Readers may recall this Column was doing a series on Coronavirus and its traumatic consequences on our social, economic and mental lives but we digressed on the advent of Ramadan 1441/2020 to reflect the Holy Month. Now that we have even done Barka da Sallah, we pick up from where we left off the series.
One of the most disturbing outcomes of the pandemicis an expected surge in depression. Already, in many parts of the worldevidence has started manifesting of this psychological problem which experts say could turn out to be another pandemic of its own. To help us make sense of this challenge, a medical student daughter of a reader of this Column, MS. ZAINAB HANGA (firstname.lastname@example.org),sent in acontribution titled“UNDERSTANDING DEPRESSION”:
Many people in the world today give the word ‘depression’an under-the-par definition. People often confuse ‘feeling sad’, ‘feeling down’, ‘frustrated’ or ‘having mood swings’ as ‘depression’. It has reached the point where almost everyone is claiming to be ‘depressed’; which is quite unfair on people that are really depressed. Depression isreal; it is a sickness.
A depressed person is always tired, no amount of sleep nourishes them.Eating becomes a hassle. Brushing the teeth, answering calls, replying emails, even simply existing becomes tiresome. They know their pain is not manifestly physical to others, but the pain is real. When they sleep (which in most cases they really don’t), the relaxing partis absent.When they eat, when they laugh, when they cry, when they speak – the pain is hidden beneath it all.
No one wishes to be around someone filled with such overwhelming sadness and gloom. No one wants to hear how a victim’s mind aches every day, the feeling of giving up hope and dreams, or wishing for your life to end quickly, the feeling of fear or an impending sense of doom. Or how their hearts hurt every day enough for them to wish to take hold of that organ from within themselves and sever it from their being.
People say: “Don’t worry, trust Allah.This is just a phase. You’ll get over this. Be thankful for your life. You’re not dying.”But the sufferers indeed feel dead. They feel so dead that they’ve lost their purpose, that they are barely hanging on to what’s left of their sanity. Why can’t any one understand this trauma, they wonder?
Many may think depression is a first-world problem – that only citizens of the affluent countries suffer it. People think that because in those countries mechanisms for detection and cure are quite advanced while here, we still attribute most of it to Jinns, Aljanu, Iskokai. I also thought depression was something the weak-spirited suffered. I thought medications were simply a bandage, but I’ve realised that depression is not black and white. It is not something that one can just wish away. It is a battle that only the strongestcanwin. I will take every fibre of a sufferer’s being to kill this silent lurking monster.
Even though no one sees the emotional pain and mental agony of depression, it is real. Whether it’s due to the loss of a loved one, a divorce, loss of a job, a bad test score or absolutely nothing you can put your finger on – it is real. And you cannot let it get worse. Whether you are the one suffering or someone around you is. We must notice the person who isn’t as cheery as they once were. We must notice the drastic behaviour changes in the person we once knew. Notice physical changes suchas weight loss, weight gain, lethargy, unexplained headaches, missed school days, etc.
Please help someone around you who is suffering. Maybe they are suffering for unknown reasons; maybe it doesn’t make sense to you. Whatever the case, if you can help, help.We need to be there for our sister, our brother, our friend, our neighbour who is suffering. We must not let it get worse. We must not let them fall into an abyss of complete despair.
We must be forgiving for the missed phone calls and the broken promises and the little changes that make us question our relationship. Be forgiving. Understand that in the fog of depression, human beings make bad decisions, saying things they wish they hadn’t and doing things they never would. The regret kills them from within. They are miserable, and they don’t know how to tell anyone. The smile they force hides a world of pain and despair.
Notice the fake smile and the blank stares and ask, “Are you okay?”They would usually reply: “Yeah, I’m just tired.” “Just a little stressed.” But don’t let these answers distract you. Say: “I’m here for you. If you’re going through anything at all, you can talk to me. Don’t forget that.”
Know that depression lies to the sufferer. It tells them: “You are worthless. The world would be better without you. You are a burden to your family. You are not smart enough. You are not beautiful/handsome enough. You will never reach your goals. You are nothing and you are all alone.” This loneliness consumes the individual, completely paralysing them.
Tell them they are not alone. Keep texting, keep calling, keep emailing. Just be there. Don’t let their indifference or their excuses dissuade you. So many are suffering silently because they believe no one cares. But keep trying. It will make all the difference. Don’t be the person that lets months go by while a friend falls deeper into their depression.Everyone notices a broken leg, but no one notices a broken spirit.
And once they’ve revealed their “secret”, don’t leave them. Don’t let weeks pass by without checking up on them. And when you do reach out, don’t simply say: “It’s going to be okay. Don’t just sit around all day. Get out of bed.” Though well-intentioned, this is not enough. Being there for a person who is depressed is mentally and emotionally draining. They will not call you. They will not be the first to reach out. They do not want to be a burden to you.If we want to be pillars of support for those who are suffering, it will require effort. Over and over again.
Anyone suffering should know they are not alone and that there are others that are observant. It is okay to not be okay, and it isn’t a taboo as people make it out to be. And finally, always remember, even when people disappoint you, Allah(exalted be His Name) will never. He is always there for you. If He has kept you breathing, He has a purpose for you.
“…And whoever is mindful of Allah, He will make for him a way out. And will provide for him from an unexpected source. And when someone puts all his trust in Allah, He will be enough for him.” (Qur’an Sura Talaq, 65:2-3).
May Allah cure you all of your illnesses and your pains, and grant you the best of healing. Amin.