Monday, June 13, 2011

So You Think You're Depressed

I’ve done a lot of moaning recently about my current state of emotions, which frankly, is rather dismal. The issues range from work to home related stresses, relationship woes to fitness regime frustrations and so on, and so forth. The past couple of months have been nothing short of a roller-coaster and if I was going to be honest, most of the ride has indulged those horrific, heart-in-mouth dips. 
I realise my blog posts have been rare and somewhat negative/pessimistic of late, but if I was going to be completely honest, it’s only because I can’t bring myself to feign interest in social media trends, or marketing scandals right now. I’m still struggling to make it through everyday.

It’s a constant challenge from the moment I wake up. Another day, I think to myself when I open my eyes; what’s different about it? Nothing really. Maybe I should wear my new top, or try some smokey eye makeup? Hmm. No, not really bothered. Ill just chuck my jeans on and steamroll through. 
I get to work; hello, how are you? Did you watch the video I sent through? Oh my God, yes, it was brilliant. Well done! Inside, my heart is physically hurting. Everything feels so detached from what I’m actually feeling. Even as I write this I’m struggling to hold back the tears. 
Shall we go to lunch? Sure, although I really should stick to my half-marathon training diet. But I don’t. I indulge in a curry, butter naan, a mango lassi. It’s ok, I think to myself, plenty of time to train. Muscles are like a sponge, right? They’ll stretch right back to what they’re meant to be. Meanwhile, my jeans feel tighter, I feel uglier, I feel unhealthy. But that moment of satisfaction is all I have. 
I listen to other people’s problems. 'I can’t find a job, I don’t know what I’m going to do, I don’t want to have to go home. My parents won’t leave me and my fiancee alone, they’re suffocating us, pushing us to early marriage.' I listen and I engross myself in the issues. I genuinely want to help, but meanwhile these things only help to distract me from all the negativity in my life. 
Today I had a smoke with a colleague. I should not be smoking. I said to her, this weekend was fun. And I meant it. A music video premiere, a little night out, time spent with family, a night at the theater, being on a film set for the first time in my life! Wow, said my colleague, sounds rather special. It was. So why am I so unhappy? I asked. What is wrong with me? Why can other people be happy here? 
Maybe you want more from your life than other people do. 
Is it bad to want more? 
I am confined by the cages of society, culture and expectation. I am an alien in the country in which I was mostly raised. The way I dress, speak, act, eat, engage, write and express myself are all scrutinized and condemned. 
Don’t be dramatic, say a family member. You are blessed. I know this. So why am I still displeased? Is there an art to appreciation? Do I need to take a yoga class? Am I asking too much, to experience life wholly, as I believe it was intended?
I am a fifth culture child, if there is such a thing. I do not belong in my country of birth, nor to that of my parents. I do not belong to the country in which I was raised, or the one in which I came into my own person. I am unacceptable to all, yet bound by them all. 
Is this what they call depression? Someone I spoke to recently said that step one of overcoming any inner darkness is to stop denial and move into the light. If so, then here it is: I am utterly depressed. But I will come through, because I have so much I want to share. So much I want to see. So much I want to learn and so, so much love to give. 
There is a stigma in this part of the world, directly related to the taboo of speaking out on depression/emotional exhaustion. As with some other cultures, depression in the Arab world is considered a failure. In some cases it is deemed laughable, a joke. Depressed? What do you mean you’re depressed? Go out with your friends, or go shopping or something. Have we failed that miserably as parents? No, mum, dad. I’m okay. I’m just being dramatic. 
Wait, no I’m not. 
I’m okay really. Or I will be. Im not a broken mess and I didn’t write this for pity. I am very strong and capable. I believe publishing this may come back to haunt me but for me to soldier on and rise above this, I needed for someone to hear what I had to say. I wrote it because I know there are others who feel like I do. Caged. We won’t feel like this for long, I promise you.
That’s all from me for now. 

Dedicated to the memory of the one person who could have understood me. I only discovered Edward Said a few days ago. It turns out he died in 2003. What a devastating loss for the Arab region and the world at large. May you rest in peace.

Image courtesy of  


  1. A courageous post Reem. I didn't know you were engaged, so congratulations for that.

    When carrying out some healthy introspection it can be quite difficult to sort out the mess of layers. I find that sometimes I see what I am feeling, then I see how I'm feeling about the way I'm feeling. Then I see how others react to me, or would react to me explaining why I'm not really able to join in with them. Sometimes it's all a bit of a shock, sometimes it's a bit overwhelming, and that flood of emotion and realisation causes its own flood of realisation.

    Then, the dreaded, "Oh god, am I _depressed_?"

    A label... Just what I don't need.

    Disappointingly, many of the usable English adjectives have been corrupted by people using them as labels for something that doesn't really apply to my situation.

    Recently, I was very angry. I had wanted to do one thing, but life's duties had compelled me to do something else. Something I hate, even if it wasn't stopping me from doing the thing I wanted to be doing. I had to explain this to my wife. There was a completely valid reason for me being angry, and yet I was feeling guilty about the fact that I was angry. Why shouldn't I be angry about having to miss something pleasurable in order to do something horrific?

    "What's wrong with you?" is the question. Accusatory, unfeeling.

    "There's nothing wrong with me, I'm just cross."

    There seems to be something of a stigma about admitting that one is anything but happy & jolly. The fact is, people who are happy & jolly all the time probably aren't being sufficiently honest with themselves and with others about the challenges of modern life. _NOT_ disclosing when circumstances are affecting one's mood is therefore quite unhealthy.

    On that basis Reem, I think you're in a completely justifiable position feeling the way that you do. The helplessness you perceive is completely normal, as the pressures you're under are ones not of your making, and which - in spite of your efforts - you've been unable to alleviate. Unfortunately I don't have a quick-fix for you. This is more of an "I know how you feel" than an "Ideas for resolution" comment.

    That being said, if people close to you are upsetting you, you need to tell them. They need to understand how you're feeling so that they can understand the way you react to things.

  2. Thank you for your comment Giles - NOT engaged :)