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Sudden hype around depression offensive to sufferers

Image: 123RF

I love driving on Gauteng freeways, when they are not notoriously congested, that is. I know most of them intimately, every curve, every dip and each rise. The interchanges can be tricky to one that isn't familiar with them, which lane, how fast and where to connect.

In January, as I approached the Buccleuch interchange, one that is very familiar to me, my dilemma could not be solved by how familiar the interchange was to me.

The question in my mind was what speed would I need to cut in front of the truck in front of me to create an impact forceful enough to end my life on the spot? The idea of driving into the barrier on the left was very seductive. I was tired, I wanted peace and I craved silence - permanent silence.

I did neither. I was driving a 4x4 bakkie on that day and I was petrified of taking the risk, surviving and possibly killing an innocent bystander. What I did was try very hard to steady my shaking hands, interrupted by the tears that heaved out of me and cloaked myself in the shame I felt as I drove on a journey I no longer felt like being on.

Very few people know about this moment in my life - it's not one of my favourite memories - mostly because of the shame that still engulfs me when I think of it, but also the very real fear of not knowing for certain if I will never have those thoughts again.

I am talking about it today because of the social media buzz around "depression is real". Firstly, that is annoying. What do people imagine depression is - a myth?

I see there is also an expectation placed on people who are depressed to explain depression to their loved ones. Even the most narrow-minded, most ignorant people know that depression is some sort of a burden. What you don't know, if you are not a sufferer, is how big a burden. And that is absolutely fine. What isn't fine is knowing that I am burdened and asking me to take yet another burden of educating you, especially when we don't even know if we can trust people with that information.

If you love someone who has depression, you have the responsibility of learning what that means, and how you can help. Love isn't a passive exercise, it is a constant, active commitment to those people.

What I will tell you for free is that asking what's depressing you and if you are still depressed, are not adequate expressions of love.

Lately, I tell people I moved across the country because I was tired. I have grown tired of the expectation placed on me to not only disclose my depression but to keep explaining how and why. When I moved home, the people close to me knew it was because I was depressed. Yet on days where I was too depressed to get out of bed, the same people still asked me what's wrong. So I just don't engage anymore. Read something, for heaven's sake.

To reiterate the social media sentiment "depression is real", yes it is. It is real every day, and it is offensive to people who live with it every day that it is only suddenly remembered when a famous person dies.

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