Depression

Sherlock Holmes, a character in BBC’s TV Series Sherlock, once said, “Taking your own life. Interesting expression — taking it from who? Once it’s over, it’s not you who’ll miss it. Your own death is something that happens to everybody else. Your life is not your own, keep your hands off it.”

It might seems so, doesn’t it? Suicide is something you can’t do, because your death upsets everybody else. You’re taking something from everybody else the moment you take your own life. A lot of people would agree to this — a lot of people without depression.

Suicidal people with depression perceive things in a different light. You don’t worry about other people missing your presence, because you’ve been worrying that they are so tired of facing the depressed you, that they cannot handle another negativity from you. You don’t think that you are going to miss the happy things when you’re alive, because you’ve been thinking that there is nothing good left for you in the world.

Let’s take a step back and start from the beginning.

What is depression? I’m sure there is an official clinical definition for depression, but I don’t think it’s going to explain very much. I think what can explain depression is how people perceive depression. I think everyone with depression perceives it in different ways.

Some perceive depression as a state of being constantly blue, of not being able to see the world in anything other than sadness.

Some perceive depression as a state of numbness when you can no longer feel your emotions.

Andrew Solomon, a writer, once said that to him, depression is losing the willingness of doing anything. In a talk with TEDx, he said, “the opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality. And it was vitality that seemed to seep away from me in that moment. Everything there was to do seemed like too much work. I would come home and I would see the red light flashing on my answering machine, and instead of being thrilled to hear from my friends, I would think, ‘What a lot of people that is to have to call back.’ Or I would decide I should have lunch, and then I would think, but I’d have to get the food out and put it on a plate and cut it up and chew it and swallow it, and it felt to me like the Stations of the Cross.”

For me, depression works differently. It’s waking up one day feeling suddenly bewildered, and perplexed, and agitated on top of all that, because for no apparent reason we can understand, we started questioning every single thing that happened in our life.

Why were we born?

Why do we keep living?

Why are we so keen in fulfilling people’s expectations?

If we are so keen in fulfilling people’s expectations, is everything we did something we wanted ourselves?

If not, then why do we keep doing that?

Why do we keep living?

Do I really want to continue living for myself?

How do we know what is right and what is wrong?

Who decides what is right and what is wrong for us?

How do we know for sure what is right and what is wrong?

Is living in misery without any clear purpose something right?

If not, then why do we keep doing that?

Why do we keep living?

And when I can’t answer all those questions, I became lost. Of course, the real process is complicated and inexplicable. But because of that, I don’t know what’s right or wrong anymore, not knowing what and who to believe, and thus not understanding whether continuing life is really the right thing and ending it is really the wrong thing. It’s the endless confusion and circles of unanswerable questions that I have to face when I wake up, before I have breakfast, before I speak, before I smile. In the midst of all those confusion, I forgot how to be genuinely happy, because of other unanswerable questions: Am I ever genuinely happy? Do I deserve to be happy?

How people perceive depression doesn’t have to be relatable to anyone. I’m writing how different people perceive depression not so that you can pick one and see which one makes the most sense. What I’m trying to explain is depression is one, not something easy to explain and two, not something easy to handle.

Depression is like falling into your own grave. You fell so deep, that you don’t know how to get back up again. In my current state, I genuinely forgot how happy I was in the past, or is that really happiness I was experiencing to begin with. I’ve forgotten what it’s like to go day by day without this feeling of being trapped six feet underground, to just be free without these negative, unanswerable questions running around my mind 24/7.

Depression is me, not wanting to be alone to face all of this. It’s me fully realizing that I will not be able to survive this alone. But at the same time, it’s me not wanting anyone to share the pain with me, because if I invite them in and they are forced to share this with me, they will grow tired of it and the pain from them pushing me away because of that would be much, much bigger.

Depression is a series of short-lived happiness I found when I’m with my friends, that will last for a minute? An hour? And then when I’m back alone, it’s too late to keep that happiness from going anywhere. I’ve forgotten what it feels like. If anything, I became more empty than ever.

Depression is feeling like the world supported my negative views on life when you see how sad the reality is; Rape, racism, cold-blooded murders, genocides, war. My belief that there is really no purpose to stay alive is perpetuated after seeing that the condition I have to face if I decide to stay alive is not that fun to begin with.

Depression is me trying to shut my ears from people saying “oh honey you’re not depressed, you’re just sad”, or “it’s okay, go home, watch a movie or something, you’ll be fine in no time”, or “man your problems are not half as bad as mine is, so don’t act all depressed about it,” but is unable to do so, and it resulted in me hating myself even more, thinking, “maybe they’re right. Maybe I’m not even entitled to feel depressed.”

Depression is me wishing that I can just get cancer or get hit by a truck and die, because — not trying to belittle their suffering, at least people sympathize more with those who died because of a real illness or an accident than those who kill themselves because of mental illnesses.

Some people would ask me, “why don’t you just get yourself treated by experts? Go to a therapist, maybe?” The answer to that lies on Andrew Solomon’s speech in TEDx. He said, “I want to say that the treatments we have for depression are appalling. They’re not very effective. They’re extremely costly. They come with innumerable side effects. They’re a disaster. But I am so grateful that I live now and not 50 years ago, when there would have been almost nothing to be done. I hope that 50 years hence, people will hear about my treatments and be appalled that anyone endured such primitive science.” So that’s one reason.

But other than that, sometimes, depressed people just don’t want to seek for help because of the prejudice against people who opts into therapies. This is the sad reality in a lot of countries, especially in Indonesia who still is not very good with treating mental illnesses.

So, seeing the harsh circumstances of people falling into depression and how hard it is to not think of suicidal thoughts, I’m writing this long post partly to rant about how insensitive people can be and beg them to stop being so, and partly to inform people about depression so that other depressed people around me don’t have to face the same prejudice against them.

People, stop telling depressed people that it’s selfish to kill themselves just because their death is something that happens to everybody else. And stop justifying your hurtful words with, “there is not enough platform to learn” — a lot of people around you are walking with terminal depression if only you find the time to observe. I understand that you might not want your loved ones to die, but calling them ‘selfish’ is not the solution to that.

Instead, here’s some of the things you can do: One, you can google symptoms of depression and recognize those visible around you.

Two, stop belittling how your depressed friends feel, and ask them if they are okay instead. Tell them that you care about them, that nothing will change between you even if they are depressed. Speaking from experience, I cannot emphasize enough just how important this is.

Three, assist them in getting help. Some depressed people need help finding a good therapist and reassurance that going to a therapist is not embarrassing.

If these steps are too hard for you, you can just try doing something simpler: be kind to everyone you meet. You never know if the person you smiled to on the street is on the verge of breaking down and an act of kindness can save them from doing so. You never know how your slightly rude demeanor can affect your friend who is already facing tough situations at home. So, do to others what you want to be done to yourself. If you don’t want your friends to call you fake, don’t call them fake. If you don’t want your friends to leave you when you’re sad, don’t leave them. Trust me, it might not look like much, but any act of kindness means a lot to people with depression.

I’m no expert at depression. I know I talk like one, but I’m not. And this post does not serve as a reminder that I’m more knowledgeable or better than anyone, it serves as an incentive for us to start finding out more about crippling depression and how to help people diagnosed with it. So that we — you and me — can all help save more people who seem impossible to be saved.

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