Do we understand depression? In our mind we have a picture of a depressed person, and we stick to it – media plays a big role in keeping this idea alive. The idea of shallowness is bred inside us slowly from childhood, so we tend to believe if a guy or a girl ‘looks’ normal, he or she is normal. That’s a lie that people with depression have to endure.
There is no perfect life. We always tend to think somebody is living a better life than ours. More often than not, the measuring stick is money. A rich person is happier – that idea comes naturally. Then why does Japan, a country with far greater per capita income than India has more depressed people than anywhere in the world? The answer is simple – money can never buy complete happiness, neither can it give you perfection. Those terms are relative, that means they always change. Whatever you thought would make you happy when you are ten years old won’t make you happy anymore. Money can buy materialistic parts of happiness. Sure, shiny gadgets, a swanky house, a trophy partner, deformities fixed with generic doses of botox and silicone would make you covetable to a large part of the society, but in the end, it never takes you closer to the perfect life. It just creates a bigger bubble. When it bursts, you are left with your showpieces that laugh at you.
Depression comes in many forms, but expectations are by far the biggest cause. Our society has reached a point where the load of expectations that come with your status are manifold – some apparent, and some hidden. To keep up with those expectations push us to the brink of sadness, and depression, because those expectations do not honour a person’s existence. Regardless of what or who you want to be, you are burdened with things. A big list of things. And then one morning you wake up and you realize how stupid you have been following the norm, trying to be perfect in the eye of the society. Only the society doesn’t care. Like a well oiled machine, it continues rolling. Faces and identities and existences and souls are words that poets and writers write and singers sing about, but in reality, all that matters is your mask, and the list written inside it that you see every time you put it on.
A perfect guy or a perfect girl can be a victim of depression, because he or she never talks about it and people don’t come to know of it. Deepika Padukone, a celebrated Indian actress have been vocal about her depression. I had a chance to talk about this to a couple of my friends, and we all knew what she was referring to – to the masses, she had a perfect life : she was beautiful, successful, rich, had a great boyfriend (who’s also an actor). Why would she be depressed?
Why wouldn’t she be?
I have been battling my depression for quite some time. It has never reached its peak, but at times the pressure is overwhelming. I can understand it slowly eating me from inside, because depression gives rise to anxiety, and anxiety soon turns into panic. I first experienced my panic attack three years back. I thought it was another health issue altogether, but when it happened a few more times, I made a point to go and see the doctor to have my body scanned. Nothing was found, and the doctor gave me some anti-anxiety medicine. Dumbfound, I asked him what these were for, and he told me not to panic much and take the meds till the issue went away.
The issue really didn’t go away. It was subdued for a moment, and crept back in again next year, and then the same pattern continued. I had to convince myself that my life wasn’t in shambles; that I wasn’t falling apart or going insane. That the existential thoughts that popped up in my brain every now and then weren’t signs of my gradual rejection of society. The doctor also asked me if I had any suicidal tendencies off late. No, I answered. I never had the thought of ending my life. But the panic attack that started as a result of my overthinking about my life, and depression, made me reflect on my life a lot more. I saw people around me battling depression and PTSD as well, some winning, some losing, some stuck, and it gave me hope. There was a way to fight this. I understood Deepika’s condition perfectly because I heard the same phrase from many of my friends, that I had a ‘perfect life’. Because I had a good job, I could scribble, sketch and sing (?), looked decent enough (read moderately fat), and had a stable relationship. Why was I depressed, why was I talking about a disease that the World Health Organization said would be the biggest epidemic in the world in 2020? They didn’t understand. People still don’t understand depression very well.
Depression is not what TV shows and movies tell you. It has many roots, and can happen to anybody, regardless of their faith and origin. There are many ways to battle depression. Some go to the doctors for help, others turn to spirituality and religion for solace. But the best medicine always lies in you. My depression came into existence because of expectations as well : I wanted a happy medium between being an introvert and being an extrovert. Only there wasn’t any. I lost friends along the way, and gained no new ones. People were there around me, but they only befriended me for their own reasons. The lack of people with whom I could speak my heart to dwindled. Even when I had a bad day, I had to come and swallow my feelings. Writing helped for a while (and it still helps a lot!), but in the end the burden started to overpower me and things started to overflow.
I made new friends now. A couple of very good young kids have formed a group around me, and some old friends have reestablished connection with me. Pleasant surprises are always welcome, because it keeps the depression away for quite a while. Like meeting my ex. Though we never had the courage of discussing our past, the meeting was good enough to keep my mind away from the depths of darkness, because I talked and talked and let my heart out with her. It felt like a big rock had been taken off my chest.
One thing I’ve understood is that the power lies within us. Everybody doesn’t get to do everything. Where’s the fun in doing everything? But nobody’s live is worth giving up, no matter how bogged down he or she is. And nobody is perfect. The beauty of life lies in its imperfection. Everyone’s life should be different, and we should accept and manifest that difference in us. Therein lies our greatest asset – diversity. Depression is a disease that needs our attention, but the root causes of depression should go away first. We should stop worshipping the ideas of perfect lives, the notions that money can buy everything. Mass depression is very hard to control. Japan has a proof in Aokigohara. We surely don’t want jungles to be famous for suicides now, do we?