Renowned Lebanese Actor Opens up About His Battle with Depression and Panic Attacks

This article discusses and/or reports on the topic of depression and suicide. If you or someone you know needs to talk to someone, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the friendly team at Embrace by calling 1564.

Lebanese actor, writer, and TV personality Tarek Soueid, in a remarkable TV episode of Ana Hek (I’m like this), contributed to the ongoing fight against the stigma surrounding mental health in Lebanon, by opening up about his personal struggles and sharing his chronic experiences with mental illness.

 

The poisonous stigma

In the opening minutes of the episode, aired on Al-Jadeed on February 5th, Tarek Soueid remarked how he knew that many of the people around him would’ve advised him against making the TV appearance had he discussed it with them.

@tareksoueidembedded via  

But his knowledge of the positive impact that he could make by speaking up was what motivated him to move forward with it. “I honestly prefer to think about this one person whom I might help instead of the 500 who would [oppose the idea].”

 

Neshan Der Haroutiounian, the host of the program, later recalled his own experience of visiting a therapist for the first time. He said that he was “embarrassed and afraid to be deemed crazy by people because there’s a taboo [surrounding mental health] in Lebanese society.”

@neshantvembedded via  

To this, Tarek declared that he regrets going through this hesitation to seek help. “This is why, today, I speak up about it. Today I’m well, there’s nothing that forces me to open up.” 

 

On the pains of depression

“What was the matter with you?” Neshan asked his first question to Tarek, who sighed and struggled to find the one right answer. “I feel that the word Mdapras [common Lebanese word for depressed] degrades it,” he began. “Sadness certainly degrades it.”

@tareksoueidembedded via  

He then said that depression was “something that only those who’ve experienced it can describe it.”

If you feel in despair and darkness, talk to someone who can understand and help you through. Please CALL 1564 Embrace LifeLine Lebanon.

 

When asked when his depression began, he explained that he has always been “different” from his peers, especially during his teenage years. As a 19/20-year-old, “I was shy to say that I was in pain… Even to myself, I wouldn’t admit that.”

“I’ve always felt that I was unlike other people. I was more sensitive and not in a good way.” Abnormally sensitive is how Tarek described it here.

@tareksoueidembedded via  

 

“Often I’ll be parking my car and I’ll see a plant going under the wheel. I then ask myself, ‘what if it says ouch?’ ” He pointed out that this oversensitivity caused him discomfort and pain.

He also gave another intriguing example when the host asked him to comment about his “remarkable relationship with animals.” He said that his abnormal sensitivity made him see – and relate to – “the sadness in their eyes” which he hated seeing.

@tareksoueidembedded via  

 

Returning to the original question, he declared: “I had chronic depression over long years.” He went on to explain how negatively this mental illness affected his life and his attitude towards his successful dream-career.

“I never expected that, at that time when I should’ve been very happy, I wouldn’t desire anything anymore.”

@tareksoueidembedded via  

If you feel in despair and darkness, talk to someone who can understand and help you through. Please CALL 1564 Embrace LifeLine Lebanon.

 

On his solitude and introversion

As he indicated during the talk, Tarek Soueid is introverted: “I have a zone for my own; it’s where I sit [alone].” He said that although he absolutely loves people, he just values his time alone, where he feels “safe” and prefers it “over a thousand things that I could do.”

@tareksoueidembedded via  

“[Solitude] is not something that makes me sad,” Tarek insisted. “I really love it,” he added.

 

The importance of early detection

Elaborating on Neshan’s passing comment about the importance of early detection with mental illnesses, the actor said:

“I may have reached the stage of medication; antidepressants, but if I had known better, or confessed, or defied shyness, I would’ve done psychotherapy before reaching this stage.”

@embrace_lebanonembedded via  

 

Neshan also added to this, reiterating various times during the episode that, like cancer, early detection often leads to quicker and easier treatment/recovery.

Here, it is important to note that when a person admits that they feel symptoms of mental unwellness, it is crucial that the receivers of such news (family members, friends, etc…), especially parents, react correctly by ensuring that their loved one gets the needed medical attention.

@embrace_lebanonembedded via  

 

His panic attacks

Answering Neshan’s question of whether he had experienced panic attacks, which he then confirmed, Tarek struggled again to find a proper description:

“Again, only those who’ve experienced it can describe it; it’s the worst thing that you could possibly feel.” He continued, “If I say rapid heartbeats, it won’t describe it properly; if I say it involves fear, it won’t do it justice either.”

@_thefifteenthembedded via  

If you feel in despair and darkness, talk to someone who can understand and help you through. Please CALL 1564 Embrace LifeLine Lebanon.

 

“It feels like I’m dying in place,” he finally said, and later added that his panic attacks were at such a developed level since he was not getting the required professional help, that he always passed out when he had them.

@girlanddepressionembedded via  

The necessity of taking prescribed medication

As his conversation about mental health with Neshan went on, they landed on the controversial issue of medication. “This [mental illness] sometimes will be untreatable without medication,” said Tarek. “Sometimes,” he added, “therapy [alone] will be fruitless.”

 

To support his point, he gave an example from his personal experience. “For me, when I first reached out to a therapist, it was useless.” Because Tarek’s case had become so severe at that point, it was necessary, as he was later told by a doctor, to begin taking antidepressants.

@tareksoueidembedded via  

When he was still unaware of the real reason why he was getting panic attacks and passing out, he was rushing from hospital to hospital, getting different tests and scans done in an attempt to pinpoint the cause.

 

It was only after starting to take the antidepressants that were prescribed to him by a doctor, who diagnosed him with a severe case of chronic depression, that he began to feel the benefits of his therapy sessions.

@tareksoueidembedded via  

If your doctor tells you to take medication, it means there’s a chemical imbalance in your system and it’s a must that you compensate for it by taking the medicine.

 

For example, Tarek also said that he had taken an “advanced test abroad” through which he came to realize that his body lacked serotonin; the important hormone responsible for regulating the mood and social behavior, among other bodily functions.

@tareksoueidembedded via  

The importance of support

When actor Tarek Soueid once experienced a panic attack during his first year of university, he found that even the people who were by his side during the attack “didn’t know how to be there for me.”

 

“There’s a sort of disregard for these things because many people don’t have the ability to put themselves in others’ shoes,” he explained.

@tareksoueidembedded via  

As he put it, “that’s because it’s not something that they know of; ‘come on, you’re fine, khalas get up.’ ” No one can truly know how to be by your side, as he put it, “except for [your] mother.”

 

The support that Tarek received from his mother, who always accompanied him when he was rushed to hospitals, was crucial for his recovery process. “She never left me; not for a second,” he acknowledged.

In conclusion, the 38-year-old celebrity added that, before he overcame it, his depression made him feel “indifferent” towards his life.

He was unable to feel happy about his success and achievements even though he wanted to, that is, until he was finally treated.

 

One thing that Tarek Soueid focused on getting across to the audience was, in his own words, the following advice: “If your psychiatrist prescribes antidepressants for you, don’t decide ‘I don’t want them.'”

@embrace_lebanonembedded via  

And, in summary, the premise of the entirety of this episode is this: If you are feeling mentally unwell, which could happen to anyone regardless of their social status, failure, or success, do not feel ashamed of seeking professional help.

 

Once you do that, much more happiness and satisfaction will come your way, and you will thank yourself for it eventually.

To conclude, it is a must to thank Tarek Soueid for his courage, sincerity, compassion, and humanity that led to him to partake in this wonderful endeavor alongside Neshan, who is himself known for raising awareness about many significant social causes.

 

The admirable efforts of such warmhearted influencers are a great tool through which Lebanese society can thrive and develop, and many lives can be improved and saved.

Watch the full episode of “Ana Hek” with Tarek Soueid:

           

If you feel in despair and darkness, talk to someone who can understand and help you through. Please CALL 1564 Embrace LifeLine Lebanon.