Today’s blog post is going to be a little different from many of the things I’ve posted in the past few…well, aeons. It’s not about shopping. How about that. I’ve been into thinking a bit too much, mainly as my health has been on a downwards slope as of late. I’ve been quite blue, a little sick and not sad, but not content. I have to wonder why. It’s not for lack of things that make my happy, nor of possessions. Perhaps lack of fulfilment in my work or what I do? Perhaps it’s exhaustion, or self-inflicted thoughts of being exhausted? In any case, I can’t say that I’m depressed as such – and living a life that has brushed up against depression in the family, I can tell you that I feel nothing like what I saw and felt at that time.

But what I can tell you is that feeling sick or ill can really put a spin on things for your thought process. It gave me time to think about depression and severe mental illness – how it can affect people, their families and the people around them. Trawling through the internet one night due to a slight case of insomnia, I came across this blog post by Michelle Law. It was an eye-opener and a true privilege to be able to read such blatantly honest and open writing. The expression of which, I know I could never achieve – yet continue to strive towards.

It made me think about the taboo of having depression (oddly, a harder concept to understand if you’re from an Asian background) and what it meant/means to your family. I too watched on as one I loved suffered and I did not know how to respond, or what to do. I became mute and too felt afflicted and ashamed, sad and useless – I felt that there was nothing I could do to help, other than lend myself to hugs and muffled words of support, while every night she spent in anxiety, we remained worried and in fear. I have to admit to thinking darker thoughts – I wanted to ask why that had to happen to her? Why was she sad? What was wrong? I didn’t understand and I don’t think I ever will. But I tried.

Is it taboo to talk about depression? Is it difficult? Isn’t it something we should be talking about? With these thoughts in mind, I decided to keep trawling through the internet space, stumbled over this TED video, this small discussion (also by the talented Michelle Law), and a few other astonishing and bone-achingly sincere blogs. After reading and watching all of this content I’ve come to realise so many things. Now this is all going to sound corny and slightly ludicrous, but this is honestly what I’ve learnt – firstly, just as there is light there is shadow, where there’s sadness there will always be happiness. Secondly, when you can admit fault or weakness, it can only make you stronger. Lastly, today is only today and tomorrow is another day, things will be different and you can change.

I’ve snatched this quote from the closing statements of the TED talk by psychiatrist Dr. Neel Burton: “People in the depressive position are often stigmatised as failures or losers, but nothing could be further from the truth. If these people are in the depressive position it is because they have tried too hard, or taken on too much—so hard and so much that they have made themselves ill with depression…their world was simply not good enough for them; they wanted more, they wanted better and they wanted different. And not just for themselves but for all those around them. So if they are failures or losers, this is only because they set the bar far too high. They could have swept everything under the carpet and pretended, as so many people do, that all is for the best and the best of possible worlds. However, unlike most people, they have the strength and the honesty to admit that something was amiss, to admit that something was not quite right. So rather than being failures or losers they are the opposite: they are ambitious, they are truthful, and they are courageous…”

Like I stated before, I’ll never truly understand the mechanisms of depression, but I’ll try. I’m never much good when people are sad. I never know what to say or do. But you know what, I’ll try – because when I see her I know – she is ambitious, truthful and courageous…she didn’t pretend and for that I know that I love her.