Laying Down the Cards and Fighting the Public Stigma of Depression

Depression is one of the most sensitive topics because of the stigma associated with it. But if you are into social media lately, you will see that there are lots and lots of articles, stories, video clips and news about depression and people (most especially those who suffered or currently are suffering) are becoming so receptive and open to sharing and discussing their own experiences and this personally inspired me to write about it and share my own experience. 

It was weeks ago when I saw the news of a call center agent whose vehicle fell from the 5th floor of the building where I worked previously in Sta. Cruz, Manila causing her instantaneous death and how it stunned me learning that it wasn’t an accident but she had intentionally committed suicide. 

According to the news, the woman allegedly was suffering from depression because her boyfriend cheated with a third-party in their relationship. Then a week after, it was all over the social media how Joey De Leon sees depression as “gawa-gawa lang” for which his insensitive remarks ignited and irked the netizens making it a hot topic until today.  Thankfully Mr. De Leon apologized immediately and sent his public statement, taking ownership of his fault and acknowledging his ignorance with the subject of depression.


Joey de Leon's comment about depression
lifted from Facebook Newsfeeds

And recently,  we heard and saw the shocking news about Isaiah Lustre (Nadine Lustre’s brother) committed suicide due to depression. 

I was pinned to my seat for a while, as painful memories started to flood, staring blankly at the wall, mentally asking myself "How about those thousands or even millions of nameless, faceless prisoners of depression all over the world through the years who ended their lives that did not land the news because their families decided to remain silent out of respect and/or guilt for the tragic, untimely demise? 


How many more lives are to be taken down by this culprit? How about those millions more who are battling depression every day,  fighting just to stay alive?"  It's time to break the silence!

MY OWN EXPERIENCE WITH DEPRESSION


I know how it feels to always cower in the dark, a heart so burdened with so much pain and melancholy for the longest time that I have to literally crawl out of my bed just to drag my ass out to go out and hustle. I know how it feels to eat without really tasting the food as if I am chewing a piece of rubber and swallowing is twice as hard. I know how it feels having a lot of things going on in my mind, and how heavy it seems as if overloaded with a lot of shit that some days I just want to bang it hard to the wall. I know how it feels to look at yourself in the mirror and not exactly sure who that person looking back; where smiling looks more like a grimace. I know how it feels to lie down in the bed for hours, not moving, just barely breathing, without realizing that tears are streaming down. Yes, I often caught myself burrowed in my pillow, sobbing silently, to the point that my whole body is trembling, trying my best to not make a sound so no one could hear my agony. I know how it feels to cry sometimes without any reason at all. There were panic attacks where I feel like suffocating, gagging and gasping for air. It was really a struggle!

I had suffered from depression more than 5 years ago. Nobody knew that, until today, not even my husband (who was then my boyfriend), nor my family. It started when my father died and the grief of loss overwhelmed me. I was so full of guilt of not letting my father know how much I loved him, it was too late to show. Then while my family was mourning, we were caught in a deep financial struggle and then it escalated when I started working, the combination of stress and the toxicity of the work environment, my financial responsibility to my family, my own high self-expectations and the multiple failures to move up the corporate ladder, those unending episodes of feeling rejected and unappreciated by my company,  my best friend left when we were just about to start pursuing our dreams, my on-and-off relationship with my boyfriend that caused me to mess around for a bit, and then mid-life crises suddenly hits. It keeps on growing bigger and bigger, everything was way out of hand until it came to the point that  I want to quit; I just want to disappear and never to come back.


I cling on silence every day as my sweetest escape. I became numb to everything and there are days I pretend that I am deaf so all I can hear is silence while in the middle of the busy street. I feel as if my soul just separated from my body and me levitating in the middle of the crowd every time I walk past people. 

I had been nursing pain for so long I became immune to it. And you know the funny part? I am so good at faking it because no one noticed. Nobody cared. No one is fit to turn to. Or if someone does, he hears but not listens. No one deeply understands the pain-- throbbing like a blade planted deep down my core.  I had been swimming in the abyss of desperation, bitterness, ungratefulness, sadness, melancholy, emptiness, loneliness, anxiousness, anger, and frustrations for a while and I was on my own.

I shut myself out from the world and built massive walls. Everything seems wrong to me; I no longer have that excitement of seeing the positive side of everything because the world for me is cruel and sick. I feel weak and exhausted all the time, physically and emotionally and all I want is to sleep. I don't like to go out anymore, or if I do, I want to just go home immediately. I just confined myself in the comfort of my room in darkness and my bed became my sacred haven.

I was living a lie, pretending, acting happy and trying to be okay. And I dreaded, oh how I dreaded when friends asked for help. It is sickening for me to hear them venting out their issues when I myself want to shout that I am in great help. There was even a time I cursed God and questioned all His intentions. I turned to writing as a channel for me to gush out all that hatred, all that anger, all that pain, all those sadness, all those cursing and foul words brimming in mind, all those lamentations, all those bitterness, all those desperation, and pleas that I can't voice out to the world.  The blank white sheet became my best friend.

It was years of hell. Yes, it was...

I guess we have different ways of dealing with it. But for me, it was one night (almost midnight) days before my birthday. A friend shared me a video clip of Louie Giglio entitled “How Great Is God?” My eyes were so wet in tears after watching it. That was my turning point, I decided I was so tired of being tired. And so I kneeled. Yes, I did. I kneeled and started praying which became an uncontrollable sobbing…just letting go of every iota of my depression, fear, and paranoia that I have been hiding for years. I just prayed to God whom I personally don’t even know (and had hated and even cursed before). Although silence is all I've heard from Him that time, I felt His powerful presence and that's all that I need to just feel the freedom of letting go. 

That was the start of my journey of healing. Depression is a prison that can lock you for a time….but there sure is a way to be freed from it. The next day, I had myself inked. That’s why my tattoo was very sacred to me until now. It was the day I was able to take the first step, of taking the initiative to fight back depression. The experience also opened the door of my spiritual journey with Jesus.




Me on my first day towards the journey of recovery



DEPRESSION IS NOT A PANG-IINARTE


Depression is not a joke, not a laughing stock and never a pang-iinarte. It is cruel, unforgiving and it stays! It is more than just episodes of sadness, loneliness and being down. It is a battlefield in the mind! Depression is a silent reaper which CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE!

Somehow I would agree to Joey De Leon that if there's something good that happened out of the incident, this is to lay the cards on the table and address the stigma associated with depression and to face the fact that people who are suffering from it needs massive help and support to be freed from the claws of constant fear of hiding in the dark, too scared in even bring this up and talk about it due to self-shaming,  endless judgments, criticisms,  mockeries, ostracism, public shaming and crucifixions of those people like Joey who apparently don’t have any idea nor understand how it feels like to be imprisoned by anxiety and depression every day! 


Not everyone might do the same approach as I did (not that my way is personally recommended since I kept it on my own) or what others did to combat depression, but in a way, this is the right time to open the doors for public awareness of the stench of depression in the society because it is never ever a “gawa gawa lang”.




postpartum depression
Photo courtesy of  Smart Parenting


Depression doesn’t choose any age, nor does it have culture, ethnicity, gender and race, educational or economic preferences.  It doesn’t have a face. It can be a bubbly family member, a friend who loves to joke around, that perky neighbor who walks his dog every morning, or a colleague who shares a lot of life’s wisdom or maybe an acquaintance who loves to talk about his family and kids, dreams and aspirations. 

It can be a well-made face, yet masking a lot of loneliness and emptiness deep inside, someone bursting with so much energy but actually is just trying to distract himself from a total meltdown. It is a constant battle of that internal demon who wants to come out all the time but you have to hide it with a multitude of fake smiles, jagged happy tone, and cheerful facade. 

WHAT IS DEPRESSION?


Wikipedia defined Depression “a state of low mood and aversion to activity that can affect a person's thoughts, behavior, feelings, and sense of well-being. People with a depressed mood may be notably sad, anxious, or empty; they may also feel notably hopeless, helpless, dejected, or worthless. Other symptoms expressed may include senses of guilt, irritability, or anger. Further feelings expressed by these individuals may include feeling ashamed or an expressed restlessness. These individuals may notably lose interest in activities that they once considered pleasurable to family and friends or otherwise experience either a loss of appetite or overeating”.


depression bored panda
Photo courtesy of Bored Panda
There is a difference between clinical depression and just being in a sad mood or feeling down. Clinical depression lasts longer, it stays and not just mere episodes. It greatly interferes with one’s focus and the ability to work, to pursue his or her daily or usual activities as well as his or her relationship socially. While being sad and “the blues” are episodes of irritability, grief, loneliness, sadness, and frustrations, it is temporary and it still allows you to work and do your usual routine. Clinical depression greatly affects one’s behavior, emotions, perceptions, and thinking in pervasive, persistent and chronic ways.  With clinical depression, it’s either you find profound sadness about almost everything or sometimes even without apparent reasons at all.

As quoted from Medical News Today “World Health Organization (WHO) says depression is the most common illness worldwide and the leading cause of disability. They estimate that 350 million people are affected by depression, globally.”

In the Philippines alone, statistics will show that we have the highest number of depressed people in Southeast Asia. 

According to Kicker Daily News  “1 in 5 adult Filipinos suffer from mental or psychiatric disorder. This represents an average of 88 reported cases of mental illness per 100,000 Filipinos. Also, the number of suicide cases in the country has steadily risen over a period of 20 years from 1992 to 2012”.


Because of that, Senator Risa Hontiveros filed for the Senate Bill No. 1190 also known as the Philippine Mental Health Act of 2016, October of last year. This was done in the hope of a more comprehensive mental health law in our country.


It is heartbreaking that depression continues to be one of the most stigmatized mental health issues in the community despite the fact that we are already in the modern world where human rights, violence, domestic abuse and equal rights resonate the loudest everywhere especially in the social media. 

We do lack of comprehensive mental health law and proper education and information dissemination to the public and this needs to be addressed. Ignorance to the illness maims us from effectively implementing solutions and intensifying programs for those who are suffering and this lack of public awareness is the number 1 reason that stops the victims from reaching out for help.

MAJOR CAUSES OF DEPRESSION


Depression is a mood disorder that can be a lifetime challenge if nursed for a longer period of time especially if left untreated. No one really knows what exactly the causes of depression are and that what makes it an extremely complex illness.

The following are the variety of reasons why it occurs:

Abuse. Emotional, physical as well as sexual abuse and trauma from domestic violence is associated with depression.

Genetics. Genes can also be a factor that causes depression.  It is likely to happen if there is a biological history of depression and/or bipolar disorder in the family.

Death or loss. Death or loss of a family member or a friend especially tragic and untimely death can trigger depression.

Major events in life. These are one's troubles and struggles that had a massive life impact like being laid off from work or prolonged unemployment, financial difficulties and poverty, annulment and divorce, marital and relationship issues like cheating and third party, bankruptcy and business downfall, estranged relationships, loss, illness, calamities, major conflicts like war and others.

Serious Medical Conditions And Chronic Illness. Depression may also be caused by another serious medical condition such as cancer, stroke, chronic pain or heart disease.

Other mental health issues. Those who had a history of other mental health disorders, such as anxiety disorder, eating disorders or post-traumatic stress disorders experience depression.

Hormones. Hormone changes during and after delivery pregnancy (Post-Partum Syndrome), thyroid issues, menopause and other hormonal conditions are often linked to depression with women.

Alcohol and Substance Abuse. Some people find comfort with drugs and alcohol if they are feeling so down and anxious. According to DualDiagnosis.org “Substance abuse is common among people who are battling a depressive disorder. Because alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, the use of this drug tends to trigger depression symptoms like lethargy, sadness, and hopelessness. However, many depressed individuals reach for drugs or alcohol as a way to lift their spirits or to numb painful thoughts. As a result, depression and substance abuse feed into each other, and one condition will often make the other worse”.

Certain medications. There are certain prescriptions that have been linked to depression. One is Accutane which treats severe acne. Others identified are Celontin and Zarontin which are anticonvulsants prescribed to control epileptic seizures. If you think that there are certain medications prescribed that are causing you some mood symptoms, it is best to raise it to your doctor to determine if there are some appropriate options. Your physician should identify which of the drugs that might cause feelings of depression and to evaluate if the mood symptoms are or are not likely related to the medications.

SYMPTOMS OF DEPRESSION



symptoms of depression
Photo lifted from Facebook Newsfeeds


The following are the signs or indications of clinical depression that you might want to watch out for:

·         Extreme sadness
·         Being Anxious
·         Melancholic
·         Frustrated
·         Bitterness
·         Guilt
·         Agitated
·         Irritability
·         Confusions
·         Extreme Mood swings
·         Low or decreased energy
·         Loneliness
·         Feeling helpless
·         Hopelessness
·         Emptiness
·         Fatigue
·         Poor sleeping habits and insomnia
·         Physical changes like excessive weight gain or weight loss
·         Low self-esteem
·         Lacking of Interest of their previous activities, hobbies and habits even sex
·         Mental and Physical Exhaustion
·         Suicidal thoughts
·         Unable to concentrate and losing focus
·         Extreme eating habits: either no appetite or overindulging with food
·         Indecisive
·         Miserable and feeling worthless
·         Pessimism


HOW TO SEEK HELP


Just like my personal experience, people suffering from depression often admit that the most challenging part of it is to reach out and ask for help. You have this urge but you always pull yourself back for the fear of others not being able to understand it. Depression lowers one’s self-esteem and people who are affected often are in denial because of self-shame. They tend to shy away to admit that they are suffering from it because they don't want to appear weak and vulnerable in the prying eyes of others. The last thing you want to do is to open it to someone who wouldn’t understand or don’t personally know. 

Others hate the stigma associated with it (about being talked and pitied behind their backs) and that they worry about the reactions of their family and friends. Others might worry about the expenses when it comes to therapy or that they will be prescribed medications that they don’t want to take or can’t afford to buy.


why people dont seek help for depression
photo courtesy of FTTM (Filipino Tweets That Matter)

If you have the symptoms of depression, the first best thing to do is to acknowledge and honor your emotions that you can’t just do it alone and that you need help. I know it is so hard to do but it is the most important step in overcoming depression. Looking back, I would’ve shared that I am suffering from depression with someone. Recognizing depression and admitting that you have it will open doors eventually towards a more purposeful way of treating it. Depression is not temporary and just a setback, the more that you nurse it alone, the more that it stays which is riskier to you as suicidal thoughts often come in play. 


Photo lifted from Bored Panda



Photo lifted from Bored Panda
Isolation ignites depression so have the courage to reach out to a trusted friend, a family member, a spiritual mentor, also a priest or a pastor. Again it might be awkward at first to talk about it, so look for someone who loves you dearly or who is so willing to listen to you without condemnation or judgments. This way, it will help you unburden and unlock the cause of your prolonged sadness and anxiety and from that much-needed help will follow. You need an emotional support to take you out from the state of despair. 

Just to be honest with you, I have been seeing and experiencing some symptoms of Post-Partum Depression right now ( I just recently gave birth to my daughter a month ago) and despite the fact that I now have a stronger of faith, I still see myself struggling and so I shared it up to my spiritual leader and in our life group for them to help me pray about and to go through it. I don't want to go back to the same battle again all by myself.

You can also reinforce the support through the help of a mental health doctor. A mental health professional will assist you with effective methods and treatments of depression which includes therapy and counseling and medications.

WHAT WE CAN DO TO HELP


It doesn’t mean that if someone doesn’t look depressed means he or she doesn’t need help. Try to be sensitive enough to build a relationship and to open the doors of communication most especially in your family. Let your loved ones feel appreciated and valued all the time. Let them know and feel it. The last thing we want is to lose someone we love so dearly because we don’t even have any idea that he or she is already suffering from depression.

It is best to check signs of anxiety and depression in order for you to easily identify if one needs intervention. We have to be keen on the going-throughs of our friends and family members (like he was just laid down from work, they just broke-up, is going through deep financial crisis,  there was an issue at school or any signs of bullying, or you see that something is bothering him or her) in order for you to extend help especially if he or she has the suicidal tendencies. Sometimes, we don’t need to wait for them to reach out, instead, we seek them out and offer our emotional help.

Try to talk things sincerely and with empathy, not just sympathy and to console them through prayers and sharing God’s word. Prayers work all the time! Encourage them through counseling and engage them in a life support.

Support them to seek medical or professional if a family member or a friend has the symptoms of depression. Make it as comfortable as possible and to feel less awkward. Let him or her understand that medical help definitely is needed and they don’t have to be embarrassed about it. Support them all throughout in their journey of overcoming depression.

Fighting the stigma of depression comes from unified thoughts and collective actions from the public. Let’s stop this public shaming, instead, we have to load ourselves with proper knowledge about depression and suicidal tendencies. Our government should also implement stronger and more comprehensive laws and programs about mental health in our country which can be disseminated most especially in the public or private schools so students (most especially those who are experiencing the puberty stage) are properly educated. It is also an effective way of letting them know that they are not alone. 

The more that we advocate mental health, the more that we take control in alleviating depression and the threats of suicides in the community. Let's us be accountable towards each other!


"Victory is always possible for the person who refuses to stop fighting"-Napoleon Hill


"The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen".  Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
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2 comments :

  1. Que tal! muy linda nota, parece que el maestro
    yahoo me trajo exactamente a la información que estaba queriendo, amo Tailandia y espero regresar proximamente,
    me apunto a ver las nuevasnotas, muchas gracias Buen trabajo

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    1. Hi, I'm sorry, I used Google to translate your comment! I appreciate it so much. Thank you for your time reading my article. Reach out if you need someone to talk to. That's great! I hope you can return and visit Thailand :)

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