Depression Hurts but Kindness Lives

by Tahira Rifath

‘The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.’

I came across this quote through my recent interest in understanding the medicine-death relationship. It of course comes as no surprise that recent day medicine has failed horrendously in psychological disorders – namely depression. We, as a society, fail to understand the significance of a certain ordeal without having previously experienced it. We do not look to a depressed person as being ‘sick’ or ‘ill’ only because he seems physically well. No wounds. No bleeding. No nothing. And so we completely disregard depression as being a serious illness. We even go to the extent of calling it a ‘phase’ to deny that it even exists.

Some of us don’t quite understand the importance of letting go of the mythical beliefs inherited by our ancestors, whom weren’t fortunate as we are today with the accessibility of information just by a click of a button. What I’m trying to say is that when somebody says they’re depressed you should not counteract it with a “you’re probably not so close to God” or the infamous “Pray more and God will soothe you.” Yes of course faith is an important aspect in your will to live, however the absence of faith is not the synonym of depression. Depression is a complexity of things that, till this very day, nobody can properly define. I truly believe that there is a deficit in the understanding of depression (and similar psychological diseases) and counteracting with inappropriate responses make things a lot worse.

My advice to you is that even if medicine has failed us -when it comes to depression, that is no green card to allow yourself to indulge in the failure as well. Be part of your depressed family member’s/friend’s success story. Depression is an illness. And if you feel like a person you know is suffering from depression, do not ask him to ‘change his attitude’ or to ‘get over it’. Try showing honest support, and let it not be out of pity. Let him not feel pitied for the person he unintentionally has become. Let him not feel alone in this world. We need to learn that the easiest, cheapest and must humane medical treatment of all is being there for one another. You surely don’t need a degree to teach you the basics of humanity.

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