You wake up feeling sad and defeated, like you had a bad dream you just cannot shake off – although what it was about, you can no longer remember.
That feeling, it haunts you for the rest of the day; it makes you tired, you eat less and your mood becomes unpredictable – you can be angry one moment, and crying the next.
It often becomes so overwhelming that nothing can enthuse you and mustering the energy to do anything becomes absolutely tiresome; so instead, you start to just go through the motions.
Slowly, even friends and alcohol cannot numb the hopeless- and helplessness; and you start to become a shut-in.
On better days, you’ll still have energy to do the things you enjoy – reading, watching your favourite shows or gaming. But some days it cripples you and all you can do is lie motionless on your bed, with your eyes fixated on the ceiling, as you try to divine the meaning of life – of the reason that you’re still alive.
It scares you how normalcy starts to bother you – a child’s laughter, the news or even the swirling fan can drive you up the wall. But the most frightening of all is the stillness of the night: once quiet, it has become so piercing and deafening from your thoughts – as you toss and turn, trying to sleep, trying to move forward.
And it never goes away in just a day or two; it takes weeks, sometimes even months.
But no matter how bad it gets, you could still get through each day without anyone noticing.
It may be a lot like the flu – you will never know when it comes but when it does, it’ll take time before you feel yourself again – but there is no pale lips or hoarse voice; so other than the obvious change in mood, which everyone dismisses as us just having a bad day, you look and sound pretty much the same – as per normal.
But what you are feeling is anything but normal.
It is not normal to be this sad. It is not normal for your heart to always beat so quickly and your breathing to be this rapid.
And it is definitely not normal to hate yourself so much – that you start to devise ways to get back at you: you lose 3kg in three weeks because you deny yourself food; you stop doing the things you love; you stop caring that your top doesn’t match your bottoms; and hurting yourself becomes an option.
Slumped shoulders, sunken cheeks and dark circles, people around you finally start to notice that something might be wrong with you, and they want to help.
But often, they only make it worse.
The trivialise your problems, by comparing it with their own – “I’ve been through worse. What you are going through is nothing.” – and it leaves you feeling like a petulant child. When you try to explain yourself, the harrowing feeling of desperation and despair, they think you dramatic, because surely, it can’t be that bad. “It’s all in the mind,” they say to you; “He’s just seeking attention,” they say to themselves when you’re not around.
However, you don’t blame them for doubting you because at the start, you didn’t believe yourself too: You convinced yourself that they were right, you were just being melodramatic; that you’re weak and you need to man up.
You are not weak.
Even with everything that is happening inside, you still can force yourself to smile and crack the jokes you normally do; you still function and can do what everyone else does – sometimes even better.
That is why nobody sees that on so many days, it is a struggle; that on so many days, you’re defeated.
Slowly, it starts to matter less and less that others do not understand; because the ones that love you, will believe you no matter what, and the ones that don’t, wouldn’t, even after witnessing a very public nervous breakdown.
And also because it has always been just you and depression. For many it is their longest relationship, so nobody can understand and deal with it better than you – because depression starts and ends with you.
First, accept that you are depressed and do what you must to be better – but never hurt yourself or others.
Seek help if you must; there is no shame in it.
What is truly shameful is if you do not get better – because this is not a way to live.
What is truly shameful is our society’s obsession with happiness – how everyone believes only the weak or crazy are depressed.
They are wrong. There is nothing wrong or embarrassing about sadness: it is an essential experience of life, of growing up, as there are important lessons about being happy that only sadness – or more accurately, the absence of happiness – can teach you.
Just like how we invented the lightbulb so that the nights too can be filled with light or how the winters, devoid of heat, taught us to start a fire, lavish in your sadness – not languish – and let it manifest into something useful – and not let it consume you.
On days when it gets too hard, do this: settle in a quiet corner, take a few deep breaths, then think of happier memories and muse about your future, before reminding yourself that nothing has changed – the only difference is that your vision is now veiled by a dark cloud called depression.
But like all clouds, it is merely passing. This too shall pass, then the sun rays shall once again dance on to the beautiful garden of your mind.