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9 months ago
Opening Up About Depression Revealed Something Shocking To Me

I have spoken about my poor mental health at length, from the difficulty in getting diagnosed to methods of coping, and the people who helped me through it. From the way I expressed myself, it may have seemed like my treatment was very neatly sorted out, like I was almost healed, and that I knew what I was doing. I had my pills to help me. I saw therapists. I have a supportive circle of family and friends. My own depression, which I continue to struggle with, somewhat faded into the background. How I fought it became more important, especially to others attempting to fight it. This helped me understand a lot about what people are going through.

Being kind to people comes naturally when you are going through something tough and nobody extends you that same courtesy. You want to be there for people suffering like you are, so that they don’t have to suffer the way you did. That’s what happened to me after I opened up to everyone about having depression. 

Here’s the first shocker: I’m still struggling.

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In being preachy about coping with depression, I pretended like I was all healed. All the thank yous to my boyfriend and parents somewhat sealed the conversation about depression shut. Now, going to them again and talking about how I feel depressed felt a bit like saying goodbye to someone and still not leaving. It’s a conversation difficult to revisit when you’ve spoken so much about how they helped, how so many things helped you, and yet you still remain depressed.

First of all, this means I am in no position to try to help other people. That means admitting the first and most heartbreaking thing: perhaps there is no cure for me. Why admit that when I can just help other people whose depression might be cured, right? That’s how my journey of denial led me to another disturbing discovery. 

An alarming number of people have mental health issues.

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Every third or fourth person you meet is depressed. In my circle of eight best friends, at least four are depressed and have spoken to me about it. They are attractive, educated, and capable women. So many relatives and people older than me are depressed. Many of them don’t even acknowledge it themselves or know it. Some cope with drugs, some with alcohol, and some with denial. 

Mere acquaintances, who have barely ever spoken to me, opened up to me about this.

It’s funny how they say you should be kind to everyone, because you never know what people are going through. I say this because we hear that a lot of people struggle with mental illness. We know it exists, in theory. But when so many people who seem okay come to me, of all people, and talk about it, something else becomes evident: There is NO support system for people suffering from mental illnesses. It is one thing for close friends to speak to me about their struggle. It is another thing for people who don’t know me beyond my name and face to open up to me. Why?

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Because you – the person reading this – could be their relative, their friend, their parent, their sibling, their partner. Despite you existing, they choose to talk to a stranger, which, romanticised as it might be as an easy means to unload oneself, indicates the absence of a safe space.

You could be the unsuspecting parent, or the boyfriend who brushes aside their partner’s pain. You could be the friend who laughs off your bestie’s anxiety. You could be the stern traditionalist family member who dismisses their child’s cry for help. While some do this because they think denial helps get rid of the problem, some pettily think a depressed person is seeking attention. The shocking part to me is that you – whoever you are and whatever your reasons for being the way you are – are in the majority. That is the reason your child, your friend, your sister, is coming to me – someone depressed who is also unqualified to help – for help. This is the reason they might never get proper help.

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But, forget that. As much as I try to help, your refusal to help them is what could make them come undone. An environment of hostility, which lacks kindness or understanding, is not an ideal situation for someone fighting depression. If we become someone a person cannot come up and talk to, what is our purpose in a person’s life? Our desensitised nature and the sheer absence of a safe, comforting space for people to open up are what cause depression in the first place. This is what leads to a person feeling desperate enough to end their life.

A vicious cycle like this, which triggers and perpetrates the problem of poor mental health, cannot be cured just with medicines or therapists. The cure has to come from us. Look around you, at your friends, family, colleagues, and be the solution instead of the problem for them.

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