Unmasking depression: Self-confrontation as catharsis
by Ria Mazumdar
My depression wore a costume for months. It snuck up on me in the middle of late nights studying, leapt into my chest at the slightest sign of interpersonal tension, and manifested itself in sudden fits of crying at work, causing me to escape into the bathroom and probably making my boss think I had chronic bowel issues. Despite it all, it remained clothed, and mostly hidden. My performance at school survived untouched for a while, and I was able to turn on my happy face around my friends the same way one turns on a certain type of charisma for a job interview. It took a very unfortunate confluence of circumstances, including my schoolwork taking a real hit for the first time, for me to admit that I did have time to get help.
My whole life, my defining quality and the thing I liked most about myself was my diligence. When my ability to work hard became a casualty of depression, I lost everything that made me worth something. It takes more than a supportive friend to help someone come to terms with their inherent value.
At the time, it felt as though specific situations triggered that depression, and they probably catalyzed it. But in therapy, I finally began addressing a number of traumas I experienced at a very early age – situations which were undoubtedly connected to my present feelings. While I initially disconnected from my emotions, I learned that the pain of letting oneself remember and feel is the only way to heal. It is catharsis. The day I finally allowed myself to cry in the office without the gut instinct of holding everything In was the day I realized that meeting my emotions was not a sign of weakness. Acceptance takes strength I’d never known before.
Therapy is not a comprehensive solution to any problem. Although I went every week for a full semester, when finals rolled around, I spent hours lying in my bed, hoping that sleep would vanquish my pain and crushing sense of worthlessness. This quickly set into a cycle of doing nothing or sleeping, followed by immense guilt at my laziness. I forgave myself for my unproductivity, and it took time and hard work for me to regain joy in doing the things I loved doing in the past. Months later, I’m finally starting to feel that there is more beauty in life than simply escaping it.
Therapy was vital to help me get on the path of establishing a clear sense of self. My entire life, pain has been associated with weakness, bad luck, and apathy. My therapist introduced me to the concept of resilience – my most inspiring takeaway was the idea that suffering is overcoming, overcoming is empowerment, empowerment is liberation from my circumstances, my past, and the limitations imposed by depression. Nobody deserves to feel that they take up too much space in the world, that their very existence is toxic and meaningless. If it takes the aid of medication and therapy for someone to place value on their own life, it is nobody else’s place to judge.
While I can work against stigma in my own communities, I cannot defeat it. When faced with the inevitable judgmental comment, or the friend who looks at me differently, I’m learning to hold my head high and keep moving forward.
My life has been a long series of sweeping things under the rug. Of wanting to appear high achieving and untouched by emotion. But while I can put up walls between myself and other people, the worst thing I can do is put a wall up between me and myself. Therapy is unmasking the cloaked depression that hit a boiling point. It is lifting the rug to properly clean everything underneath. It is healing, and a willingness to overcome. Therapy is a path to resilience.
Ria Mazumdar is a junior at Tufts University double majoring in International Relations & Quantitative Economics. She is interested in economic development, and the establishment of equitable healthcare (including mental healthcare services) around the world.