Five years back depression sneaked into my life for the first time. Nothing could make me happy, nothing gave me a sense of purpose or pride. However much I tried, mornings were worse as getting out of bed was a nightmare. I cried for hours without any reason. My mind and body were not in sync. For the world all was well, but my friends and family knew something was not right. Although hardly anyone understood, they stood by my side and listened.
Over years I have talked openly about depression to friends, colleagues and family. Forget surveys and figures, over 5 years I have personally met around 20+ such people who had been battling depression and had sought out professional help. I have seen people hospitalized, crying and most of them met me with a smile, but the sense of shame was common for all of them. We are not ashamed when we get a fever, flu, break a bone, or get an ulcer. But the taboo related to mental illness makes it harder for people to reach out for help.
Sometimes when I talk about it, the most common question that comes my way is what does depression feel like. It may surprize a lot of people but the answer is : It feels like nothing, just numb. People often think depression is the feeling of sadness, crying and hurt. But that is not true. There's no pleasure or joy in doing anything. A person with depression cannot enjoy anything and a feeling of hopelessness prevails in everything. I felt as if I have no good quality in me and I am worthless and a failure despite all achievements in life. Negative events and experiences constantly haunted me and I felt as if I was fighting a losing battle.
My parents and best friends were mostly disturbed by my crying. For many depressed individuals, numbness can turn to chest pains after a period of time. Even a small negative event can trigger emotional choking (feeling of a heaviness in throat like one is about to cry) and can increase chest pains. Crying helps relive that pain. I used to end up crying uncontrollably without any specific reason as it was just an outlet for all the suppressed emotions. When this became a frequent occurrence I realized I needed help.
For readers who are still wondering about what depression looks like, here is a quick checklist. Most of the symptoms of depression are similar to being stressed like sleep deprivation, low energy levels, sadness, worrying, low appetite or food cravings and irritability. But depressed individuals also exhibit additional symptoms like feeling of numbness, being lost, losing interest in daily activities, having issues in getting out of bed, over reacting to small things, isolating themselves from friends and family, and crying uncontrollably. Aches and pains are constant.
When a depressed person tries to commit suicide or harm himself, people are quick to judge and label them as cowards. But depression made me realize that this is far from truth. When people are not able to handle the numbness they tend to hurt themselves to feel something, in this case pain so that they can cry. When depression reaches a critical state when chest pains becomes unbearable, killing oneself seems like the only option to get relief from the same.
Turns out, my depression was primarily triggered by my health. I was a healthy kid, an overweight teen and an obese adult. Along with constant bullying and low self-esteem due to body image, I was always in physical pain. After many years of medications, medical tests and two times undergoing depression, I got diagnosed with fibromyalgia which was the main underlying cause. With the help of my family, friends, colleagues, and most importantly my mother and my husband, I am learning to manage my medical condition and live my life with optimism and positivity. More often than expected depression tries to make its way back into my life, but I am determined not to let it pull me down any further.
As Rumi rightly said:
“You were born with potential. You were born with goodness and trust. You were born with ideals and dreams. You were born with greatness. You were born with wings. You are not meant for crawling, so don’t. You have wings. Learn to use them and fly.”
And always remember: You are not alone women
If you are undergoing depression, seek help, talk to someone who can help you. In case someone is not able to understand your mental state, don’t let it go, seek alternate help. Consult with a psychiatrist or a physician who can refer you to one. Alternate therapies like meditation and exercise also have a positive impact but a proper counseling or treatment (not necessarily medication) is required. A lot of online portals are also available where e-counselling can be taken.