PETALING JAYA: When it comes to matters of mental health like depression, far too many Malaysians tend to downplay its dangers.
In truth, depression, like any other disease, requires medical treatment and if left unattended, can lead to thoughts of suicide.
One Malaysian has written about his experience of battling with severe depression in his recently released book, “Depression is so Painful”.
FMT Lifestyle recently caught up with Salim Satori, a professional management consultant, who said his depression crept in during the early stages of the pandemic in 2020.
“I thought there would be a short lockdown and we would overcome it quickly,” he shared. But when the pandemic dragged on indefinitely, worries began to cloud Satori’s mind.
“I was having these dark moods. I couldn’t sleep at night, because I had a family to feed.”
Then the panic attacks began. He said: “I knew something was wrong with me, but I thought it was the weather or something.”
What Satori had not realised was that his acute stress had led to chronic depression, which eventually affected his mobility.
“Depression starts in the mind, but it can get so bad that it affects your physical being. You cannot think straight, you can’t feel anything aside from catastrophe and negativity.”
Satori said that depression is distinct from sadness, which is something you can feel. Depression, on the other hand, leaves you numb.
When his body began freezing, Satori consulted a doctor, fearing a heart attack was on the way.
The doctor found nothing physically wrong with him, but diagnosed him with depression and expressed her surprise that he had not committed suicide given the circumstances.
Prescribed antidepressants, things finally took a turn for the better. “Within 10 days, I was able to come out of my bad state. My head was finally above water. My cognition came back.”
According to him, depression is like an unwinnable battle, one which starts anew daily. “There’s no chance you are going to win except through medication.”
Having survived his ordeal, Satori felt the need to share his story with others experiencing depression as well.
“I’d never written a book before; I was just a management consultant,” he said. Nevertheless, he gave it his all, taking 15 months to complete “Depression is so Painful”.
“The aim of my book is to destigmatise depression and to tell people the dangers of depression,” said Satori, adding he also wanted to encourage those battling depression to seek professional treatment as the endgame is suicide.
“A lot of people say that someone who commits suicide is a coward. No, no. After what I went through, I can empathise with them.”
Satori himself had moments when he felt like “calling it a day”, when it felt like there was no hope for him.
He asserted that depressed people can be perfectly functional members of society, citing chef Anthony Bourdain and comedian Robin Williams as examples.
In a time when illnesses are being destigmatised, Satori said the same should be done for depression.
“My book is a clarion call for society to talk about depression, to educate people on the signs of depression.”
According to him, most books on depression written by doctors are too “dry” to be understood by most laymen.
“So, here comes someone who lived through depression, took the pill and overcame it,” he said. “If you read my book, you’ll understand what depression is and its magnitude and danger.”
Up to 98% of Malaysians, Satori estimated, underplay the severity of depression. “Because they cannot physically see depression, they think it’s something that just comes and goes.”
Malaysia, he added, has a noticeable lack of psychotherapists, which poses a problem considering how widespread mental health issues are.
He said many people view depression as a spiritual weakness. “Some even told me that I shouldn’t take my antidepressants because I will get addicted. That’s very, very wrong,” he said.
So, what should you do if you know of someone who you suspect is depressed? “Tell them, ‘Let us go together and seek treatment.’ That’s all. I sought treatment and it helped.
“After seeking treatment, support and motivate them to continue receiving treatment until they get better. I would never tell them, ‘Be strong.’ I have been there and it doesn’t work.”
‘Depression is so Painful’ is available at Tokosue Wisma Central and on Shopee.