They scratch, they cut, they burn, pop pills and they tell you it’s an accident - you believe them.
Depression is an illness, not a mere emotion. You can be surrounded by several people, have a perfect life and still be depressed. Sad, upset, hurt - these are all emotions. Depression is more than this; it is a relentless state that consumes you. But, it’s a taboo in the Tamil community and some people treat depression as if it were a myth, a made up state of mind and that you could simply just stop and talk yourself out of it. What people who believe this do not understand is the simple fact that your stigma does not help - it only drives depressed individuals into a shell where they slowly destroy themselves and do not seek help.
My problems began when I started school. In primary school the boys called me names such as ‘Mouse’ and ‘Mumbler’. In year 7, I was told that I smelled of curry and became very self-conscious. In year 9, I was told I wasn't pretty with a fresh taste in fashion and I dived into make-up to put on a superficial cover. In year 10, I was told that I was fat and useless at sports and eventually I stopped being active. In year 12, I disappointed my parents when failing to get straight A’s and I kicked myself for being stupid.
I grew to look at myself the way they told me - my self-esteem shattered. Every time I looked in the mirror, I saw an uncoordinated, fat, stupid, ugly mumbler with no taste in fashion. When I showed how upset I was to the world, my friends and family started to worry and I started making a conscious effort to cover the way I felt. I became a brilliant actress who only broke down when doors were shut and the music was blasted up. At the same time, I had become a pessimist, questioning my purpose in life and saw myself as a burden to the people around me. I had nightmares of people dying and being tortured due to the mistakes I had made and because I was so afraid of sleeping, I developed insomnia. But being awake at night was no easier and I spent endless amounts of time with my head filled with negative thoughts.
In the end, I turned to self-harming. I’ve picked up the blade and often tried to talk myself out of it. I’ve told myself that it’s a bad idea. But, that craving to punish myself for the burden I believed myself to be, to explain why I was so hurt or upset, to feel better even for that second was enough to make me stop thinking and let that blade rip through.
For years, I hated myself, yet people who talked to me described me as confident, intelligent, happy and chilled. My friends and family bought all the stories I told them about the fences that scratched me, falling over, the metal poking out of some place etc. I wonder how many would have questioned my frequent stories if this topic weren’t such a taboo?
It took me a very long time to admit I needed help and I remember sitting my mother down and opening up about everything. I, to this day, remember when she said, ‘Don’t be stupid. Don’t do it again and don’t tell me about it.’ The woman who was meant to unconditionally love and defend me shut me down when I had just got the courage to ask for help. It confirmed my fear of being a burden; I closed myself off even more. My depression had swallowed me with relentless negativity so much so that I almost committed suicide. What saved me was finding someone who saw through all my ridiculous lies, saw I was broken and who from the bottom of their heart saw potential in me and wanted to help – everyday I am thankful for my best friend.
The people of the Tamil community are more inclined to be in denial than to accept that there is a problem. They seem to fear what others may think of them and their child if it were to come out more than anything else. In turn, they refuse to talk about or believe that children can be depressed, can cut, and can contemplate suicide. But the fact that we cannot talk about these issues means that children cannot open up - they don’t know how to or even if they should. We are leaving them to suffer with their demons on their own and by being in denial; we are causing them more harm.
I hope for the sake of our children and their children that we start changing our mind frames now. That we start talking about these issues, be more open and accepting, because how else will we ever know that there’s something wrong? How else can we protect our children from their demons in whatever form they may come in?
- Featured image sourced from PraiseCleveland.com.