The women’s majlis: Escaping a prison in your own mind

Anxiety and depression are among the most common mental disorders in the world, and they’re more than just feeling sad, tired or nervous.

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We’ve all come across terms such as ­“anxiety” or “depression” in the span of our lives. We’ve grown ­accustomed to using them as terms to ­describe our feelings. I often hear friends say “I’m depressed” when they are feeling down or “I’m having a panic attack” a day before an exam. All I can think back in reply to these statements is: you have no idea.

While people all over the world take these terms lightly, they shouldn’t. Anxiety and depression are among the most common mental disorders in the world, and they’re more than just feeling sad, tired or nervous.

The reason that I’m saying this is because I’ve seen it first hand – and it’s not your everyday mix of emotions. It turns your whole life around. Your mind creates its own prison and there’s nothing you can do about it, unless you seek professional help.

One of my closest friends was recently diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder and depression, and she says: “Anxiety is a murderer that has killed every peaceful, optimistic cell in my body. My friends and family tell me to stop worrying or to cheer up, [but] what they don’t understand is that it’s not something I can switch on and off, or control – I’m living in a prison in my own mind, and that’s just the way it is. I get so frustrated when people tell me to think more positively or that it’s a state of mind I can change. They are really ignorant of how it feels to a person going through this. Telling me to be happy because other people have it worse doesn’t help; it’s like telling someone who’s happy to be sad because others have it ­better.”

We often jump to the conclusion that mental disorders like anxiety or depression aren’t real. We label them as feelings, without truly understanding these terms. We brush it off, showing no compassion to those suffering. The truth is, anxiety or depression are chemical imbalances in the brain that can cause a variety of symptoms and future afflictions. It’s an illness, just like diabetes or heart disease.

We cannot place some people on a pedestal because we can clearly see what’s going on, while disregarding others simply because we think that they’re crazy or have no idea what takes place in the human mind. Some things are not what they seem to be on the surface – and one has to dig a little deeper to discover the truth.

Shamma Al Suwaidi is a 23-year-old business ­administration major. She’s currently studying for a master’s in international law at the Paris-Sorbonne University in Abu Dhabi.

If you’re an Emirati woman who has a good story to tell or an important issue to debate, please contact Shireena Al Nowais at salnuwais@thenational.ae.