How to handle depression?

My other posts on depression

Amy (not Ayn) Rand's excellent guidelines

Allie Brosh's adventures in depression | Part 1 | Part 2

A paper on mental health from WHO's 54th World Health Assembly

The experience of Marcus Trescothick, the man who could have had 10,000 Test runs

The experience of John Mooney, three-time cricket World Cupper for Ireland

VIDEO: How little Hunter Kent conquered it all

Deepika Padukone's battle against depression

What to eat during depression?

How to handle postpartum depression?

Sohini Mitter's recollection of how she handled her father's depression; few accounts have been as vivid; few have been as brave. These are moments you feel proud of your friends.

I wrote a couple of innocent posts on how to handle depression; the response (in the comments section and in person) blew my mind. I was aware of the fact that the ogre had been infiltrating the planet, but I was not aware of the extent.

The bad thing about depression is the fact that it keeps you down, not allowing you to raise your head once. You keep on fighting the battle, probably realising it is a lost cause, but make the error of continuing to fight.

I am not asking you to give in. That would be fatal. A better way will is to find a way around it. Since depression is so smart, the best way to encounter it is to trick it, driving it into a false sense of security, telling it that we are vulnerable.

What is the deal about depression?

Let me start from scratch. If you are suffering from (or have suffered from) the menace or have seen someone suffer from close quarters, read on. If you are not, read on anyway — for it is extremely essential that you know. You may be up against it, or if you can read the symptoms, you may end up pulling someone out of it.

I often hear "nobody understands that I am depressed". Do not be crestfallen. In fact, that is one of the biggest issues with depression: people do not understand. Thanks to the English language, people tend to confuse between sadness and depression.

Sadness is a state of mind. Just like joy or anger. It passes away with time.

Depression is a disease. Just like malaria or typhoid. It needs to be cured.

The ignorant often assume that depression happen to
(a) lack of responsibilities (you can afford all this because you do not have anything to do)
(b) the privileged (you never had to struggle; you have everything you want; what do you mean, you are depressed?)

If you think depression is caused by one or more of the above, ask yourself: would you have said the same if someone suffered from jaundice? If you answer in the affirmative, I think you have been watching too many Salman Khan movies.

Cool, so depression is a disease. But how do I know whether I am (or someone else is) suffering from depression?

Good question. Let me start with the basics. While depression is not sadness, it involves sadness. This is, however, a different kind of sadness, where the feeling (a) recurs without any valid reason, (b) corrodes your inner self, and (c) makes you feel worthless and empty.

There are other symptoms too:
1. Your appetite increases or decreases abruptly. There are over-eaters (*cough*), but are you eating absurdly more even by your standards? Similarly, have you lost your appetite completely?
2. Your sleep cycle goes for a toss. You may not get enough sleep (though sleep has this rather cool habit of catching up), or you may oversleep, even at random hours. 
3. You do not feel like getting out of bed. Getting to work seems like an incredible effort (it usually is anyway, but I when I say incredible here, I mean it).
4. You lose interest in doing things (even your most favourite hobbies) which you otherwise love doing. You also lose your ability to concentrate on anything for a more than a very small span of time.
5. You feel nobody understands you, yet you cannot help trying to talk to people. When they do not entertain you (the reason may or may not be a perfectly valid one), you feel they are being mean. 
6. You cannot overcome your negative thoughts. You often feel you are worthless.
7. You feel excessively tired, and your body aches — without a valid reason.
8. This is extremely important. You feel it does not matter if your life ends. This feeling can be classified into three types:
(a) You want to commit suicide.
(b) You do not want to commit suicide, but you think of death, and it does not matter to you if death eventually comes.
(c) You feel that the world can do without you.

The idea is to act long before Stage 8 comes. However, even if Stage 8 arrives, it is not late. It can be resolved.

What to do, then?

Let us find a way around it. Finding hobbies work, as do long walks. Unfortunately, it takes tremendous effort to do both when you are down. How we wish the world realised this, do we not? Unfortunately, had they got what the monster is, they would not have let this happen to us in the first place.

But we are digressing. Let us get back: how to bypass depression? Letting it be is not a solution. What, then? I had listed these down elsewhere; I am merely rehashing them.

1. Consult a psychiatrist at the earliest. Do not push it back till it is too late. Nobody will laugh at you, or think you are mad.

2. Talk to people. Four out of five may not understand, but the fifth will. Those suffering from depression have one huge thing in common: they unite to help each other out. Reach out to them. If there is no one, reach out to me. I can help, and there are many who can vouch for that.
2a (Corollary to 2). Talk more to people who listen attentively; try to avoid people who suggest solutions after every line. They do not know.
3. Anti-depressants are not bad, and are often not addictive. In fact, they are often the only way out.
4. Having said that, if you are under treatment, do not switch off instantly. Let the dosage peter out. Reduce the intake quantity before bringing it to zero, otherwise you may be back to square one. As SG has mentioned below in her comment, it may also lead to suicidal tendencies.
5. Get started on some physical activity. I know it is difficult, since dragging yourself out of bed is a challenge in the first place. Start with walking. The first day will be very difficult, but it eventually becomes a habit. Physical exercises make your body release these really cool chemicals called endorphins.
In case you're wondering, endorphins are really cool. They help you reach a phase of euphoria ("runner's high") replicated by morphine and the likes. In other words, it gets you to a high, but with healthy side-effects.
6. Do not, I repeat, do not, do not give in to alcohol or drugs.
Why would any sensible person do it, if walking provides with the same effect? You need to walk to obtain alcohol or drugs anyway.
7. Do not feel embarrassed. You have no idea how many people are suffering from depression as I write this. To quote WHO, depression is likely to become the second-most common disease by 2020. Why hide when you are in company?
8. When it comes to hobbies, try to promote it (see Jaita's comment below, on paintings; it works on other hobbies as well). Make a plan around taking things to the next level. Push them shamelessly on social media. Break the internet if it comes to that.

Are funny people depressed, too?

As I said above, do not confuse sadness with depression. The person next to you may be laughing and joking his way to glory, but beneath that exterior he is probably fighting a battle tougher than you can fathom.

Consider Robin Williams, for example — the man who played some of the funniest yet loneliest roles in the history of Hollywood. He was funny, and could have you in splits — and yet he took his own life. Did you ever think that the man was actually enacting his own life in each of his iconic performances?

Robin Williams (and Jim Carrey, if you have been wondering) are/were not the only ones:
1. Charley Case (the man who had started stand-up comedy, according to many) had died “while cleaning a revolver”. 
2. Darrell Hammond (Saturday Night Live) attempted suicide at 19, went to rehabs following substance abuse, suffered from bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and borderline personality disorder. He also tried to injure himself an episode, and had to be taken to the show directly from a psychiatric ward. 
3. Saturday Night Live also featured Chris Farley — the man shortlisted to play the lead in A Confederacy of Dunces. Farley was treated for obesity and drug abuse seventeen times, and died of drug overdose at 33. 
4. Katt Williams, nominated Choice Comedian for Teen Choice Awards in 2007, was a drug addict, fought with the audience, missed shows, switched religion twice,  to find peace, and called himself a “social recluse” on air. He has retired from comedy shows.

Jamie Masada, who owns Laugh Factory (a Los Angeles club) said: "Eighty percent of comedians come from a place of tragedy. They didn’t get enough love. They have to overcome their problems by making people laugh." Fits, does it not?

There are more examples, but I will not get into a list. Do not, however, rule out the funniest people around you. They may also be the saddest. They are probably trying their level best to fight depression. They are probably sadder than you. Why not give them a hug and see how they respond?

What about the rich and the famous?

What did I tell you? Depression is a disease. We have already discussed Robin Williams and others. Let us get move on to the less funny people. Let me provide you with a list of people you may know. I will not include comedians here, and neither will I include Newton and Michaelangelo, tales of whose depression are unverified. 

The list includes Tolstoy; Dickens; Beethoven; Mark Twain; Edwin Aldrin; Bergman; Churchill; van Gogh; Scott Fitzgerald; Marlon Brando; Hemingway; Bob Dylan; Christian Bale; Brad Pitt; Angelina Jolie; Halle Berry; Kurt Cobain; Anthony Hopkins; Princess Diana; Rowling; Emma Thompson; Trescothick; John Mooney; Jonathan Trott; Michael Yardy; Kelly Holmes; Frank Bruno; Heath Ledger; Janet Jackson; Serena Williams; and more.

Closer to home, you would find Guru Dutt; Parveen Babi; Shah Rukh Khan; Manisha Koirala; Deepika Padukone; Divya Bharati; Jiah Khan; Silk Smitha; and more. Some managed to overcome depression. Others gave in.

Handling depression is probably more difficult for the famous and the glamorous, for they could not afford to tamper their image in public. They could not allow themselves to be seen depressed; a cruel, unsympathetic world that is willing to expose every weakness of the celebrated. Why, it is difficult to consult a psychiatrist without making it to the media!

Hang on, you have not told us what depression exactly is!

If you have read till here, you know I know what I am talking about. You also know that I understand what you are going through. Let us delve a bit deeper.


Let us now come to a more basic question: what is depression? I was about to write a long essay on that, on how to counter it, and more, but I found these people (scroll down) have already done a wonderful job on this. 


Do note that this is not a paid campaign. Please read to find out the volume of what you are up against, why this should not be delayed, and how this can be solved.


Of course, if you want to need me for help, just drop an email at ovshake at gmail dot com. I do not hold a degree, but am still rather good at this; what is more, I do not charge.


Why am I doing this? Because I get a kick out of pulling someone out of depression.


Oh, and if you think you have conquered the demon, join the fray. We need to unite. It is a battle best fought united.
The Effects of Depression on the Body

14 comments:

  1. One thing i can tell you is that people with depression want others to understand them. But to seek attention, affection or even a bit of understanding feels like prostituting oneself. Some will ask you to snap out of it, some will ask you to sit with a tub of ice cream, some will ask you to visit a psychologist. And you pay 200/- per hour so that someone gives you a patient hearing. I was bored of my dead-end job and there was a general sense of boredom in my life. My condition nosedived when my mother passed away a couple of years back and I still suffer from depression. It is not about happiness,it is a sense of existential anguish that develops over time and breaks one ordinary day because the internet is not working and nobody understands you. It snowballs into such a sadness that you sink and sink into a rabbit-hole,pulling yourself out of which is impossible.

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    1. I know, Anonymous. Your symptoms are not new. It is not about prostituting, trust me. Why would you not reach out for help? If you are in physical peril, would you not ask for help? Why not, in this case?

      Also, if you feel like it, you can share your thoughts at my email address.

      Delete
  2. I work in a corporate job and feel depressed most of the time. I am unmarried and don't know whether getting married can cheer me up. Basically,life is a sad tale and the only bright spots are the good meals we have. Getting married to get rid of depression doesn't make sense. I am just 26 and married to my work.

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    Replies
    1. Dear Anonymous, being "married to work" is not the perfect option. I know it is easier said than done, but trust me, it can be done. I know we live in a world where our profiles demand us to be on the hook 24 x 7. But, then, it can be done.

      Doing it for the first time is difficult, but it has to start somewhere. Some would say switching off is an art, but it can be honed. To start with, do not check email after work unless someone calls you and asks you to. Also, take leaves. Working on weekends will get you nowhere.

      You sound intelligent, since you have realised that getting married to get rid of depression does not make sense. You have also realised that good food is one of the best therapies possible — almost at par with humour.

      I do not know whether travel attracts you. Maybe reading does, or cinema, or music, or writing. I do not know whether you prefer solitude or company. It is different for every person. It is you who will know.

      Think of what you enjoyed most when you were at school or college. Replicate that. Replicate what you used to do when you did not have responsibilities. Was it bunking classes and catch a movie? Was it whiling away time at the canteen? Was it sleep? Was it sex? Was it computer games? Was it playing table-tennis or carrom at the common-room? What did you do? There must be something — and you can replicate it, whatever it was.

      Also, while you are (sensibly) ruling marriage out, do not underestimate the role the opposite gender has to play. I am not even talking of a live-in relationship. Go out with someone for a walk. Do crazy things with her. Sometimes even a hug works wonders, and opposite-sex hugs are more efficient than same-sex ones.

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    2. I prize my loneliness but too much of it becomes throttling. And this is often since I am always submerged in work.
      Another thing is that this opposite gender thing comes with the whole caboodle called marriage and casual is not my thing. So I remain depressed either way.
      But thank you for giving such a lengthy reply. I thought of mailing you earlier but staying incognito is better.

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    3. Aha, there is a way of staying incognito and emailing: just create a fake account.

      When I asked to find a person of the opposite gender, I did not necessarily ask you to get into a relationship. A good friend can work wonders. However, researches show that it works better if the friend is of the opposite gender.

      As I told you, hugs — tight ones — work as instant therapy.

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  3. And by the way, next time I meet you be prepared for the long pending hug :D :D :D

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  4. Ok. Ovshake. you did a great job writing about it. Now just 3 points to value add :) to your expressions:

    1. Once severe depression is diagnosed the only first step is to consult a psychiatrist and take anti-depressant. You see the reason being, without a slight push to raise the dopamine level ( with the help of medicine) it will be next to impossible for the depressed to even get up from the bed. So before intrinsic motivation hunt starts, extrinsic motivation is artificially created with the help of a 'happy feeling' drug. Unfortunately this 'happy feeling' sometimes lead people to alcholic drinks and drugs which in turn becomes an addiction for them.
    2. There is one solution which I found quite appealing and I will like to share the same- If a depressed person is asked for guidance ,he/she finds it quite invigorating and thus often pulls out of the severely depressed state ( much tested by me and you can guess where) Incidentally if he/she has to cure someone else, they need to take stock of their own situation first and that makes them sit up and take notice of the world around them. But this needs very skillful handling.
    3. Last but not the least, your writing style is ,as always, fluid and an easy read but if you are writing about these subjects,sharing one or two brief experience will always help. But excellent effort!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, Mohua.
      1. This is a serious warning. I am adding this to the post — the point about alcoholic drinks and drugs.
      2. Agree. One of the best ways to cure depression is to ask the person for advice.

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  5. This is a very timely and extremely important topic. A lot of what I am about to say would be covered by a psychiatric specialist on a first visit but it doesn't hurt to put this information out there again.

    There are two major arms of therapy- psychological counseling and medications, among which antidepressants are most commonly used. Antidepressants should be treated with care. They are habit forming themselves, and perhaps adding a warning would be appropriate that they should NOT be stopped suddenly. Even if their use is discontinued, they should be tapered off,They have significant withdrawal effects and patients exhibit suicidal tendencies if so done. Stressing this is important enough, because patients of depression often stop taking their medications if they feel they're not improving fast enough and sink deeper into depression by doing this.

    You could also add a note about post partum depression. This is very real, experienced by a lost of women and is generally nto a figment of their imagination. Situation is often complicated by expectations of taking care of a newborn and the restricted use of drugs because of possible contamination of breastmilk. If there are resources known to you that especially deal with PPD patients, mentioning them would make this a stronger article.

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    1. I agree with you that antidepressants should be used sparingly. However, they are not necessarily habit-forming. I have come across people who have eased out of antidepressants — but, as you have said, with time. They should obviously be tapered off. Let me add this to the post.

      Unfortunately, I am not equipped to write on post-partum depression as of now, and would not want to misguide people with lack of information. I will do some research and get back. However, if you write something, I will be only too happy to provide a link.

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  6. its encouraging to see a informative discussion about mental health... thank 's Mohua for tagging me...
    well ... depression is common cold/cough in psychiatry... hence, oft self-medication occurs either in the form of alcohol/drugs/nicotine...
    instead of 'trying to snap out' or self-pity it is better to get early intervention ... yes! like any other 'illness' - with the risk of sounding clichéd ...
    also, what I could suggest as the bestest 'self-help' would be:
    a. physical exercise/walking/gyming to get endorphins high
    b. asking your confidante to not give suggestion but ONLY TO 'LISTEN'!! -- next best to the 'cathartic effect' of therapy
    c. structuring something constructive around your hobbies ... eg. if painting is your hobby scan some of your paintings nd post it online, taking advantage of social media ...
    any of these would seem too be an uphill task and if you could just break them into short steps it could be achievable ...
    also, if you are unable to accomplish any of these within a considerable time - frame -- 1-2 weeks then it would be silly to try to push further -- get professional help !!!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, Jaita, for the insightful comments. Words from professionals always help. I am adding these to my article.

      Delete

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