Dr Preeti Chawla
Depression- a condition so highly prevalent, in the age of connectivity & communication, that we have assumed it to be ‘normal’ and to ‘let it be’. It is NOT normal. Let us help ourselves and those around to change this. The whole world is getting more depressed. Every life is valuable. We are losing people to depression. It can strike anyone. One doesn’t have to live with depression. It can and should be treated for one to live life fully. In simplest words, if I were to describe depression- it is more than a feeling of sadness. A sadness that refuses to go away. It comes coupled with dullness of the mind, inability to understand what’s happening, losing interest in activities which were once of much inclination, weeping, diminished self confidence. Added to this, the person may lose appetite or may eat excessively; sleep is either overpowering or decreased. One may feel good for nothing and may question one’s existence. Thoughts of self harm; of suicide, criticizing oneself come often. They feel hopeless and hence keep away from seeking help. They may not feel like getting out of bed in the morning because life feels so hopeless with a feeling of an emptiness, a vacuum within. Gloominess increases as the evening sets in. Evenings seem too dark mentally, as if the world will come crashing down with the sunset.
Depression may set in due to any and every reason perceptible to humankind. What may seem trivial to you may be a hard-hit for someone else. Causes will differ from person to person. It could be losing a loved one to death; breaking up of a friendship; divorce; unemployment; social isolation; social rejection; failure in exams/ interviews, retirement, abuse (sexual, physical, emotional), social stigma associated with certain illnesses, mental exhaustion.
Coming to reasons in current age that are triggering Depression- Not meeting parent’s expectations w.r.t. studies & extra curricular acts; lack of human connectivity; too much technology is bringing in mental fatigue; social media is gifting everyone an inferiority complex. The race seems never-ending. One is constantly trying to match pace with others, be it studies, career, income, holidays, travel, relationship status, outfits; thus losing connection with the uniqueness one harbours and exploring one’s core potential. We have forgotten that we all have a different plan of life .
◆ It is not a wishful state. No one desires to be depressed.
◆ It is not a choice that one makes to begin hating life one fine morning and loathing themselves.
◆ It is not a lack of will power or something you can exercise control over.
◆ It is not mere ‘negative thinking’. So do not expect them to snap out of it.
◆ It is not an enactment.
◆ BE AROUND. EVEN IF SILENTLY.
◆ Allow them to share, without being shamed, whenever they wish to.
◆ Be NON-JUDGMENTAL.
◆ Don’t tell them things like- “You lack control on your emotions. You are too emotional/ too sensitive” etc etc. These are harmful.
◆ Don’t make it a matter of discipline & will-power. Yes, they change as the person begins getting better, but lack of these 2 are not THE reasons.
◆ Stand by them.
◆ Build hope gradually.
◆ Keep away from giving opinions on their emotions or labelling them as ‘right or wrong’.
◆ Understand that depression is not what they chose.
◆ Do not make it a topic of social discussion or gossip. Respect their privacy.
◆ Never shame them for going through this.
◆ They may appear self-contained and “too mature to need help”. Don’t form judgments and restrain yourself from extending help basis this, whenever they share. So don’t tell them “I never thought you would be too weak to handle this situation.” Everyone has a right to vulnerability. And therein lies the real strength.
◆ SEEK THERAPY from a professional qualified psychologist. If need be, see a psychiatrist for medical support.
◆ Know that it is OKAY to feel the way you are feeling. Do not attempt to suppress or push away what you feel. Let guilt not seep in.
◆ Do not judge yourself. Accept the current state of emotions.
◆ Be kind to yourself. Practice self compassion.
◆ Keep away from people who pull you down or have not so-good things to talk.
◆ Take care of the water intake. Have plenty of it.
◆ Eat healthy food. Keep away from junk. Iron resources are helpful.
Apples, chikus, pomegranates, beetroot, date, bananas.
◆ Vitamin B & C supplements will be of help.
◆ Exercises will help release serotonin & mood uplifters. Walk, dancing, swimming, sports- any form of vigorous exercise, for as many minutes the body is capable of sustaining (10-45 minutes)
◆ You may not want to socialize, yet join a group class of dance/ yoga/ music/ painting. Huge groups may leave you feel drained. Opt for smaller groups. Any form of art will help you express.
◆ Volunteer for a social cause. Impart your skills and time to a cause worthy. Contributing to other’s lives leaves us feeling meaningful and helps boost self esteem.
◆ Keep talking now and then. Avoid absolute silence and isolating yourself, no matter how strongly you feel the need to.
◆ Let someone immediately know if you have thoughts of self harm or suicide.
◆ Educate yourself about your condition from the right resources.
◆ Give words to your emotions. You can journal your current feelings for 15-20 minutes daily. The idea is to give your emotions an outlet. Don’t read over what all you have poured on paper.
The counsellor/ therapist will use appropriate methods as per the requirement. Very often it is an integrated approach. From my experience of people’s perception of therapy, please know that a therapist wouldn’t be announcing that “ok, now I am beginning with therapy. 1,2,3,4.”. NO. Some days the therapist may only listen to you, other days ask you some questions for you to hunt answers for; or assign you some activities; at times just be there to stand by you. Therapy may be apparent in ways gross enough to grasp or in ways subtle enough to be missed. As you begin to think aloud, therapy may also help you discover yourself; uncover some aspects of your life & personality that stayed hidden or dormant. You may unfold your potential, your pattern of responding and living life.