By Sahil Shah
I’m tired of depression.
I’m tired of seeing people my age, and younger, suffer it. I’m tired of depression being talked about like the “next big thing”.
Depression is not funny. Depression is not cool. Depression is depression, an illness and an epidemic.
Depression is a horrible roommate, a voice in your head constantly telling you how much of a failure you are, how nothing will ever work out, how life is a merciless lemon-provider who never taught you how to deal with all those lemons.
But Sahil. Why are you talking about all this? You’re a comedian, man. You are happy all the time. How does this affect you?
It affects me because I’ve been through it. Five months ago, I saw my life spiralling out of control. I saw no point in anything. I’d sleep more, go out less, ignore my friends and family, and eventually became a recluse on an island of my own solitude.
The worst part? I didn’t think I could tell anyone. I was afraid people would laugh it off.
Haha! Good one, Sahil! You should use this in a set!
Nothing about depression is funny.
When you’re sad, you cry and then you’re fine.
But when you’re depressed, you cry, wonder why you’re crying, hate yourself for crying. Then you cry more. Some days you don’t feel anything, other days you feel more than you can handle.
You’re seat belted on a cycle on a downhill slope made slippery with your own tears.
Can you imagine walking down a street, trying to get to work, then realising you’re crying?
Not because an auto driver rejected you or someone walked up to you and said “Hey, you’re ugly!” and then ran away. Just crying. No reason. No explanation.
Come on. Sahil. You? Crying? No way.
I’ve cried a lot. I’ve held myself on the floor and wondered, very seriously, if I would ever really smile again. Happiness felt like a mask I would put on after getting dressed in the morning. Showing the whole world how great I looked on the outside, hiding the sadness.
One day, when I felt too tired to put on my well-worn happy mask, I decided to take things in control. I was brave enough to ask for help and enlist the support of friends and family.
Once I started talking openly about what I was going through, I discovered other friends going through similar problems. We have cried in front of each other. And then we’ve laughed together. And then we’ve cried more. It was the best feeling in the world.
Finally, I had found one possible way to tackle everything that was going wrong: by talking about it.
So you were just sad? I got out of being sad. Anyone can!
Sadness and depression are two different things. Depression isn’t just a bad day that you can shake off. It takes lives.
When I read about the student who took his life in Mumbai this week, I thought: Shit. It got to him.
He was 24, he had a whole life ahead of him. Things to achieve, mistakes to make, people to meet. If only someone saw the signs, if someone offered to talk, if only someone took him to a doctor, made a diagnosis, got him the help he needed.
But Sahil! He could have just fought it out na?
No. Depression is the worst battle of all time because for the first time ever, you’re not battling someone else. You’re fighting yourself.
The only antidote is feeling understood, feeling cared for, and getting professional help, like you would for any other illness.
Unfortunately, we aren’t good at treating it like the illness that it is.
Yesterday, while I saw a lot of support for students suffering anxiety and depression, I also saw a few meme pages had made memes about the student who committed suicide. It was hurtful to read the comments. To read people tagging their friends and making jokes.
People with depression need to look into the world and see open arms, not strangers holding knives.
So, how does one get out of it?
The answer is different for each person, but the first step is deciding to.
Once I wanted to feel better, I sat down to evaluate my life and actively accept it. I accepted where I was. I accepted how I was. I accepted things about myself and I even tried to accept the mistakes I’ve made.
I also identified some of my triggers.
I’m in a line where you have to constantly be in people’s faces or risk being forgotten. I have to constantly use social media.
But I realised I hate social media. It makes me feel insignificant and useless every single day. We are constantly shown glimpses of other people’s happiness, constantly reminded how others are doing more than us, doing better than us, and we’re constantly made to feel inadequate in our own successes and joys.
I used to think the loneliest people are ones without friends but thanks to Facebook, the loneliest people are the ones with way too many.
I would compare my life to everyone around me. I would wish I was more successful, funnier, more talented, better looking. With every app now having a “Stories” feature, we’re drowned in a constant influx of information, seeing the best moments of other people’s lives. Never the sad ones.
I paid attention to my emotions and realised social media was destructive to me. Realising it helped me take it less seriously.
One by one, I stopped letting things happen to me and affect me. I was ready to fight back.
Life is a bitch. But you either let it dominate you or you become the dominatrix.
And you know who my army was? Friends and my family.
You know what their weapons were? Understanding.
Sahil, how can I fight in the war?
People message me on a regular basis. Every day, I receive variations of: “I’m so scared, I will get bad marks, I’m going to be a failure.”
Why are you afraid of exams? Forget exams, you’re going to disappoint your parents in many more ways later on. (Sorry, it’s true.)
Jokes apart, I was a shit student. I was average in every aspect. I didn’t play sports, I didn’t do well in class, and I didn’t even get grace marks for good handwriting.
Thankfully, I had parents who understood that I come before my academics.
Sadness and depression are different. Depression isn’t just a bad day that you can shake off.
That’s what we need. More understanding. If you’re a parent reading this, talk to your kid. Don’t encourage them to slack off but encourage them to not fear you.
Encourage them to understand that exams are not the end of the world. Make them understand that the pressure you guys are putting is for their future happiness. It shouldn’t, in the process, be destroying their current happiness.
Be their friend.
Times have changed. We don’t live in a time where marks are the be-all and end-all of success. People are quitting high paying corporate jobs to become comedians, musicians and entrepreneurs. The internet is allowing people to forge careers in their chosen passions, completely detached from marks.
Look at me! I’ve not done a single job in my life and look where I am! I didn’t get to where I was with good grades or degrees. I started out as a rich boy, my currency being support.
I thank my parents for what they have done. For holding my hand in the rough times. For being there for me when I was happy and when I was sad.
For just sitting there and saying, “We understand.”
I have learned that “I’m here for you” and “I understand” are the most powerful words in the English language.
Say them to whoever needs it.
Sahil. All this is fine. But what if enough is enough and I just want to end it?
There are tons of answers to the question of depression. Suicide isn’t the best one.
Your life isn’t yours alone. It’s a mutual life lived by everyone around you. Think about them.
Everyone you know would rather know about your depression and help you through it, than lose you to it.
They’ll wish, for the rest of their lives, they could have known to walk up to you and say, “Hey. I’m here.” Give them that chance.
“I’m here for you” and “I understand” are the most powerful words.
Life is a broken rollercoaster and sometimes you get stuck in the shitty parts but trust me, the rollercoaster does work and it is one hell of a ride.
Wait it out. It gets better.
If you think you’re depressed, talk to your parents or your friends.
Afraid of them?
There are enough helplines out there with people who are trained to handle anything you’re feeling.
If you’re not depressed, then start understanding.
Forget phrases like “Cheer up!” and “It’s probably just a bad day!” and “Chal na, get over it.”
Learn phrases like “Do you want to talk?” and “Hey, is everything alright?” and “I’m here.”
Life is a broken rollercoaster and sometimes you get stuck in the shitty parts but trust me, it is one hell of a ride.
Don’t be afraid to lend a hand to someone who refuses to get off the floor.
And lastly, if you’re still reading, then I only have one thing to say: the war has just begun and we are going to win.
You and I are going to defeat this piece of shit.
I’m better off now. I won my war, for now. I know it could start again, any day. But I also know the weapons I have to fight it with: friends, family, honesty, asking for help.
I found my source of joy: making people smile! And I promise you, one day as a whole army we will smile together.
PS: I have a ton of lemons in case anyone wants to borrow some!