Since the beginning of time, mental health has been a taboo topic. People tell themselves all kinds of lies to justify how they feel. Peers mock others if they see someone struggling through the day. Others pile up unsolicited advice that does no good. In no way should mental health be taken as a joke.
In ancient times, odd behaviors were termed “melancholia.” Women who would complain about not feeling well in the head were termed as “witches.” They would be beaten by their husbands so that they don’t talk nonsense. Thankfully, now we know that feeling “not right in the head” is an illness. This illness can come in various forms, out of which the most common one is depression.
What is Depression?
The development in medicine and psychology has concluded that depression is an illness that can be cured. Gone are the days when it was only considered as a façade or an excuse for being lazy. In simple terms, “depression is a mood or emotional state marked by feelings of low self-worth or guilt and a reduced ability to enjoy life.” (Source)
In severe cases, depression can lead to self-harm even suicidal thoughts.
A person suffering from depression may not even realize that something is off with them. A depressed person would often find it hard to explain how they feel. They would feel a loss of interest in things they once enjoyed or would simply put off tasks at hand. In short, they would likely keep everything to themselves.
The odd yet important thing about depression is that it is not as visible as other illnesses. It is often perceived that major failures or losses in life are the only reasons people feel extreme sadness. This could not be more wrong, considering that so many successful people get diagnosed with depression. Some even give in and find peace with death. A Peak example of such a case would be Robin Williams, a darling comedian. His suicide took everyone was a surprise, but his autopsy reports showed significant signs of depression and anxiety.
What Causes Depression?
In any given year, the ratio of depressed people is one in every 15 adults. Narrowing it down would tell us that one in every five people suffers from depression at least once in their lives. Although there is no particular age for it to occur, the mid-20s are the really hard ones. In general, women are more prone to this illness than men.
The causes of depression vary from person to person. While the doctors have come up with a list of elaborate reasons, it is still possible that someone may have more than one:
Genetics: the chances of inheriting depression increase by 40% if any of the first-degree relatives experienced it in the past.
Abuse: physical or sexual abuse by the hands of an elder during childhood can lead to depression in later years of life.
Past Trauma: Significant events that negatively affected a person, like an accident.
Death or Loss: natural grief after a loved one’s death can be a potential trigger for depression.
New Beginnings: Getting married or starting a new business/job and similar prospects that require extra efforts may result in mild to severe depression.
These are just some factors that can be the culprit behind depression. However, the only thing that can be done to navigate the absolute cause is to start talking about it.
How does depression look Like?
As already mentioned, depression can be a result of several factors. Sometimes people endure toxic behavior from people at home and/or work. More often than not, a depressed person feels a sense of helplessness regarding their current situations. They feel as if nothing could be done to change their reality, so they try to make peace with everything. Such people rarely speak up for themselves. They endure everything that is thrown at them, for which people perceive them as cowards.
On the other hand, extreme cases of depression can bring out violent behavior. A person who was once considered calm may get easily triggered at minor inconveniences. Prolonged and prevalent depression can result in suicide attempts. Up to 60% of all suicide cases had major depression.
Following are some behaviors that can help you identify a depressed or suicidal person:
Change in behavior in social gatherings
Antisocial approach, rejecting anyone’s help or simply avoiding people, even friends and family
A decline in productivity, especially at work
A decline in academic progress
Loss or gain of weight that was not intentional
Wishing harm on one’s self or wishing to have “never been born.”
Not caring about one’s health or well-being
Dealing with Depression
On October 10, 2016, World Mental Health Day was organized with the campaign slogan “Depression: Let’s Talk.” The next year, World Health Day was dedicated to mental health by WHO. Such awareness initiatives have been a major source of motivation for people. It urges everyone to stop burying everything within themselves and start talking about it.
A plethora of material is available on the internet about how one should cope with depression. Many of them are authentic, but it is understandable that for a depressed person, finishing a simple task can be daunting. So, how should it be started then? The answer is simple: start by taking the following baby steps:
The first and foremost thing that can be done is to embrace what you are going through. Talk to yourself about how you feel and what made you feel like this. You cannot hide anything from yourself – deep down in the subconscious, we already know everything. Even if you can’t find a reason, the acknowledgment is enough to get a head start.
Don’t Over Exert Yourself
Now that you have accepted your condition, it is time for you to understand that it is okay to feel sad or even cry. If you feel like crying, you can cry your heart out. If you feel like spending the day alone, you are allowed to do that. Make sure that once you are done wallowing, you get up a little lighter than before. What’s not okay is keeping everything suppressed inside you.
Another way of keeping tabs on yourself is journaling about your feelings. Write how and what you feel. You may burn the pages afterward, but this is one step to your recovery.
You Are Not Alone
Know that you are not the only one who is going through this. Everything that you are going through is already endured by someone else in the world. Also, know that there are people around you who want to reach out and help. They could be family or friends. If you see any of them making an attempt at making you feel better, do not shake them away. There is no shame in accepting help. In fact, your loved ones will feel happy about your progress.
Set Simple Goals
It’s okay if you don’t feel like cleaning the whole house. How about you start by cleaning your room or just making your bed. People with depression often find it hard to groom themselves properly. Brushing your teeth or hair a day is an achievement for them. Be kind to yourself. You do not have to expect something huge from yourself. If you have done more than what you did yesterday, give yourself a pat!
It may feel as if you are isolated in this big wide world. That you don’t have anyone to talk to or rather, they won’t understand you. You’ll never know this for sure until you have actually tried talking to others. As said earlier, your loved ones want to see you healthy and enjoying life. All you need to do is stay connected to them and let them know if they can be of any help.
Seek Professional Help
There was a time when seeing a “shrink” was considered a laughing matter. Only “crazy” people would do something like that. That is not the case anymore. In fact, it is encouraged by health experts to seek therapy as soon as you can. Not only will it help you in your recovery, but it will also get you diagnosed with the exact issue you have. You’ll be prescribed proper medications, which will help keep anxiety under control. Opening up to a professional will surely light your heart. Soon you will find that it is not that hard to talk about it.
Keep Yourself Busy
An empty mind will eventually bring about negative memories. It is advised to keep at least one hobby and pursue it. It can be anything that you love. Some people find solace in traveling to places. Others like to write poetry using their emotions as words. Some often take up responsibility like adopting a pet or taking care of other people. In this way, they feel satisfied in doing something productive.
Join a Support Group
Support groups are common in America. They help people by getting them together and letting their feelings out. By joining such groups, you will notice that many people have overcome their depression and are now leading happy lives. Hearing their stories can motivate a depressed soul. Who knows, you’ll be a success story in the future, motivating other people.
Depression Is Real
Yes, it is real, but it can be cured. Just because everything is in your brain doesn’t mean nothing can be done about it. You need to take the first step, and the rest will follow. You mustn’t give up and keep convincing yourself that you are an important part of society. There is a difference between overcoming your depression and brushing it under the carpet. Make sure that you strive to overcome it instead of suppressing it within you.