Fighting Dementors: Producing your own Patronus

“The Patronus is a kind of positive force, a projection of the very things that the dementors feed upon – hope, happiness, the desire to survive – but it cannot feel despair as real humans can, so the dementors can’t hurt it. ”

Many a time in my life, I had wished I could conjure a patronus to help me drive away the despair and the dejection I have felt. As I begin to write this article, I was asking myself how I would define depression. Where does it start? How does it even begin?  I wrack my brains to come up with something that is accurate and exact. But, I guess there isn’t any. How do you define depression? Is it that feeling of emptiness where you think you stand for nothing, you would amount to nothing and will never get what you want? Is it that despair you feel when you’ve just had your dreams crushed, when you have lost hope and your life becomes meaningless? Is it that guilt you feel when you try to analyze what you’ve done wrong over and over, and try to assign what you feel as just punishment to your crimes?

Depression is like an all-pervading layer of grime that you have got on your body after you’ve just walked past that dusty lane. You don’t know how, when and where it began. You crave for acceptance, you look to the universe for answers, almost always drawing a blank.

Depression is like an all-pervading layer of grime that you have got on your body after you’ve just walked past that dusty lane. You don’t know how, when and where it began. All you notice is, in a matter of time, you feel dejected, lonely, enervated and start thinking that your dreams will be crushed and that carrying on with life serves no purpose. You never know how your day turned from being a normal, casual walk on the lane to an endless pit of horror and torture. You wind back up wherever you are – doing nothing, tears almost on the edge of eyes, loneliness killing you. You crave for acceptance, you look to the universe for answers, almost always drawing a blank.

So, how did I fight/ how am I fighting/ how will I fight the dementors, our own mind monsters? What is my secret to producing my patronus? How do you feel all-right when you’re feeling exactly the opposite? I have heard a lot of people say, “Happiness is a choice. Choose to be happy”. I don’t agree. Choosing happiness honestly does not make any kind of sense to me. How can you choose to be happy when every inch of your cerebral power is telling you you’ll never be okay again? How do you lie to yourselves saying “Things are going to be okay” when you’ve just had a catastrophe?

A lot of people recommend doing what you like very much. Yes, watching your favorite TV series, eating chocolate, listening to your favorite music (I have seen a lot of people suggest “Fix you”), all these help, but I consider them postponements, not solutions. They help you merely move your state – a state that you have no words to describe – not solve it. Yes, I’ve indulged in the aforementioned things, they just helped me get away momentarily, never completely solving the problem.

Ignore your dejection which is staring at you like a big, black monster and carry on with your tasks. It is going to be arduous, but don’t give up hope.

I don’t claim to have solved my problems yet, but my method to conjure up my patronus is holding productivity to be my goal. Productivity helps in getting things done. I get it when you say, “What are you talking about? All I want to do is curl up like a ball and sleep or just stare blankly at nothing”. I’ve had the same feelings. I evolved through a heartbreak and am currently in the pursuit of happiness, so I know what’s going on in your head. Yes, it’s going to be excruciatingly painful to even try and do something that is seemingly mundane, but try by all means. Try to talk to people. Sometimes, loneliness just increases hopelessness and talking to the right person might help. But, I can understand if you don’t want to do that. That works only when the philosophy of the person whom you’re talking to is aligned with yours.

Select a goal. Go for small wins. Try to take simple steps. In my case, something as simple as getting out to buy groceries and making myself a simple lunch, gave me a huge morale boost. Break down your next simple task into a number of its constituents. If you want to get out, break it down as getting up from your chair, checking to see if your house is okay to be locked up, opening and locking the door, climbing down the stairs and reaching your destination. Concentrate on the most immediate task. I know, ignoring your dejection which is staring at you like a big, black monster and carrying on with your tasks is going to be arduous, but don’t give up hope and concentrate.

This is the one way I know to conjure up a patronus to beat dementors. It generally works and in due course, you’ll have a discovered a lot more about yourselves. If you feel it’s chronic, or ever feel suicidal, do not hesitate to take professional help. The light at the end of the tunnel is not too far away, all it takes is some more effort to reach. It’s again going to be hard when it feels you’ve given everything you can and every task will seem Himalayan, but don’t stop.

I dream of a day when mental illness will be treated as common as a flu or a headache. As Elizabeth Wurtzel says in Prozac Nation, “That is all I ever want, all this pain to seem purposeful.

The dementors can be fought, so despair not. Gather all your hope together, wave your wands and say with me, “Expecto Patronum.”

-Nandha Kishore

In what ways can Depression manifest?

Continuing from the previous discussion, we have noted that depression as an entity is different from sadness or grief. It has some clear biological underpinnings that differentiate it from the others. But, what is evident is the symptoms. Major depression/ clinical depression typically presents with a characteristic cluster of symptoms:

  • Persistent and all-encompassing low mood
  • Fatigue and decreased energy or increased restlessness
  • Loss of interest in all pleasurable activities of the past
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details,
  • Associated anxious/ empty feelings or irritability
  • Pessimistic thoughts of helplessness, hopelessness, guilt, or worthlessness
  • Thoughts related to death, suicide and suicide attempts
  • Changes in sleep patterns, appetite (usually reduced) and increased physical complaints

While these are the common symptoms, over the lifespan, depression may present itself in many ways. This may accidentally lead to people stating that they don’t have clinical depression even though they are suffering and at times finding it difficult to function. Symptoms of depression in childhood may differ from the above mentioned symptoms in that there may be features of aggression, anger, excessive crying. Children may also manifest a more reactive mood as compared to the persistent and all-encompassing low mood seen in older individuals.

As children age into preadolescence and adolescence, there may be an increase in irritability associated with reduced social interactions and isolation, reduced or increased sleep, sometimes associated with increased appetite and craving for high carbohydrate diet. Typically, this is more than “adolescent problems” and is associated with dysfunction typically in the form of academic decline, conflict with authority, use of drugs or alcohol. Typically college going people manifest symptoms that include characteristics of symptoms found in both adolescents and adults with a general increase in exposure to drugs and alcohol use, and an increase in self injurious behaviors. As people age, there is a greater likelihood of emergence of physical symptoms of depression.

Keep in mind, that while knowing the symptoms of depression is important for you to seek help, self -diagnosis of mental health issues may do more harm than good. A detailed clinical evaluation by a clinical psychologist or a psychiatrist is essential to make a diagnosis and start treatment.

-Dr. Shiva Prakash

Image credits: Anna Borges / BuzzFeed

The Light in the Woods

A battle is not without losses but a battle with yourself is always winnable, the only loss you suffer is the loss of all the drapery you hid your true self with.

It is hard to decide what to say or talk about in a blog like this. A lone pack is in its very essence as I understand it – a congregation of the lonely by choice and not. Perhaps the biggest victory will be to admit to yourself who you really are and take that understanding for everything that it is and everything that it brings along with it. This is the victory we all strive for after all, but most of us fail to achieve; we fail to achieve this for a variety of reasons only a few of which are true for each person. It is this victory that we all fight for and it is this fight that is the cause for most of our woe. A blog like this is supposed to resonate with everyone who feels like this and yet this subject is something so personal that it becomes hard to go beyond the specifics of my own life or for any other writer to go beyond their own experiences. Perhaps it is best to explain (again only in my own understanding) this fight we are all a part of. It is to do with identity and with acceptance of that identity. Who you see yourself as and who you project yourself to be. More often than not the latter is more important than the former, failure to give society and its views of you, due respect and consideration will yield catastrophic results, yes? But even if you were to do so and were golden in society’s eyes you would still not be content. Quite the opposite in fact – the little voice of self in the background that kept screaming in the background? Well now it ’s a cornered animal. You have ignored it long enough and it is going to take a bite out of you when you try to bury it.

And then, even after all that, even if you have magically survived burying your own identity to fit in with society’s cookie-cutter view of how a person should be, what happens next?

You feel empty. You have nothing that is intrinsically you. You cannot identify as anything or anyone beyond a cog to keep society moving. You live and you succeed, maybe even enjoy yourself, but you will always be empty and wonder ‘what if’. What if you had listened and fought for yourself. Now you will lose your balance because that line of questioning never ends well unless you are willing to undergo the pain and fight for it all over again. But this time fighting both for your identity and your own respect for yourself. But all this is only if the bite I talked about earlier was not fatal which more often than not it is.

‘What if’ is a rabbit hole that all of us enter at one point or another. You try to project your value based on something else to escape this darkness but that is what the darkness wants. Sooner or later you will realize how shallow your measurement is and by that time the darkness is even stronger. It will hurt you and it can kill you. You will go sleepless and you will be terrified but when you realize that the darkness is only a part of yourself that is starved for attention and recognition there is some hope. A battle is not without losses but a battle with yourself is always winnable, the only loss you suffer is the loss of all the drapery you hid your true self with. But then people might ask how you win a battle with a part of yourself that you have alienated for so long. I do not know, how could I ever understand what your circumstances are and even more importantly the perspective you possess of your own circumstances? But it is wrong to assume here that I cannot help you, that the people here cannot help you. When I write this I begin to form my own perspective of what lone pack might be. While I cannot give you the answers I will be able to guide you with my own experiences and show you things you did not know.

So lone pack then becomes a light; a light to shine things on and to show you what you could not see before, but it is not a map – your journey is still your own.

-November

What is the difference between Sadness and Depression?

Human beings experience emotions. The most common emotions that we experience are happiness, sadness, fear and anger. Of this sadness is a normal human emotion that we all experience in life when we experience something unpleasant – this could be related to a loss, or a disappointment or the like. It is important to recognize that sadness happens to all people but, it does resolve itself over a period of time.

On the other hand, depression is a complex neurobehavioural disorder characterized by a cluster of symptoms. Persons suffering with depression usually have problems that affect their feelings, behaviors, physical health and overall functioning. Typically persons with depression do not spontaneously feel better as in the case with sadness.

The symptoms of depression are varied – the most characteristic being persistent low mood that would appear to pervade all activities of the individual, a lack of interest in all pleasurable activities and a general sense of tiredness. Physically persons suffering with depression may experience problems with sleep, reduced appetite, increased fatigue, increased physical aches and pains. This may be accompanied by varied thoughts of a negative nature in the form of low self-esteem, not having a hope for the future, a sense of helplessness and so on.

Sadness is natural and fleeting. Depression is a medical disorder that will respond to treatment of a psychological and medical nature. Depression is one of the leading cause of disability as per the WHO. It is associated with significant problems with functioning in the form of not being able to do their work, chores or even studies. It can however be treated with proper help allowing people to lead a normal life once again.

                                  – Dr. Shiva Prakash

Image credits:White Swan Foundation for Mental health