I am at a stunning beach resort and something quite incredible and unexpected occurred at breakfast today. The seemingly happy and delightful chef treating me to all the delicacies of the famous hotel opened up about her life very candidly and artlessly. I found her telling me about a dark phase not two months ago where she faced severe depression that threatened her relationships, career and life.
“How exactly do you define depression?” I asked her. “It’s a claustrophobic dark sense of impending doom where you feel like you are locked alone in a room and are finding it difficult to breathe. It’s a terrible phase that I went through and regular day-to-day functioning was a struggle. I found it difficult to handle my relationships rationally at work as well as home,” she said to me.
Did I find her weak or see her as a lesser person for her admissions? Quite the contrary. I thought her brave and open-hearted post our conversation and saw in her the courage to face her malaise head-on and then discuss it openly. Her lack of self-blame and shame was endearing too.
The astounding public admission by fashion designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee about his depression recently, was still fresh in my mind. He has publicly admitted to dealing with depression for years — since he was 16. He has tried to take his own life three times, has been an over-achiever and an idealist, and says that he found no succour in selfish city life. He feels that our education system and our parents do not equip us with survival training for relationships and surviving disappointments in love and life.
Here at this verdant resort, the chef vehemently agreed with his sentiments. My pet peeve is how society still looks at depression as a stigma. It is so important to recognise that depression wrecks relationships and working life, and that it is not shameful to seek support. I believe that it is most important to get professional help to cope with struggles, relationship setbacks or disappointments. To look out for signs that this could be a long term problem is important too.
Everyone finds life overwhelming occasionally. The important thing to do is to see if coping and getting through your day is causing you anxiety and despair, and if a feeling of emptiness is becoming a pattern. To realise that it is not only a malaise in our lives but very traumatic for our spouse, parents or siblings to live with us in a depressive phase, helps us to get out and seek help. And while meditation, exercise and good nutrition are excellent routes to recovery, professional help is a must, or like Sabyasachi or the chef shared with me, you could unknowingly head towards taking your own life. Chemical imbalance in the body could result in extreme reactions to minor upheavals and you could lose some valuable work and alienate friends and colleagues.
Look out for symptoms of depression and address it immediately. A loss of appetite, feeling overwhelmed or apathetic with just going through the day, fear of people, uncalled for aggression or a sense of recurring restlessness, a hopeless, helpless feeling often accompanied by exhaustion, the inability to enjoy activities that you enjoyed some time ago or a general sense of impending doom — these are all signs to look out for that need to be addressed immediately, lest they take over your life and not allow you to enjoy relationships.
The author is a designer and luxury consultant. Mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org