What is that thing that we don't discuss even with our closest of friends and family? It is our innermost fear, insecurity, sorrow and loss. When we think about it, it is so easy to share our happiness and joy; we will post pictures on all social media channels and use all modes of communication to convey our feelings. However, when it comes to something which is much more pertinent to our well-being we bottle it up and safeguard it like a prized possession or a dirty secret.
Sometimes we don't talk about it because of hesitation or shame and sometimes out of fear that people will judge us. It is an issue so serious that it is eating our personal and professional lives day by day. It's an issue which we get ashamed of to address or don't give any forethought. The issue I am talking about here is called Depression.
We are either too afraid or are too naïve to discuss the issue of depression or we still don't understand that depression or anxiety is just like any other illness. An illness you can't see physically but come face to face with it daily, we know it is there and effecting a major part of our lives, by residing in there permanently. But we don't really talk about this illness. We don't address this like any other disease; we ignore it or talk about it in a very secretive manner.
Back in 2002 when I was in the 10th standard, I saw my elder brother getting angry on petty issues and he would eventually start hitting the wall with his fists. I remember telling my parents that that was not normal and that we should take him to the doctor or a counsellor. As a solution, like every other parent, they would instruct me to keep my distance from him at such outbursts and with time everything would be alright. And today, as we stand in the year 2017, he has finally been diagnosed with depression.
Sadly today I am educated enough to know that my brother is not alone, that there are millions of people across our planet who struggle with depression, some better, some worse. We have become a society where we can talk openly about sex but not about problems like depression anxiety, anger or low confidence.
What is it?
A person can experience depression in different ways, for some, it could be a loss of interest in day to day activities for others it could be despair, loss of self-esteem or feeling distant from the real life. One may wear a mass of happiness when in public and appears over enthusiastic but somewhere a part of them cries out for help. You may find yourself crying a lot, crying yourself to sleep, crying in office toilet or on the flip side, being angry, with so much of rage that it makes you feel invincible.
Once I was taking a session of students pursuing Chartered Accountancy course on a related topic. At the end of the session, one girl walked up to me and started crying. After a considerable amount of time and persuasion, she confided that I was the first person with whom she was sharing her feelings with, that life for her had stopped holding any meaning and that simple pleasure like laughing, hanging out with friends, family outings, everything had stopped appealing to her. It makes you think what is happening to the youth of the country and why? Why in this case was because the pressure from the family on the girl to clear her exams and become a CA. The pressure was so humongous that she forgot to be herself.
We all come from different backgrounds but one thing which connects all of us is our struggle. Struggles mostly created by our society.
When I look at my brother, I question myself and think, in all these years did my brother know he needed help? Did he approach us and we failed to support him? How could we have missed the signs all these years? I started researching on the topic depression and learnt that it's like any other sickness and needs to be addressed, to be treated; ignoring it is almost as bad as having flu and not visiting the doctor. The more I read the more I understood the severity of this problem among youth, housewives and working professionals.
How does it feel being depressed or anxious?
How does it feel to be in that pain or state of gloominess? Below few lines may explain it from their perspective:
Yes, I am alone and I can't share it with you,
Because I don't know how to explain this and what to do!
Will you understand me or think less of me?
Will you be able to explain this mess which only I can see?
I forgot myself somewhere and my confidence is shattered,
I forgot to live and I can't enjoy anything that once mattered!
This is gloomy and I am feeling anxious,
Will anyone explain to me what is this heavy stress?
I need help and I want help but not sure how and from whom,
Will I be able to come out of this darkness or will get the doom?
This fear is eating me as I am not that tough!
I am scared and I am sick. Save me if you love me enough.
Save me if you love me enough.
The above poem talks about four main states;
- State of confusion, doubt and low self-esteem
- State of anxiety, loneliness and anger
- State of helplessness and fear
- State of giving up and postulation
I want to talk about three major factors primarily responsible for negative feelings among the youth of our country:
A) Superficial Social Connectivity:
We are becoming a society of stalkers, exhibitors and spectators in the online world. With the help of this small revolutionary screen, we call mobile – we stalk everyone we are in contact with, what is going on in their lives (which again is only a perceived reality), what are they eating, who are they with, etc. We become so involved in the happenings of other people's lives that we forget to live our own.
We perceive what others are exhibiting and try to imitate and present ourselves in just as attractive a manner. What we become is more superficial.
Then to most of the content, we are just spectators. Neither do we feel sad when we see 'someone is feeling lonely' status or empathetic on 'I'm sick' status nor do we feel really happy when someone shares his good experiences, rather we feel that something is missing in our own life. We click on the emoticon and then continue on our way down, scrolling and scrolling. We just consume information without any emotional connect and continue reading. We are 'connected' and yet disconnected.
We are living our lives through other people's perspective and through a small screen. We should not let the real hobbies die, the love for Arts, Music, dance and sports. We should not stop getting inspired and motivated.
To quote from Gita - 'Till we look for solace in the outer-world we will experience loneliness but when we look for it within us we will start experiencing solitude.'
B) Relationships/ Emotional disconnect:
We are connected with thousands through our small mobile screens with the people we don't really live with and are disconnected with the people who are living with us. It disconnects us with the reality.
Relationships have become fast-paced, people have become less tolerant and delusional reality has taken place of the experiential reality.
We claim to be always busy and pride ourselves for it. But what do we do with the little spare time that we have? After we have called it a day and come to our room, how many of us turn to our partner, our family for conversation? Since we are being honest with ourselves can we accept that our mobile phones are ones that get our foremost attention? Another excellent example nowadays would be of our narcissistic behaviour where even if we are with our friends, instead of getting to know each other we would rather click pictures, or more appropriately 'selfies'. I am not against this amazing technological revolution but it is sad when we become slaves to our own invention.
What needs to be done is show some real compassion to people not virtually but physically. Talk to someone who is feeling low and is not in his usual self. Share your own feelings with someone when you are worried or stressed out. Enjoy the process of growth rather getting disappointed on small failures.
C) Career stress:
Career is one of the most overrated words I hear apart from 'Think positive' and 'True love'. Youth today are comparing their life with that of their peers, to set their own self-goals. How can you compare two athletes who haven't started their race together or have a different type of race track? And why is it that we just can't accept that God created a different life for each of us when two people can't have the same fingerprint, how can life be identical. While comparing and competing with others we forget to analyse our own strengths and weakness and may end up in a worse situation than before. You only can compare yourself with your own self.
Any change in our lives is not easy, it becomes more difficult in situations like loss of a beloved, change of location, children going away for reasons like the job, higher education or marriage. These are some of the situations where you lose heart and zest in life. These changes further lead to emotional or behavioural changes, which in turn leads to depression, thus it a cause and effect series.
Feeling despair and hopelessness, being low on confidence, avoiding problems, being not able to let go of the negative feeling, etc.
Getting angry and irritated on smallest of things, picking fights with friends, finding solace in negativity, drinking, drugs, rave parties, violent video games addictions, pornographic additions etc.
These are just some of the changes, but one should be on the lookout for the symptoms. It might be a gradual change, one may not find an overnight change and so one needs to be all the more cautious when the realisation hits, we should give it the due attention and take it seriously. This is our responsibility. The epidemic called depression is one of the most common illnesses and sadly the most ignored and undiagnosed illness too. The unawareness is still so widespread in our country that people continue to be taken to hakims and babas' but not to medically equip doctors.
So where do we begin, it is indeed quite simple, we begin with being true to ourselves, by trying to take stock of ourselves and of those around us. We must not only talk about ourselves we must listen too; we must not only do more but see too.
We are better when we are together. Let's realise the power of community, a community which is not ashamed of or shy in listening, discussing and sharing about depression and the related issues, a community which is hopeful.
Once the illness is diagnosed, it needs to be addressed, not only by the doctor but by the patient's family too. A person suffering from depression needs a lot of support and understanding from their friends and family and so our patience, empathy and love for the person need to be increased manifold.
What is YOUTH? For me, it's a hope:
'Young, Opinionated, Unabashed, Thoughtful Hope', a hope for a better future filled with lots of dreams!
Unfortunately, this hope is getting bleak and getting lost in the darkness of depression. We have to rise above this and create a society of Youth beyond Gloom.