One of the things that our culture really tries to discourage is thinking, reflection and expression. There has been news about suicide attempts by depressed students, children, women, and men on a broader scale. Such news resurfaces from time to time but fades away real soon because of the magical power of media. Out of Sight, Out of Mind.
“I can’t say exactly when it started, maybe the day when a headache in the shape of a question mark curled itself around my eye and made itself at home. When short, surreal episodes would come and go, like seasons, like I was seeing the world through the bottom of a highball glass. But the moment when I really knew something was wrong was when I couldn’t muster the strength to do regular chores. It got worse. I felt neither ill nor well. Then, – I disintegrated. It was the time the clocks went back, and as I arrived I rippled with a sense of unease. I couldn’t watch television or read. I started cups of tea but couldn’t finish them, sat down to dinner but couldn’t eat. Many nights I roamed around, twitchy and unable to settle, heart hammering in my throat, ears full of white noise, a buzz in my stomach.
People used to call it a nervous breakdown. Now it’s called depression. Neither term is helpful. They don’t come close to expressing the long list of symptoms that, if anything, worse, conjuring up misleading images of people staring through windows at the drizzle. But depressive illness isn’t like that Monday-morning feeling; it takes a long time to fix. Usually, we are told, you get better.
There were days when I just sat on the bed and stared at the wall and wondered if I was losing my mind. Days – long joined-up hours when I thought I would never work, write, play or love again.
Days when I agonized at the enormous burden my mother was under; when I resented the impact on my family, some seemed to develop mild sympathetic symptoms; when I wondered how much further there was to the bottom. But the days weren’t the problem.
Nights were worse. Sleeplessness became both symptom and cause of the illness, a wicked loop of empty hours and catastrophic thoughts. By 4 am I’d be desperate for dawn. But morning brought no relief, just more empty hours, with another threatening night thereafter.
The days began to feel insurmountable and perhaps what was most upsetting was the casualness with which most people treated it. “Just snap out of it” my confused family and friends would tell me and I would try but no amount of ‘snapping’ seemed to help. It’s hard to pinpoint a reason when people ask what happened so you just stop talking about it.
And that isolation, that aloneness presented the real danger. Life has become more stressful and there is more alienation than there used to be. “Depression is the feeling of someone whispering in your ear and telling you that you are worthless. Every time you make a mistake, you keep getting reminded of it, it’s never painless. From these mistakes, it makes you reckless. Now you ask yourself, is my life priceless or worthless ?”
My mother raised me single-handedly as my so-called father was the “man” enough to abandon us recklessly into below the poverty line because he anticipated a male child. He then went on to marry the very next day of my birth to procreate that “ideal” male child and followed the same ritual twice more. Poor man, little did he know, it was his chromosomes playing that game with him. That’s Indian society for you right there.
Anyway, my point is that my mother contemplated to commit suicide after waking up from the coma after two years under such wretched circumstances but she chose to become a brave, fearless and heroic woman that she is. We were taunted, mocked, sneered, ridiculed and lampooned by society and its regulators for no fault of ours.
My hopeless mother turned strong enough to deal with the dirt and grime thrown at her while I was just a child exposed to worldly nastiness. That was harsh. I was mocked for the way I looked, the way I spoke, the way my clothes were old and timeworn.
Psychological invalidation is one of the most lethal forms of emotional abuse. It kills confidence, creativity, and individuality, especially for growing up children. Now, I will stop being narcissistic about my struggles.
We all go through sadness, anxiety, depression at some point in life, losing confidence, letting in self-doubt, being demotivated and even disappointed with ourselves.
While some of us have strong will power and determination to deal with these issues and come out stronger than ever, there are a considerable number of people who succumb to it.
Poverty is another factor. It is ironic that poor countries often see mental health issues as a reason for stigma — since poverty often co-exists with depression and other mental health issues.
Poor people cannot afford to stop working and start paying to see a shrink so they keep going to a breaking point. In order to keep that status quo, the stigma is handy as a perverse motivator not to seek help or bring up the issue.
It is said that “Coming out as being gay is easier than admitting to a mental health condition.”
Now Sadness, depression, Suicidal thoughts are a taboo in our society as emotional vulnerability is such that it is embarrassing to express our true feelings. Mental health issues can affect anyone at any age, of any sex, or race.
According to the World Health Organization, approximately 450 million people worldwide have a mental illness. As mental health is a global issue so, sadly, is mental health stigma, shame, and discrimination. We are taught from a very young age that emotions are wrong.
“Suck it up” “Man up!” “Be a lady” “Quit crying,” you have nothing to cry about.” “Are you upset AGAIN??” So we are conditioned that emotions that make us sad are wrong.
Depression then must be, by this gauge, just the most horrible of things and we should never talk about it or admit it. because depression can be misunderstood as a feeling and not a legitimate illness.
We are often told to “get over it”, or told we aren’t making any effort to change, But we are constantly doing anything and everything to not feel worse and broken.
Talk about how you feel, it is important. Be a hot and expressive mess.