No, Depression Does Not Just Mean Sadness

“I am depressed.”

It seems like such a simple thing to say, really. We are human beings, capable of feeling a vast range of emotions. So, when it starts raining just on a morning you had wanted to picnic, you can say it’s depressing. As is the taste of the food, the colour of the walls, your mood after watching a TV series. We are all ‘depressed’ about something or the other, almost every day.

Except it is not depression. It is an emotion of feeling sad, disappointed, frustrated, or melancholic. It is NOT about feeling all those things, compounded several times over, for long, interminable periods, and often without an overarching reason. In fact, sadness is but a sign of depression, among others that vary for different people – loss/gain of weight or appetite, lack of interest in things that interested us before, or even poor libido. “Sadness” is a poor parallel to draw with depression, and hardly adequate.

Why I am writing this today is because this lack of understanding about depression really bugs me. I am no medical expert on the subject but I do know this – depression is not something you can just “grow out of” or “stop being all the time” or “cheer up with a drink”. I understand that people who use the term lightly, or in an offhand manner, may not be referring to its clinical equivalent. They are just expressing a state of mind. However, with time and repeated usage, this has made it very difficult for people who are genuinely battling clinical depression to be understood or taken seriously.

Depression is not just sadness

Around me, I see people laughing at those who stare blankly out of windows, or wake up in the morning feeling hollow, or keep away from social gatherings, or cannot answer the “tell me ONE reason you’re feeling sad” question. It is not a tendency to be poetic or histrionic or dramatic that makes people depressed. It is not a shout for attention or a publicity stunt. I cannot speak for the many celebrities who, in recent times, have shared their struggles with mental health. Or of friends and colleagues who have taken to Facebook and Instagram to post sunny pictures in an effort to combat their demons. Why do we assume their stories are faked to get media love? Maybe, they just felt more confident about sharing these experiences in light of our world’s increased acceptance toward mental battles.

Depression is not something that can be repaired by “trying to mix with others” or “trying to be happy”. These things may help, I don’t know, but what is of utmost importance is understanding and acceptance. From a partner, from family members, from a friend who cares.

I may be overreacting to this entire thing. But the next time someone tells me they are depressed, I am going to enquire into the situation and, if required, suggest some more appropriate adjectives to depict their state of mind.

Picture from quotefancy.com

Why Evenings Have Changed

Sunset
It is early evening. I can hear the birds chirping excitedly, convening to discuss the night’s meal and if the chicks are going to be happy with what they are taking home. The lights have started coming on in the windows I can see from mine; there are candles in some. An old man is slowly walking on the pavement, carrying a bagful of pastries for his grandchildren. I can hear their faraway giggles from the neighbourhood’s park; they are glad the swings are no longer covered in snow. Perhaps they aren’t his grandchildren. Perhaps his grandchildren are away, in another country, and he only gets to talk to them on Christmas and birthdays. Maybe he is taking the pastries for his wife. Maybe for himself. But I digress.
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Chasing Sunshine

Last week, from Monday through Friday, the sun came up every single morning. It was bright and sunny at 6 AM and the rest of the day remained pleasant, even if not too warm. This was a welcome change from the long winter months of grey skies and snow and rare, if any, visits from the sun. I determined to make the most of this change over the weekend when I would venture out into the sunshine and let it warm my winter-beaten fingers and toes. I would also finally discard my black fur jacket which has been my constant companion in the last few months. While it is pretty and smart (considering I made sure R spent quite a lot of time helping me pick one), I have tired of its weight and its brooding reminder of how winter beats down on us still, relentless and forlorn. Continue reading

The Sounds of Solitude

Vaccum cleaning that starts at 7 AM in the morning. Drilling work at the house being constructed across the street. Wailing toddlers making a last attempt at looking miserable so the parents would say it’s okay, school is off. Barking dogs enthusiastic about their morning walk.

Who says the mornings here are quiet?

My little residential area here in Vienna is full of odd noises throughout the day. Things slow down in the afternoons, when the leaves sway in the wind and the rainclouds pour. But there is still the sudden shout from the kids going back home from school, a distant volley of giggles from a group of college students. And sometimes, people calling out to each other in a mix of sounds that could even be Hindi. And yet, I hear a lot of, “Isn’t it absolutely quiet there? Don’t you get bored?” Continue reading

Exclaim Not

We learnt many punctuation marks at school. A variety of ways to express emotion in writing. Figures of speech. Multiple sentence forms. And yet, today, all of that has boiled down to, for so many of us, a single measly symbol. The exclamation mark. It has become the universal symbol of expressing all sorts of emotions – from urgency to happiness and disdain to anger. Now while I don’t deny that all of us have the right to exclaim as much as we want, I cannot also deny the intense reaction it provokes in me. Continue reading

Year-End Resolutions – or Not – and Some Thoughts

New YearIt’s that time of the year again. When the year that’s been by your side all this while starts feeling old, and you can’t wait to shake it off, like a bad habit, and embrace the new. Or, at another extreme, you cannot let go of all that the year has shown you, and are afraid that the coming year may not be as compassionate. At this time every year, many of us ritually go through the process of thinking about resolutions. In simple terms – what can I do to become a better and happier person in the times to come? Sounds very noble when put like that, doesn’t it? After all, what’s the human spirit if not keen on bettering itself continually? When I think about it, there are so many resolutions I could make. Continue reading

Ghosts From the Past

Our paper skeleton didn’t look half scary. To be honest, he had such a goofy smile on his paper face that he couldn’t scare anyone even if he started jumping on the parapet. By his side, our felt-paper witch stood demurely, waiting it out till the sparkle on her hat dried.

“They make quite a pair, don’t they?” I asked Mom, nudging her as she put some final touches on to our jack-o-lantern. It was quite a task placing it at a location where our curious cats wouldn’t be able to overturn it and create a fire hazard. I watched as she carefully set it aglow and put the lid back on. The stairway lit up – a soft, gleaming light that dispelled all melancholic thoughts of early winter, even from my granddad’s mind. He joined us in looking at it and also dropped a few chocolates into the owl-shaped pouch we had hung by the window. We hadn’t explained to him yet what it was that we were celebrating. But he knew very well that chocolates were universal tokens of celebration. Continue reading

Shades of Autumn

I loved drawing big leaves all over my school art-book. I would then colour them in green, orange, red and yellow.

“The reds and yellows and oranges are for autumn,” I’d tell mom knowledgeably, “You know the leaves turn into those colours before they all turn white in winter!”

It is another story that I never really saw these colours in the trees outside my house in Delhi. They’d sometimes get a muddy yellow at best. This is why, when R and I ventured out for a walk by the Danube the other day, I was in for a glorious surprise.

All the trees around us have metamorphosed into autumnal delights. Their leaves have been painted, presumably by the heavens, into striking colours that look very like the crayon drawings in my old art-book. There are huge scoopfuls of leaves strewn all over the roads, almost like a leafy carpet. It is the proverbial autumn. And if it wasn’t for my jackets and headgear that kind of restrict movement, I would have jumped into the piles of leaves like I have seen some dogs do.

Vienna in Autumn Continue reading

Of Red, Hormones and Girl-Things You Shouldn’t Discuss

White and Red Skirt

She ran to the nearest washroom. It was the PT period and everyone was down at the playground. Nobody saw her running to the washroom. She shut the door on herself, almost throwing up at the stink. No matter how highbrow the school, the washrooms oddly started to stink toward the end of the day. Now, she told herself, surely it wouldn’t be so bad. Surely it would last out for another hour or so. Continue reading