Hi, it’s me, the problem 

Medical Maladies

-Akanksha Mahajan 

Taylor Swift’s song “anti-hero” really strikes a chord, doesn’t it? Especially, if you’re someone with a mental health condition such as anxiety, or depression, where you can’t help but indulge in self-hatred, self-blaming, and shaming. You feel lonely either because people fail to understand you, or validate your pain or you simply push them away fearing being a burden or fearing that they might abandon you because of who you are because you just see yourself as a villain in their stories. 

And then, the person in the song says how easy it is to stare at the sun instead of staring at her own self in the mirror. This shows you how much she hates herself.

Mental health issues often fool you into believing that no matter what you do, you’re just not good enough. This impostor syndrome not just shows up in your work and brings out your perfectionist tendencies but in every sphere of your life. Even if you try to do something good, sometimes, you might hear this voice in your head that says, “you just did that for the fulfillment of your own selfish motives, or maybe you’re just a narcissistic person, so, stop masking that with the so-called altruism!”

Sometimes, you just keep feeling like you’re the only pathetic monster in the world who is nothing more than a harbinger of destruction. You keep feeling crippled amidst all your insecurities and end up getting lost in this vicious cycle, where, you create all sorts of these patterns that prove over and over, what an anti-hero you are; when, ultimately, in your hearts or hearts, deep down, all you need is someone who holds your hand and never leaves and shows you how amazing you truly are. You’re not an anti-hero, a monster or a burden and you’re absolutely capable of loving.

I hope, someday, you will find that person but before that, I hope you could take a little step towards being that person for yourself who loves you unconditionally and lets you know every single day that you can be, and you are anything and everything but an anti-hero! 

I know it all seems like a dark maze right now, and I can’t just tell you to love yourself because it really isn’t your fault. Chronic stressors and traumas lead to a constant activation of our fright and flight system in our bodies, which ultimately messes up with the levels of mood-regulating neurotransmitters and hormones in our bodies, causing the mental health illnesses like- depression. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression is a mood disorder that is characterized by a number of distinct symptoms, such as sadness, loss of interest, anhedonia (loss of pleasure), lack of appetite, guilt-related feelings, low self-esteem or self-worth, disturbed sleep, fatigued feelings, and difficulty concentrating. People who are depressed often experience various levels of helplessness and hopelessness, as well as difficulty concentrating, insomnia, appetite loss, a lack of interest in formerly enjoyable activities, feelings of severe grief and remorse, and sometimes even thoughts of suicide. Depression causes a significant reduction in the ability to perform and may be persistent or long-lasting. Globally, more than 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression. However, one must know that having a mental health condition is not a person’s fault.

So, let’s understand the underlying pathophysiology of major depressive disorder. An individual’s capacity to handle stress is greatly influenced by the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal system (HPA). In between 30 and 70 percent of people with significant depression, there is chronic activation of the HPA system and chronic release of the hormone glucocorticoid, pointing to the relationship between the malfunctioning system and depression. Immunosuppression and inflammation are brought on by the body’s ongoing release of pro-inflammatory cytokines as a result of chronic cortisol release.

Some of the symptoms of the major depressive disorder include:

  1. Depressed or irritable mood
  2. Loss of interests and pleasures – this includes interpersonal relationships
  3. Significant weight gain or loss (5%) in a month
  4. Sleep Disturbances: Insomnia/Hypersomnia
  5. Psychomotor agitation or retardation: Restlessness or agitation can occur
  6. Fatigue or loss of energy
  7. Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt: Pessimistic/Negative outcomes are perceived
  8. Poor concentration or indecisiveness
  9. Recent thoughts of suicide/death: Suicidal risk increases with depression

At its worst, depression can lead to suicide. Over 700,000 people die due to suicide every year, according to WHO. Depression is also known to be a leading cause of disability worldwide and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease. However, in our contemporary world, unfortunately, there’s a tremendous amount of stigma when it comes to seeking help. It’s high time for us to realise that mental health is as important as physical health. If you catch flu, you wouldn’t hesitate in reaching out to a practitioner, so, don’t you think your mind deserves similar care too? Also, are you aware that when mental health issues are chronically neglected, they start expressing themselves in the form of various physical symptoms as a result of an imbalance in the levels of various hormones, and neurotransmitters which can result in raised inflammation levels in your bodies? So, do you still believe that your mind doesn’t deserve similar care as your body?

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