There are many misconceptions or preconceived notions about what depression is. It is perceived as a feeling of bleak and extreme sadness. But depression is not just a feeling, an emotion or a state of mind. I'd describe depression as a thick dark cloud that just sticks to you and refuses to be peeled off. There were days when I did manage but the feeling of extreme sadness combined with worthlessness and helplessness lingered around. This was until I sought help from a mental health professional who helped me manage my depression. Looking back to the time I struggled to understand my mind, I often wonder if things may have been easier if those around me understood my illness. Would that have helped in hastening the recovery process? Would that have helped me deal with depression more effectively? Understanding depression has helped me articulate how those around me can help.
1. The invisible emotional injuries: Much like physical injuries, emotional injuries take time to heal. But unlike physical injuries, they are invisible. Those vulnerable to depression are more vulnerable to emotional injuries too.
Empathy is the first-aid: During the counseling sessions I realized what it meant to be understood. When someone is able to genuinely understand what you are feeling, it opens many doors to seeking help.The empathy shown by the psychologist helped me in expressing the blocked emotions. It gave me strength to recoup from the emotional injuries.
2. You can’t snap out of it: Depression is not a sort of a thing that you sleep over and forget the next morning. Nor can one snap out of it when they please.
It takes time to heal: Depression is an illness and ignoring it will not make it go away. After having sought help I understood that my depression was manifold. There were layers that I needed to unfold in the process of recovery and this took time.
3. Not the same as being lazy: Being in a depressed state is not the same as how one feels after a heavy lunch. There is a lack of motivation associated with being depressed that makes it difficult to do routine activities, to go to work, to laugh or to focus. To be more precise, depression injures the mental faculties. It hurts to be in such a state and it’s not enjoyable at all. This maybe coated with feelings of guilt for not being able to do the things one wants to. The idea of being lazy reinforces the guilt and makes it worse.
Understanding and offering positive reinforcement: My family and friends accepting me in spite of my illness, positively reinforced the help I recieved from the psychiatrist and psychologist.
4. Cycle of worthlessness, hopelessness and helplessness: Experiencing depression means one cannot help but feel depressed. When one has this dark cloud of depression within, it controls how one views the self, the world and the future. In such a condition, one maybe unable to trust and confide in anyone often leading to a vicious cycle of worthlessness, hopelessness and helplessness.
Showing care and support: The consulting psychiatrist and psychologist were caring and supportive and this made a world of difference to me. They made me feel comfortable to express what I was feeling, accompanied with non-judgmental listening. It instilled hope and gave me an opportunity to trust.