What Does It Feel Like To Be Depressed

World mental health day

Unless you experience a bad headache, you don’t know what it feels like. The throbbing pain, like someone is hammering you, the tightening of the muscles and the extreme discomfort – you can’t relate to these words. If you have experienced any other kind of external pain, you may still relate to it to a certain extent. But what if you had an invisible, painless but dreadful, ghost-like ache? A mild melancholic feeling that left you with a sinking feeling, as if you were drowning in an endless pit; or something that made you feel lost and stranded in a really dark tunnel.

Most people who have never felt depressed find it extremely difficult to understand the phenomenon of depression. They think it is mostly a creation of one’s imagination, something that doesn’t really exist. Or it is perceived as a weakness of one’s personality, as an inability to face up to life’s challenges by an individual.

But for people who have experienced the strong gravitational pull of the sinking ship, they understand what it means and feels to be depressed. They understand that it is an intangible, untouchable, invisible ache that gnaws at their soul, day by day. They find it difficult to relate to the world around them. And what adds to their misery is when friends say, ‘Come on, cheer up, it’s nothing’. When their emotional state is not acknowledged by people whom they love the most, sufferers of depression sink further into the black blank space of their emptiness.

Depression is real. It is like any other physical ailment, devoid the external pain. Nobody ‘chooses’ to be depressed. It just happens. Like you are walking down the pavement one fine evening and a slow-moving heavy truck hits you from behind. You are left helpless and puzzled. You want to pick yourself up, but can’t. It’s as if there’s deadweight inside you that keeps pulling you down.

People who suffer from depression describe it in different ways – ‘cancer of the soul’, ‘being inside a wheel that’s spinning forever and you don’t know when it will stop’, ‘living in a fog all the time,’ etc.

October 10th is observed as World Mental Health Day across the globe. Technically, mental health is an umbrella term to address any illness related to a person’s psychological or emotional well-being.  A lot of conditions such as schizophrenia, anxiety, addictions, mood disorders, grief and ADHD fall under mental health, with depression being a common symptom and a condition in itself.

The theme for World Mental Health Day 2016 is ‘psychological first aid’, which means providing psychological and social support to those who need it. The World Health Organization (WHO) has released a guide on how to provide PFA or psychological first aid which can be accessed here.

For someone who hasn’t experienced depression but has friends or a family member who seems depressed, here are a few points that can help –

  1. Acknowledge – Firstly, acknowledge and accept the fact that they are depressed. When you reject the existence of the condition, you further depress them. Bring them closer to you and gain their trust by a simple acknowledgment.
  2. Do not blame – Don’t point a finger and don’t say ‘this happened because of your own fault’. Remember, depression is like an accident. It’s nobody’s fault.
  3. Offer genuine help – Extend a hug with genuine warmth and offer to help your friend by doing something that can make them feel better; like taking them out for a movie or dinner, or helping them see a counsellor.
  4. Listen to them – Give them the opportunity to pour their heart out. Listen, listen and listen to what they have to say. If you disagree with what they say or have a different opinion, express it gently. Don’t be harsh or rude.
  5. Be compassionate – There is a difference between sympathy and compassion and it is ‘concern’. While it is easy to show pity, it is only when you are really concerned about your loved one, that they will feel motivated to help themselves and feel better.

“I used to think that the worst thing in life was to end up alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel alone.” – Robin Williams

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