The recent, tragic passing of the late, great Robin Williams has put depression back in the forefront of the public mind, and subsequently had dredged up my memories of my own darkest days, during which I dwelt in the dreary depths of depression, which I intermittently slip back into even to this day. I never defeated depression, for the enemy within cannot be banished, but I overcome it now. I feel it would be prudent at this time to discuss depression in my own views, banishing the misconceptions – as a disclaimer I will openly state that depression is a broad term, encompassing many experiences, differing with root causes and the environments in which it occurs, and so one man’s depression is not the same as all others.
Firstly, sadness does not equate to depression. Depression is not a state of constant sadness, but rather it is the hopelessness which burdens a person when they are trapped in a pit of despair and simply cannot conceive of any way out, no matter how much the try to puzzle out a solution. It is inexplicable in how overwhelming and overpowering a sensation it is – I would liken it to being caught in cartoon-ish quicksand: one is mired in sadness, stuck in this horrid place where the world is painted in blacks and greys and nothing is right, and yet with every movement, every attempt to free oneself, the person sinks deeper, freedom becoming a more distant dream every moment. Depression is not a sadness brought about by an inconvenient situation or a painful event, but rather a sum of situations and events which compile to become so onerous, so overbearing that one feels there is no way to continue bearing their weight; fears, worries, responsibilities, financial problems, social problems, personal inabilities and inefficiencies all lying on your shoulders, crushing down with their immeasurable force, and yet in your mind there is no way this burden could be shared or dropped, no way to avoid it.
The most poignant and precise description I have ever read of the feeling I experienced when depressed is that which I found on Tumblr (the home of many great, and not so great, finds):
The worst part of depression is not the sadness, but the feeling that there is no way to end it. All possibilities seem…impossible. People tell you to stop being so gloomy and unhappy, commanding you to “lighten-up” as if it is something you can simply choose, as if you can shrug of this horrendous weight you bear on your mind. And they can never understand. For some reason, you convince yourself that telling someone, no matter what the ads say, just won’t help, and may actually worsen the situation, the person laughing at you, deciding your misery is something to be ridiculed. All possible help just seems pointless, some redundant action which may even worsen the situation. So what is the solution? What is the magic formula that turns depression into happiness?
There is none, and to reduce something as complex and multifaceted as depression to something solvable by some set of steps would be offensive and a falsity. however, there are certain actions which can help.
Talk to someone. They say that talking to someone shares the burden – Pah! Rubbish! As if the weight of all my problems will spontaneously lessen when I share them with another! All that will do is heap the same worries I have onto another’s shoulders so that we both have to struggle – sharing the problem solves nothing! Wrong – You know when you encounter a problem which poses difficulty, or your mentally carrying out some sum which is proving tasking you start to speak aloud, usually muttering, but sometimes progressing to full blown conversations with yourself? Well, that’s a natural response to difficulties. Voicing problems does not solve them, but often times it lends clarity, allows one to see the problem without the bustle of the mind getting in the way. While you might fear talking about your worries and problems with someone for fear of ridicule or perhaps burdening them with your problems, there are still ways to overcome this – there are plenty of confidential, secure helplines which offer a willing, and considerate ear – sometimes there is apprehension in calling some of these services, some thinking that the service just isn’t for you; if you’re depressed, it is, and your not going to be judged for using it! You may also be apprehensive in sharing problems with family or friends, but there is certainly someone who is willing to hear your problems and take them seriously. Talk to someone, because even hearing your own problems spoken aloud is helpful, and having a caring person to discuss problems with is infinitely better than retaining one’s misery out of misplaced pride or unnecessary care.
There’s always a solution! There’s no way out! There’s no way I can concur all these problems – there’s too many and they’re too big! I just, I just can’t! Of course there’s a solution, and just because you can’t see it does not mean it does not exist. We all have encountered problems that are too big in our lives, daunting tasks which seem too great, which fill us with fear and plague us with worry.Depression is often the product of an accumulation of these problems, so many of these unconquerable walls springing up before us that we are boxed in, trapped within a cage set by our problems. It is important that these problems be tackled one at a time, broken into small manageable chunks – instead of attacking all the walls with a hammer, focus on one, and once that has been broken down move on to another. Another essential component here, to abuse the platitude with overuse, is to talk to someone. It may sound tired and cliche, but it really does help.
Suicide is never the answer. We have all been there, our minds drifting to that most final of decisions in the darkest of night as the tears and the pains keep us awake. While the problems always seem insurmountable, such a situation is only temporary, but the decision to end ones life is irrevocable and final. Life is filled with pain, laced with suffering and tainted with struggle, but it is no less a wonder. You have one life. Once it ends, you end. You will never know its like again, though it will matter little once it is finished. There is so much for you to experience yet, so much joy yet to be garnered if you would only live to see it. Did you know that studies have found people to be most content and pleased in old age, when they have retired? Your best days are yet to come! You are greatness, every undiscovered wonder of the world and every joy yet to be had still within your grasp. Do not steal that opportunity away from yourself. Do not let the potential of your years let to be lived go to waste.
It is likely that no one in need will ever get to read this, and for that I am sorry, but ever a needy eye should ever stumble upon this, I hope it helps you. If you do happen to read this, and require a ready ear, I am ready and willing to chat if you leave a comment.
My deepest sympathies to the families and friends of all those victims of suicide and self-harm, I mourn their loss and the world will never know their like again.