“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.
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.