Depression can be devastating

(Tiara pointed out that painting a tragic picture of Depression would create a stigma instead of raising positive awareness. So I made minor editings to paint a better picture..)

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2003. 56kg

With permission, here are photographs of Grace Chan diagnosed with Clinical Depression that led to Body Dysmorphic Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and Eating Disorder.

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2003. 56kg

I am talking about Clinical Depression, or depression with the capital D.

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2003. 56kg

Malaysians at large take depression lightly. When depression escalates into full blown Depression, the patient becomes very disturbed, and might commit suicide to end it all. The Asian public would then sweep it under the carpet. Tell no one. Suicide is shameful.

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2003. 56kg

And so it becomes a vicious cycle, fueled by ignorance, self-righteousness, and the shame culture Asians are damn famous for.

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2006. 45kg

But depression and Depression are no joke. I tell you. Sheer will power, if ever, can only overcome onset symptoms, like sadness and apathy, but when depression escalates, medication and psychotherapy is a NECESSITY. Possibly, Electroconvulsive too, when Depression leads to other disorders.

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2006. 45kg

I have yet to meet Grace Chan in person. But I know her diagnosis is highly possible. Memories of my childhood friend comes to mind. My friend was only being sad on the onset. But she later had to see a Psychiatrist and was on medication. Her education disrupted and her social life failed.

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Nope, Cancer and Neurofibromatosis are NOT COMPARABLE to Depression or any other Psychological problems. By comparing, we are doing great injustice to mental health patients.

If Depressed patients don’t kill themselves when life turns unbearable, they might end up like Grace. So think twice before you call another depressed person names.

49 Comments

  1. What lah… sensationalist photo essay aje. First, you hardly discuss the mechanics of depression – it’s not a ‘simple’ event like an apple – it’s more like Aliens, since they can’t really identify its origins yet. Second, what’s so great about life in general anyway :p?

  2. jemg: What do you mean by origin? You’re right to say this is basically a photo essay. Let photos do the talking. I can write extensively about Depression, but will that make much difference for general awareness? I’m a Psychology student who love studying medical information. But I prefer separating the visuals from facts so as not to confuse your kind self.

  3. Dear jerng,

    I’m the person in the photos. First, if you want to learn more on mechanics of depression, then feel free to scrutinize my blogs. But please note that I could only offer information on depression based on my experiences as a patient. And do NOT expect things to be elaborated medical/scientific jargons or erm…as you called ‘academic vocabularies’. They’re foreign to me. Mind.

    Second. You weren’t asking me. You were asking Yvonne. So I’m intruding. Oh yes. Life is GREAT. Even when I’m full blown with depression and its cliques and receiving pumps of concentrated dosages of anti- misery cocktails. I’m happier than you.

    Hey Yvonne, my dear friend. Thanks a lot for featuring my story. *Hugs*.

  4. i once read from a friend’s blog, who was putting down of another person who was in depression. she just couldnt understand the situation, and she was annoyed with the depressed friend..

    i feel sad because so many people dont even want to try and understand. they take it lightly and call them names, addressing how stupid they are to be depress, but really, sometimes it’s not so simple, and you feel what you feel.

    they need lots and lots of encouragement and support.. not anymore burden. also, no one wants to choose this path, so it’s kinda dumb saying things like “why ? why do they want to be in such state?”

    do you think they want to be like such ?

  5. I have clinical depression and anxiety disorder. The Big D, as you put it. And while I see the point you’re trying to make, I think you’re being overly simplistic and sensationalistic here.

    Not everyone with Depression kills themselves or ends up anorexic. Many do, which is extremely sad and is really something that needs to be looked at and understood. However, it is possible to live with Depression without going to extremes.

    I’ve been battling depression for 5 years and counting. This year, due to many factors, it got worse. After many years of being off-meds, I went back on Effexor-XR. I was suicidal and stressed out. I needed help, and I got help – not just medical, but psychological too.

    I’m now doing a lot better. It’s a lot of work, and I still have extremely stressful moments where it seems life is not worth it. But that’s half the struggle – hanging on despite everything else.

    I’ve been in the brink, the darkest of dark, too many times. It’s terrible. I would not wish it on anyone. And people don’t understand. It’s not just “all in our head”. Technically it MAY be (neurons misfiring and all that) but it’s not like I can just go “ok cheer up” and all is fine. It takes a lot of work.

    Electroshock Therapy? BAD BAD BAD BAD TERRIBLE USELESS IDEA. My GOD. If they’re teaching that to you in Psychology you need a new textbook or a new lecturer. God NO.

    It can be managed. No one is ever really cured of depression, but you can be treated and keep it under control. I’ve done it once and I’m sure I can do it again.

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  6. I have clinical depression and anxiety disorder. The Big D, as you put it. And while I see the point you’re trying to make, I think you’re being overly simplistic and sensationalistic here.

    Not everyone with Depression kills themselves or ends up anorexic. Many do, which is extremely sad and is really something that needs to be looked at and understood. However, it is possible to live with Depression without going to extremes.

    I’ve been battling depression for 5 years and counting. This year, due to many factors, it got worse. After many years of being off-meds, I went back on Effexor-XR. I was suicidal and stressed out. I needed help, and I got help – not just medical, but psychological too.

    I’m now doing a lot better. It’s a lot of work, and I still have extremely stressful moments where it seems life is not worth it. But that’s half the struggle – hanging on despite everything else.

    I’ve been in the brink, the darkest of dark, too many times. It’s terrible. I would not wish it on anyone. And people don’t understand. It’s not just “all in our head”. Technically it MAY be (neurons misfiring and all that) but it’s not like I can just go “ok cheer up” and all is fine. It takes a lot of work.

    Electroshock Therapy? BAD BAD BAD BAD TERRIBLE USELESS IDEA. My GOD. If they’re teaching that to you in Psychology you need a new textbook or a new lecturer. God NO.

    It can be managed. No one is ever really cured of depression, but you can be treated and keep it under control. I’ve done it once and I’m sure I can do it again.

    It’s difficult. And it doesn’t help that Malaysia’s support for mental illnesses is sub-par. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be devastating.

  7. Yvonne, I think it’s good to raise awareness regarding depression. It’s been such a taboo subject in Asia that many just brush it aside as ” Ah, humbug things. Only the weak succumb to this… if you’re strong enough, you can overcome this easily.”

    Many REFUSE to see a counselor/psychologist/psychiatrist because they think they’re useless.

    I think we should talk about this issue more.
    More awareness is needed.

    Good effort. Though it’s hard to see and swallow but I think ppl should start getting the point.

  8. Depression is a contagious disease, psychologically.

    Not many people can handle depressed friends/relatives because they will drag you down along with them.

    You cannot help people who don’t want to help themselves.

    As long as they don’t recognise they have a problem or willing to seek treatment, they will continue to be in such a state and drag down others with them.

    There’s no point asking normal people to understand them if they refuse to get help.

    The only option then is to just stay far away from them or else they will drag you down also.

    Yes, depression is contagious. Stay away from those who don’t want to help themselves. Don’t waste your time with these people, or else you will end up needing a shrink yourself.

  9. Tiara: I think when we mention Electroconvulsive Therapy, it means a treatment for other disorders that follow due to Depression. As you know everyone’s episode of Depression varies. In the case of Grace, she experienced episodes similar, but not quite the same as Hallucinations and Delusions.

    Like my reply to Jerng, I excluded the facts and made it simple, to avoid diluting the images of someone in Depression that led to other disorders. In writing, I prefer to focus on one angle at a time. I found this method more effective in sending a message. I am glad you explained to us what Depression feels like. Things are always clearer coming from personal experiences. Because I personally have not suffered from Depression, that’s why I relied on the above photographs to send a message. Hope I made things clear now.

  10. Yvonne: I see what you mean, but from the way you put it, it seems too much like “OMG DEPRESSION IS THE END OF THE WORLD”. Which…it isn’t really. Yes, it’s terrible, and for many people it is debilitating. But it can be treated, it can be under control.

    That’s part of the stigma of people not getting help – they think they’re doomed and done for, that nothing can be done for them now. But there is still hope! It’s hard work, yes, but it can be done.

    Shadowfox: As someone with depression, let me just say this: You = idiot.

    Depression is NOT contagious. For one thing, it’s largely biological, and some research has pointed to a genetic factor. Though honestly it is people like you that trigger depression in others – lack of caring, lack of empathy, severe judgement.

    Yes, you can’t FORCE a depressed person to do anything. Even if you drag them to therapy, you still can’t force them to do anything. That’s what the disease does to you; it makes you think “Oh, I’m worthless, I’m stupid, what’s the point helping me, nothing will get better”. You’re trapped in this void where everything is just darker and darker.

    A lot of people go on medication for this so that they get enough serotonin in their brain to get enough motivation and energy back. They’re not “happy” pills – more like “raise your energy level up a little bit” pills. (Ironically, suicides are often higher just AFTER they start medication, mainly because they now have the motivation to carry out suicide attempts. So this period is very tricky.) Once they get enough stamina and mental energy back to do simple things, they can then proceed to treatment, and get better.

    But it takes work. It takes support. Attitudes like yours are unhelpful because they only reinforce to the person with depression that they can’t be helped. They inwardly already know that. What they need is people who are NOT judgemental, people who still see the goodness in them, that do not give up on them. They don’t need solutions – they need support. Solutions come elsewhere, some other time.

  11. Everyone is entitled to their right not to be overwhelmed by negative and depressed behaviours/moods/aura from others who are depressed.

    You may think this is idiotic, but sometimes it’s important to maintain a healthy mind/mental state by staying away from depressed people, especially the ones who refuse to help themselves and prefer to cling on you instead for emotional relief/support and refuses to seek out a doctor.

    Not everyone is charitable emotionally and everyone is entitled not to be burdened emotionally by people such as you.

    I am sorry you are in a depressive condition but that does not warrant or give you the right to burden others with your problems when you refuse to do anything about them. Nobody is obligated to put up with someone else’s depressive behaviour which is contagious and affects them eventually, only because they care about the person who is depressed.

    Depressed people can be selfish bastards at times, so please look at yourselves in the mirror before accusing others of being unsympathetic.

  12. Tiara: Hey, thanks for pointing out to me how my good intentions may turn out bad! Hmm is it too late to edit a bit? You reminded me that my lecturer did say sometimes medication lead patients to commit suicide instead of helping them.

    Shadowfox: From what I gather, psychologists should show adequate empathy and positive regard toward patients without confusing professional work with personal problems, or not bring personal problems into the clinic. So to put that in your context, I believe we MUST CARE and MUST HELP, yet we can do it without being affected. Of course, it requires learning and maturity to be able to help someone without being affected. And that applies to helping anyone, not just people with Depression. We may help many people before learning to detach ourselves from the condition of those we help, but if we think like you and stay away indefinitely, then we will never learn. Like I said, if we are easily affected, we can be affected by anyone and in any condition.

  13. Shadowfox: again with the idiocy.

    Did you miss the bit about me seeking therapy? About how it’s largely biological? It’s NOT contagious, you can’t catch it just from talking to a depressed person, otherwise therapists and psychiatrists are the most depressed people on Earth.

    So we’re all a burden to you all now, huh? I’m glad you’re so caring about people. That you’re so willing to help. Oh wait, you aren’t! Because anyone who needs help is a burden to you! Never mind that most people who have depression struggle to WAKE UP every day, let alone get themselves to a therapist. Never mind that finding a good qualified therapist is difficult and often expensive. Because we’re such “burdens” to you, you won’t have anything to do with us.

    You think depressed people WANT to be burdens? Half of the depression is that they feel like they’re a burden to someone. And then there’s folk like you who prove them right. So what do they do? Off themselves, then they won’t be a burden anymore, just dead. Happy?

    Do you want those with depression to change everything for you? What, you have no control over your emotions that as soon as you’re near a depressed person you too get depressed?

    Sure, being around depressed people for too long can take a toll on your own mental health. But at least you have better mental faculties to take care of yourself. Why not take care of your OWN health, instead of putting the burden of keeping you happy on us? It’s you with the burden this time, not us. “OMG, I can’t say anything because he feels I’m a burden. I’ll just shut up and keep it in, no need to trouble anyone.”

    Then they waste away because there’s no one they can rely on. Who’s the one with the burden now?

  14. Tiara: I agree on your point. This is a matter of whether the person has the strength to help a person under Depression. If you are easily affected, then it’s your problem, not the patient’s problem. You need to work on your own mental strength and independence.

  15. That is why PEOPLE like you should go seek the help of psychiatrists and the likes, and not be an emotional vampire for normal people who are not trained to handle such emotional vampirism from depressed people.

    Of course one who is mentally strong should be able to handle depressed people, but not everyone is. Not everyone is able to withstand and handle all sorts of ‘depressed’ people. You have people who range from suicidal ones to the ones with personalities that would emotionally blackmail you if you don’t give them the attention they want from you. There’re many personality disorders one could read from the DSM iv book that causes depression and you definitely wanna stay away from those who are dangerous.

    That’s the problem with you people, you only see things purely from your point of view, and not that of others who’s been around people the likes of you.

    I am not accusing you of not seeking treatment, I am just making a point why in general people avoid depressed ones like a plague and there’s a valid reason for them to do that.

    Sometimes when a depressed person relies too much on the normal person to ‘care’ for them emotionally, it may come to the point he/she is too dependent and feel he/she is in too much comfort zone to be able to be independent emotionally and fix the real issues herself.

    Helping a depressed person is like walking in a minefield, you never know what you’re gonna step on. This job is best left to the professionals who are paid to do just that.

    Too much charity at one’s own expense is too great a price to pay.

  16. Shadowfox: Have you heard of the saying, “Teach a man to fish, and he will eat for a lifetime”? That is what we strive to do. Yes Depressed people might affect me today, but why does it matter if my presence and assistance make a difference? You might not see it now, but you might see it in the future. You never know how much your little effort can mean the world to the person needing your help. If your help can lead someone to the light, do you really want to calculate that much?

    Depressed people are dying to get out of it. No one likes to be depressed. We just need to encourage them and support them.

    You say we only see things our way. The same can be said about you.

  17. Well perhaps someone is trying hard to convince himself ( i gather it’s a he? i might be wrong).. that’s why he’s so adamant about staying away from the ‘contagious depressed people’.

    It’s ok. One who has maturity will know the difference.
    Those who don’t, well, good luck then :)

  18. jerng: I don’t think Yvonne’s essay is sensationalist in its intention and nature. You are entitled to your opinion, of course, as everyone reacts to everything in their own unique way. As I read it, it contrasted a picture of the person who was in the glow of health, to one where she looked very far away from that. It is the most dramatic, and concise way of telling what depression can do to a person, and how the person must have felt/suffered through it all. The title of her article says all there is about the intention of her article – ‘Depression can be devastating’. I congratulate Yvonne on her
    ‘writing’ on this. It is ‘sensationalist’, but in a good way, and not ‘sensationalist’ in a bad way. I don’t think Yvonne’s intention is to set out to explain what ‘depression’ is in this article – her intention was to show how it affected someone she came across. You are entitled to your expectation, of course. Reading your blog, I can understand your expectation – you appear to be someone who wants to know how things and people ‘work’. As for ‘what’s so great about life in general anyway’ – life in general definitely isn’t great – sometimes, especially when you first journey out to find out ‘how it all works’. I congratulate you on your choice of doing this, even while doing a job unrelated to what you are doing. If you really want to find out, start with the macro – what does life mean to you? What is the meaning of life? Plato, Socrates…and remember about spirituality/religion. Read them all – I am sure you would have read some or a lot already – reread them – a text read when one is 16, sure looks different when reread at 21, 27…50 years of age. I wish you good luck on your journey…of life.

    Tiara: You are generous to share your experience, and by your example of yourself, surely will encourage everyone else afflicted with depression. As I mentioned above, if the article by Yvonne is sensationalist, it sure is in a good way, especially for those not acquainted with the effects of depression.

    Shadowfox: I have read your blog. Reading your posts here, I am struck by your honesty in your feelings – which btw, is common with many many people – ‘depression’ should be avoided, and for the reasons you stated. The majority of people really fear that they will become affected, that the depressed are clingy, and will cling onto them, and if you hang around them too long even to be helpful, you will be dragged down the slope as well. It is not wrong to fear, or feel ‘put off’. In an article I read, a college girl volunteered for some nursing work in an old folks’ home during the holidays together with some of her friends. She really loved old folks, and really wanted to help. They were given an aptitude test first, and told what to expect, and they passed. At the end of her first day at work, she had to help an old man to the toilet – without being graphic, you know what that means. She broke down, and left – she really really couldn’t take the reality of the work. My point is – it is okay to feel repulsed, fearful, etc – it is only being honest with oneself and others. However – one must take this in proportion – if one is fearful of something, or is repulsed by something, one should work out the reasons and how one can overcome it. It is honest and courageous to admit so, and it would be even more courageous if in the interest of one’s own growth and development, one were to work out the reason why, and to overcome this fear and discomfort. One should not be too quick to blame the source of one’s discomfort, and project the cause of discomfort on some defects of the source. One stops growing when one does that. You can make much more contribution all-round, besides for yourself, if you do that – and I am sure you can do that. Btw, as self-evident, I don’t think severely depressed people can look in the mirror and see themselves clearly. The rest of us – I try to do that more often for myself.

    At the end of the day, it’s a bad bad bad world out there – we can only make it better if we are kind to each other – be kind to each other, people.

  19. oops – correction – I said above – “..life in general definitely isn’t great..”
    I should add, “..only if one thinks so..”
    That is, life is what one makes of it. Things happen to us in life, it’s our response that makes what our lives are. It does not mean one should repress one’s responses/reactions, but it helps if one finds oneself – answers to ‘what is the meaning of life’, ‘what is my purpose in life’, and so on.
    Meanwhile, try and value every minute of it.

  20. …*sighs* i read half of the comments and nearly fell asleep. sorry for being harsh, but i guess i wasn’t that interested in reading it.

    depression comes in many stages, n reasons. a lot of us suffer from depression, but some are controllable n some needs more attention compared to the other.

    to me…it would be a lie if i would say i do not suffer from depression. there’re times when the blade would just be right at my wrist..n times i would drive as fast as possible wishing i’ll just die in an accident.

    yvonne suffered from depression when she was first diagnosed with NF2, but how many of us sees that? she’s just giving her opinion on it, or would i say she’s showing us how serious it could get when one’s suffering form depression.

    just be there for those u know who suffers from depression, n if u do suffer from depression, just enjoy every moment of life…cause it is never the end of the world. is only if u want to make a change or not at the end of the day. the choice at the end of the day belongs to u…

  21. Oi…Elena. Which part of Depression don’t you understand? Yvonne was barely sad lah. She was more frustrated by the situation since no one understood what she had to put up with.

    One day lah, I’ll write what Clinical Depression is. Ish.

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