Time to Talk About Depression

HI All, Depression is a subject that people have so many different views on. I am sure some of you will be up in arms when I state that I personally feel that it is overplayed by society. We all have periods of our lives when we are down about some issue. I believe that the best way around that is to put on your running shoes and go out for a long run on your own. One should definitely stay away from alcohol or similar when feeling low.

I was, however, sent this email recently by a young guy in his mid-twentiesand he has asked me to share with readers. Always look on the bright side of life. Mike G.

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Zimbabwe- Time to talk about Depression

With so many cases of depression and the devastating suicides of all different ages that have taken place in Zimbabwe recently, I have been compelled to write this article.

I am a man in his mid-twenties who has suffered from depression most of his life, who knows the stigma surrounding this taboo topic all too well, especially in a flinty country like ours. I only write in the hope of increasing understanding and to shed some light firstly for those who suffer in Zimbabwe, and secondly for the parents whose children suffer with or without them knowing.

As parts of this get pretty dark I think it’s important to start by saying that this is written by an incredibly happy person. A person who has many friends, is qualified, successful in business, and who generally sees the light.

Equally and this segment is particularly for those who suffer, I have gone through periods of having no friends, feeling like a freak, sleeping all day for weeks on end, dropping out of university, destroying vehicles in drunken accidents, ingesting copious amounts of drugs, putting my family through more pain than I can bare to remember, feeling suicidal and ultimately making a very feeble attempt at taking my life. Only a true depressant will know the absolute fear of sunlight streaming through the curtains. I did not get out of bed for nearly 2 months and I was in the ‘prime of my life’. This disease is debilitating, stigmatised, misunderstood and needs to be talked about.

It has taken me years of self-help including much therapy, with its commencement point when I dropped out of varsity and ultimately on to anti-depressants or Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), my drug of choice being sertraline (also known as Zoloft) which in a nutshell as you all probably know increase the serotonin (the happy drug) in the brain, for me to stabilise. I have been on and off them since dropping out until my doctor, a SSRI veteran of 25 years, allowed me peace of mind and final release of any stigmatism surrounding antis with this notion; Maybe my consistent negative thoughts didn’t lead to my lack of serotonin, but that my natural lack of serotonin lead to my negative thoughts.

It’s been several months since then and similar to him, I don’t see myself ever taking myself off. I am calm, anxiety free, logical, full of energy, driven to achieve my goals, and most importantly happy. Why would I ever take myself off when sertraline enabled me the clarity to get here (again years of self-work, self- understanding etc are larger contributing factors to my happiness but sertraline has assisted to release the learnings). Now please understand that this article is not specifically for the advocacy of staying on SSRIs for your entire life but more to create awareness about them as a gateway to clarity for those suffering. As a warning and a massive one at that, if you or anyone you know ever decides to take an anti-depressant, the first few weeks can be the most turbulent as your body tries to adjust. So please make sure you speak to someone everyday (even if it’s the last thing you want to do) or watch the person taking it closely.

I find that Zimbabwe’s attitude is that ‘real men don’t have emotions and real men don’t get depressed’. Sadly real men don’t have emotions until ……… Is this the type of generation we want to be? One that doesn’t allow for emotionality so that we can live unhappily. Things have to change and that is my only plea. Let us realise how emotional we all are, deal with it so we can be happy for the short time that we live on this earth. When you live in an environment that disallows you to be who you really are then things get worse. Suppression leads to depression! So please make sure you talk, and cry, and feel all the pain because you know things will not be like this forever. It is only a season. A winter in what is destined to be a glorious life.

As a ‘recovered depressant’ I too know that I may go through depressive episodes again and that’s ok because I now know that I can conquer them, but it has taken me time to learn about it to have this understanding. This awareness is what I hope that we can start year by year teaching our children. I felt like I was going to explode with anxiety my entire teenage life but not once did I hear about depression or know that it was normal and that a growing percentage of the world suffers from this intense emotional agony. All I hope is that someone reads this and knows that whatever you are going through, you have the internal tools to fix it. We are not put on this earth without the tools to be happy, but like anything you have to learn to wield them! It may take a few weeks or it may take a few years. Depression creates an emotional understanding that few people are blessed enough to achieve so wait until you come out the other side.

I hope that Harare can release the stigmatism surrounding this ailing and burgeoning disease. We need to stop hearing the stories about young and older people taking their lives, or living in sheer pain. Let’s support depression in this country Zimbabwe and understand that it is part of life and a blessing once you have come through it. Life means too much to act any longer.

(Please note that I have chosen to remain anonymous for this article as have not wanted to place any limelight on myself but have simply had the urge to write it. Thank-you for reading it and I hope it touches someone).
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