Keeping the demons at bay: Dealing with depression
It creeps up on you, like a snake slithering in the grass, silent but deadly. One minute everything’s fine, you’re laughing with your friends, or singing along to your favorite tune, and the next the pillows are stained with your tears and the giant sitting on your chest just won’t leave you alone.
Depression attacks people different ways, but make no mistake about it, it does attack. Perhaps the most common symptoms are persistent feelings of grief, loneliness, and helplessness. It’s a perpetual gray cloud obscuring an otherwise lovely summer’s day.
For many of us, these emotions are triggered by different things: perhaps a strained relationship with family members, a difficult and domineering superior at work, financial woes, or, most likely, issues concerning romantic attachments.
Sometimes, the exact cause of depression is untraceable and undefinable; it swoops in when you least expect it, sudden and mysterious, and you’re reduced to a quivering mass of heartache and tears. And you can’t even explain why it’s happening.
While I’ve never been professionally diagnosed as suffering from clinical depression, I believe I’m informed enough to know that there is something not right about chronic bouts of sadness and anxiety. People feel “down” all the time: a favorite sports team lost a game, the last pair of shoes on the sale rack you’ve been pining for isn’t there anymore, your crush didn’t reply to your text message.
Real depression is much more serious. It’s the kind of energy-draining, life-sucking despair that grips your insides and takes you prisoner. It takes over your life, affecting everything from eating and sleeping habits to social interactions. Extreme cases lead to thoughts of self-mutilation and even suicide. It’s a very real, very serious problem and I believe only an open and honest conversation about it could potentially spell the difference between a life saved and a life ended.
There have been two cases of high-profile alleged suicides that have been reported in the news in recent months. One involved a fashion model and staple in the party circuit, and the other, a social media manager for a telecoms company.
I did not know either one of them personally, but we had lots of common friends, and for weeks after their demise, my social media feed was filled with expressions of sorrow and sympathies. Despite conjecture from different sources, I have no idea what was going through their heads at the time of their deaths. It’s very likely, though, that both dealt with severe cases of depression.
The latter’s case, in particular, had a profound effect on me. There was one morning two days after his death that I spent hours just going through his Twitter and Instagram accounts, trying to get to know who he was, what made him happy, and what caused him pain. I related to many of his posts; his love for music, his travel experiences, even his random musings on life and love.
I never met him, but I felt a connection; this guy could have been me. And I wondered about the burden that he carried with him, a weight that he felt was so great that he chose death over living another second with it.
I don’t think I’m suicidal, but I will admit that I have grappled with the thought in the past, as I believe many of us have at one time or another. I remember intense feelings of emptiness and self-loathing that stretched for days and weeks. There was one time I was talking to a friend and I broke down in tears without knowing why.
For a time I retreated from social contact and preferred to spend time alone in my room, wallowing in my own grief. There were physical symptoms; a tightening of my chest and difficulty breathing. During this time, all the cursory words of well-wishes and platitudes from close friends and loved ones did nothing for me. They meant well, of course, but I was lost in my own planet of hopelessness and self-pity.
I don’t know what exactly got me out of this black hole, but looking back on it now, it was probably the resolve to just keep going, to look ahead and realize that things were going to get better. It helped that I had close friends who never gave up on me, and to whom I turned to when the dark “episodes” hit, but ultimately, I think it was deciding for myself that, as with most things in life, the shadows were temporary, and brighter days were up ahead.
I can’t say that those feelings are completely gone now. Sometimes, it’s a daily struggle to keep the demons at bay, but with a great support system from friends and family, I think I’m better equipped to handle them now.
I know the case is different for other people, and those dealing with depression may find little comfort from the words of a complete stranger, but if you’re one of those people, let me say this: this, too, shall pass. Believe me, I’ve been there. -Rappler.com
While great strides have been made in the medical field about identifying and treating depression, here in the Philippines, the sad reality is that there is still a stigma attached to it. If you think you’re depressed, talk to trusted friends or family members. It helps. If you’re more comfortable talking to a complete stranger, call the Hope Hotline 893 7603 and 893 7606
Depressed man image via Shutterstock
Paul John Caña is the managing editor of Lifestyle Asia magazine and is a live music geek. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @pauljohncana