Recently, an old friend rang me up. I have had certain medical issues from the beginning of this year, and so, when this friend asked me how I was doing I said, “I’ve not been well. I…” Before I could finish, my friend emphatically replied, “Why? Have you got Depression?” Bam. Not a whimper, not a subtle skirting around the edges of something tricky, even taboo, with a “How are you feeling? Are you upset over something?” Not even the verb of the big D, because the question – Are you depressed? – sounds better than – Have you got Depression? Nope, I got the noun, pronounced loud and clear, and all I could do was dismiss it, because we still can’t talk about it.
Not that I was getting at it in the first place. I have a valid physical health issue and though it involves a, let’s say, lowness in spirits, it is still possible to talk about it without involving matters of the mind. It’s like, say, you have gastric troubles and the immediate reply you get from people, qualified and non-qualified, is “It’s your anxiety, you know. And your lifestyle. You should cut all sugar, wheat, meat and pleasure from your diet and your life and meditate for ten hours in a provincial retreat you paid half your savings for, and perhaps re-think your career and relationships and your place in this world and the point of your existence and why you can’t seem to quit your…” No wonder it’s easier to pop an over-the-counter pill, just to get people to stop talking. I know something is wrong with me. But, something is wrong with you too. And every other person on this planet. Even the ones who’ve managed to die have a problem. They are dead.
The thing is, if I admit to the big D, that is all I will be. To everybody, for the rest of time. Ah, I sighed. It’s depression. Ah, I fell down the stairs. I was too depressed to see where they were going. My handbag doesn’t match my dress, because I am too miserable to bother with colour coordination. I can’t remember what I forgot to write in my grocery list, because I am depressed. I allowed the taxi-driver to rob me blind because I was too melancholic to put up a good fight. Just take it, take it all. Even singing a song or patting a child on its head are signs of depression because, oh, look at me, I am trying to be happy.
The problem isn’t that we are or aren’t willing to talk about it. The problem is no one, not a single person, has a clue on how to talk about it. I don’t know. I really don’t. I don’t know why I am rambling in a blog post that a handful of people I don’t know will read, where I am keeping all swear words out, out of respect for them. I have no control over how anybody perceives me at any given time. But, I am tired. I am tired of having health issues, and I am tired of trying to fend off people’s psychobabble on how, basically, changing everything about myself will potentially make me a slightly more tolerable person to be around.
Being a summer baby, this is annual existential crisis time for me. As the earth takes its 28th turn around the sun from the time it decided to accommodate me, I’m trying not to ask myself, “Where do I go from here? What’s the point of my life?” I can’t always deal with this sh*t, you know. I don’t go around asking people if they are depressed. I know how inappropriate it is, I know how people look at you differently if you allow yourself to be vulnerable in front of them. If they volunteer the information, I try my best to help them. But, I don’t presume it will work. And, even those exchanges don’t always work. Once, a dear friend of mine was going through a break-up. I was (mis)diagnosed with an autoimmune disease at the same time, and while we both tried to converse about our mutual lives, my friend said “My case is worse than yours.” It should have hurt, but I was more incredulous at the idea that somehow these very, very different things were in competition!
Usually, I try to tell you about some silver lining aspect of these clouds. I like to believe I am somewhat mature, moderately curious and passably educated about this. But, even I have my limits.
The answer is, no. I haven’t got Depression. I can’t erase or even deny an entire half of the human emotional spectrum, just because some people have got certain fashionable theories on it. I don’t want to do it. I have made it so far with it, and whether I go tomorrow or thirty years from now, I’d still have spent a considerable amount of time on this planet trying to make it as a human being. That’s enough for me.
How do you talk about depression?