Feeling unhappy, sad all the time, cannot sleep well, self-hated, and want to suicide, those are all correct tips with depression, but depression sufferers experience much more than those. Grace was woken up by a sudden light, I heard someone ask me, “What’s your name? And the date of birth?”
Grace realizes it is not true, she stuck in a part of her bad memory, the sudden light was a reflection from one of the passing car’s glass window. She was not in a hospital, but her bedroom with Emma.
“According to the National Institute of Mental Health, ''Depression is a common but serious mood disorder. It causes severe symptoms that affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working. To be diagnosed with depression, the symptoms must be present for at least two weeks.’ what do you think, Grace?” Emma pretends she is a famous person in a talk show.
“OK, Emma, that’s it. I don’t want to talk about this.” Grace answers it with an impatient voice. She knows that although depression is a common disease, still, most people do not realize that it is a serious disease. The words “most people” include Emma -- her best friend. Grace knows that if they keep talking about this, she might be upset.
A lot of people are suffering depression, but many people do not know that depression cannot be cured, depression is severe, there are shame and stigma associated with depression, as well as important cultural differences. People who are suffering depression can be separated into many different groups, like age, gender, region, family income, and even major. Although people can have many different identities, nearly every group of people are targeted. Since many people do not consider depression as a serious illness, they would definitely think that depression needs medical treatment. But this is an incorrect opinion. Grace makes an appointment with her doctor and drives to the hospital the next day.
“That was the beginning of accepting treatment, the beginning of my antidepressant treatment,” Grace speaks slowly when her thought flows back to the old days. She lies on a big pillow and keeps talking.
“What I first learned about depression in America was that depression cannot be cured with medical treatment. There is a misconception of depression that it can be recovered by sufferers themselves. They need both physical and emotional treatment because depression is a complex illness that can be caused by many reasons, like early childhood trauma, loss of meaning, huge assault. Another sad thing for me is the longtime emotional problem can lead to physical illness. So, only counsel with doctors is not enough to cure depression, I need medical treatment to help me physically.” Grace looks at Emma like she could see the younger Emma asking her, “what do you think?”
Grace is not good at talking a lot, but it does not mean her mind stops -- Actually, depression is much horror than people think. Depression sufferers like Grace living a totally different life that others cannot see. They are living a terrible and horrible life, people who never experience depression cannot understand, as the daylight will never understand how dark it is during the night. In others’ eyes, those sufferers might be happy, hard-working, and even successful, but inside their own world, they know that those are only something on the surface. Deeply in heart, they are scared, depressed, and lonely.
“But fortunately, I never quit school,” Grace smiles when she was talking about that period of time. The symptoms of depression can last for months or years and can make it difficult or impossible to carry on with daily life. It can disrupt careers, relationships, and daily tasks such as self-care and housework. It’s like nothing makes sense anymore, and lose everything in daily life.
“It is like a big black cat, she wants to kill me.” Grace starts rethinking about her experience in the hospital, some people become crazy. She feels really sorry to use the word “crazy”, she knows that they are just poor people, I don’t know what happened to them after I left the hospital; I don’t even know if they are still alive. Depression leads to the deaths of a lot of people every year, not only because of the condition itself but also because of people’s attitude toward depression. So there are many people refuse to treat depression, especially in college. One cause could be the shame and stigma associated with mental illness and because of those wrong opinion deeply in their mind, most sufferers do not want to see a doctor for the mental illness.
Grace does not tell anyone that she cannot remember her experience in that period, but she remembers the feeling, it was so painful. And it is more like her mind automatically avoid the pain. She looks at Emma and says, “You never understand how painful it was,” her smile looks tired.
“When my depression was really serious at the beginning of that year, I thought I lost most of my memory. At that time, I thought I had the ability to treat myself without medication which sounds really ridiculous now. Finally, it went worse than I could handle, and I went to see my doctor. After a long time struggling and painful treatment, I got much better and one day when I looked back, I found that I did not lose any of my memory, the ‘lost past’ didn’t disappear, my brain hid them in order to protect me from suffering sadness. I should say that overcoming those terrible memories can mean remembering it, that’s the most painful part of depression treatment”.
Emma looks at Grace as she never knows her, indeed, that’s another Grace that people never notice. Grace begins to tell more, “Another painful stuff about depression is: it affects me physically, too painful to breath is not kidding, it’s true. Like a sudden heart attack, I can do nothing to help myself out, and the hospital is always cold, people there speak English all the time. You have English as your first language, but I do not. It is not easy to use a second language all the time. I still have some of the memory while suffering the worst time, but not complete. What impressed me most was, I became losing my intellect, and I still remember that my broken mind could not support me to do a correct decision”.
“The worst time, you mean last winter?” Emma asks.
“Yes, that was the longest winter I have ever experienced”, Grace does not like the winter. She loves warm weather.
“What about your hometown? Much warmer than here?” when Emma asks this question, she realizes she never ask such question or know more about her past.
“You are correct”, Grace says, “it’s like 30 degrees warmer, so I do not need to wear such a heavy coat while I am walking outside.”
“You know, people are suffering from depression at different levels, so people who have mental illness experiences can understand, and so do those people close to them. Since I started my counseling, I began to pay attention to the symptoms of depression since I confirmed the diagnosis of depression. But in China, people think different about depression. Once I received a message from one of my friends, she said she did not feel so good, so I asked her for some details about her situation. And finally, I thought she might have mild depression, I persuaded her to see the doctor, even the counseling center on campus. She was one of my friends who will become a doctor in the future, and I was guessing that their counseling center might be really professional. To my surprise, she refused me and said she could handle it by herself, which was most like me, the girl who actually knew nothing about depression. There are some people still don't believe that depression is a real or serious problem, but its actual name is Major Depressive Disorder. Emma, it is a disorder!” Grace seldom be much excited about one stuff.
“The pain of depression is much more than words can describe. Stories are sad, but the reality is more than sad. I am so sorry, Grace. I touched your painful memory. I hope I never do so.” Emma feels very sorry, but she doesn't know what to do.
“You don’t need to blame yourself. There is something worse than many people do not even accept the existence of depression that most of my family members and friends do not understand depression.” Grace tries to comfort Emma.
They keep silent for a while and Grace says, “People need professional help from doctors to fight against depression. But there is still a distance to reach the facts and reality of depression and treat it well. So, that is what I am going to fight for, people deserve a better life.”
Emma looks at her, she is very serious and firm while she is taking so.
“Look, Grace. I have something to show you. I want to let you know that there is someone loves you, always.” Emma takes the Bible out from her bag.
“You are the apple of my eye…..”
While Emma is reading, Grace begins to listen carefully.
Actually, Emma does not really exist in the world, but Grace does. I am Grace, but Emma is someone I makeup, a fictional character, it takes some parts of my mom, she never asks whether I am suffering such a painful illness and cannot understand what is depression. Another part of Emma is from my friend Sarah, she gave me a lot of help when I was in my worst period. She told me, “God always loves you. And there is someone really love you, always”. I feel much better after my treatment lasts more than a year, and those I mentioned were my true experience in the US.