Depression Isn’t a Bad Word

I stare, without looking.
I listen, without hearing.
I exist, without trying.

There must be something about October. This time last year, I was going through depression. This time six years ago, I was also going through depression. Perhaps I’ll blame the changing seasons…

I have been trying to write this blog for over six months, and somehow haven’t found the courage. Every time I start to write, I stop myself and put away the paper.

I feel as if I am permanently marking myself as “that person who was depressed” by publishing this post.

To be blatantly clear, I am not ashamed that I was depressed.

I am simply scared of how those around me will react; current and future employers making assumptions about who I am; friends and family making judgments.

There is something so difficult about telling the people closest to you that you are not well. When I was going through my depression, I found it impossible to communicate.

I remember sitting at home and staring at my wall for hours. Friends would text me or call me, and I felt incapable of responding. I wanted to call a friend but I felt like I had nothing to say. I didn’t know where to start or what to say. I wanted to reach out to those around me but it felt like no one understood. I needed isolation, but I also needed human comfort.

When I finally got the courage to tell a few members of my family and friends what I was feeling, I regretted it instantly.

“But you can’t be depressed. You don’t look like someone who is depressed.”

“You’ll snap out of it.”

“It’s just a phase, it will pass.”

“No, you’re not depressed.”

There was no malicious intent in these statements. Everyone was concerned. And yet, the reactions I received were so hurtful. They spun me into vicious cycles of thought. Was I making this all up? Was I crazy? There is no test for depression. Maybe my psychologist got it wrong. Who knows? On and on the cycle went, spinning me further away from my support network.

A lot of the questions and doubt I received centred around the dreaded question. The why of depression.

Whenever I got asked why I was depressed, I felt like a spotlight was on me. A burning white light in a questioning room. What could I have possibly gone through to trigger an episode of depression? What life event is so traumatic?

Justifying depression is frustrating, because it isn’t always logical. The reason behind depression doesn’t matter. The reality is our mental health is fragile and anything can trigger depression. Whether it is a single event or a series of smaller ones, there is no right or wrong reason.

I still struggle to understand my depression.

I felt so overwhelmed by everything, from a small task at work to meeting a friend for coffee.

I remember going to the bathroom in the office and crying. I felt useless, hopeless. The number of times I canceled plans with friends because I couldn’t face seeing people surpasses my two hands.

I went home for the holidays and struggled to interact with my family. I knew they expected me to be cheery, bubbly Eleni, but I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t muster the energy to fake being happy.

I felt encased in ice, watching my surroundings, silently observing,unable to interact or respond.

It’s still hard to bring back these memories, but I want to be transparent about my experience.

Mental health has traditionally been stigmatised. In many cultures, talking about mental health continues to be a taboo subject. Only “crazy” people have mental health issues.

By separating mental health as “other,” it becomes something removed, and oftentimes something removed becomes something bad.

Everyone had an image of what someone suffering from depression looks like. — quiet, sad, unresponsive, unable to function. But what about the person next to us? Are we open to the notion that our parent, our sibling, our coworker, our friend, our lover, may be suffering from depression?

According to the World Health Organisation, 322 million people worldwide live with depression — and that’s just the diagnosed cases. Numerous people experience milder forms of depression that can go undiagnosed and untreated.

I am hoping by putting a face to depression, I can help the process of humanising it.