#DEPRESSION – AN INTERVIEW WITH RIDAL CAREL TCHOUKUEGNO

IP in the following means Interview partner
  1. Tell me, how would you describe depression in your own words?

IP: To me depression is my true self rebelling against the definitions and ideas that were imposed by me or even others on it. Meaning becoming so wrapped up in the notion of who you are supposed to be that you forget to simply be. The root might be a trauma, insecurities installed in you by others that grew to a size you can no longer internalize without loosing sight of yourself. Depression is a crisis of hope. I don’t mean hope in relation to optimism. I mean hope in a sense of hoping for a better day without expecting something better to happen. I see hope more as quest of giving your life meaning that tomorrow is as valuable as today and yesterday that the decisions you make enables you to influence the flow of your own life. During depression hope and the belief that what you do can give your life meaning diminishes and makes all efforts you make seem to be for naught. You feel as if you are only existing, walking aimlessly so you might as well do nothing and suffer, at least that makes you feel alive. You know it’s not helpful, but you don’t care. Depression also means to me to be planted. A flower is planted in the dark before it blooms. Depression is me testing myself. Testing my resilience, how bad I want to be (Be in a sense of personal growth not the Michael Jackson Bad) and how much I am willing to take upon myself to achieve the goals I’m striving for.

2. How would you describe depression to people who do not understand what depression is?

IP: Imagine your mind being ill and your brain deceiving you into believing that it is a lie. Depression is basically a coward that will never show himself, hide in your mind and cause you pain, if you let him. That is the where the emphasis lies. If you let him. She will hurt you anyway. You cannot reason with her. The question is what you are going to do about it. Imagine your mental health being a car. You got depression sitting on the passenger seat. She does not respect your car at all. Her shoes are all muddy, he is moody, takes out his anger on you, complains all the time, blames everybody but herself and you take it because, well she is paying the gas for your mental health car. You feel obligated to deal with depression because you are seemingly indebted. On your road trip, which can be understood as life, are many stops at which you could have kicked this obnoxious passenger out, but you do not because you do not have the courage and believe that you need him. Depression does not only emotionally abuse you claiming how useless you are and how terrible your driving is she also regularly takes over the steering wheel completely ignoring your emotions. You are never safe. It does not matter how happy you are. Depression will take the steering wheel, if you do not pay attention and let her, putting both of you in mortal danger. Yup, depression tends to be suicidal and if she is hurting you obviously have to hurt too. Depression’s tantrums exhaust you; they abolish any motivation to drive in other words to live. You just want to sleep, pity yourself, do nothing and be alone committing to every unhealthy behavior possible. You are missing out on your journey, on life and that is a conscious decision. What you genuinely want is often hidden underneath all these fears, insecurities underneath all this guilt. You want to be understood, you want to be talked to, to be accepted, to be embraced, to be loved. The truth is that you can kick him out at any given time, but you grant him more compassion than yourself. I am not saying it is easy. I am saying it is entirely possible. It is really up to me and you. At the end of the day shit happens anyway. We have to take responsibility regardless, which does not imply that you are automatically at fault it implies that you decide how you are going to react to the situation you are facing. It implies that nobody can bring you down but yourself, if you grant people the right to do so. Depression is negatively labelled in society. Why do you think why so many people are ashamed of speaking up about this issue?

3. Depression is negatively labelled in society. Why do you think why so many people are ashamed of speaking up about this issue?

IP: Out of shame or guilt. We have been socialized to perceive mental illness as a personal failure. Kind of like “How can you do that to yourself? How can you do that to us, we gave you everything you needed. How dare you?!”. To this day many people still believe that depressed people are either exaggerating or faking it. The majority is simply not educated on the matter. I mean most people do not know the difference between a psychologist, a psychiatrist, or a therapist. To them it is that scary doctor that asks you 20-times in a hour how you are doing while you are lying flat on your back on a couch prescribing you an insufferable amount of medications of which, in the general public perception, depressive people get high off. Culturally speaking depressed people are “weird”, don’t want to communicate, are always dark and sad and should be somebody else’s problem. As an ex-depressed person, myself I can tell you this at least. You are afraid of being ridiculed or in the worst case of being thrown away like trash bag.

4. What would be your advice for people dealing with depression? What helped you while dealing with depression?

IP: I had a great support system. Great friends, my siblings, my dad etc. I guess I just started talking positively about myself to others and to myself. Your spirit doesn’t differentiate between positive and negative self-talk. I learned that the hard way. What intrigued me was being comfortable in uncertainty. Seeking discomfort so to speak. I started cutting off doubters, negativity, toxic relationships, and people. My circle became smaller. Meditation helped a lot and the fact that I started doing things on my own. What I did became means and end. I went to the cinema to go to the cinema. No longer to socialize or possibly date. I started doing things I always wanted to and was too afraid to do before. I pushed forward and surpassed my limitations countless times. Learning that the only thing people can do is to say “No” or “leave” liberated me. Coming to the realization that everybody sees me differently and that the person they know is still me and that nobody actually knows me was blissful and still is blissful. You are not a stagnant point. You are fluid therefore steadily becoming. As I am writing this I am simultaneously evolving, undergoing changes. I asked myself what I want to do and how, what my legacy on this earth would be. Everything I disliked about myself I changed or at least tried to change until, it changed. Not to mention, that I failed countless times, but I stood up countless + 1 times (I love language. It makes no sense, but you can still make sense of it.) As soon as I started doing things that I wanted to do, following people on social media that inspired me and surrounded myself with the energy I would love to give out, I attracted like-minded people. There is no shame in being weak. But it is shameful to remain weak willingly. I do not know anything and that leaves room for constant improvement. So, I invite failure in my house at any given time. Struggle has become my best teacher and I am already a winner for trying. I concluded that depression does not help me, that it breaks me, that it prevents me from hoping aka making decisions for betterment. Now, I say thank you depression, you only made me stronger. I do not hope for a better me. I am and become a better me.

5. Would you say that media plays a role in how people with depression view themselves? If yes, in which way?

IP: Most definitely. Unfortunately, depression has received such a wide mainstream coverage in an aesthetic sense that it became trendy to be sad furthermore to harm oneself. You got depressed people being exposed to depressive music, movies etc. and in turn becoming even more depressed. A vicious cycle. You got series like “13 reasons why” creating the grotesque illusion of depression and suicidal thoughts being cool. Artists are glorifying drug abuse, it is cool to feel “dead inside”, aesthetic to cut yourself and post it online. Young adults are literally being talked into identifying with suicidal thoughts and depression as an art form as a positive, beautiful form of expression and fed anything that sustains it instead of teaching them how to work with it to finally get over it. The media should raise awareness, educate on the subject, and refer to experts and specialists so that depressed individuals can overcome their depression instead of dwelling on it and in it as if it were a delicious chocolate fountain. The media, artists etc. should stop profiting off it, promoting something they themselves do not do respectively are not part of anymore. Just like Future who admitted to being depessed and addressed also to have stopped drinking lean, but still promoted it as if he were still heavily consuming it. I feel as if a subculture immersed out of rock, punk, goth, hip hop mixed with heavy drugs, self-harm, and self-pity. Sadly, in unhealthy doses. Insecurities, anxiety, fear, depression, and suicidal thoughts are being used as a marketing tool, have been commercialized and it works quite well. That needs to change asap!

6. Could you please tell me, what was the reason/ incident where you thought that you might be depressive?

IP: I have been sexually abused 2 times as a child and my mind could not handle it back then. I had nightmares, could not sleep, hated myself, wanted to die, could not find beauty neither in my body nor in my mind. In search of constant validation my energy was drained. I isolated myself, was often very tired, did not leave the house, thought about ways to die, became sad or irritated in the most unexpected moments when I was supposed to be happy and that for periods of weeks and months. I harmed myself not physically, thankfully, but emotionally and believed that I do not deserve happiness, that I do not deserve to live, that my life is miserable, and that suffering is my only way of redemption for having allowed somebody to sexually abuse me. What I basically did were the things I had to do: Going to school, eat, socialize and the rest to not be bothered. There were weeks, even months were food tasted like nothing, where I did not feel anything, days went by without me noticing, I slept for hours, was constantly tired, stopped hanging out with friends or family. I only did it when I absolutely had to. I was smiling but deep inside I was hurting, suffocating, and felt abandoned by everyone, by the world. I felt lonely to say the least. I did not know what I wanted from life, had no big aspirations, and simply existed without a why.

7. Concerning depression, if you had 3 wishes free – what would that be?

  • IP: I want the subject of depression to become a day-to-day subject therefore implemented in school curriculums and education at home.
  • I want us to be able to openly and honestly talk to each other about our emotions of any kind.
  • I want to see more refuges for depressed people where they can feel understood, appreciated, and loved if their family, friends, and peers fail to do so.

8. What do you think could be done, in order to change the stigma of depression?

IP: Talk about it! Educate yourself on it. Do not shy away from the uncomfortable situations. Support, try to understand, have empathy. We need to recognize depression as an illness just as fever and chicken pox are seen as illnesses. We need to realize that depression is treatable. We need to understand that all of our assumptions about depressed people that we learned from movies and books are probably wrong. Depressions are not something that somebody willingly chooses to attract. We need to start taking care of our mental health and emotional intelligence that we so earnestly neglect. We need to realize that mental health issues are a serious global issue that needs to be tackled. We need to comprehend that depressed people are not broken or less human they are, we are simply in need of support. We need to understand that depression knows all genders, all ages, all cultures, all circumstances. All we need is crutches until we can finally stand on our own again.

Dear brave interview partner,

thank you so much for opening up to such a difficult and sensitive topic. It is more than brave to be that honest and speaking about such an issue. I am sure that your answers will (hopefully) reach to those who need it. You are such an inspiration for all those people dealing with depression . Thank you!