Depression is not so much a mental illness as a state of life. Though it is classified medically in medical literature under the Psychiatry branch of medicine, it exists so subtly and in so many forms, that it is often unrecognisable as a mental disorder. Many with depression, mild or otherwise, continue to perform in life, being big on the celebrity scene or experts in their field.
Look at Robin Williams. Look at Johnny Depp, Ellen DeGeneres, Harrison Ford, Angelina Jolie, Chester Bennington, Leslie Chung.. the list of celebrities go on. Then there is Michael Phelps, JK Rowlings, Agatha Christie,… even Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of England and Barbara Bush, the First Lady of America are not spared. These form perhaps, just the tip of the iceberg.
I suppose these people come to notice because of who they are, because of their fame. Many draw sympathy because of their positions and the seemingly understandable stress they experience where they are.
What then of the common people? Who sees their stress and understand where they are?
Depression is a disorder that respects no boundaries and holds no forms. All triggers are possible. What is one man’s treasure is another man’s poison. What makes one overjoyed, makes another depressed. It hits the rich, it hits the poor.
It hits suddenly, it hits hard.. it can kill. It can grow subtly, creep into every aspect of your life…and suddenly, you are there, facing death and debating about it. It respects no man, no time and no conventions.
From whence does depression creep in? It starts right inside… a niggling sensation, that then grows… and then voom!! Its there before you know it. Mostly, Sometimes, one does know and is helpless against its growth.
You keep busy, surround yourself with activities, busy yourself with people… and it patiently waits. It eats into your self-worth, your self-esteem… regardless of how capable a person you actually are. Its like the devil intent on tearing your soul apart. And actually, that’s what it does…if you can’t keep it at bay and let it take hold of you.
It is well possible to apply logic, look at your achievements honestly, know you are capable.. and still feel overwhelmed. That is why it does not only strike those who are without skills or less able in life. In contrast, the ‘poor’ will snigger and question the rationale behind these supposedly more able and richer people succumbing – they had everything in the world – what reasons are there to be depressed – they ask? Look at me! I am the one who should be depressed. The rich, the poor, the ignoramus, the professor, all equally liable.
There is also the common man, the student, the office worker, the middle class… life can be rich, filled. We understand depression when results are poor, when grades suffer, when there is illness, when there is marital discord… and when there aren’t any of these? The popular student, the life of the party, the one surrounded by friends, the popular chap… where does depression get a hold?
Is it the personality? Are we born susceptible? Nature versus nurture? Approximately 40% will have a genetic link. A Depression gene has indeed been identified. The other 60% have environmental contributors. There are hormonal influences too. If your serotonin is low, then the tendency to fall into depression is higher. Serotonin is also the love hormone. It is no wonder that depression is so often linked to failed relationships. Hence again, which is the chicken and which is the egg?
The depressed tend to do poorer in relationships I’m sure. It is usually a vicious circle. Those who feel low will feel little drive. There is little motivation. You will feel like you don’t want to do anything. And with that, you sink deeper, lower. Serotonin plunges. The feel good drops further. And then soon you would be in the deep pit.
And for most people, you start out with putting up a front. How are you? I’m fine. I’m great. I’m ok.
You plaster on a smile. You go along with activities. You appear happy, even jovial. These are the dangerous ones cos no one sees any signs.
‘He was alright just the day before! He was laughing!’
‘She was even planning a holiday….’
How many of us are so close to all our friends that we can see immediately into them when they choose not to let us see what’s going on? Are we so in-tuned to the feelings of all the people around us? Or are we so busy going about our own business that we don’t even spare a second to ponder on the well being of the people around us?
Or, pause, perhaps, we are in the category that this article describes.
Are we in that rut ourselves? Have we been there? Did we get ourselves out? If we had, we should be able to recognize the signs and tune in more easily.
You know what it feels to reach the end, the bottom of the pit. But sometimes, you just feel it is helpless. When you are totally numb and you move like a zombie.
And people who haven’t been through it think it’s so straightforward. Snap out of it! Get up! Just tell yourself! Mind over matter!
But it’s is never so simple. Everyone also just wants to snap out of it. Who doesn’t wish to be the simple, happy person they were before the dark descended on them.
If only things were so simple … if only science had answers.
In the meanwhile, suffice perhaps that each of us should just open our eyes to see closely at the people closest to us. To pick each other up. To reach out into the dark to find their hands. To hope that if we ourselves are in the dark, that someone, just one, will be able to reach out to grab our hand. Then perhaps the world will just be a tad less dark, a little less rough. If we can just start with that, living with a bit of soul, then it might just suffice.