Shinedown songs help me, they give me company. Therapy helps me, it gives me structure. Going to the gym helps me, it lets me breathe. Crying helps me. Listening to hard rock and punk rock liberates me.
Depression is subjective. If you look at me, you won’t realise what goes on in my head – the voices in my head. I don’t know if I am going through depression, clinically. But if you are looking for that, a formal approval, then I can tell you my therapist has suggested that I am going through a phase of depression. But then again, I don’t really think you need a formal certification for my depression.
I would like to deconstruct what I am feeling. I deconstruct my feelings by writing.
I write this piece for you and for me.
I do not write this to look for help and support.
I’d appreciate the support I get, but I don’t think that unless you really talk to me and I really talk to you, you’d be able to figure out the kind of help or support you could give me.
Mental health issues carry a lot of stigma. It might seem easy to suggest that I should talk to someone, or to tell me that I have so many who care about me if I just reach out. But what you might not realise is that I am in a situation wherein I don’t feel like reaching out. The reasons are many. Stigma is surely one. I don’t know how to have conversations about depression at office or with my family. Sometimes, I do become reclusive, not desiring any public interaction. At other times, it is about not having the motivation to ask for help or to move. I feel trapped. Or rather, I feel like I am trapping myself, stopping myself from looking out or through the dark bubble that I have created around me. I have had multiple days where I haven’t moved a single inch, when I haven’t been able to read or write or do the things that would make me happy – the things I would like to do the most. I have had days wherein I have lost all hope. I feel like people would not understand me. My view of the world becomes bleak, murky, and dark. I feel suicidal. I feel like sleeping all the while. I feel like living in my dreams, to never come out of it again. Mornings become scary. My soul feels empty in the mornings, with life all sucked out. I resort to comfort food. Junk food. But I am sleeping and eating well, or a lot at times. My productivity and self-esteem goes way low (I will get to the word “productivity” later on). I become deeply empathetic to all the sufferings in the world. I cry because demonetization killed people. I cry when I see people electing Trump as their president. I cry when I see a movie like Spotlight and relate it to the institutional and political silences around Gujarat riots, around extreme statements by Yogi Adityanath.
I put the weight of the world on my shoulders. Is this all related to depression? Maybe, maybe not. These thoughts and many more are playing in my mind. I fear that my new found awareness of social structures has crippled my mind or constricted it. I fear that I oppress wherever I go because of my privileges.
You’d say, stop being apologetic. You are privileged. You have the money to afford a therapist. Or the economic and social capital to support me. Yes, I know, I know. I am grateful for it. But even with all of that, there is depression. There is hopelessness. There seems no way out at times. Sometimes, depression becomes a state of mind.
The rhetoric I see around generally is all about fighting, struggling, getting support, and working through depression. But most of it is focused on the individual. I have to fight, struggle, get support, work through depression. Partly, I do agree, it is my struggle, my fight. Partly, I disagree. I believe that the society I live in has a responsibility, and this doesn’t get talked about much. I believe that people in positions of power, workplaces, families have a responsibility – the responsibility to care and to try to understand others without judgement. To make suitable spaces for these conversations without jumping in to say “I am here”, “Is it that bad?”, “You can talk to me, you don’t have to go to therapy,” without actually understanding what I am going through and what kind of support I would want in that situation. It is the responsibility of people in workplaces to understand that productivity doesn’t override mental health and support an employee. It is the responsibility of individuals and institutions to seek help from outside if they do not know how to respond, it is their job to read up (really read up) on what it means to be depressed. I know that you would want to help sometimes, but your definition of help is not what I might need in a particular moment.
It is important for people to realise that capitalism plays a big role in creating an individualistic, consumerist, productivity-focused, community-lacking, competitive and stressful society. It is the government’s responsibility to provide welfare support for mental health issues, to understand and address how and why individuals have varied access to mental health support based on their social and economic positions in the society (caste, class, gender, religion, sexuality etc). It is our responsibility to change our view on therapy and delimit our understanding on what therapy entails, that one goes to therapy for a variety of reasons. To know that while the World Health Organisation (WHO) says poverty and unemployment are major causes of depression, it does not provide direct remedies or very clear directions that address the causes. To critique the idea that mental health support is expensive and push for the idea that it needs to be subsidized by the state. The media also has a responsibility to address and critique the social situations that lead to so many suicides and not do it just around World Health Days.
I want to imagine a new society in which we actually support and care for each other. Where we practice a nurturance culture at every step, where the mental health of employees matter when it comes to looking at a company as being “profitable”, we change our definitions of productivity. We have to support those who are struggling constructively. We have to build support systems for others wherever we are and make spaces for thoughts to be shared and feelings to be understood. I am sorry that many of us might have had a bad upbringing, a bad childhood, a bad relationship, a bad economic or socio-political situation. But maybe some of us can change that, both for ourselves and for others. Let’s continue to talk about depression even after the World Health Day. Let’s break this stigma bit by bit and hold all the pillars of the constitution and the people around us responsible for both the causes for and responses to depression. Let’s fight for ourselves and for others, together.
P.S. – As far as my depression is concerned, I am dealing with it quite well, thanks to the things I talked about in the beginning.
This post has been published on Sudhamshu’s blog here.