Depression. Such a heavy word that can wash over you like a bucket of ice cold water if you really know what it means.
I’ve never wanted to write about this topic, but seeing so many people suffering from depression, and more importantly, so many people being unable to understand what a depressed person goes through, I was obligated to write this blog post. If you’ve been sad, broken-hearted or if you’ve grieved in your life, but haven’t been depressed, you can never understand what actually happens when someone is. Sometimes there is no reason for feeling doomed, sometimes you get triggered in such a way that it feels like you’re falling down into a dark tunnel, and sometimes you’re so overwhelmed that ending it all seems like the only option.
[PLEASE NOTE: I haven’t read this after I was done writing it (not even once), because all my energy was drained while writing this. Hope you can understand, and forgive any mistakes you find along the way.]
Here’s a confession. I have suffered from depression since I was sixteen years old. Let me share a summary of my story with you, and how it has affected and changed me.
The essence of suffering is in the details. There is trauma, yes, but what follows after is what really triggers you; it can be someone’s words, it can be the look they give you, it can even be the care you receive afterwards; but you will always remember how those small things felt.
My father died in April of 2012, when I was sixteen. There was no warning. The last night we spent together, our whole family had recited duas and Quran in the house for peace. The next morning, I woke up with screams and bangs. I held my little cousin who was crying, unable to understand what was happening, and saw as the men of my family picked up my father’s limp body and rushed him to the hospital. It’s blur, I remember, everyone was crying and praying, and my cousin came back and looked towards the floor and said, “He’s no more.” It was like something had smacked me right across the face. I ran into the bathroom and locked myself in, I could hear everyone crying; there was so much noise, and I just stared at myself in the mirror unable to believe what had just happened. I never cried out loud in his funeral even though it tore me apart on the inside.
Time passed, people came, paid condolences, elders placed their hand on my head to represent affection. Here are some things that stuck with me after my father’s death, which is to repeat my point that it’s the little things that keep hurting you. I had my annual Math exam the next day (or day after) he died. It wasn’t really able to study for it, but I did the best I could. My father used to drive me and my friend to the examination hall, and that day it was my friend’s father who drove us and dropped us back. That was the first time, I felt heart-broken. Then when I was taking my paper, I couldn’t see; my vision would get clouded and I would have difficulty breathing. Then I would adjust to the sight in front of me, and it would happen again. On our way back, another friend of mine was in the car. I stared out the window, not wanting to go back to the house because I knew that he wouldn’t be there to ask me how my exam went (as he always did). My friend got a call and it was her father asking how her exam went, that was the second time my heart broke. Then when I was back, I silently made my towards my house, and my eldest brother, Owais, came running after me from the guests and asked with so much love, how my exam went. My eyes filled up with tears, and I nodded. He smiled back with tears in his, and I went into my house.
Time flew by, and I used to never show my tears to anyone, especially not my mom since I didn’t wanna hurt her. Owais was there for me. Once I sat in my father’s room when my mom wasn’t home, and there were my cousins in the house and they were just chilling. I don’t know what came over me, and I sat on the bed, alone, with lights off. My brother saw me and asked what was wrong, and I couldn’t say anything. I placed my head on his shoulder, and he wrapped his arm around me. He said, “Don’t worry! So what if he’s not around? I’m here.” And those words stuck with me.
After that, time passed by, things happened, Owais got my father’s job and things seemed to be getting back to normal. I had some quarrels with my brothers, but nothing serious. Words can hurt, words can heal; and words will stay with you forever.
Half a year passed, and we got a notice from the owner of the house we were renting, that we need to find other place to live in, for he was selling the house. That hit hard because, sure, my father wasn’t there, but his memories were. That, too, passed. Then, in December of the same year, both of my maternal grand parents passed away one by one, and what I remember the most was how at that time, my mom smiled at me to comfort me. But then things got out of hands too quickly.
My eldest brother, Owais, came home one day from work, and without saying any word, he fell on the floor. We had gotten so scared. We rushed and helped him; he was burning up. Later we found out that he had dengue. Then a week passed, and he seemed to get better when we had to rush him to the hospital, because seemingly he had a heart attack. When he was in the hospital, I went there to visit him. I had decided one hundred percent that I wasn’t gonna cry. I was gonna make him smile because he was fine; he had recovered. As I entered the ward, I saw him in the hospital robe and there were lead all over his chest (probably ECG leads), my heart dropped to the pit of my stomach. I stared at him with tears in my eyes, shook my head and said, “What’s this?”
He looked sideways, half-smiling, half-dreading to answer, teary-eyed, and said, “Don’t worry.” And I believed him.
A week later, it was only both of my brothers and I in the house. My brother, Ameen, was offering prayer, and I was in my room. Owais came there and tilted his head down. “Am I burning up?” he asked. I touched his forehead, shook my head, and said, “You’re fine.”
He got out of the room, and I followed him to where my brother was offering prayer. Owais asked him to hurry up, and I passed a comment saying, “Don’t bother him!” because I thought he wanted to watch TV. He said, “I can feel pain in my heart, and you’re saying not to bother him.” I froze. I went over and sat beside him, as he stared ahead. My brother completed his prayer and said, “Do you want me to take you to the hospital?”
He didn’t answer. He froze and his head fell into my lap. There was no one else in the house. My brother and I rushed to pick him up, I ran down to our neighbors to ask for help. When they took him to the hospital, I prayed like never before for Allah to save him. I was so sure that the prayer I made was so heartfelt and wholesome that there was no way it could be refused. But after some time, I heard screams and I covered my face, because I didn’t want anyone to tell me what I thought had happened. My brother had died.
We had to shift. My mom wasn’t well, so I had to pack our stuff up, wrap up the memories and shift. I was seventeen. My brother had to move to Dubai for a job, and so it was only my mother and I who were left from our whole, happy family, and so after my maternal uncle’s requests to stay with them, we agreed and shifted to their house, because at that time, we couldn’t even think about being alone.
Years passed, and it took us five to six years to move out. Major things happened; family feuds that messed with my head, unnecessary comments, and like I said, words stay with you forever. Worst was the feeling of living off of someone else; being at the mercy of someone else. My uncle was great; there is no better person in the world than him, but I just couldn’t take it anymore. I couldn’t take living in someone else’s house. My mother and brother didn’t feel as agitated as I did, but I couldn’t take it anymore. And I begged to move out over and over again, but could never tell anyone that I was depressed.
Sometimes, I would get so overwhelmed that I wouldn’t be able to catch my breath until out of the house. I would go to my paternal grandpa’s house, and stay there for a few hours, then go back to my mom. Once, I sat there and I couldn’t control the tears. My paternal uncle came into the room, put his hand on my head and said, “Do you have depression?” I couldn’t answer. Time passed.
I had to see my mom change. My mom is the strongest person I know, but I was the one who saw her get severely depressed. I used to yearn for the days when I would see her genuinely smile. And when she did, I used to offer nafil.
People would say whatever they wanted to, and it would hurt no less than ever. People close to me wouldn’t even think that maybe their words could hurt me, or make me feel like an orphan. If anyone was angry, they would just be angry; maybe they had valid reasons, but it hurt nonetheless. Concern was fine, but saying things like, “If your father said so, please ask him to come back and do it for you.” This was said to me by my closest relative. Once one of my relatives were really angry regarding some issue, and I said, “I’m sorry, I’m not in my right frame of mind, my father died–” and I was cut off with the words, “Don’t be a drama queen!” So I stayed silent. A lot of other things happened that really push me over the edge.
There were days when I would stay on my prayer mat and stare into the distance and things about ways I could end my life. There were days when my books were scattered in front of me, and I wasn’t able to understand a single word. It would feel like I was watching myself from a distance. Of course, I never told anyone.
Due to all this, I had become very complex and opinionated, which of course, is a problem in itself for others, so the cycle kept going on and on. I had lost all my confidence, which I’m still struggling to gain back. I couldn’t make long lasting friendships in my university. Social gathering used to drain me. I started getting intense mood swings. I would stare every other night at myself in the mirror, and watch the tears fall. I wanted to scream, because the sobs I kept in were choking me, but I couldn’t make a noise as outside of the restroom, my mom was asleep. I would cry myself to sleep every night. This went on for years.
Before we moved out of the house, my mental health was so bad that I couldn’t tolerate anything from anyone. I started experiences extreme mood swings, and the saddest part was that people thought that I was being a brat (they still kinda do).
It’s been two years since we’ve moved out, and I feel so much better! I completed my masters degree in Psychology, worked for a year with Amna Farhad as a makeup artist, and people who didn’t believe in me, say today that I make them proud. The thing is, whatever I am today, I have struggled really hard to be. I don’t think I can change myself for anyone’s sake except myself because it took years of struggle, suffering and powering thought to become what I am.
Today, I face many problems, too. I feel everything to the extreme. One little thing goes wrong and it feels like the whole world is crashing down on me, I get panic attacks, and sometimes I’m overwhelmed due to no reason at all. I have sleep issues; I can never go to sleep at the same time. Sometimes, I’m very sleepy but my mind wouldn’t shut up, and I lay awake in my bed all night. My mom and my fiance usually argue with me on this topic (mostly scold me for not taking care of my health), but what they don’t understand that it’s my mental health that’s already been damaged, and I struggle every single day to recover from everything that I’ve been through.
Even today, anything can trigger me; the smallest of things can trigger me back into darkness, although I’ve overcome most of my mental problems. The one thing that helps me when I find someone who actually understands. And the one thing that triggers me the most is when I tell someone that I’m suffering, and they don’t even pretend to understand. I’ve been mocked by my own family; and there is nothing worse.
Some people might think of someone’s suffering as small and irrelevant. But please, remember, depression is a very personal experience. Don’t judge others, don’t ask them to get over it, don’t give advises; please listen. Just listen to them, and show them that you care, and assure them that whatever they’re feeling is valid and justified, and that they’re worthy.
I hope this blog post did some good as much as it drained me to write it. I hope we can start being kind to each other. I hope we can be more accepting and understanding.
Thank you for taking time out and reading this. It took a lot of will power and energy to write this, please take a moment and drop a comment, and feel free to share your story with me. I will always be here to listen.