talk to me

an article by Sarim Ard

Picture credits: Meghana Geetha (@geeitsmeghana)

It took us the breaking down of a celebrity’s mental health to finally start talking about it. And by talking about it, I mean flooding the stories with the same posts that everyone else was posting because what if somehow accidentally you posted something wrong then what will happen? If everyone is posting it then it must be right. And, of course, cool! At the time of writing, that is, a week later, the teenagers of Instagram, also known as the warriors of our society, had found a new pressing issue to do the same with.

I have been advised by many English teachers to use the word “depressed” instead of “sad”. And I have been reluctant to do that just because, for me at least, the two words have very different meanings, just like “happiness” and “joy”. Sadness and joy are more of a reaction towards any particular thing. You got good grades, chances are, you’re joyful. If not, you’re probably sad. But depressed and happy are more complex terms. They’re a state of mind like, perhaps calm or frustrated. You can smile and be depressed or cry and be happy, generally speaking. “Why are you depressed?” is a hard question because it's, more often than not, not just one thing. It's a culmination of pent up emotions acquired gradually through reactions to various life events. So, abundance of sadness or even prolonged absence of joy may cause depression but it's not the same thing.

There’s no particular tipping point for depression either. The patient slowly starts to show most of the symptoms: trouble while concentrating, making decisions, sleeping or even physical exertions. Loss of appetite or interest, hopelessness, feeling empty or purposeless, restlessness, irritability and suicidal thoughts are all signs of depression. Fun fact: I realised much later after being depressed that I actually was.

And, as i said, it was due to a number of reasons. I was constantly picked on by my very own “best friends”, shout out to them. I wasn't doing particularly well at school. And things weren’t so good back home either. I never really talked about all this stuff to anyone either, at the time. I was losing every type of confidence and every night ended with either tears or suicidal thoughts. Now that I look back at why I was depressed, I laugh, comparing that with my life now. And the fact that it’ll probably get worse. I’ll save the rest of the story for my autobiography but what I wanted to show was how much perspective can mess up these things. If someone opens up to you with issues like these, chances are you’ll be condescending towards them, thinking they’re immature and their problems are nothing compared to yours. But the truth is everything affects everyone differently. Some might be able to climb Mt. Everest but that doesn't mean you can expect everyone to do the same. So my laughter and condescending attitude towards my past self is just a show of my ignorance, indifference towards problems others might be facing and a narcissistic attitude just because I was able to overcome obstacles that others are finding hard to deal with.

The hardest part of tackling depression for me, like many other tasks, was starting it. And I didn’t know how to do that. I was clueless and I have to admit, if not for some persistent efforts by people that had no real reasons to put in the time and energy that they did, I would have grown up to be a very different person, if at all. I would have loved to tell you that I actually started reading some great philosophers like Socrates and Marcus Aurelius which inspired and helped me to lead a better and healthier life. I would have loved to do so because I think it would have really helped me. Just Google Marcus Aurelius quotes and you’ll realise why. “You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realise this, and you will find strength.” “If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself but to your own estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” This way of dealing with pain is a cornerstone of stoicism. In a language of stupidity, these lines may simply translate to, “it's all in the mind” and, well, basically, it is just that. The majority of pain you experience or problems you face are all external; you've no control over it, it's not your fault. But how you react to it, that's up to you. The pain you feel is often amplified by your thoughts and emotions. But you have control over that. You can control your head full of painful thoughts if you try. And when you gain the strength to do that, the world starts to seem puny and you; invincible. But that doesn't mean you stop fighting for those in need of help. “Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.” Your character often ends up being a mirror for your thoughts and affects how you perceive things, so, work on it.

Realising your self worth can also work wonders in tackling depression. And while what helped me do that may not do the same for you, I still feel that it's my moral responsibility to put it out there. Who we are as a person is mainly formed by our experiences. Every day you live leaves a permanent mark on you. So, there’s no way in hell that someone is similar to you. What you bring to the world is unique to just you and no one else can provide that. And the more you learn from every day; the more you grow, the more you will begin to stand out. And who knows someday all the world needs is a… you! You can do things no one else can.

And of course, how can we not talk about the talk of the town; what everyone is talking about; talking. It's just funny how even after centuries of discovering and developing communication and language we find ourselves here. I think talking, just like all the other remedies for depression, works for some and doesn’t for others. For me, it acted as a trigger to better myself and my life. So i can’t really say anything about talking as a cure for depression while generalising everyone except this. I don’t think putting stories on Instagram telling all your followers to talk to you would actually push someone to open up to you. You have to check up on them, treat them well and with patience and even then there’s a change that they won’t open up. All we can do is keep trying and show that we genuinely care.

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