The term “depression” is often loosely used to describe sadness. But not many of us are aware or acknowledge that it is much more than that. Before I continue, here is a disclaimer, I am no psychologist or psychiatrist and neither have I consulted one to write this. These are my thoughts based on what I know about the topic and the objective of this article is only to raise awareness not to diagnose the condition or prescribe any treatment.
From what I have seen, depression does not discriminate. True that we are at greater risk, when we have lost a loved one, lost a job, are battling terminal illness, suffering in a bad marriage or going through rough times but you’ll be surprised to know that people who we think “have it all” in terms of a great job, a loving family, success, money, etc. can also be affected. Even new mothers are not spared as they can have post-natal blues! The problem with the condition is that you cannot tell if someone is undergoing depression or needs help because, they themselves probably don’t know it and even if they do, they put on a beautiful brave smile and no one will ever know how broken they really are inside.
In India, although times are changing, you are considered ill only if there is some physical evidence of it. Even when you know something is off and you try telling someone, they will say “Oh, you are having a bad day, try to do something fun, it will cheer you up.” Or “What! You have everything going great for you, why are you depressed? Stop feeling sorry for yourself and chin up!” So, although the person reaching out actually needs professional help, she tries to follow the well-meaning advice from her friends and family and silently continues to suffer. That can be dangerous as it can go on to seriously affect one’s mental and physical health.
Learn to trust your instincts. All of us feel sad or low from time to time, but if you or someone you know experiences these feelings intensely (for weeks or longer) and especially for no apparent reason, then don’t ignore it. As a first step, read up about it. There is so much literature available on the internet so take advantage of the times we live in and educate yourself. Some websites have the general symptoms listed that include, not wanting to go out anymore, not getting things done, withdrawing from family and friends, feeling extremely overwhelmed, frustrated, miserable and tired all the time, etc. These are just some of the many ways depression can manifest itself. Confide in a close family member or friend, someone who you can trust and who will support you. Then seek the required medical help.
We are all wonder women, but that does not mean we are untouched by the realities of life. It’s how we choose to tackle the demons, both on the inside and outside of us that matters. Depression is an illness and it is not a reflection of you as a woman. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.