While replying to an email last night I received an article on depression from Swati Varma. Although it does not go into a copious amount of detail about how to actually treat or cope with depression, it does provide a pretty good overall introduction to the condition and how it might be recognized.
Let me start by asking the age old question - Are you happy? I am sure each of us poses this question to ourselves often enough. Since we are all so hell bent on being ‘happy’, the answer we receive is more often than not, “Yes, I am”. After all, everybody does say they are fine. Even so, most of us have had a foreboding feeling on an idle Tuesday afternoon when we are home by ourselves. This feeling of lack of any real control in our lives usually takes a back seat as the afternoon passes, or as we get a call from one of our friends, or as our spouse comes back from work. If you have had many such afternoons lately, you are probably depressed!
The first step to feeling better is to say it. Say to yourself that you are depressed. If you keep pushing away that feeling of not amounting to something, then you are not very likely to get over it. Acknowledge it to yourself and to others. Convincing yourself that all is well is not going to get you anywhere. You may go on for years with the same feeling of being unreal. It does not just go away as we get busy with our everyday lives.
Once you acknowledge that feeling, there are two things you need to figure out. One, are you suffering from mild depression because of certain events in your life? This sort of depression originates with things like a breakup, a fight, bad work environment, arguments at home, and the like. In this case you are depressed because you expected certain things out of your life which have remained unfulfilled. A thank you or an apology has been pending for too long.
The second thing to figure out is if your depression originates from an unidentifiable source. You don’t really know why you feel this way, but you do. People who have happy families, successful careers, and a healthy social life are likely to go through this second form of depression. There is no rational reason for feeling empty. In many cultures around the world, especially in western ones, people are in denial of this feeling of emptiness. If you feel you are a lost soul swimming in a fish bowl, you usually pop a pill, bake a dish, or watch a movie, anything to run away from the inexplicable feeling of failure and emptiness. Some of the other cultures, like the Buddhist one, look at this feeling of emptiness as an inherent part of the human nature. You can’t run away from it. Once you start believing in the impermeable nature of the human life, it will stop scaring you. We are not omnipotent beings who can achieve perfection, nor should we try to be.
Most importantly, stop trying to understand what you feel, and just feel. As you stay with your feelings, understanding is bound to follow. Once you accept that emptiness is the canvas or background of our being, there are various ways to fight depression. Most aim for bringing about a change in perspective. If you can’t work through it alone, do not hesitate to seek help!