The great pain: Depression
Depression: a very serious, isolating, but treatable disorder that affects people of all ages from all walks of life.
Even the happiest people feel depressed at times. It causes tremendous emotional and physical pain, hurting not only those suffering from it, but affecting those around them as well. It robs people of the objectivity that there is hope at the end of the tunnel, leading to crippling depression, and in extreme cases, to suicide.
The case of Robin Williams was a total wake up call for me. Despite what he had accomplished, and despite millions of people thinking otherwise, his distorted view of himself and his place in the world offered no hope for happiness.
It doesn’t help when people you love, friends or the people around us give advice saying things like “You should snap out of it,” “Other people are far worse off, you know,” “You have got so many things to be grateful for,” “You should stop feeling sorry for yourself,” or “You know that everyone has problems”.
These are pretty useless when you are trying to help a loved one suffering from depression. They may have the opposite effect than desired. Yes, some people are strong and may have even coped with despondency or despair. But bear in mind, when you say this, the implication is that the depressed person has actually made a choice to be miserable and unhappy. It suggests that the depressed person has a rather weak personality and is flawed in some way. If you are depressed, you may feel that your life means nothing to anyone else out there. So saying things like that may hurt the person more.
Instead, try to understand that depression is not a choice and people who suffer from it cannot simply “snap out of it.” It is important to understand and acknowledge that depression is a medical condition, a real illness that should not be underestimated. Moreover, both the sufferers and the people around them need to understand that depression is not a weakness or a personality flaw, it is a medical illness.
By doing this, you will be able to better support your loved one with compassion, patience, and an open mind. Struggling with depression can feel like navigating alone through a strange, long, dark tunnel that no one else can understand or believe. It will be important for you to clearly communicate to your loved one that they don’t have to travel this path alone. Simply sitting with your loved one while they cry, or quietly holding their hand as they struggle through their thoughts and emotions can be more helpful than trying to give advice or encouraging them to be physically active.
Most people suffering from depression already feel ashamed, weakened, and worthless, so judging and criticising them will do nothing other than make a painful situation even worse, and possibly isolate you from your loved one. It’s very important for the healing process, to communicate with your loved one that depression isn’t their fault.
Some people just don’t understand this. They just don’t understand how desperate the person is to have someone say, “I love you and I support you just the way you are because you’re wonderful just the way you are.” Many sufferers feel they are depressed because they did something wrong, there is something wrong with them, or they’re too weak to function properly.
In the end, they consider suicide as an option to escape from their emotional pain. They just have one answer to all questions hovering in their minds: “Everyone would lead a better life without me. I am as equivalent to as extinct. I am a useless burden on my parents”. These thoughts are bound to happen and the person haves a taste of bitter, anger, brutal all in one sip. So how can one resist being driven towards suicide if such feelings occur simultaneously? So, the final end to all distress is suicide.
What can we learn from the tragedy of Robin Williams – A man who had so much but at the end had so little hope? We are reminded that depression is serious and needs to be treated. There is much we need to learn from this tragic death, so that depression becomes less of a curse that affects so many individuals in all walks of life. We also need to bear in mind that depressed people thinks that they want to die, want to end their life, but in reality, they just want to be saved.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not reflect the stand of the Borneo Post Online. The opinions or views expressed in this column are not intended to treat or diagnose; nor are they meant to replace the treatment and care that you may be receiving from a licensed professional, physician or mental health professional. If you have specific concerns or a situation in which you require professional, psychological or medical help, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified specialist.