It’s so difficult to describe [depression] to someone who’s never been there, because it’s not sadness; but it’s that cold absence of feeling — that really hollowed-out feeling. – J. K. Rowling
Depression has finally become part of everyday conversation, which is an incredible feat considering that talking about depression was considered taboo, even a few years back. This change has probably come about because over 340 million people all over the world are living with depression, and the World Health Organization has said that it is one of the “leading causes of disability” among the population.
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Every day, you hear of people taking their lives because they were suffering from depression. You hear of self-harm and isolation and anxiety and accidents and so many terrible things, with depression at the root of it all. Some would call this the coward’s way out- that the people who couldn’t survive depression were escapists. But is it really that easy, to be able to tell yourself “No, I will not give up” and continue fighting against something that will forever be with you?
Most definitely not. Depression is possibly one of the most misunderstood ailments of all time. I am tired of people coming up to me and asking me to “cheer up.” I am tired of people thinking it is okay to trivialize my condition. I am tired of people thinking that this is something I can “get over.” I am tired, period.
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Depression is a many-headed chimera that sleeps dormant inside you. It lingers in the deep recesses of your mind, and wakes up and strikes in full force, leaving you debilitated when you are least expecting it. After a point of time, you simply get used to the attacks, and wonder if there is a way you can expel this monster that you know is constantly inside you.
Before you ask someone living with depression to “cheer up”, imagine a state where you can’t sleep during the night, and you are constantly tired during the day. You don’t care about anything in the world, nothing affects you, but somehow, you are affected by everything. When you lie down, you feel like someone is standing on your chest, and you can’t seem to remember how to breathe. It is so overwhelming, that you don’t know what else to do, other than break down crying, and cry incessantly thereafter. Is it quite possible to “cheer up” from a constant state of trepidation, self-loathing, self-doubt, low self-esteem and panic?
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Depression isn’t a choice. On 23rd March, 2014, I had a very important exam at school. It was an exam that I had been preparing for, for over a month. I was always very particular about my studies, and made sure I stayed on top of my class consistently throughout my stint at school. The day before the exam, I made sure I got a good night’s rest. The next morning, I couldn’t get up from bed. I couldn’t move my limbs, I couldn’t breathe properly, and I couldn’t decipher a single thought that was going through my mind at that time. It was like building the strongest house, with the best material, and with all the love and hard-work you can muster, and watching it get blown away after a thunderstorm. I was fully aware that I was missing the exam while I was at home, eating food out of boxes and thinking about every single decision I have made in my life and how I regretted it all.
After that day, I swore I wouldn’t let depression get the better of me. I swore that I wouldn’t succumb to this feeling of being stuck, and would plough on. It’s been four years, and I still don’t think I would be able to defeat it, if it came to me on a day of crisis.
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After living with depression for such a long time, after hearing people dismiss everything I feel, after putting on a brave face for the world and living behind a mask for years and years, I have realized the importance of compassion and empathy. I have finally realized what I need. Expressing what you feel is very difficult when you have depression for fear of being misunderstood. After a point, you forget how to express anything at all. Even though for the longest time, I thought there was no way to heal from this, no respite and no solution, I figured out what the solution was- understanding. A compassionate acknowledgment of your condition is all that we seek. That is all that we ask for, and it might not lead to us divulging our deepest thoughts and insecurities, but it can give us a space to cry, to scream to stare without becoming self-conscious, and that is all the expression we need. A safe-space to be who we are, to live with this constant weight that we have to bear, is all that we seek.
Depression is real.
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