“How are you?”
Whenever someone asked me this, I’d instinctively lie.
“I’m fine, thanks!”
There were two lies here.
- I was not fine, and
- I was not particularly thankful that this question was asked.
I’ve been suffering from depression since I was a child. No, I did not come from a broken home. In fact, my childhood was as normal as it could be.
But, it was there. A bag full of insecurities riddled with guilt and shame over little things. This bag would grow bigger and bigger with time. A heavy, invisible bag that I’ve carried for most of my life (no fat jokes, please).
As I grew older, I realized this bag had become too heavy to carry. I gave up. I sought help. I got help. And now I am writing this.
Explaining depression is a little difficult. It comes with its own set of misconceptions. When I was diagnosed with depression, I was a little disappointed. Depression is such a weak disease, I thought. Schizophrenia – now THAT is a proper disease. In a way, I was depressed about having depression!
I feel depression is like the common cold, or the flu. At the beginning, your throat’s a little itchy and you feel something’s wrong. But you shrug it off. Then you start sneezing a bit and your throat’s getting worse. You have a warm beverage and shrug it off. Then, one day, you wake up with your nose blocked, your throat’s messed up and you have a splitting headache. That’s when you decide to take the day off and go to the doctor. Some of you would even ignore that and head to work because, hey, deadlines. While you ignored all the symptoms, the cold kept coming at you, sapping your energy slowly but surely.
This is what depression does to you. Unfortunately, like I mentioned, depression comes with its own set of misconceptions. Some of these misconceptions are busted in this Buzzfeed post.
I went through a major depressive episode about six months ago. I didn’t go to work for about two months. I wanted to quit my job and become a full time writer. I didn’t write a word during that time. I cut myself off from everyone and lived almost like a hermit (the plus side – I finally watched all four seasons of The Game of Thrones!).
During this time, something wonderful happened. My wife stood by me. My parents stood by me. My friends stood by me. And most surprisingly, my employers stood by me. I just needed to seek help. For the first time in my life, my relatives tried to understand what I was going through. Everybody kept their distance, but everybody was around. I felt like I was the luckiest person on earth (I still do).
I want to say I’m depression-free, but that isn’t true. That invisible bag’s still there. It’s It doesn’t feel all that heavy though, my wife, my parents and my friends lift some of it for me.
One thing that terrifies me though is the lack of awareness. In a country as vast as ours, with multiple, complex problems, one may feel that depression ranked low in the need-to-be-aware column. The stigma attached to any disability – physical and mental – is quite frankly, awful. If it’s okay to catch a cold, having depression (or any other illness) is okay too. You just need to treat it, with therapy, with medicine.
According to this 2011 article, almost 9% of Indians have reported having an extended period of depression within their lifetime. That was around four years ago. Even if the percentage remained the same today, there would be at least 112.5 million people suffering from depression today.
I want more and more people to talk about depression. It’s the only way to remove this stigma attached. I want those suffering from depression to know that there is hope, there is help. You must seek help. If you know someone who is suffering from depression, just let them know you are there for them. You have no idea how much it would mean for them.
If anyone needs to talk, I’d be more than happy to do so. Look me up on Twitter. I can at least point you to a therapist who will do a much better job of it!