x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

'When the wave of depression hit I felt numb to the world around me'

As someone who has been there, a depression patient wants to offer services to chidlren who might have similar problems.

DK, 31, has battled serious depression for the past 16 years.

He cannot identify exactly what brought it on, but believes it was triggered by a series of life-changing and traumatic incidents.

While in his early teens, his parents divorced. Shortly after, he was involved in a car accident and spent time in hospital. Both incidents stirred deep emotions, but he avoided talking about them.

"When you're part of a large family you feel like you don't want to be a burden, so you shy away from talking about these things … it becomes a habit," he said.

Things exacerbated when his father's friend attempted suicide in the basement of the family's home.

"I heard a gunshot and I didn't know what happened," he said. "I went downstairs and found him drunk and crying. I had to take the gun out of his hand. It was like an out-of-body experience."

The American expatriate buried his feelings, never realising they might manifest some other way.

"I was very active - I was into sports, theatre, community service and was part of the student council," he said. "But when the wave of depression hit I started to get withdrawn. I felt like I was a bother to everyone - you almost become numb to the world around you.

"It reaches a point where you feel comfortable in that state - you don't want to go out or do anything, you'd rather feel sad. You try to do something different - meet people, go to new places - but you only feel worse. It's like quicksand, the more you try to fix things, the more you sink."

It never crossed his mind that he might be depressed but his parents read the signs and took him to a therapist. His depression was diagnosed when he was 15.

"I would go for counselling and the psychiatrist put me on antidepressants," he said. "It takes some time to find the medicine that's right for you. It changes you, alters your cognitive state … you lose a little bit of who you are. But it's still better than the alternative."

DK, a primary-school teacher in Abu Dhabi, said his experiences had prompted him to seek a support system for children with depression or any mental illness.

"We try to work with the counsellors to bridge the gap," he said. "Every school should try to identify students going through this and provide the emotional support they need to deal with it."