Depression is a difficult topic to discuss. It’s hard for people who are going through it, and it’s even harder for people who aren’t but are close to the ones who are. You can’t force anyone to open up and share their feelings and emotions, but at the same time, you can’t let them deal with them on their own. It’s a very sensitive subject and today I am going to discuss how to help someone, who you think might be going through hard times.
I have to state before I start, that my journey with depression wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t any different to others; I never wanted to see a therapist and never wanted to admit that I, in fact, needed help. In my mind, I was just extremely sad, and whoever questioned it, was immediately told off because I wasn’t in the mood for sharing. For me, it was never up to any discussion what was going on, always kept my life pretty private, and so I never had any need to talk about it. Besides, how can you explain to someone that you are sad, again, for no reason? It’s not another bad day or a week, you are sad for the tenth month in a row. The same story every single day. What do you say? What reason do you give? I remember at the time, before my diagnosis, my family and friends were getting pretty frustrated that I lost interest in most things, and became ridiculously quiet & emotional. I would take all jokes very personally like they were all directed at me, and I genuinely didn’t want to participate in anything. I was a queen of excuses for why I can’t socialize with others. My appearance slowly started to change, from wearing bright, fun colors, I became my own shadow in all black with no makeup on. Even fashion was no more fun. I stopped smiling and my laugh became a distant memory. I was very easily intimidated and anxious by other people around me. And everyone was just getting angry at my behavior because not only I was a different person, I didn’t want to say what was wrong with me. Yet I was so stubborn in my own thoughts thinking I am sad because other people are making me feel this way by questioning me all the time. The vicious cycle I’ve found myself in was so dangerous, that I became suicidal… I guess it was my final cry for help. I wanted to scream and cry for everyone to hear me, but at the same time, I couldn’t, because I felt voiceless. And I think the scariest thing in all of this time was that I genuinely, at the time, didn’t know that I was depressed. I blamed everyone else for my low mood & suicidal thoughts, not even considering I could be suffering from something horrible.
I was eventually forced to go and see a doctor at my local medical practice, and I remember when I was asked what they can do for me, I burst into tears and said: ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with me’. I cried for over 20 minutes straight, with my doctor sitting in silence, not even asking a single question. She was just there looking at me while I cry. Then I heard words that changed my entire perception of my own wellbeing: ‘You aren’t alone with this’. I was told how depression is one of the most common illnesses in the world and sadly, because of the stigma surrounding it, people don’t often seek treatment for it. Suddenly, I cannot even explain how or why, I felt like I was being understood. To make it funnier, it was a complete stranger who put light into my dark tunnel, someone I never expected to understand me. Diagnosis: severe anxiety and depression. I was unwell. After almost a year struggling on my own trying to figure out why do I experience all those negative emotions and thoughts, I finally knew. You see, with the flu or a cold, you always get symptoms that are easily noticeable, like you are coughing, or you have a runny nose, or your chest hurts. And everyone knows what steps to take when sick – you go to the doctor or a pharmacy and you treat yourself with common medicines. It takes usually a few days for you to feel like you aren’t yourself, then you feel much better and you continue with your life. With mental health illnesses though, you don’t have any symptoms that are easily visible, and you can suffer from it for way longer than a few days. Sometimes, like in my case, it stays with you forever. I see these diseases as the most dangerous health conditions for humankind because they destroy you as a person.
On the other hand, you can’t just say to someone who is having a bad day: ‘Hey, I think you have depression’. It’s not how it works. There is a very thin line between having a bad day and being depressed and I think we became so self-obsessed in recent years that we often forget to look around and notice life isn’t pitch-perfect for some of us. We assume everyone is having a great time in their lives because that’s what we see on their social media accounts or we see them smiling at work or they still look OK. The reality is, most of us chose silence over bullshit and meaningless conversations. Have you ever heard anyone replying to a simple question: ‘Hey, how are you?’ – ‘You know what, I am going through a divorce now and I don’t know how to cope with it’? Of course not. You hear ‘I’m fine, thanks’ and you just assume it is all good with them.
Being depressed it’s such a sensitive and delicate state of the human mind that it’s almost impossible to notice. People who suffer from it are vulnerable and are trying to protect themselves no matter what cost. They don’t want to be a subject of gossip, jokes or embarrassment. Unfortunately, too often we hear news of suicides that are shocking to us; yet we think: ‘I didn’t know he/she was going through a bad time’. We don’t notice. We don’t care. We prefer to scroll all social media accounts and chase ‘greener grass’, completely ignoring that someone we know is suffering in silence and all they need is a simple talk. That’s all is needed. So little, yet so much. It’s the feeling that they can count on you, and you will listen. You don’t need to even understand. You just need to listen. And maybe point them in the right direction, so it’s not too late and they won’t take their own precious life. Nobody should ever suffer because of mental health issues, and nobody should ever feel they are alone with their thoughts.
One of the things that I have learned through my experiences is that what my head is telling me isn’t always true. I cannot rely on my mind when everything seems overwhelming, because I will most likely think worst-case scenario again, and from there, I will spiral again out of control into a vicious cycle. I know am not alone with this, therefore is so important that we talk to each other. Either if you feel life is overwhelming, or you struggle with your own self-belief, or you think you just cannot go through it any longer – talk to someone. And let’s not be so self-obsessed individuals, who don’t care about others.
It’s ok not to be ok. But let’s talk about it.