Travelling is awesome and writing travel diaries is exhilarating. Seeing people talking, arguing, observing their moods acts as a companion to the solitary traveller. The story which is going to unfold belongs to one of these journeys. On one fine sunny day, a girl sitting next to me was looking out of the window and all through the way, sighing a lot. Usually, when people sigh, they are asked about the reason, so did I. She looked at me and made a brave attempt to respond with a smile. That smile was like sunshine on a cloudy day. It vanished quickly. She said that an air of emptiness always surrounds her and she feels choked in an environment of nothingness. Whenever she shares this feeling with anyone, she is made to count her blessings and bounties, like her house, living standard, a big list of things which are of no delight to her. I realised she was in Depression, tired of faking it up.
Further, she expounded her version of happiness. She said that she hardly ever speaks openly about this because people would throw a barrage of apathetic questions to her and bulldoze her already weak edifice of composure and strength. As we still had more distance to cover, the girl started to speak out her heart more. She told me that once when her relative asked about her condition and she affirmatively disclosed her mental suffering, the relative retorted with a grimace.
Depression is as real and as devastating as serious physical illnesses. It isn’t sadness but a feeling when there is nothing to worry about but one is still surrounded by a horrible sensation about everything but feels nothing, which often kills the soul silently and turns one nihilistic. One gets endlessly engaged in a self-decaying activity. Panic attacks suck blood and anxiety encroaches on sleep. A person with depression feels restless most of the time because depression is not a physical problem but it is something that attacks a person’s soul without paralysing the body. Every morning getting out of bed is the hardest possible task and life is nothing more than a battlefield with every evening bringing the shame of defeat and melancholy, while darkness dominates all hopes of winning this crushing battle. Depression eats and kills a person silently as termites do to wood and paper. The sufferer is judged by people around and many times one life becomes a joke and gets the label of playing the victim card to hide insecurities, which is not the reality. It gets worse when the reasons of such depression cannot be moulded into any comprehensible language.
The girl went on to narrate one more episode she had faced at the reception hall of the psychiatrist, where there was a man also suffering from depression. The man said to the girl that the whole world seemed to him nothing more than a burning place. He was always overwhelmed by sadness from unexplainable causes. Their tears found a companion in each other. The man had turned emotionless or perhaps carried a heart full of unvoiced emotions. On her visit to the pharmacist, she received a strange look as if she had gulped down some poison and was asking for an antidote.
The bottom-line of this whole conversation is that people should not altogether abandon conversing about their mental health or hide their emotional distress. Particularly youth should bring it to the notice of their dear ones at an early stage so that future complications are prevented. One should brush away all the stigma attached to consulting the psychiatrist and getting counselling at the earliest when one feels dragged into a black hole of sorts. Crying, hiding or giving up should not be taken as solace. Every mature individual in society shares the responsibility to spread the word about it. Our education system which is devoid of any measures to raise awareness about depression should be reformed at the earliest with stress management as part of the curriculum. It is a pity that we are taught a lot of reading and writing, the school bags of our children are heavier than their weight, and every civilised habit and persona is emulated, but seldom are they prepared to face and confront the ebbs and flows of their lives. It is like we are shown the parts of a car without teaching how to drive it. Education is a panacea for almost everything, and structured training to deal with mental health issues should be top priority in present times. Let hope and health prevail.
Let this write up be concluded with the beautiful lines from Shaheen Bhatts’ book, “I never have been (un) happier”:
I remind myself if happiness is fleeting, then so is sadness
I remind myself if depression is the weather, and I’m a weather-worn tree
I remind myself even the worst storms pass
I remind myself, I’ve survived them all
The writer is studying for a Master’s in Political Science at University of Kashmir. [email protected]