“Hey, do you remember Arthur*?”
I was in my early twenties then, still finding myself in the corporate world, and my poly classmate had just taken his own life.
I remembered how confused I was when I saw that text message, and how shocked I was when my friend confirmed that I interpreted it right. I sobbed at the eulogies from his family and friends: “He was always so jovial and giving.” Yet, depression took him.
So I can only imagine how painful it must be for the family, friends, and fans worldwide when Linkin Park’s lead singer, Chester Bennington took his own life. We were all shocked at how severe his depression was.
— Talinda Bennington (@TalindaB) September 16, 2017
As tweeted by Chester’s wife, depression has no face. There are no red flags, no clues, and no measurements or ‘default mould’ to identify someone with depression. And each person suffers from and deals with depression differently as well.
To understand more about what people with depression actually go through, we reached out to 8 Singaporeans who have fought (or are still fighting) the illness. Here are photos that will give you insights into their lives when they had depression.
*Some names have been withheld for privacy reasons.
1. Jar Of Goodness
“When we’re depressed, we often forget the good things about ourselves. We think we’re useless, weak, hopeless, and ugly. That’s Depression speaking. And Depression lies. I keep this ‘Jar of Goodness’, which is filled with positive quotes to remind myself that Depression is wrong. I keep it to remind myself of the truth, the good people see in me, and the good I see in myself.”
“Depression has gotten the better of me more often than not. It comes gradually but also suddenly. I got these tattoos as they are of the dreams I have and the things I love. It’s also a reminder that all things, good or bad, are temporary.”
3. Lotus Flowers
“I shut everyone out when I’m depressed and I become irrationally terrified of speaking to anyone. I also have suicidal thoughts pretty much every day. The only thing stopping me from doing anything stupid is the thought of how it’ll affect my mother. I’m still finding ways to cope with depression right now. One of the ways is finding my way back to religion. I’ve started wearing prayer beads and got myself this lotus bell jar. The lotus is an amazing flower. It is so pure despite its muddy beginnings and that’s where I hope to be one day. Since it features so strongly in Buddhism, it’s also extra significant for me.”
“My belief was ‘only pain can overcome pain’. During periods where I couldn’t evoke feelings like happiness, sadness, or even anger, the pain was the only way for me to feel less empty. The sight of blood was somewhat satisfying to me too as it was the equivalence of a release, as opposed to suppressing the fear of being a liability to people around me. The scars above the cut have been there since I started physically harming myself in secondary school, but I didn’t realise what I was going through exactly, until I got diagnosed last year.”
“Antidepressants aren’t a panacea. They just prevented me from getting worse, or so I thought. Trying weed and other drugs only made me more depressed especially after the ‘high’ wore off. So I turned to alcohol. It was the only legal substance that made me feel better. I battle with depression every single day and on certain days, I’d turn to alcohol. I know it’s not the cure, but it has helped me deal with my thoughts.”
6. Constant Self-Reminders
“I would create my own wallpapers with different motivational sentences every 2 weeks. It was to remind myself of the kind of thoughts I should have. It helped me through all my bad days and has saved me from full-blown panic attacks. On good days, reminding myself what to think of before bad days come, helps a lot.”
“These receipts of my counselling sessions were a significant part of me for awhile. The many sessions of counselling helped me get a hold of myself. It introduced new perspectives to me and changed my mindset. Coupled with medication, the many consultations with my psychiatrist helped me recover when the depressive part of bipolar disorder kicked in. Importantly, the moral support from friends and family made my recovery a much smoother one.”
“I tried to kill myself and was stopped. I was on the ledge on of an unoccupied block of flats when Hafiz, my boyfriend, found me. When I saw the desperation in his eyes, I just couldn’t do it. I was then admitted to the psych ward for treatment. If only people knew the horrors of the psych ward: the 5-point restraint, the thought of being in a mental institute, the many guards to your ward, and the injections just to calm you down. Seeing other patients go through that made me angry despite recoiling in horror, and there was nothing I could do. Because who would believe mental patients like us when we’re seen as crazy? Who would listen?”
Don’t Undermine The Seriousness Of Depression
From a friend who had depression, “depressed people almost never look depressed, they may even look the happiest to cover it up.”
Sufferers often keep their thoughts and feelings to themselves because they don’t want to be a liability. And with everything bottled up, it’s easy to slide into darkness.
In line with the International Survivors of Suicide (ISOS) Loss Day today, let us pay a little more attention to our loved ones. Be aware and listen more. Don’t let the impalpable and unnoticeable beast, Depression, win.