The worst thing about anxiety, worthlessness, polarity and chronic stress is the way they affect your relationships. They make you do things to people you’d normally not do. It makes people do things to you that they normally wouldn’t.
In this state of SAD—Stress, Anxiety and/or Depression—you sometimes, for no valid reason, spew venom on people closest to you. You call, text, or even wake people up in the middle of the night just to fight or have an argument. All this not because they have done anything to deserve it, but because you are in such a deep pit yourself that all you can to do is try to pull people inside along with you. How do I know all this? Because I have done it over and over again.
We, as a culture, are so used to people playing normal and complying with the unwritten rules of the civilized society, that any aberration becomes difficult to handle.
Some of my friends, upon being pulled into the pit have given me company—they have read jokes to me, have offered me a drink, have cooked for me and fed me. Some have stayed inside the pit with me out of compulsion but run out the minute they could; later they blamed me for all the dirt they had accumulated there: they were now smeared with the same dirt as I. And then there have been those who have come in and taken me out to show me the world that exists outside the hellhole.
Stress, anxiety, depression happen to many of us and because of many reasons. Some of us are affected more than the others, and some of us deal with them better than others. This does not mean that those who are affected more—or can cope less well—are inferior to those who do not go through it, or deal with such emotions better. But society makes us believe so.
We, as a culture, are so used to people playing normal and complying with the unwritten rules of the civilized society, that any aberration becomes difficult to handle. Because we do not know how to respond to a sensitive situation like mental well-being (or the lack of it), we do what we can do best: we label. Someone dealing with anxiety is labelled as a weakling, someone dealing with depression becomes overly and unnecessarily sensitive; those who suffer from polarity issues become irresponsible and moody attention seekers, and those who suffer in the hands of chronic stress become crazy lunatics. In short, they suffer twice over: 1) at the hands of their condition, and 2) at the hands of society.
A lot of my friends have told me that I bring this sadness upon myself. They believe that I look out for things that are not right and then wallow in misery. They feel that I enjoy self-pity and self-hurt. Then there are those who have seen me suffer and advised me to loosen up; to chill and relax. I have lost count of how many times I have been told that I can be happy if I choose to. Unfortunately with every such accusation and advice, I have only gotten farther from people.
If your own thoughts sound alien to you, how would someone else understand them?
The thing about such feelings is that they isolate you from the world around you. You see the world as them and I. You look at them being happy and going about their lives while you continue to suffer. Often in silence, without anyone stopping by to really listen and understand. The few who do stop by shower you with unsolicited advice. In the whole bargain you only get bitter about the world and wary of its people. It becomes a vicious circle in which you are trapped forever.
But you have to break the circle. That is the only way you can escape this chaos. There are times when you gather courage and seek help. You try to tell people about what you are going through. You try to put into words a feeling so inexplicable that your vocabulary falls short. If your own thoughts sound alien to you, how would someone else understand them? How do you explain to a normal person the knots in your stomach, or the sinking of your heart? The tears that appear without a reason and refuse to stop? How do you convey the helplessness and dejection, the fear that grips you and the anxiety that paralyses you? How do you justify the highs and the lows, the agonies and ecstasies?
Most of my highs have been followed by lows. The happier I have been, the more forlorn I have become. The feeling of being on top of the world, in no time, transforms into a feeling of uselessness and worthlessness. The transformation is so sudden that often I don’t know what to make of it. It is therefore quite understandable if others around me cannot. It’s also possible that they see me as someone who is moody and irresponsible, and someone who is erratic and insensitive towards others. I guess I cannot blame them. After all they can only see the manifestation of the anguish, not what goes on within.
It feels good when people understand you. Or at least try to. When they trust you and believe you. When instead of doling out advice, they listen. Sometimes all you need is someone to talk to without the fear of judgment.
If you know someone who is sad, do him or her a favour—do not ask the person to cheer up.
Many people have understood and forgiven me. Many have lent me an ear when all I needed was to talk; they have been there when all I needed was a shoulder to cry on. They have hugged me when I was afraid, held me when I was anxious, been with me when I was dazed, confused, or just plain sad. But there have been many more who have neither forgiven, nor helped. Who got so overwhelmed by the dirt in my pit that they decided never to get close to me again. Ironically these were the ones I relied on the most. Maybe I had hurt them beyond repair: you always take those closest to you for granted, don’t you?
Finally, telling someone undergoing SAD to chill and cheer up is not a solution. If at all, it pushes them to withdraw further. If you know someone who is sad, do him or her a favour—do not ask the person to cheer up. Spend some quality time with them, be around them, and give them time to open up. If you see things worsening, try to take them to a professional mental health practitioner.