Here's a story of a mild-mannered everyday individual who has a secret hidden so deep that not even Superman with his X-ray vision could find it. He, just like Clark Kent has an alter ego too, but not one of a brave and noble hero or even a maniacal and twisted villain, but rather one of a happy and mentally healthy person. The secret he keeps is one so powerful that it can hold the strongest of men down and it can make the most confident crumble to their knees. It hides in plain sight and keeps its hostage bound and gagged so not to be found out. This evil is none other than depression, and like Hannibal Lecter it will eat you live if not treated properly and taken seriously.
When it comes to mental health, there is a lot of confusion and a lot of fear surrounding the topic, so let’s try to rid our society of some of that and have an open discussion about it. These are some of the things that you should know to better take care of your loved ones and yourself in the long run.
Part 1: “Hide and Seek”
Depression is not something people proudly wear on their sleeve as a badge of honor that they display for all to see, if anything it’s kept hidden far back in the depths of their mind, securely locked away with the hopes of it never to seeing the light of day.
Depression hides out in like a ghost in a haunted house, from the outside everything looks copacetic, but once you cross the threshold, you can tell that something isn’t right.
People with depression want help, but they don’t know how to ask and/or are scared to do so because of what they foresee will be the result of said action. They are able to open their mouth as if to scream, but this intruder won’t allow them to put any volume behind it thus leaving their cries unheard.
Most will not come right out and tell you they are suffering, but they may drop subtle hints hoping their loved ones will follow them like the steps on a treasure map. However, in this case the riches aren’t monetary but more so peace of mind and good mental health.
Part 2: “They’re Crazy!”
Why is it difficult to talk openly about depression? People think there's something wrong with you, you're mentally unstable. Depression isn't real; you're having a bad day or wallowing in self-pity. These are just some of the issues we face as a society when it comes to bringing this problem to the forefront.
There is a stigma attached to anyone who endures its dreaded sting. We have made people who suffer from any form of a mental health condition feel like outcasts and monsters in this country, so needlessly to say there won’t be any grand announcement of the enemy’s presence.
Speaking up about our emotions is a sign of weakness, for women they are being dramatic and over-the-top, men are considered "less than" and fragile. We are taught at a young age it is not the cool thing to do, where those who complain are negative and a killjoy. Even kid’s shows like Sesame Street showed you that the people who do so are outcasts, they are “grouchy”, and belong in a trashcan. That is why most people choose to keep quiet instead of talking about it.
Don’t be alarmed and act like the people did in the movie Philadelphia when they found out that Tom Hanks had AIDS! This is not contagious and not something that should land the victim in a straitjacket, sitting in a room with padded walls.
Part 3: “Side Effects”
What are the side effects of depression? How does it feel having this unwelcomed houseguest renting space in your head?
The word depression is misleading to say the least, it doesn’t accurately express the severity of the situation and it makes people think the victim is just going through a rough patch in his/her life right at the moment. We should change it to something like mental warfare, to show people how serious it is and how dangerous of a battle it is. We all know there are varying degrees of depression, and not everyone who claims to have it does, but we must not discount the information we have and/or try to play doctor because the result could be a dire one.
Having depression is like being trapped in a glass bottle sealed with a vault door. You can see the world go by as you are fighting to free yourself from your prison, suffocating and constantly freaking out because most likely you cannot escape on your own. You could reach out and ask for help to break the bottle or you can continue to try to release yourself alone, which could end with your demise.
You feel unneeded, unnecessary and undesired. You feel helpless, out of place and uncomfortable in your own skin. You feel like nobody wants you around, and if you left one day, you would receive a postcard with the words "wish you weren't here" written on it. A spider's victim trapped in a cocoon struggling to break free before it eats you and consumes your soul. This is heartbreaking and unbelievable to say the least, but nevertheless this is a day in the life of someone who is struggling with severe depression. Basically they are the walking wounded and the living dead!
You feel like a rotting/decaying corpse wrapped in a tattered shroud like in a horror film, who is reaching out to people for help and mercy but they are too afraid and/or disgusted to reach back because of what they perceive us to be. That unfortunately is a side effect of our thought process as a whole. We imagine ourselves to be hideous, to be the targets of all the laughs and whispers, we see ourselves as a blemish, like a square peg trying to fit in a round hole.
When dealing with anxiety, relaxing is something that is difficult to do, regardless of what Frankie says. Sure we all face some form of anxiety or another during the course of our day, but not to the point where it is crippling who we are and hindering us from thinking rationally. Until you’ve been to the mountaintop, it’s impossible to explain the view.
Our mind can be our greatest ally, but it can also be our own worst enemy too…
Your mind is like a boat lost at sea, you don't know which way is safe and sometimes the seas are calm but other times the weather is rough and the waves dangerous. This all happens at a moment’s notice and with no warning.
Sometimes your brain feels as if it is being juiced, like an orange that is squeezed of all its nutrients, left with only an empty rind and void of any meat or value. You steadily wish for things to be better, but unfortunately life isn't a genie and wishing is best left to shooting stars and to coins that are dropped in wells. You can listen to all the finely crafted metaphors, all the songs that are meant to motivate, all the cats hanging on lines that are meant to inspire, but if your mind isn't where it needs to be and all that is nothing more than a pep talk that is blowing smoke and empty promises of grandeur.
Think of it like this. There’s a hostile double agent lurking in your brain who is sabotaging things from the inside out. He is someone who could be stopped with the right set of tools, but if let alone and allowed to proceed as planned he could end up toppling the administration in a very counterproductive way and possibly even with a deadly outcome. This is a demon that needs to be properly exorcised and not allowed to rent space in your head for any longer than necessary.
Depression is the monster of your faith. It is the creature who hides under your bed. It is a raging fire that burns everything in its path unless somehow extinguished. The bottom line is that it’s not a game and should not be treated as such.
Part 4: “Life or Death”
Sometimes “getting over it” isn’t an option. Sadly there are many who believe it’s just that easy to overcome this hurdle. The victim merely stumbled along the way and just needs to stand up and dust off. This is something that is hard-wired in their brains and a simple restart is going to fix the problem. They may need professional help or even medication to recover, so don’t take it lightly and toss it aside or instead of having a face-to-face conversation with your loved one you could be sitting across from a tombstone asking why. Life is precious; don’t let it fizzle out like a campfire in the wake of the morning sun because you thought you knew better.
This is definitely a battle worth undertaking, because failure could land them in the hands of an undertaker and none of us want that. The struggle is real; don't let your ignorance land you at a funeral.
Part 5: “Emergency Exit”
Battling depression is a team sport, but unfortunately some of the players, those who aren’t confined to the penalty box of course, are going to have to do most of the work if they hope to win the game for their loved ones. Now with that said, those who are playing landlord to this creature cannot sit idly by on the sidelines, twiddling their thumbs and hoping that everything works out for the best. We have to do our part too, no matter how difficult it is. The goal is to get out as quickly as possible and not to let things continue as they are with the hopes everything will work out for the best.
Part 6: “Close, yet Far”
Sometimes the door to good health is one that is covered in grease, no matter how hard you try to turn the handle it just won’t open. Sometimes your support system isn't all that supportive. Sometimes those closest to us are the hardest ones to confide in, so we must find a new set of ears willing to listen to our problems and a new shoulder to lean on when walking is difficult.
It’s not necessarily that these people don't love and/or care for us, but for some reason or another they just don't understand what we are going through, they can't comprehend it, which for their sake is actually a blessing. The culprit could also be fear. They don’t want to say the wrong thing so they walk around pretending to be oblivious to what’s going on. They know that this rollercoaster is one with many twists and turns, so rather than taking a seat and risk getting sick, they avoid the ride all together.
As if things weren’t already hard enough, there are going to be times where we have to step even further outside our comfort zones when seeking help. We must seek the company of a stranger if our resources at home are faulty. The ride is going to be a rough one, the terrain is going to be horrendous at times, but the trip is going to be totally worth it if you are able to come out on the end better off than when you went in.
Part 7: “The End Credits”
We need to forego the whole stereotypical idea of what a woman/man should be and be true to ourselves and our feelings; it would make this world a much better place for everyone involved? Forget about what society thinks and focus on saving your life, both while you’re living and while you’re on the edge.
Someone with depression is not looking for sympathy, they are looking for understanding. Be there for each other, and not just with meaningless pleasantries in passing or with a “thumbs up” on Facebook, but in person, for real, and with genuine concern for each other and their well-being. We need to keep an open mind and an open ear when it comes to those we hold dear. Don't think of love as a chore, but as a blessing and a privilege.