Posted in Of Psyche

Of Talking About Depression

Black Books

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?


Writer, Blogger, Kate Bush Fanatic

13 thoughts on “Of Talking About Depression

  1. Every couple of months on average I have a case of the “blues”. It lasts for a day, maybe two. It’s definitely not depression because I can still communicate clearly, eat and sleep and continue with a regular routine. At this time I just feel an inner sadness, that life isn’t really a joyful experience. I’m no expert but I think many people confuse “the blues” with depression. Great post!

    1. Thank you! And doesn’t it feel natural, even logical, to get the blues once in a while? Sometimes, you get the Mean Reds too, to quote from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but it’s just ridiculous that a lot of people believe it is possible to be 100% happy, all the time for all eternity, if you only bother to change. Such happy people, if they exist, will be just as annoying, if not more, than the miserable ones!

      I am excited for the Beatles top ten list! I had difficulty in making mine, especially because there were too many Lennon “depression” songs I love, like “Yer Blues” and “I’m so tired”. I hope the final list is more balanced among the Fab Four, including ‘something’ by George Harrison and “Octopus’s Garden”!

  2. I came right out and talked about to a couple of trusted friends the other week. It wasn’t easy. Not least because there are ‘grades’ of depression. One of my friends has hit very low a few times, the other friend doesn’t quite get it, but is listening and trying to understand. I function; most of the time I look and act as I’m expected to do.

    The three of us do a fine line in black comedy – I’m known as the one who has to carry a shovel to dig myself out of all the holes I get myself into. We have shared three signs of when all is not well with us, and the others should be very concerned. On the surface, they might seem very superficial, but each sign is the polar opposite of who we normally are. Mine is being out in public without make up – if you read one of my recent posts, you would know that this is an indicator. Today I forgot to put on foundation.

    After our chat, friend two stayed in touch to see how I was getting on with my mini action plan, and this helped, having someone look out for me. Yesterday I mostly felt jittery and anxious, noticed I was doing odd finger rubbing actions and just felt generally on edge. I slept for only about 3 hrs last night. But I’ve managed to get to work, and do it most of the time. I’ve also managed to make a couple of tricky phone calls.

    What is helping is that I texted friend 1 to say I wasn’t doing too well. I feel better than yesterday, but still not ‘right’. She called back and we talked, saying it all out loud helped. She called again a couple of hours later to see how I was. We’ve made a plan to meet up in an hour or so to travel home together. Because I know I need to be with someone.

    I’m not as comfortable with solitude as I used to be. That’s why I’m trying harder to reach out to people. I realise more and more that maintaining my ‘functionality’ takes constant effort. Acceptance is the first step, then figuring out what will help to make things better is where the effort comes in.

    1. Thank you for sharing, Ally! It really helps to have at least one person, lucky to have two, who listens without judgement and is willing to help. It might be easier to commiserate with someone who knows how you feel, but that has its flip side as well, because you need at least one person who is relatively better off, at least at that time, to get something out of the conversation. Sometimes, all you need is to get things off your chest, isn’t it? Not be provided with solutions, not be pitied, but just have a friend at the other end to listen.
      Acceptance is the first, and the hardest step. What logic do you use in your head to accept a part of yourself that has always been criticized? And yet, how blindly we love others, thinking nothing of their faults (unless it poses a real problem!). I am far from having figured that out, or most things for that matter, but death is ever approaching. I find the more I focus on things I love – like writing and music, helping people, going to movies etc. – the lesser time I have for the voices in my head reminding me all I need to do to “be” better.

  3. I guess I don’t. I deal with it, but there’s a huge stigma that I can do without. And I can’t imagine asking someone the way you were asked. There’s nothing more annoying than people who try and diagnose you. My sister is a therapist, so I get that a lot 😉

    Sadly, I’ve found that gastro problems and anxiety kind of go hand in hand 🙂 Or so my doctor says. Which is terrible because the digestive problems will supposedly go away if I get my anxiety under control. But then, the digestive problems are a source of anxiety. There is no winning!

    1. Oh, I can’t imagine what that would be like, having a sibling as a therapist. I did a minor in Psychology, and I have to check myself from analysing people too much, even in my head!

      It really is like the chicken and egg conundrum, isn’t it? I’ve had the gastro issue for a long time, as well as insomnia and both are explained in that fashion. I hate to annoyingly psychobabble now, but what makes things relatively better for me for the gastro issue is exercise. I find exercise painful and embarrassing, but when I workout to youtube videos that are relatively doable and pain-free, I find things improve in that department. Meds never work for me, and I am too much of a pleasure-eater to ever compromise on food! The anxious pains do happen, but I found out recently that it is due to the stomach having the second most number of nerve cells, after the brain.

      1. Girl, my sis has diagnosed me with so many things since I was in high school….I used to get a little freaked out. Now I just laugh it off. Another holiday, another mental illness. And she’s even worse with my brother who has ADHD.

        You have insomnia, too???? You’re like a slightly younger version of me on the other side of the world 🙂 I’m actually curious if we’re having the same problem? I won’t describe my intestinal issues on here, but you have my email if you want to compare symptoms. If we both have anxiety, insomnia and matching gastric issues…that’s crazy! I actually have an emergency med, that is only for emergencies because the side effects are terrible. Otherwise, I control it with a restricted diet. Which is annoying and has caused some serious weight loss. But it keeps the pain and flare-ups to a minimum.

      2. I inherited everything that both my parents had, plus some more! On top of that, I am a bit of hypochondriac, and think I might have something I am reading about! However, the ones that are truly there still make a very long list, though none of them are life-threatening.
        I wish I was a version of you. I deeply admire how well you can turn painful experiences to such brilliant poetry!

  4. I wish I knew how to reply to this post but the words are not readily coming. I understand your point, and once again, you have very skillfully put forth an argument that makes complete sense in my book. Your approach seems completely logical to me and I hope that this post finds views from more than ‘just a handful’ of people.

    1. Thank you, Robert! I really appreciate your concern. I am fine with a handful of people. I just needed to get things off my chest, even if people read it or not. If I didn’t write it down, I’d go crazy!

  5. I often just describe myself as ‘not running on all cylinders’ and leave it to them to wonder or to ask. The friends that deal best with my depression are good, patient friends – also the friends that most make me laugh. Other friends can’t quite get their head around me not being ‘the real me’. It’s nice to have folks that accept this as ‘real’ for now.

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