“I’m so tired and stressed”! This is a very common phrase we hear in our daily life; from our partners, kids, parents, family members, friends and even strangers.
“Stress” is a condition we feel when our nervous system responds to a certain action by releasing floods of hormones including adrenaline and cortisol to rouse our body for different actions. The feelings or reactions we have to this stress is known as “anxiety”, but often times these words are used interchangeably. Stress is not always a bad or negative thing, sometimes it can be positive too. We often feel overwhelmed or anxious when we are about to do something for the first time or when we experience something new. Usually, stress becomes a wicked thing when we have to force ourselves to keep up with demands and threats of a situation or an issue. It is triggered by feelings that make us nervous and frustrated or a feeling of fear, worry or unease. The long duration we spend dealing with these feelings results in anxiety shoving us into a dark hole known as “depression”. Depression is a long lasting form of stress, often making the person impede doing things they might regularly do. It’s a feeling when we can’t or don’t have the ability to do a certain thing or lack the ability to take an action to get out of the situation we are in.
According to World Health Organization, “every 1 in 4 people in the world go through mental illness or neurological disorders at some point of their life and currently there are approximately 450 million people suffering from such conditions”, which includes depression. There are so many people I know going through stress, anxiety and depression and it’s almost impossible to directly acknowledge or pinpoint a person when they are going through this, which often leads us to feel guilty at the very end when we start to understand it. However, if we carefully observe, sometimes we can make the distinction between stress and depression. Stress is often associated with a person feeling overwhelmed, forgetting regular routine things, trouble concentrating and sleeping, change of eating and physical habits, feeling nervous and frustrated. Depression is a serious form of stress and is habitually associated with a person withdrawing from other people who they are close to, feeling sadness and unhappiness or neither, lack of energy and enthusiasm, lack of motivation and trouble in making decisions, being restless, sleeping more than usual, trouble with memory, anger, rage and often feeling agitated. They build a wall around them and soon the rest of the world starts to become blurry. The worst case comes when a person has been going through these feelings for a “long-time” and this period of time is different to every individual. It might be decades, years, months or just a few weeks. Whilst, this long lasting feeling and depression can drive the person into becoming suicidal.
So the question is, why is this phenomenon so difficult to address or provide medical attention to?
The primary reason is when we, for ourselves don’t realize that we are going through depression, assuming that the anxious feeling will pass over time and just not clearly addressing the issue or rationalizing with ourselves on what actions to take. We become so busy with life that we feel we don’t have the time to take a breath and acknowledge what or how we can resolve our situation. We feel we can’t speak about it, not because we don’t trust others or we have a false belief that they might not understand, but simply because we just don’t know how to express it in a clear way. The feeling that these difficulties and troubles are too big to overcome becomes too much and we get so tired of fighting with life, that we just want to take a break from everything. Another factor is trying to deal with our issues in silence without the support of our family, friends or close people. We feel that we might burden their life with our problems and the misperceived “shame” we feel, makes us hesitant to approach people until it’s too late. We also have an image of how others will react if we do tell them, and we question ourselves if we can go through those invalid judgements and prove them wrong. So the silence becomes more peaceful than the tormenting questions and judgement of people on our behavior and personality. The illness itself being “invisible” make us feel like there’s no getting out of the situation.
As typical human beings, we often judge or have misperceptions when someone is suicidal or is going through depression. What we fail to do is, try to understand it from their perspective, believe that they are not behaving this way or being suicidal to hurt us or they are being selfish, but they have reached their breaking utility point and for them they are trapped in a situation they don’t know how to get out of. It does not make them psychotic, selfish or insane, it’s just their way of escaping a suffering that has become unbearable. So rather than judging or believing our reality on what they are going through or treating them as failures, we need to look for invisible “help me” signs, give them a chance to talk heart-to-heart so that we can give them a fresh perspective on how they are feeling and help them through the process. It would not bring immediate relief to their troubles, but it will help them cope and have someone to go through with them in the recovery process. The only way we can help our loved ones going through depression, is first believing for ourselves that this is an “invisible illness”, walk a mile in their shoes and stay with them all the way till the end of the tunnel.