Depression is still a “Western illness” for most of us and has come to light only after few celebrities opened up about suffering from it. We tend to even not acknowledge depression in ourselves and others. Our unwillingness to learn more about it, know its symptoms and be sensitive to observe and spot it timely, has led to increased number of suicides in our country.
Is depression real?
Well, yes it is. It can happen to any individual at any point in time triggered by sometimes direct, sometimes discreet and at times no reason at all. All of us have been sad and depressed at many times and the phase passes by and we recover and carry on with our lives. Only that in some cases, people suffering from it need external help to tide over it. And it definitely is not a parameter to judge the sanity, credibility or standing of a person. The onus is on close friends and family to be able to spot its incidence and extend a hand of support.
Why I am writing about it?
By now, many of those who know me must be wondering why I chose this topic. Well, yes you guessed it right. It takes a lot of courage and conviction to talk about the lowest and darkest period of your life, especially something that just doesn’t seem to go with your ‘perceived’ personality. I am known to be strong headed, determined, active and positive person and for someone with these traits, suffering from depression would be the most unlikely thing. But yes it happened. And I have never wished it hadn’t, for it taught me a lot more than I thought I knew about human emotions and made me more sensitive and empathetic as a person.
Today, I have mustered the courage to acknowledge it openly (this may surprise some and shock many) and talk about it, not to gather sympathy but with a hope to help others – both victims and rescuers. I consider myself to be plain lucky to have recovered from it with minimal damage. Everyone may or may not be as lucky.
Why is it important to spot the onset of depression at the earliest?
I was alone and lonely in my battle with depression. People around me, though well-meaning, weren’t as aware or alert to spot the changes in me and step up to help. Others who would have noticed something unusual in my ways didn’t care to talk about it or help. So eventually I was on my own, fighting a battle about which I had no clue or clarity. It was like a dark, oxygenless, never-ending tunnel-maze through which I wandering from one closed end to another, clueless and emotionless, for a hint of light and hope. That is perhaps the closest possible description of what I felt at that time. Only later, much later, I came to know that I just survived the dreaded D-word! Whoa, that does make me a fighter, a survivor and a winner, and it is no mean feat!
Looking back, I now think, had I had friends, spouse or family who had an idea about depression and could spot the onset of it, urged me to share or talk, helped me discharge my responsibilities by pitching in and pushed me to seek professional counselling, it would have made my struggle a lot easier and my time at it a lot shorter.
Over-time I developed a great interest in the issue and began reading a lot of literature, research and case studies related to depression. My knowledge and awareness increased and with time I enrolled myself in multiple forums to learn more about depression to be able to extend meaningful help to those in distress.
Depression may not always obvious. Most times it can masquerade as ‘just another low phase’ and could take some time to be diagnosed. It is critical for friends and close ones to notice the tell-tale signs of depression so that they can offer early help because depression is a painful condition, both for the victim as well as his/her loved ones.
What are the common symptoms of depression?
It is very important to spot the onset of depression in self and/or close ones to be able to manage it effectively. The following are some signs that could be red flags.
- Unexplained sadness and hopelessness that won’t go away
- Feeling of guilt and worthlessness.
- Persistent irritability, anxiety, restlessness, and anger
- Feeling tired, sleepy and exhausted all the time
- Unexplained loss of energy and stamina
- Loss of interest in once pleasurable activities like catching up with friends, hitting the gym, going for that run, fun family outings, social interactions, and even sex
- Developing excessive online presence, be it social media, online shopping or virtual games, as a coping mechanism and avoiding human interaction.
- Negative social media posts and shares and use of certain negative hashtags like #broken #failure #sadandlonely etc
- Taking less care of personal grooming and looks
- Difficulty in simple decision making and being in perpetual state of confusion
- Sudden and excessive gain or loss of weight. Some people could develop loss of appetite while for others food could offer comfort.
- Recurring thoughts of death, imagining death and sudden planning for your dependants in form of savings and insurance
- The last and the most dangerous – attempting to end one’s life
What must you do?
Assess. Acknowledge. Act.
If you spot some or most of these signs, in yourself or your close ones, and the signs seem to be severe and have lasted longer than a couple of weeks, it’s a cue to seek help. Don’t be in denial or use your own measuring tape to measure its intensity and severity, instead seek help from trusted friends and family, and better still from a professional counselor or therapist.
Listed are some organizations that excel at offering aid and counseling to fight depression.
- The Mind Research Foundation, Bangalore & Chandigarh
- AASRA, Mumbai
- NIMHANS Centre for Wellbeing, Bangalore
- Cadabam’s Rehab, Bangalore
- Hope Trust India, Hyderabad
- Mind Body Clinic, Bangalore
- Manipal Hospital, Bangalore, Jaipur, Goa, Mangalore
Additionally, there is a number of reputed and credible institutions such as Seraniti, eWellness Expert, 7Cups, Hope Network and more that offer therapy sessions online. Online therapy is as useful and effective as live sessions.
Depression is not hereditary, neither is it a sign of weakness or a reason for shame – it is just another illness, that if diagnosed on time, is curable and fully so. Neither is it a mental illness nor permanent. So, don’t wait for things to deteriorate. If you notice anything amiss, stand up, reach out and take action. It could save a life.
Life is precious and living it well makes it beautiful!