Something changes when you realize that depression doesn’t pick any particular age to strike. No matter how old you are or how young, it can get you. It got me at a young age but that doesn’t make me a prodigy or anything. When you excel at a young age, it’s celebrated. When you deal with depression when you’re young, it’s not celebrated; you’ll be lucky if people around you even accept it. Suffering from it as early as the age of 13, I can say it is nowhere near the word “glamorous.” It’s not as chic as the posts in Tumblr portray it. They have those Halsey and 1975 lyrics in Futura plastered on a photograph of the night sky. They make having depression seem fashionable. They even had me fooled for a little while. It’s not like that, though. I doubt feeling absolutely robotic and pushing away people who love you will become the latest trend.
People who go through this have different ways of dealing with it. For me, it was lots of tears, strained relationships, depriving myself of opportunities, and failed attempts to end my life. I learned firsthand that it isn’t just sadness intensified. Sadness can lead you to moving on. Depression can lead you to literally moving on from this life. Growing up with it, and reaching the age of 19, made me realize that what I was looking for was to be understood. I wanted to understand myself. But having the people I love understand me is somehow better. They provide this feeling that you’re not alone.
Yes, Suicide Awareness/Prevention Month is almost over, but the lack of understanding about depression and suicide isn’t. Why not broaden your understanding with the help of someone who goes through it?
1. We don’t come in uniforms.
It’s like when people talk about “gaydar.” Just because a person dresses like a certain stereotype, like a post-emo kid or in an artsy manner, it doesn’t mean they’re going through depression. It’s not something you could detect from physical attributes easily. Most depressed people are better at hiding it. Maybe even some Filipinos are better at hiding it, since it is, after all, a taboo.
Depression isn’t really choosy. The happiest people could be dealing with the darkest crap you’ve ever witnessed. They’re just good at hiding it. (Case in point: the late comedian Robin Williams.)
2. Depression isn’t a synonym for sad.
Sadness is something you usually get over within a day or two, maybe even less. Depression can follow you through your whole life. There’s no easy way of saying it, but it ruins you not just emotionally, but physically as well.
Sadness is one of the usual indications that someone’s depressed. But according to Dr. Stephanie Smith in the PsychCentral article “Why Depression and Sadness Are Not the Same” by Margarita Tartakovsky, some people going through depression don’t even experience sadness. They feel totally indifferent about activities that used to give them pleasure. They don’t feel sad, happy, or anything. It doesn’t give them anything anymore.
3. Sad is a feeling while depression is a cycle.
Ice cream and a hug could turn your frown upside down. With depression, it’s like you’re happy now, then something unexpectedly hits. It could be a memory, a song, a person, or anything. Any of that could just pull you back down to the bottom. Getting help from a professional or with the help of your loved ones could make breaking the cycle easier.
Google “depression cycle” and your search engine will be on fire. According to the site Mind Health Development by Dr. Rick Norris, the cycle starts with depression, then on to reduced activity, demotivation, negative thinking, and feeling worthless.
4. Getting treated is not shameful.
You are what you are. The taboo about this mental illness doesn’t just exist in the Philippines, but also in other countries. But here, the tendency of parents or loved ones to downplay mental illness is bigger. There is this fear of being judged by others or being branded as “baliw” easily. But does being judged matter more than your mental health?
There’s also a negative outlook on people who undergo pill treatment for their depression. Taking anti-depressants isn’t a bad thing if your psychiatrist strongly recommends it. The well-known YouTuber Anna Akana talks about this in her video “My Experience With Anti-depressants.” She clarifies that taking medication didn’t remove her depression; it rather helped her deal with it so she could live her life.
5. You can’t just “snap out of it.”
No, you can’t follow T-Swift’s advice and “shake it off.” The closest thing you could compare to is the climate. If it’s the weather, it could be raining right now and then sunny the next. But if it’s the climate, it’s… just there. It’s just a part of the country. In this situation, it’s a part of you.
Exercising to release endorphins can help, or might not. Being around people you love could help, or you might not even want to see them. There are types of depressions where you can get out of it completely or you just deal with it.
Point being, depression is nothing to be ashamed of because it’s a part of you. It’s the suckiest part of you. But it’s still you.