It's Okay to Not be Okay

Author :- Udita Mehta March 8, 2022, 2:33 p.m.
It's Okay to Not be Okay

An Attempt to Bust Some Myths Around Clinical Depression

Two things can affect a smooth drive:

  1. A road with potholes
  2. A mechanical issue with the car

The second, my friend is ‘Clinical Depression’ "

I have never found a better way to explain what ‘Clinical Depression’ is and I probably never will.

A smooth drive

In this analogy, a smooth drive refers to being in a healthy mental space. This is when your emotions are balanced. There can be periods of sadness in this state but it isn’t pertinacious. However, the drive gets rough when a person is in a persistently depressed mood or loses interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life.

Look around you; statistics assert that 1 out of 15 people are suffering from depression

But what causes this rough drive?

A road with Potholes

There is a high chance that the drive is rough due to potholes. These are not in control of the driver. Similarly, an abusive environment can trigger depressive episodes in an individual. It could be domestic violence, childhood trauma, sexual abuse, harassment to just name a few. This might lead to psychological depression or clinical depression and in the case of the former, it might be treated with therapy.

Mechanical Issue with the car

Can the most accomplished drivers drive a car with a mechanical fault? Let’s try and drive a diesel car on petrol. Not happening? Let’s talk to the driver and explain to him how to drive better. Did it work? No? Let's try harder. There is faulty wiring in the car’s battery but let’s try starting that engine. Frustrating right?

There is a problem in the wiring of the brain but talk to someone and you might feel better. Are we frustrated now? Yes, the mechanical issue with the brain which makes it incapable to run the engine of the body is ‘Clinical Depression’ and no, we CAN NOT talk someone out of it.

You take the car to a mechanic. You see a psychiatrist. Now I know some of the smartest people who understand mental health and are self-aware but are super paranoid when it comes to taking pills for the mind. I never understood that. The brain is inside the body. We immediately pop pills when the body aches but we have inhibitions when the brain is almost shutting down. I hereby am trying to honestly answer some of those inhibitions

Q. My productivity will decrease because the pills might make me drowsy.

A. Yes, it might. Indeed medicines might decrease your productivity but depression will make it zero. Medicines make you functional

Q. I will never get rid of pills

A. Medical science has done a lot of research but there is absolutely no hard evidence of this. However, there is tons of hard evidence that pills are not permanent

Q. Pills have side effects like weight gain

A. Some pills might show symptoms of weight gain in some people. I am an economist and we see tradeoffs quickly. Here is the tradeoff. Gain some weight and be functional enough to do some workout and reach the same/lesser weight or do not take pills even when doctors call out the necessity, keep spiraling so much that you can’t function and definitely can’t work out, maybe develop bulimic tendencies (a serious eating disorder marked by binge eating) and potentially end up gaining weight. See the tradeoff

The driver is not at fault

Coming back to the analogy. We saw that the cause of a rough drive is either a faulty road or a mechanical issue and hence pinning the blame on the driver is preposterous. In the case of mental health, the patient usually blames himself because we as a society have made conceptions of strength and weakness. I still hear people say they are ‘strong enough.’ What does ‘strong enough’ mean? How much is enough? We are trying to solve a chemical equation with physics when we measure depression with strength and weakness. Here are some better statements we can tell ourselves:

“Strength and weakness are relative. I will not compare my insides to other people’s outsides”

'“I took care of myself by seeking help. I will be taking care of myself if I take the pill. I am doing it for me”

“A lot of times I thought the pain was permanent but it wasn’t. I have no evidence that this time it will be”

“Fear is False Evidence Appearing Real”

“Thoughts come and go. Negative thoughts don’t need to be controlled. Hardly any negative thought/imagination has turned into reality till now”

“All negative thinking will not be true. Has all the positive one been?”

“Tomorrow’s struggle is only in my imagination. One day at a time”

“My brain isn’t the most healthy right now hence listening to it isn’t nt going to be much effective”

It is okay to be dependent

While spiraling through self-blame, we often tell ourselves ‘I am a failure and dependent on doctors and medicines to help me survive’. I couldn’t ever completely comprehend what it means to be independent. Are we independent when we buy our own vegetables or are we eventually dependent on the farmer who grows that? When we say we are financially independent, does this mean we aren’t dependent on our employer to employ us or our colleagues who work with us, or our employees who work for us? Just like strength and weakness, the concept of independence is also completely subjective. To my knowledge, human beings have always been and will always be codependent on their environment. That is what in economics we call linkages. There will always be forward and backward linkages attached to what we do. The best practice that can help with depression is to look at the facts for what they really are.

Most good stuff doesn’t seem to be convincing when life is at the edge but as Matt Haig says

“The oldest clichés remain the truest. Time heals. The bottom of the valley never provides the clearest view. The tunnel does have light at the end of it, even if we haven’t been able to see it . . . Words, just sometimes, really can set you free”

Image from Unsplash