It’s a funny thing, depression. One of the loneliest conditions a person can experience, it’s nonetheless felt by millions upon millions of people the world over. And yet, despite being so prevalent, no two people experience it quite the same, even though the outcomes are so often similar.
When I first succumbed to the onslaught of depression in the early 2000s, there wasn’t a whole lot for me to know about it. I felt miserable, I wanted to sleep all day, I hated myself and my life, and daydreamed of death virtually non-stop. It was a distinctly personal experience, and one that I had trouble sharing with … well, anyone.
You see, the advent of easy global communication was still a year or two away, and in the beginning, there was just myself and my friends at school. My friends at school didn’t really understand depression – even with my closest friend, Jen, who I know suffered as I did, I struggled to communicate the depth of despair and self-loathing I felt every day.
The funny thing about misery, though, is that it loves company. I eventually found myself on AOL chat rooms and other instant messaging platforms, and suddenly a world was opened up to me – a world of dark, dangerous, depressed people who felt just the way I did (and some of them were even worse). For the first time in my life, I truly realized I wasn’t alone, and although I never met any of these chat people in real life, my online presence became my life. I would count the breaths until I could sign on again to talk to my dark, gothic friends.
These ability to communicate thoughts and feelings was, in some ways, a saving grace. Without it, I would have been truly alone, and I don’t know how long I could have survived in such a state. I have little doubt I would have killed myself.
Before this, though – before people could easily communicate – what did depressed people do? How did they let out their frustrations, vent their feelings, and cope with the voice in their head telling them they would be better off dead?
I mean, depression isn’t exactly a new phenomenon; famous figures throughout history have notably suffered, including Tchaikovsky, Churchill, and Cobain. As public figures, of course – and as artists – they had some form of outlet, but what about the countless ‘little’ people, the ones with no outlet, no forum, and no way of telling the world that they aren’t happy? What of all those lonely souls throughout history?
Whilst depression may not have changed in a million years, our reaction to it certainly has. Even though it’s still considered taboo in some circles to discuss mental illness at all, the fact that it can be discussed is, in itself, a revelation. I came across a post the other day on Reddit about a young girl who was contemplating killing herself. It was a heartbreaking read, but what made it bearable was the fact that, without hours, there were literally hundreds of comments in support of her and her experience – hundreds of people who reached out through the anonymity of the internet to try and help her through this difficult moment.
I’m not saying that people who suffer from depression are in a better place now than in the past; the disease is powerful, and can make lonely the most outgoing of people in a heartbeat. But what we do have now, that we never had before, is a forum through which to discuss our suffering. A place we can go to learn from others, and share our experiences. And whether that’s on Reddit, Twitter, or right here on WordPress, there is a world of loving and caring individuals out there who are willing and waiting to hear what you have to say.
So don’t be lonely, and don’t be a stranger; reach out. Someone will answer.Become a Patron!