Many people know how it is to be depressed, feel low, without motivation to do anything, or just to feel sad. It is spiritually and emotionally crushing. It can also be described in one word: painful. Thankfully most of the time, those feelings are fleeting; they do not stay and go away with time. Sometimes, without much effort, it is as if they are removed by an innate psychological defense mechanism. Every single one of us has our own defense mechanism, whether mature or otherwise.
It is totally normal to feel. Despite our attempts to dismiss negative emotions, acknowledging their presence is actually healthy and necessary for us to heal properly. There are no positives in forcing ourselves to “swallow” or ignore our negative feelings because it is damaging to our health. By consciously being aware of our feelings, we can move on.
Many people say that they ignore negative emotions in an attempt to be strong. Unfortunately, the more we put those emotions aside, the more damaging they can be. The most important thing when we feel down is to survive those feelings with ourselves “intact”. Unattended negative emotions can leave scars in our soul that start to break our inner reserves and become worse.
It is easy for us to identify the opposite poles of emotion – either positive or negative – but many fail to recognise another nasty emotion that lingers like a slow-growing tumour.
Anhedonia – the inability to feel joy or pleasure. It is a desperate feeling. Painful.
It is waking up in the morning, going through your chores as usual. It is doing things that you usually like or connecting with people who used to make you happy; but without the zest of happiness or joy.
Emotionally, there is a painful numbness. You feel confused. You know that you are not sad, but you cannot understand why you are unable to feel happy. It is as if the part of you that feels joy has left and you don’t know where it has gone. You are distressed that you don’t feel the same pleasure you used to feel.
You feel trapped because smiling, laughing and other responses you can give do not reflect the happiness that you lack. You think your expressions are fake and plastic. Suddenly you feel yourself ignoring your own emotions. Your inner senses and actions are disconnected but you don’t feel apathetic because you are responding appropriately.
Daily activities become an emotional burden. It is tempting to break down because it presents itself as a more desirable option. Then, at least people may see through you and realise you are sad and not happy at all.
Can you feel the desperation of not feeling happy? You might be suffering from clinical depression after all.
Dr Ahmad Rostam Md Zin is the President of the Early Career Psychiatrist (Malaysian Psychiatric Association). If you need someone to talk to, #reachout to family and friends or organizations such as Befrienders KL. You are not alone.
[This article belongs to The Malaysian Medical Gazette. Any republication (online or offline) without written permission from The Malaysian Medical Gazette is prohibited.]