Special Needs in Strange Worlds | Depression in a Place Where Depression Is Not a Thing

My last guest post for this series will be done a bit differently, as the author requested to remain anonymous. There will be no introductions besides this. Enjoy the post, it’s quite incredible! Tomorrow I’ll leave my closing remarks and Friday I’ll start reviewing normally again.

About the author

‘Anon’ hails from a far and distant land, but has found a cozy spot in the English-speaking SFF community. ‘Anon’ enjoys everything dark and weird in every medium possible. Occasional reviewer and a writer of SFF fiction, ‘Anon’ currently dips toes in the world of editing and personal branding and marketing.

Depression in a Place Where Depression Is Not a Thing

I’m probably the poster child for the argument of fiction as an escape (I find it quite funny, considering your don’t know who I am). I fell in love with fiction, because I wanted to escape my life. My teenage years brought almost nothing worthwhile for me. I have been teased and ignored at school, then oppressed at home.

In all honesty, this is not something uncommon. I am painting a familiar picture, but the main difference is that I have been living with an acute depression, since my early teens and I’ve lived with it in a culture, where depression is not a thing, because my society has chosen for it to remain invisible.

Invisibility is a spell, which we cast every day. Honestly, in my country, you, as an individual, remain invisible, until you become something more or something else. Something that can’t be ignored and then you suffer for it. This is why I turned to fiction and I have found people, who don’t quite fit in their societies based on their scars, their limps and pieces missing.

Disability creates a counterpoint to the vantage point of the ‘perfect’ protagonists, whose one main fault has been their heritage (of course, I’m referring to the clichéd tropes, which more or less now have been pushed to the background), but otherwise possess a special power, the charm and the looks to get their ‘perfect’ happy conclusion.

I have found disability (even in villains) and the otherness to be far more interesting, though I have read about physical disability in my reading. Save for Nicodemus from Blake Charlton’s series, I haven’t met a character, who suffers from our modern conditions. Perhaps, there is a character suffering from depression somewhere in the speculative fiction spectrum, but I have yet to read it.

Depression in itself is unpredictable. It hits hard. It hits out of the blue. It turns the person into someone else completely. I doubt depression would be easy to transfer into fiction, because it would mean for the author to break every convention of proper character development and if an author can’t say outright what the character’s problem is, especially in a world, where this condition is not a thing, yet, the reader is confused.

I live in a community culture, where mental disorders are not a reality. You’re either sane or you’re not. If you know how to spell and speak, not stab random people or drool, then you are sane. Stop whining, stop asking for attention and get back to work. What is this bullshit? Are you trying to be special, take the easy way out?

ADHD, OCD, bi-polar disorder and depression speak nothing to the majority of the people here. Depression, in my country’s vernacular, means ‘having the blues’. It’s not the crippling condition that forces you to hate yourself and everything you do or say.

No, depression is that lazy, dull state you are in, when it rains and maybe you feel a wee bit sad. It certainly doesn’t impair your judgment, nor does it make seeing your reflection one of the positively worst experiences you will have to do in your day. I’m sure that more than one or two people will relate to me, because depression is common. You’ve probably sought one or two professional opinions. You have been diagnosed. You have received professional help in terms of sessions, ideas for exercises or when necessary, medication.

To have depression in a place, where depression isn’t a thing, amounts to a whole different experience. I’ve not been officially diagnosed for one, because then my family doctor would alert my family that I have seen a psychologist and once your family thinks you are crazy, it’s a nightmare ride. I have no professional to help me, because doctors’ mistakes, miss-diagnosis and clinical negligence are the norm. I take no medication, so when I go through a depressive period, I lose momentum at school, at work and at home. No one knows though, so I have to smile and pretend I don’t want to fall on the floor.

It’s only me, the Internet, a close friend and some contacts abroad, who understand the battle I have in me, because their culture recognizes depression. When society doesn’t understand or try to distinguish one condition from another, it tends to generalize, lump everything together and stamp it with a large social stigmata, which makes existing all the more difficult. Who’s to say I’m not bi-polar or have a dash of OCD in there? What are the things I have to work on to surpass my anxieties or assume control?

It doesn’t matter to other people, though. They will judge, they will discriminate and this one of the reasons I’ve decided to keep my identity a secret. Finding professional realization in a country like mine is complicated. Companies want the normal, the uncomplicated and who wants to deal with a person suffering from a mental condition.

This is how life is for people with depression in a place, where depression is not a thing. As I read this, I know my words sound dramatic, even melodramatic, but that’s depression for you. It amplifies everything beyond reason, beyond proportion. I know I’m fighting this. I know I am loved, but damn, there are days, when I feel less than nothing.


5 Responses

  • Thank you.
    I struggle with these concerns and problems, too. Some days I feel less than nothing. This probably will not surprise many people even if I don’t talk about it directly.

  • I feel for you. I started writing in my teens because I wanted to read about a protagonist who was like me. Someone who had trouble trusting other people, who was (though I didn’t know it at the time) seriously depressed. As I grew older and came to understand my condition (via books, as I didn’t want to suffer the stigma attached to a mental illness), I added more reality to my protagonist. She started showing the signs of acute insomnia. She had panic attacks. She kept her ideas and beliefs to herself because she’d been hurt by others too often.

    After many, many years of learning about, and then working through my mental issues, I finally stopped needing her as my reflection. While I finished the novel, I haven’t published it (as it’s not publish worthy being both cliched and containing several massive plot holes). I’m lucky. I’ve broken out of depression and haven’t had an episode in many years. I know the warning signs and make sure to avoid my triggers. It’s a LONG, HARD road getting to that point. But it can be done. So hang in there.

    Reading your post, I wonder if I shouldn’t revive the character, if not the plot and storyline. My becoming depression free doesn’t mean others don’t need/want a character they can relate to.

    I’m sure you’re not looking for advice, but… one book that helped me a lot was Undoing Depression by Richard O’Connor. It impressed me because the author himself suffered depression and therefore KNEW what he was talking about. So many books out there are by people who THINK they understand the condition. They don’t. If you haven’t gone through it, it’s impossible to understand. I remember coming out of a depressive episode once (my last) and literally feeling like a curtain was pulled away from the part of my brain that could access happiness. All the emotions that for months I literally couldn’t feel were there again.

    Good luck. And work hard. The other side of that curtain is a beautiful place.

  • Rob D.

    I don’t want to turn my post into a woah is me thing, but I will say that I have had the same sort of issues. I have even had government agencies tell me they won’t help because I dont look disabled.

    As with all art, when you put the book down, stop looking at the painting, or when the movie ends, you take somthing away with you. That is why they can help those of us that need to disappear from real life for awhile. A well written book needs to have enough in it to relate to this world so that when you put it down it resonates with you. And sff books need to have flaws in the characters like the real world. You are right, mental disorders are hard to find in books and hard to write because they are the unseen illness. The first depression suffering character I can think of is Marvin the robot in Hitchers Guide to the Galaxy and that’s for humor. It’s not right that these books don’t have more mental health issues in them.

  • Anon, I feel your pain.

    I come a country that is only now waking up to the problems associated with depression. I used to work in a profession where depression and stress-related disorders were seen as laziness or weakness. In many ways I think that until you have suffered from mental health problems yourself it is very difficult to understand how they can destroy your life. For me the scariest thing was phoning a counseling helpline and being asked if I had attempted suicide. However, when speaking to professionals about my experiences I was told that I was not crazy, and that my symptoms were perfectly understandable for my situation. I cannot imagine how you continue without that acknowledgment that you are not doing anything ‘wrong’ and with no hope of help.

    Stay strong and try to get as much help and support as you can from wherever you can find it. Good luck!

  • depression is so prevalent in these times. Its safe to say everyone knows someone who is on medication to treat it. I’ve been using magnetic therapy for my depression and am feeling really great. I think it is a better and much safer alternative to prescription drugs.

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