solitude. Because only you deserve to be yourself.
On the other hand, not everything is about you. This incident occurred, when I hurt a very close friend very badly, because of a silly, sick, joke that I cracked. Then, she deleted me from her life. I deserved it. But, I deserved to forgive myself as well, something that took me two days to believe. I made the whole thing about me, whereas she just needed some time to get over the hurt that I had caused her. I added pressure on myself. Why? Because I held a certain standard for myself and had let myself down. No. Today, I am not holding standards for myself. I am not saying I am this-much-good. It’s okay, I am a human being, I make mistakes. And my closest friends are witness to my worst behaviours. It’s okay to be imperfect. I have started accepting the fact that I am neither saint nor Satan, and I don’t see myself through these extremes any more. It’s okay to be something in the middle. Dynamic, evolving, imperfect.
The thing about depression is, it doesn’t just affect the only one who is depressed. Even after the problem has been diagnosed and the solution is being worked out, sometimes things can go wrong. And they have, for me. Small triggers have become big. And my reaction has been to go back to sleep. The friend of mine, after accepting my apology, told me, “It’s okay! But honestly it’s a bit tough. Imagine having to take this shit first thing in the morning.” My reaction to such mornings was to go back to sleep. If I have had breakfast by then, well and good; if not, “I will go for lunch.” If I haven’t woken up by the time lunch is over, I will have “something” later. Imagine having to deal with this shit first thing in the morning.
There was a day when I came out of my room at 3.30 PM and the Sun almost blinded me. It felt unreal. I was trying to meet a friend, she had reached the meeting point in her bike, perfectly oblivious to how my day had been. I asked her to wait, because I wanted to walk. The walk to the place felt like an achievement. That was the first real thing that I had done that day.
After reading some of my own works and guessing that I am depressed, other people came forward. Everyone said, “I am always here to listen to you if you want to talk.” I want to sincerely thank everyone who did that, but with due respect, I want to tell you two things: (1) No you are not. I have expressed my need to express many times before, and at that time you weren’t there to listen to me. For whatever reasons — most likely because you had other priorities in life. And that’s perfectly okay! I really don’t need your sympathy today. I am perfectly capable of overcoming this on my own, because honestly, it is my fight and mine alone. You are not there. No one is here. I am alone. And I am perfectly okay with that. (2) I don’t always need to express myself. That’s not what depression is about! Depression is about apathy. Depression is about not having the power to express oneself! By telling me that I can open myself up to you, you are expecting too much from me, you are adding to the pressure! I know it’s a bit confusing, but this is the way you can treat me the best: by treating me just like the way you have treated me otherwise. Do nothing special, do nothing worse. Let me fight my own battle, and sometimes, only sometimes, remind me that you care about me coming out victorious against this demon. Because that’s the best you can do.
The best way to deal with a depressed individual is to ensure that they are getting help from professionals, and otherwise leaving them alone. Try not to treat them like sick people. Try not to instruct them or treat them like kids. They have a fragile ego, because they are spending way too much mental energy in doing the basic things in life: acknowledging that they are depressed, and trying to work it out.
Another thing that happened due to my constantly sharing content related to depression, is that: others whom I had known for long but only superficially, suddenly came out to me as depressed — either currently or in their past. Barriers seemed to have been broken with no extra effort. Just two people finding solace with their common mental health patterns. Others have opened up to me when they have felt that they are in the verge of depression, and we have discussed the problems together. I don’t know how much it has helped, but I have become approachable to them. I have tried doing the best I can do.
In the process, I have learnt that I have been lucky. Compared to the spectrum that I observe today, my level of depression is mild at the most. Others have it worse. And so I learnt this: The deeper you are in depression, the harder it gets to come out of it. It is like a well. The deeper you have drowned, the harder it gets to come out. The harder you try, the harder it gets.
But the good thing is: One can come out. The first and foremost thing that is required is: professional help. There is no way you can fight this all on your own, because you are way too confused and vulnerable to do that. You need guidance, or medicines, or both. My psychotherapist told me that I urgently required medicines, and depending upon how I am doing in a course of 30 days, she would decide henceforth. My medicines have massively helped me come back to a steady way of life. I have had one therapy session at the end, but that was the first and the last, and she told me I am now fine to be on my own.
Today, I am spending less time seeking validation from the world, and more time doing things I need to do. Reading books that have been on my list, watching films that I have wanted to watch. Because there are so many things that I need to do. So many words that I need to write. So many books that I need to read. Before I sleep.
One more good thing has happened out of my brush with depression: Not only have I come to understand myself better, I have come to understand the role of others in my life better. Who wants something particular from me, who has always used me as a bouncing bag, who has treated me like an object, etc. The numbers are staggering. People I thought of as close friends have come out of their real mask. People whom I thought of as ideal have turned out they are not, and I have come to accept that, giving them their space and snatching mine. And people who were strangers have shown a remarkably human side of their self and turned out to be solid friends. People who care. People who truly care. And I owe a lot to you. You know who you are.
Today, I have become a thousand times more aware about mental health related problems, their symptoms, and their solutions. I am doing everything to spread the word about mental health and I will continue to do so.
Today, I get less affected with friends deciding to not being friends any more. I let them go. And it’s my victory, over depression. Today, I win over my depression when I get up on the first ring of the alarm instead of snoozing it. Today, I win over my depression when despite of a strong urge to catch a nap after lunch, I choose to walk it out, apply water on my face, and resume working. Today, I defeat my depression every time I feel like shouting at someone when they are being absolutely insensitive to their surroundings, but I don’t, instead just quietly do what I can to improve the situation. Today, I win over my depression everytime I prioritise my life over others’, everytime I say “no” to something that I don’t need to say “yes” to. Today, although I do get affected when people whom I have held close to for a long time say something very hurtful, I sleep over it. Today, although I do feel suicidal when my reaction to a bad situation has made it even worse — and I do cry just like I used to — I sleep over it. I wake up, and say, “What can be done now?” I do them, one at a time.
Because I have so many things to do. And I am doing them one at a time.
Because time is limited, and I have so much to write before I sleep.
And books to read before I sleep.
And books to read before I sleep.