MIRA : My innards reel at the prospect of your happiness

Disclaimer: I believe in forgiveness, I believe in not holding grudges, I believe in moving on. That being said, when someone hurts me a part of me feels as if I hate them. However for my own peace of mind, I always choose forgiveness (which is not always easy).

This describes the way I feel before I start to forgive.

I didn’t want to catch you because I wanted to see you’re bones break as they hit the ground.

I wanted the imagery of the ivory snapping, chalk dancing in the air

I wanted to revel in the beauty of your downfall

 chalk-dancing-in-air-art

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7 Misconceptions About Depression

Mental health advocacy has become a subject that I am passionate about, and will probably be one that features heavily on this blog. I spend a lot of my spare time just learning about different conditions. More specifically the ways that these conditions affect sufferers in their day to day life. I suppose one of the reasons that I am so interested in mental health is because of the shame attached to it. Shame that isn’t attached to other illnesses.

As a medical student I spend arguably too much time learning about the various ways the body fails us. There’s no Nobel Prize for discerning that any part of the body can fail us. Still, even among medical students when  the dialogue turns to mental health, often the first thing people assume is that the person is malingering.  As someone who suffers from depression, that assumption really  hurts.

To make matters worse as a “mental health advocate”, I still at times feel uncomfortable when it comes to speaking about my own experience with depression. Its counterproductive! How can I work towards destigmatising something by refusing to talk about it.

If you ask me the generic “mental health is stigmatised”, statement is starting to lose meaning. We need real dialogue about the misconceptions around these conditions. So here are 7 misconceptions about depression.

 

  • If you are depressed it’s your fault for not thinking positively

 

We now live in the era of self-help which is not a bad thing at all. I think we should all try to get more in tune with ourselves on an emotional level, instead of distracting ourselves with work, TV, alcohol, to be honest the list goes on. However that being said with this “you can fix all your problems with kale, meditation and positive thinking” narrative comes a narrative of blame for those who have not achieved the same level of “peace”.

The truth is the cause of depression is not fully understood, according to health professionals it is due to  a mixture of environmental and biological factors and the ratio of either of these varies from individual to individual because we are all different.  Moreover at times people can trace their depression to a clear event e.g. a bereavement and other times (as in my case), it seemingly comes out of nowhere. So if healthcare professionals are not completely certain as to the cause of depression, who are you to tell me that it’s because of my state of mind?

Of course there may be some with milder depression who find that meditating and thinking positively really helps them. But on the flip side there are others who are physically incapable of thinking positively. One of the symptoms of depression is a feeling of hopelessness. Some people cannot just wish the depression away, and if they are depressed chances are they already feel guilty for feeling down, so blaming them is only going to make things worse.

 

  • Again, think positively, you’ll get over it.

I know what you’re thinking, MIRA you’ve already mentioned that one, but here I am coming at it from a slightly different angle. This one is about all the suggestions people have for being able to fix your depression such as just thinking positively, or keeping yourself distracted.

Of course there is space for these things when it comes to managing depression, but like many illnesses depression comes in different severities. Sometimes at its worst people are consumed with thoughts of death, unable to think of anything else. They physically cannot get out of bed, to prepare a meal, to brush their teeth or have a shower. Before offering advice have you: taken the time to get to know how exactly depression manifests itself within them, done research on clinically proven means  of treating depression? If not then the advice, could do more harm than good. Let me explain.

Although some may say, ” well I am just trying to help, no harm done”. Sometimes when people act as if the answer is that simple it can leave the depressed person feeling like they were not listened to, that you don’t appreciate the weightiness of their load. Other times it can leave the depressed person feeling guilty that the suggestion of “just thinking positively” didn’t work for them. “What’s wrong with me they say, why can’t I just get over this like everyone says.”

It is okay not to know how to fix things, you don’t have to suggest an answer, sometimes it is okay just to listen.

 

  • But you don’t look depressed, you’re always smiling

To be honest, I find this one quite funny, because it really reaffirms how little depression is understood. I often wonder what people think depressed people are like? Crying all day and walking around with a permanent upside down smile?

The truth of this world is this, it keeps spinning no matter what people are going through. The fact that someone gets into a car accident doesn’t change the fact that their child is still waiting for them to come pick them up outside the school gates. The fact that a sports player breaks a bone doesn’t mean none of the other players can compete in the competition. Life goes on irrespective of how we feel. Sufferers of chronic illness knows this, so they try their best to assimilate. In the case of depression, a condition that makes you feel empty and hopeless, other obligations such as going to work, being nice and friendly with the neighbours, still exist.

Sometimes when you smile its genuine, but otherwise it’s just you trying to put on a brave face.  We’ve all done it. We all say we are fine when the opposite has been true. So really we shouldn’t expect all smiles to be real.

 

  • That you don’t have depression. It isn’t as serious as you are making out and you are doing it all for attention

Probably the most annoying in my opinion, I think this is just bloody rude (excuse my French).  However, I am still going to have to tread carefully  with this point as I realise that I am privileged to have access  to mostly free healthcare. I was able to easily see a primary care physician who was able to diagnose me and provide me with different treatment options. However some people are not able to get an official diagnosis. In my opinion though, this does not refute the validity of their symptoms.

Even if someone tells you that they have not had a formal diagnosis of depression, but they tell you how they have been feeling, believe them! It takes a lot of courage to admit that perhaps you are not coping, and if someone feels comfortable enough to tell you what they are going through, the least you could do is treat them courteously and not accuse them of lying in anyway. Of course I am not inferring that you should become the individuals personal counsellor, allowing them to offload all their problems on to you, by all means only do what you can. Think about your mental wellbeing too! However,  telling someone that they do not have depression or that they are being dramatic does more harm than good. 

I have to be honest and say that with depression the stakes are high, as much as we don’t like to talk about it, suicide can be a consequence of depression. Reasons for this include a person feeling trapped, seeing no way out, and feeling that they world would be a better place without them. What a depressed individual really needs is reassurance that someone cares and someone to listen to them, but how can they do that when they know people believe that they are making their symptoms up?

 

  • Depression is being sad

This is a close second in terms of the ability to boil my blood. Especially when people say : “well we all get depressed sometimes”. But please before you roll your eyes at me shooting down someone’s effort to provide comfort, let me just explain.

To be honest, I can understand this one somewhat. It is a shortfall of the English language that as rich as it is we do not have the words to distinguish between depressed e.g. worse than feeling sad, and depressed as in the clinical syndrome. So often times I really feel that people think the two are the same thing. When they say we all get depressed sometimes, they think that they understand how you feel because indeed they have felt sad, but depression is more than that.

The list of symptoms of depression  are extensive, and involve psychological, social and physical symptoms.  Generally you need to have these symptoms for 2 weeks for a diagnosis of clinical depression to be made.

For me when I feel depressed I go from this overachieving, Type A personality to not seeing the point in anything.  And I don’t mean this in an existential crisis sense. More so in a , “well I don’t even see the point in getting out of bed or getting up to get something to eat or even getting up to use the toilet.” And not only do I not see the point, I’m  also too tired to. I don’t have the energy too.  Simple tasks like getting up to make toast feel like the equivalent of running a marathon, too much hassle.

On top of that I feel empty, so empty that it hurts. The things that once brought me pleasure don’t, and suddenly I lose all interest in anything. No meeting up with friends, no talking to anyone, no watching TV, listening to music or surfing the internet. When I try to do small things like go to uni, or meet with friends, I feel as if I am carrying a heavy load which I am straining not to drop. However at times I fail. There have been points where I burst into tears mid conversation then made up a reason for being tearful.

 

  • That you need a reason for being depressed

This  isn’t true. Sometimes there is no cause, everything in your life seems fine. Just like any illness, there are risk factors that make you more likely to be a sufferer of the condition, but then there are those who do not have any but still succumb to the illness.

Please don’t feel like because there has been no known precursor for your depression that you are unworthy of the diagnosis or seeking help, remember any part of our body can fail us

 

  • That depressed individuals cannot function in society

Last one for now, but yes we can. It is a struggle, but it is possible.

It’s sad how many people are scared to tell their close ones about their condition for fear of what they’ll think. The only way I can see this changing is by people with depression being vocal about it, not because we are proud but to show that it is nothing to be ashamed of. Depression is impartial, it comes for people in all walks of life but at the same time, with time and proper management, depressed individuals can still be mothers, fathers, workers you name it.

Like I previously mentioned, during my second year of university I woke up one day feeling depressed, and now almost  7 months later, I still feel the same. But through implementing the different management options I managed to pass the second year. You might need to change the way you do things, but you can still do them.

What do you reckon?  Are there any that I have missed? 10 is such a well-rounded number but there are obviously more.  I’d love to know your thoughts. Agree or disagree, let’s talk about it

MIRA : Maybe I really am Depressed

This year, my depression came back.She came back very abruptly over a weekend, and still hasn’t left. It isn’t always doom and gloom, I do have days where I forget that it’s there, and other times I think I will never feel happy again.

One slow evening, I lay on my couch and wrote this poem expressing how I had been feeling that week. It is very up and down, that week was a down.

Happiness is the parent I lost in infancy

In crowds with friends I often pretend that I remember her touch, as we exchange stories I embellish the memories, how I would sit tangled in her lap, comforted by her warmth, her voice her smell

When the truth is, I cannot remember her, not really.

Her features are obscure, her voice unfamiliar, if I ever was to meet her, I probably wouldn’t realise

Instead I feel hollow, a hole that keeps growing no matter how hard I try to fill it.

There is no future, only darkness, there are no smiles only teeth that occasionally force themselves through stiff lips, a feeble attempt at uttering I’m okay.

I don’t even believe me anymore.

Therapy session: Number 1

“So,” He licked his index finger before turning to a fresh page of his notepad. “What brings you here?”

Other than my referral I thought. I decided that the ceiling was a safe spot to stare at, less intimate.

“Well, I have been told that I have clinical depression and it has been going on for about 6 months now. It isn’t something that I intentionally keep secret nor is it something I go out of my way to declare. Normally when someone notices my repeated absences and I’ve decided that they actually  care, I’ll elaborate on what I meant by the text that said: “I don’t think I can make it mate, not feeling too good”. Other times it comes up in passing, ohh whats that prescription? Fluoxetine, what’s that?

In either case, whether or not  I discuss it, it’s always there, almost like a mosquito bite, sometimes you don’t notice it but other times you’re consumed by how it consumes you.

But recently I have come to realise that my personality almost lends itself to depression, and once the depression has established itself, my personality is the scratch that fuels the cycle.

I am such a type A personality. Most days, including weekends I make a list of the things I need to do, and if I don’t complete it (which often happens as the lists tend to be unreasonable), I declare myself a failure. And then I believe it, I embody it and I honestly feel like I am drowning and that even though I can swim, I don’t want to.  The world slows down and I am reminded of my worthless state. And the problem is that I cannot get out of this mind frame, the world just spins without me.

Anyway, this month was sort of a breaking point in the sense that I realised that I need to learn to live with my depression rather than just suffer from it. And I don’t mean that in a, well I am just going to give up and lie here being depressed sort of way.  Of course, I want to get better, but I am not going to sit and wait to get better before getting my life back to some sort of routine. I need to learn to do despite how I feel.

Fortunately I  am at a place with my depression where through a mixture of familial support, CBT and medication  I no longer feel suicidal, so the worst is over. But the feelings of emptiness, purposelessness, lethargy still persist. Still being alive no longer feels painful, instead it feels like a bit of a drag which to be honest is a welcome relief.

I guess that is where I am at right now.”

“Ok, ok” I heard the flicker of another page,

“So tell me about your childhood”

Becoming A Man

I was privileged enough to partake in a creative writing course, although I didn’t feel like that initially. You may be wondering why I even had to do it, well I am a medical student (and there will probably be a post on that at some point), and the idea was to get us to do a course in something outside of medicine.  If I’m honest, really it was upon discovering my love for creative writing that this blog was born. I wanted a platform and ultimately a reason to write, even though no one will probably read this, the idea that someone somewhere will read the words I put together and have some sort of reaction to it fascinates me. Without knowing the reader we make a connection. As you can tell I am an overly sentimental being. Anyway here is my story, you can decide what it means for yourself:

John could hear his heart trying to escape his chest. He prayed for it to slow down, to shut up, because surely they could hear it too.

“You see this,” the commander kicked the carcass one more time to prove he was dead. “This is what happens when you try to escape. This is the only way you will leave, so please join your friend.”

John looked at leaves stained red. If it wasn’t for the fact that he had seen Stephen murdered, he wouldn’t have known it was him. He had always felt jealous of how handsome he was. Not that Stephen noticed. Not that it even mattered anymore.

He became fixated by the pearls of claret that painted the commander’s face. He stood panting yet, despite the sweat, made no attempt to wipe the marks of Stephen’s final encounter.

“From today, we will make you men, we will make you soldiers. Now up! Everybody up!”

“We need to head home, I am hungry.”
“Guma, Barigo, Mpanga.”The words left his mouth swiftly.

“Yes, sah”.

“Walk with them, I will join you later. Eyy, we were supposed to get firewood, Koma go with the boy.” The commander pushed John towards Koma and began to walk away before stopping abruptly to face Koma. “If he runs, kill him.”

As the sound of feet became more distant, John’s discomfort grew. For a moment he thought of his mother, nothing angered mama more than when he was late for supper. Koma broke their silence. “The boy. He was your friend.”

“Um, yes, he, was, my friend.” John almost choked on the word “was, “on how foreign it felt.

“Sometimes, it needs to be done to, to show you. I remember my friend.” He paused for a moment. “Do you like football?”

“Ummm…Yes”

“Ey! Which team?”

“I like Manchester united, um sah”

“Manchester? Manchester they are a good team. But I don’t like Ferguson. Beckham is a star player! Who throws a boot at a star player? No that is not how you keep a team together… Eyy, come on. I know you have an opinion on this.” He prompted John by poking him with his Kalashnikov. Upon sensing John’s fear he began to chuckle.

“Don’t worry I won’t shoot you”

“Beckham…Beckham deserved it, he needs to remember that he is a footballer, not a woman. Who do you, who do you support, sah?”

“Please I am not sah, not yet anyway, call me Koma. And me, me I support only the best team, Arsenal!”

John’s sense of unease began to dissipate.  “Arsenal the best team? I would rather be dea… I would rather support West Ham united than support them.”

The sting of Koma’s palm on John’s back was almost as intense as his laughter. “I like you, you are funny.”

Koma brought them to a halt when he noticed their voices weren’t the only ones present. He gestured to John to wait as he walked slowly to peek beyond the trees.

“Is this where we get the firewood?”

“No, my friend, even better, follow me.” Koma fired a few rounds of his rifle into the air and launched forwards. It was then that John saw the girl. She was fast, but not fast enough. John didn’t see how, but she had ended up on the ground in her attempt to escape. He forced his eyelids together in an effort to tune out her whimpering.

“My friend,” Koma had finished and looked down at his trousers, visibly struggling to do up his buttons… “That slut, I showed her now she is all yours. Eyy my friend do not look so worried.” He pushed John towards the girl “go slow, she will enjoy it”

John felt his breaths become heavier, deeper and more laboured but he knew he could not cry. Once again his heart assaulted its cage, but prayers were useless. God could not show him mercy.

“Come on my friend,” Koma cheered from the side lines.  His legs carried him forward and he instantly regretted catching a glimpse of her face. He knew those eyes would haunt him a lifetime.

 

 

 

An Introduction

Hi,

My name is Samirah, unfortunately that name was taken so I had to be slightly more inventive hence C’est Mirah was born. I’d wanted a blog for a while, and now I have finally bit the bullet. It’s really somewhere I can put my thoughts feelings and creative writing pieces.

Adieu