Google ‘Depression and Feminism’ and you get this:
Thanks world. Apparently, there is a strong causal relationship between the ‘spread’ of feminism by self-declared feminists and the increase of depression cases in the victims of the uprise.
Perspective is key here. I had expected to get sources quoting Betty Friedan’s ‘The Feminine Mystique’, ‘The Bell Jar’ or where culture becomes the oppressor through its creation of structures, or walls, where the yellow wallpaper becomes the only companion for its victims (mostly women). Depression becomes the symptom of the inability to breathe, communicate beyond tears and numbness, and feminism becomes the immunity booster to prevent the illness or the medicine to gulp down every morning to get you through the day, get everyone around you through the day.
Since Google failed, I brought in an expert. Not the type who will explain every single neurotransmitter involved in the chemical reactions bodily expressed in the related symptoms behind what we conceptualise as depression but an individual who lives the reality of the condition.
She’s the kind of person who can talk about Ted Hughes, oppression of the sexes and intertextuality before taking off into a rave about a barista’s buttocks. On a typical day you will see her strolling her way to one of her literature classes at the European University Cyprus (such a good English Language and Literature student), talking at a buzz and munching on chocolate. But she’s more than her small body presents. A flâneur, taking journeys from her bead, honest…blatantly so, there’s so much inside her you can’t help but to listen. She is the head behind the blog focused on the depression scene in Cyprus, ‘Stories of Cyprus’. This year we partnered up to create a poem ( ‘I didn’t make you up inside my head’) targeting the issue of ‘rape’ for the first Poetry Slam in Cyprus. We were very fortunate to make it to the finals with our duet. So here is my interview with the multi-talented writer and feminist, Christiana Nicolaides.
(A-Annetta aka me, C-Christiana)
A: I know you. You know I know you. And I know that you know that I know you. But I’m guessing some of my readers are like, who is this being? So give me a short intro of who you are/present to the world?
C: I guess this being is a 23-year-old ex-flute player in multiple orchestras, who went to France to study music, fell from cloud 9, got depressed and came back to Cyprus. I’m a bookworm, passionate Harry Potter/Hamilton fan and a feminist.
A: You are also a blogger, having recently launched ‘Stories of Cyprus’. Can you tell me a little about your blog?
C: Stories of Cyprus is a blog I created to share anonymous stories of people with depression who are Cypriots or live in Cyprus. It’s pretty straightforward. I didn’t expect such a response though, to be honest; from teenagers to middle aged people, from women to men, people want to understand themselves and be understood. I think this blog was needed in Cyprus, people tend to avoid such sad topics so I think it’s helping to eliminate the stigma.
A: Why did you choose this topic for your blog? Let me just clarify, depression is quite a taboo worldwide, unfortunately, and on an island that regularly feels very claustrophobic in its ‘village’ like atmosphere, discussing something that people perceive as ‘not normal’ or ‘mental disorders’ is not welcomed to say the least, I presume.
C: Depression is seen as this mental disorder that only weak women can get and since, as I said, people avoid such subjects, the average Cypriot doesn’t know what depression actually is – especially men. “Real men don’t cry” is an actual thing in Cyprus, unfortunately. This topic is also very personal though. I’ve been battling with depression and anxiety for five years now; I’ve experienced both in their darkest form and their lightest form. During those times, I didn’t have people that actually understood what it was like inside me. There were definitely well meaning people – my parents and family for example – but even them… They hear but they don’t listen. They give advice to make themselves feel better for helping “this poor child” but they don’t pause to think what that poor child actually needs. So, I figured, maybe some people will benefit from this blog, they can share it with their loved ones and try to explain what is going on or they can share their own story and help others. I’m helping unload some of their burden. It’s like the Cypriot saying «βάστα με να σε βαστώ, ν’ ανεβούμε το βουνό» (A rough translation of this would be let’s hold each other to climb the mountain).
A: Does being a young Cypriot woman make the experience of sharing stories and discussing the topic of depression easier or more difficult?
C: I think both. It makes it easier to not be judged because of my gender; I’m assuming that if a man my age would share his story and discuss depression, he would be criticised a lot more. Discussing about your lowest moments, your lack of confidence, your mood swings, and the disappearance of a self you used to know and loved is regarded as feminine. It’s definitely not an easy thing to do but it’s associated with feelings and weakness which is something females are expected and believed to be a lot more in touch with. It also makes it a bit difficult since people tend to assume I think with my feelings and not with my brain and that since I’m a depressed woman, it means I’m vulnerable and easy to manipulate (whether that’s true or not is another question). So, I guess being a woman with a blog on depression in a small society with lots of taboos is not easy.
A: Through this blog, you are also using Cyprus as a creative space, both as your scene and as your matter. You recently became the finalist at the first Poetry Slam held in Cyprus. Can you describe your experience off and on stage alongside yours truly?
C: I’m definitely using my blog creatively – which also helps me experience a new side to my depression. We made it to the finals at the Poetry Slam and I still can’t believe it…It felt like my past was finally shaping my future in a lighter tone; I used my emotions to create a piece and tell a story…
A: Our poem deals with an unsaid violence in the hands of a ‘he’. Is the poem aiming to accuse somebody specifically, or a specific group? What does the poem mean for you?
C: In my case it’s accusing a very specific ‘he’ but I also accuse all the ‘hes’ in the world that have acted violently in similar cases. This poem is the only way I will ever share this story so it means a great deal.
A:Did you expect a certain reaction from your audience?
C: I sort of expected puppy dog eyes and a pat on the back but that was not the case. People approached us and commented on the actual poem and performance. Generally, when I share my poems – which are usually about depression – I expect people to avoid eye contact. So far it hasn’t been the case. People congratulate me for sharing my thoughts…It gives me strength, knowing that by helping myself I also help others.
A: Although your poems often deal with everyday depression, they are always under this umbrella of an ‘I’. Speaking from yourself, you are talking as a woman dealing with the dark days of the condition. I know you are also quite involved in feminism. How do these two issues meet and interweave or do they collide?
C: Depression is often associated with women because women are seen as the weaker sex. When people finally understand that depression doesn’t care about your genitals, your sexual identity or your sexual orientation, they will see that depression is just another illness that needs patience and constant support. There are some people online that say that if you haven’t experienced depression then you can’t be a feminist because you can’t fathom what oppression and real struggle feels like but to that I raise my middle finger. Depression is an illness; feminism is the need for basic, equal human rights. They collide in the incomprehension of the structure of the world and the hopelessness while watching the news or discussing ideas with some people… But apart from that, I believe they’re quite different.
Find Christiana Nicolaides at her blog, StoriesofCyprus.