The post is lengthy, around 2000 words, and is not a substitute for any kind of professional medical advice.
For those who’ve made guesses on the title, the invisible enemy is depression and not COVID. The pandemic may end sooner or later but the air of despondency never seems to leave.
I’m deeply affected by the news of Mr. Sushant Singh Rajput’s sudden demise. I’ve adored his movies as well the heights he has reached, and this was out of nowhere. I also got to read his interest in astrophysics, appeal towards tennis, his astonishing bucket list, and talks on his constant learning behaviour. In short, these indicate that he was someone who could pull off many things together and was such an ambitious soul.
“Nobody is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away.“
– Terry Pratchett
Just like how this tragedy popped up discussions on mental health all over the internet, it also triggered me to write this post. However, I don’t want my words to sound like sympathetic music. On a personal front, I’ve witnessed the aftermaths of suicide in a closer family (not in the recent past), and believe me, it takes years to get over the unprecedented loss without even knowing the reason for their death.
Depression isn’t light-weighted in any way.
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.“
– Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
The quote may appear catchy, but in reality, creates a reality check to look deep into one’s inner self.
Common causes of depression
- Loss of a job.
- Simple conflicts within the family or at the workplace.
- Financial insecurity.
- Relationship failures.
- Death of someone close.
- Struggles to achieve bigger goals.
- The feeling of not fitting in.
- Major life changes.
Stress, anxiety, and depression are caused when we are living to please others.
– Paulo Coelho
Common symptoms of depression
- Overwhelming Sadness
- Irritability and anger over trivial matters
- Loss of interest in day-to-day activities
- Concentration issues
- Obscurity in decision making
- Cry often, in sleep or in secret places like bathrooms
- Changes in sleep and eating patterns
- Unexplainable physical pain
There are shades of deeper meaning to each and every behaviour of a depressed soul.
Symptoms and causes need not always be the same.
➼ A depressive person need not essentially be a pessimist.
Depressed people can also be active than you expect them to be. They are capable of redirecting the energy to focus on meaningful stuff. They may invest time in physical activities to vent out the depression. They may also engage in clubs or learn and take up new pursuits to vent out their miserable despairs but still end up feeling bad, as soon as the engaging task is over.
➼ Failures and Success – Both can entice depression.
It’s obvious that failures may result in depression. But, success? This might be weird but true! Let me explain this by categorizing failures.
One who fails without efforts – These people don’t get depressed because they know the results even before trying.
One who puts in good efforts but still fails – These people can be motivated to try for a few more times.
There’s another category which is more dangerous. This is a group of successful or ambitious people. They’ve been performers above the brim, most of their life.
“Man’s greatest burden is unfulfilled potential.“
– Dan Pena
These people, when they fail to achieve their ambitions or stand still in life, might feel down even if they aren’t judged or expected highly to achieve. It’s not that they can’t accept failures. Of course, they can. But, they maintain a table of excellence in their own mind and feel the urge to succeed and remain on its top always. They struggle a lot to maintain their worth, to prove it to their own selves, and end up getting depressed.
➼ Drastic changes in appearance could be a sign of depression.
Speaking of a personal experience yet again, I had lost weight (around 12kg) during a depressive phase, and it was not easy for someone like me who’s already taller than normal and stayed underweight until recently**. I mean to say, at times, you can identify depressed people from drastic changes in physical appearance. This can’t be hidden.
Also, not everyone who’s depressed loses weight. Few gain during these tough times; over-eating helps them sleep faster implying they get more time to forget pain.
These are a few misconceptions or difficulties that exist in identifying a depressed person.
** [Now, let’s not get into arguments on my diet. I ate only healthy meals and even the necessary junk to satisfy my taste buds. My meals are usually heavier than people with me, but still, I looked lanky back then. Genes, you see!]
How to identify someone who’s depressed?
People who can identify depressed people can fall into three categories.
➼ Someone who is depressed.
People on the same boat easily catch up. For instance, remember the movie, Anjaana Anjaani?
➼ Someone who has overcome depression.
These people can relate a lot, and easily spot out depressed ones from their behavior.
Obviously, they should have come across lots of cases and heard many episodes.
Not always do parents or the closer circle identify depression. Depressed people are good at maintaining their dignity. People around can’t penetrate into our minds. That’s a boon as well as a bane. The depressed ones wouldn’t want to reveal their sad phase, just like the unseen face of the moon.
I personally have experienced a traumatic depressive episode in my life. Not even the closest of my friends or my family knew or could have even guessed. I took part in all possible healthy activities. I smiled. I can assure I wasn’t faking smiles. I enjoyed the time with friends or anywhere quite far from the thing about which I was depressed.
Luckily, I was in a good enough mental state to accept the reality and had that frame of mind to get over it and to improve my mental health. I sought help from a family member, and confronted a few people with whom I had held grudges or had untold stories to be told.
Kindly remember, not everyone who’s depressed will seek out help themselves. Only the ones who have a very strong will to live and at any cost find the need to get back to normal will reach out for help willingly.
“Healing takes time, and asking for help is a courageous step.“
– Mariska Hargitay
Few may expect someone to offer help while remaining silent, require inspiring push at downtimes, while few others may lose confidence and change tracks. At the extreme, they might choose to quit switching from deep depression to suicide consideration.
So, it’s very important to identify at the right time, monitor the depressed regularly and provide help.
In case you’re someone depressed and have also realized the same, you’re in a better position.
“You say you’re depressed – All I see is resilience. You are allowed to feel messed up and inside out. It doesn’t mean you’re defective. It just means you’re human.“
– David Mitchell
It’s good to seek help from someone whom you can trust or someone who’s a certified stranger, meaning a professional therapist. Don’t feel ashamed to do this. Keeping oneself high in mental health is more important than maintaining good physical health. (Do not open yourself to complete strangers, that too in this digital era, it’s highly unsafe.)
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle – a proper diet and exercise.
- Spend time with nature – long walks, watch sunsets, etc.
- Reopen long-forgotten activities, or take up something new.
- Read books, preferably self-help until you feel at ease.
- Make calls often and connect with your loved ones. Visit them once in a while.
- Indulge in volunteering. You may find a new purpose worthy enough to spend your life on.
- Change the playlist you often listen to.
Music has the power of bringing back memories, which is not advisable when in a disturbed state of mind. Start listening to something fresh.
- If you can’t share your thoughts with anyone for unavoidable reasons, the least you can do to feel light and relieved is to write a diary.
How to offer help to a depressed friend?
➼ When offering to help, know this first. When you are to pull someone out of depression, you should have enough positive energy and shouldn’t end up being influenced or depressed hearing their sad tales or unworthy outlook on life. Do not eventually forget to practice self-care.
“It’s so difficult to explain depression to someone who’s never been there, because it’s not just sadness.“
– J. K. Rowling
➼ Enlighten yourself with knowledge on depression, through a book or any trustworthy online source. Educating oneself beforehand on this sensitive topic helps in handling any unexpected situations better with care.
➼ You can offer them help but that’ll mostly be unwelcomed. Even if not a complete introvert, they wouldn’t open up any personal stuff to anyone other than few hand-picked ones.
“There are times when explanations, no matter how reasonable, just don’t seem to help.“
– Fred Rogers
➼ In case you notice someone depressed, you can give a hint to the closed circle of the person concerned, tell them your concerns and ask to take care if you feel that’s in your limits. Even if you feel otherwise, there’s nothing wrong in conveying your concern on a mental health issue. You could be wrong. But, in case you were right, you’d have helped a fading soul.
➼ Depressed ones might feel like someone’s exerting huge control over their life, and that they have no balance. So, DO NOT offer to solve their problems, or to take it easy, or compare your experience with theirs. Instead, ask them what you can do to help.
“Overly positive, horrendously cheerful people can make a depressed person even more depressed. In fact, perhaps the least helpful thing one can say a depressed person is, ‘Cheer Up!’.”
– Harold H. Bloomfield
Just listen to what all they have to say. Speaking back and putting your opinion right at the first conversation might not be a good idea.
➼ Leave a card or contact of a professional therapist or even a helpline you know, anonymously, on the desk of someone you guess could be depressed. People who are already in pain might not take it forward when identity is revealed, mostly because exposing mental health problems to the outside world is still a stigma, or they wouldn’t want to reveal their sorrows over someone familiar to someone not-so-familiar for the fear of judgments or leaks.
➼ In case they open up to you on taking up therapy, spill a few words of encouragement. Also, keep a check on if their sessions and medications are continued without being skipped or dropped.
➼ When someone’s depressed by the feeling of not fitting-in, help them, esp. the new-comers in the workplace, at your place of study or even your neighbourhood. You wouldn’t know their character or talents initially, and might not get along in the long-term. You also won’t be able to hold on to them throughout their journey with you. That’s understandable. But, just make sure to be an acquaintance they can incline to in the time of difficulties.
➼ Depressed people often live in isolation. Invite them to occasions then and there, even when you know they might reject. Your invite may help them socialize and ease their mental ties to an extent. However, do not pressurize them to participate. Also, don’t make this a regular habit.
➼ Be patient. Stay in touch.
“Depression isn’t a straight forward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather.“
– Stephen Fry
If someone doesn’t recover when you expect them to, remember it’s neither your fault nor theirs. So, don’t take things in this phase personally.
➼ However, when you notice something fishy or their body language and words getting too emotional than usual, don’t think twice about intervening. Gear up with another close friend and spend time together. Possibly, don’t leave them alone. Take them with you or stay along. If that’s not possible, somehow console the person concerned and make regular calls to ensure they’re in a good state.
“Tough times don’t last. Tough people do. When life gives you a hundred reasons to cry, show life that you have a thousand reasons to smile. – Unknown”
Express gratitude! Live your life! (:
Be someone like this:
“I need to get through this because I can’t imagine a life without me.”