What does depression look like? Haji Mohamed Dawjee gives the illness a voice in an attempt to identify and explain it.
People have been spreading rumours about me for the longest time. I hear them talk. They degrade me and ignore me. They underestimate me. “Just feeling a bit down,” they say. “Everyone feels a bit down.”
It’s easy to trivialise me. I hang around in the background. I live in people’s books, their poetry, the back seats of their cars, in self-help pamphlets. I live on Google, on motivational posters and alternative blogs. I live in films. I live in people and I live with them. All kinds. I don’t discriminate.
Sometimes I am the nameless disease that haunts cultures. There are no words to describe me. I am a weak entity waiting to be done away with by utterances of prayer or even castigation.
“There’s nothing wrong with you,” they tell me. “Just buck up; get over it.” In many instances, I am just a taboo: something that is stigmatised and thus ignored. No one ever stigmatises a broken arm or leg. I’m invisible but effective. I’m not bleeding. There is no blood.
There are no interjections of me running out into a winter shower with overwhelmingly grey skies, head bent forward. I don’t look like this. I don’t always look like this. Maybe that’s why you don’t recognise me. I look great in writing. I am the mark of many a talent. Or perhaps the mark of many an ordinary person. I wake up, I go to work. Maybe I have kids, a great social life; often I can even be the life of the party. Sometimes I retract. I go for long drives; I ponder.
I spend a lot of time pondering. When the pondering lends itself to words, I share them. But I’ll tell you, if anyone responded and told me to think positive thoughts because it would help me be another way, something inside me would die a little. I would look and feel like failure. More.
Sometimes, I am an excuse. Problems occur and everyone gets sad, unhappy, upset. But pop culture has made me a great crutch. A reason, oftentimes a necessity. I know people like this. I have stood cast in many a fickle light. Money has exchanged hands for the treatment of me. Often, I am a disease of the rich.
The pills you swallow for being cool because you can afford to have me have an effect, but sometimes, the treatment makes me worse. I fester and I feed off the personality I inhabit. Until I am numb. Until they are numb. Then, there are those who have no access to the treatment of me – sometimes they don’t even know I exist. They just somehow get by. I am still there, though. I look like that too.
When you look for me, you will look in dark rooms, in beds unmade with me in them, refusing to get out. You will look in the box marked “hopeless” and if you don’t find me there, you will look in the box marked “helpless” – perhaps both. I may not be there still.
Sometimes, I will be out. I will be overworked, overcommitted, overexcited, overachieving – all of them distractions. I will be out doing these things until I am over being distracted. And then, maybe I will resort back to that unmade bed. Dressed in frustration with alcohol or some other substance as a bedfellow.
It will surprise some, or go unnoticed. I make enemies, all the time. I snap. It’s exhausting. It’s because it’s so exhausting that I sometimes look like failure.
Not great at doing this life thing. Some will call me unwilling, cowardly or weak. I feel like a thing that tries, but I don’t always look like one.
Sometimes I am desperate, sometimes I am despondent and sometimes I willingly deprive myself of both these emotions and go for a run instead, or eat well. Feed my soul and all that garbage. Because when you look better you feel better and all that? Not so? Not always. No.