“YOU are just being overdramatic.”
“Stop being sad and focus on the positive.”
“Other people have worse problems than you.”
“You’re rich. You have a boyfriend. You have friends. Why are you even depressed?”
These are the common replies to the statement “I have depression.” And this just goes to show that people still do not understand that depression is more than just being sad.
Depression is an illness. Psychiatry.org defines it as “a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Take note of the word “serious.”
An article published by Harvard Medical School tackled the complexity of depression.
“It’s often said that depression results from a chemical imbalance, but that figure of speech doesn’t capture how complex the disease is. Research suggests that depression doesn’t spring from simply having too much or too little of certain brain chemicals,” the article says.
It turned out, there are many causes of depression. It includes “faulty mood regulation by the brain, genetic vulnerability, stressful life events, medications, and medical problems.”
How Filipinos understand depression is dismaying. We often hear them judging people who commit suicide, saying they are weak-hearted and impulsive. They tag people who go to the psychiatrist as “crazy” and “abnormal.” They think depression is something you can just get over with by drowning yourself in alcohol and sleeping.
A friend once told me, “I hid the fact that I was diagnosed with depression because people will judge me.” Which is a fact. That friend tried to open up a number of times but often, she was told to just “move on and be happy.”
It is important to break this stigma. Thus, I have interviewed people with depression and here are the things they want you to know.
- “You can’t just snap out of depression.”
“I hate how people always say to just snap out of depression when we just can’t. You cannot just tell your brain to produce more serotonin. Just the way someone with cancer cannot tell his body to stop producing cancer cells. It doesn’t work like that. Just because someone who is depressed is sad, you cannot just tell him to stop being sad.” – Christian, 19
- “We do not know why we are sad.”
“Some people always tell me that I do not have anything to be sad about. I have my friends and my family. I live a comfortable life. I study in a good school. They question the fact that I am depressed. I am. I feel worthless. I feel alone. I do not want to leave my bed. I am suicidal. The thing is: depression chooses no one. It doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care if you drive a luxury car or have a fat bank account. Do you know all those actors and rich people who committed suicide? They are successful. They are popular. But when depression strikes, it does with no regret.” – Rema, 20
- “Being depressed is not our choice.”
“People think depression is a choice. Just like most things in life are choices. Who would even choose to be depressed? Who would even choose to get diagnosed with such illness? ‘You can choose to stop being sad, you know,’ people always tell me. But unfortunately, depression does not work that way.” – Maki, 28
- “We’re trying our best to get through depression.”
“Depression is treatable. Some people think it is not. Some also think we don’t try hard to stop it. But we do. We really do. I hope people will understand how hard it is to acknowledge the fact that you are depressed, and how tiring it is to take antidepressants and go to the doctor for therapies. It is even harder if you do not have a strong support system. So for people who think that they are depressed, ask for help. Go to an expert. I hope time will come that there should be no shame when people go to the psychiatrists.” – Grace, 21
Depression is a serious issue. People with this illness opt to suffer in silence because they fear being judged. But they need our help. In our own little ways, we can change their world./PN