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So what IS depression?

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*technically this is more of a health article*

Depression is bad. There, that’s my opinion. But seeing as my opinion apparently doesn’t matter, I might as well quote some other jerk’s opinion.

Pictured: Some other Jerk
Pictured: Some other Jerk

*Ahem* According to the WHO: “Depression is a significant contributor to the global burden of disease and affects people in all communities across the world” Bam! Science cracka!

But no really, in all seriousness depression is a problem that continues to affect millions of people around the globe. It is not just a psychological problem, conjured up in the paranoiac dreams of a hypochondriac teenager or a middle-aged man going through a mid-life crisis; it’s a real problem.

On a biological scale, depression can affect important functions such as neurotransmission, specifically the neurotransmission specifically of transmitters like serotonin and dopamine. Through the hampering thereof, the body begins to experience a great deal of stress and unlike “acute stress” which would probably last for about a week at most; what people going through the very first stages of depression experience what is called “chronic stress”, a stress that can last for weeks, months and years. This chronic stress greatly damages the immune system, thereby affecting the behaviour of the depressed person and often causes the person to take up self-damaging habits to escape the psychological trauma; thereby further damaging them on a biological scale. As a result, depression often leads to the exacerbation of a number of medical problems the person might have, in addition to suicide.

These are the cold, hard facts. Now for an actual relating of the experience.

Now an experience is usually a subjective thing, and will commonly be related to others in the form of an opinion. But as a person who has gone through a two-year period of depression, my opinion now magically matters. So in yo’ face!

Crack-ohgodican'tdothisanymoreihatemyself
Crack-ohgodican’tdothisanymoreihatemyself

Now I earlier said that an experience is subjective which is funny because everyone I’ve talked to and everyone on the internet who cares to share their experiences with depression has basically shared the same thing and I’m here to (attempt to) validate it.

Depression isn’t sadness. It’s oppressive emptiness.
Depression isn’t pain. It’s pure numbness.
Depression isn’t an experience. It’s an observation.

During depression, the simple act of getting out of bed in the morning (during the afternoon or evening during holidays) becomes one of the most difficult tasks you can attempt. Eating a meal, having a bath, carrying on a conversation, all of these begin to require a MONUMENTAL effort to do. You, quite simply, become empty and devoid of any energy.

During depression, you become incapable of enjoying the world as, in a way, you’re incapable of simply being one with it. A funny joke ceases to make you laugh, just as a heartwrenching scene in a movie ceases to make you cry. You become incapable of feeling. You become numb.

During depression, you don’t experience this “numbness”, and carrying on from the above two points, it becomes different to experience anything at all. In fact, experience changes into observation. You become distanced from yourself and the whole world becomes a monochrome abstract painting, with you being a little smudge in the corner. Ironically, any sadness you feel comes from the realisation that you are this little smudge, having now become distant from everybody else.

With the realisation that you have become empty, numb and distant, you now know that you are separate from everybody you know and love and that you are a danger to their happiness and their comfort. When you’re depressed, you recede and every facial expression that shows an emotional reaction, becomes a mask to hide that stigmatised “mental” and “imagined” condition: depression.

Now the WHO insists that you seek help, either professional or from those whom you onsider friends. In fact, once noticed, depression very rarely needs medication or specialised help and the simple support of family and friends are often all that’s required. This is absolutely true, so problem solved, bye-bye, you can all go back home to watch a re-run of that episode where Kal Penn shoots himself for no reason.

Hmmmm...I think I need to change my therapist
Hmmmm…I might need to change my therapist

Obviously it’s not that simple. Depression is one of the least treated mental disorders in the world for a number of reasons, the leading one of which is caused by a deep-seated barrier to understanding caused by:

1) People don’t believe it exists: It’s not like they DENY its existence. It’s more like they don’t think it can possibly happen to anyone near them because…

2) People don’t recognise it as an actual problem: This is when people think that anyone who claims they have depression is probably exaggerating what could most likely be either an pathetic plea for attention and/or is just the person exaggerating his sadness. This is often the result of…

3) People who actually do use “depression” as a bait for sympathy: I’m sure you’ve all seen this type. The prima donna convinced that by exchanging the sentence “I’m feeling lazy/sad/bored” for “I’m actually feeling depressed guyzzz! Dx Dx Dx” (That was biased, but none of us can stand this guy!) By trivializing something that actually NEEDS just a BIT of attention and understanding so much, these people are the root cause of a major barrier to the understanding of the mental affliction known as depression. Compare it to the story of the boy who cried wolf, but instead of being eaten alive, the rest of his village gets nuked.

You know, I think we all learned a lesson today...
You know, I think we all learned something today, but I’m not sure what

In addition to this MAJOR barrier to basic understanding of depression, comes an added effect on the person who’s going through depression. We are ashamed of what we are going through. Like a crotch rash, we are not likely to display our depression to the world, for fear of being compared to that strange old man outside our school. Needless to say, we hide our crotch ras- I mean, depression from everybody else, even the ones we count on the most. We hide behind a stepford smile to protect ourselves to the point we actually start rejecting who we are. We look at our depression as a sign of weakness and we try to pull ourselves out of it. But (get ready for a pretentious and poetic line) it’s rather like pulling at a rope that’s been looped over a beam and tied around our necks.

Depression is a problem that shouldn’t NEED behaviour altering medication. We don’t NEED a dose of serotonin and dopamine before lunch when really, all we need is someone else. Here are a few basic measures you can take to help someone close to you out of their depression.

1) Listen to them without judging them: So maybe you’re right, maybe you’re friend doesn’t have depression. But even if (s)he’s just feeling sad, does it matter? Don’t judge, you don’t know EXACTLY what they’re going through. You’re there to help.

2) Let them know that you’re there for them: This one doesn’t really need to be explained…Just be ready to catch them if they fall.

3) Get them moving: Get them to do something to take their mind off their “depression”. Make them forget why they got depressed in the first place. Exercise is pretty helpful at this point.

4) Make sure you’re there for them during or after particularly stressful times: Stress is a common precursor to depression. Chronic stress (prolonged stress) more often than not acts as the preliminary punch that sponges away any energy an individual has. Be there for them from the beginning stages, and they can avoid depression entirely.

Now it may seem that I’m putting a lot of effort and, to a certain extent, blame on the people AROUND the depressed dude, but don’t forget, the depressed person usually won’t be able to stop being depressed by the time (s)he finds (s)he’s depressed.

However, there is one piece of advice I can give to people who think they are suffering from depression: “Don’t be ashamed of what you are going through. Have some faith in your friends”

Sources:
http://www.who.int/mental_health/management/depression/who_paper_depression_wfmh_2012.pdf







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