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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.
People all too often underestimate what depression can do to a person, and the worst part about that is just how common depression actually is. You’d think that with as many people that actually struggle with it, it would a condition that’s better understood. Sadly, that really isn’t the case, and it just adds to the feeling of isolation that many of us suffer.
For what it’s worth, I can say that to some degree, I understand. I have battled it. I’m still battling it. And some days I lose more than I win, but I haven’t reached that point of giving up… again. I can’t say that I 100% understand your every experience, Anon, because it’s different for everyone, but I can understand the isolation, the social stigma, and the sheer lack of representation.
And thank you, for being brave enough to step forward and talk about this. It takes guts, and skill, and you put it into words that rung so true with me.