My Experience with Depression
I write this not because I know how to best deal with depression, or because I want people to feel sorry for me. I share simply because this year I choose to be vulnerable and I choose to not only show the highlights of life, but the realities of life. Mental health is still a weird taboo, and the more we share our stories the more we can normalize the act of asking for help and keeping an open conversation on the matter.
The loneliest I ever felt was when I pretended to laugh, with a beer in my hand, at a joke I had missed because I was too busy thinking of all the ways I could stop existing in that moment, surrounded by all the people I loved the most.
There are things I remember very clearly, like that night or like not being able to stop crying, not being able to stop sleeping and not being able to understand why this was happening or what I could possibly do to make it stop. I don’t remember the weather, I don’t remember being around people, I don’t remember how my mother reacted and I don’t remember when it started. I also don’t particularly remember when it stopped taking over my life. I don’t remember when it stopped being this crippling feeling that made me dread the simplest of things like taking a shower, brushing my teeth or simply getting out of bed. I remember going to a psychologist for the first time (against my will), but I don’t remember when I ended up at a psychiatrist dreading the thought of anyone finding out.
I think this is what is so debilitating about depression, it comes in slowly and it lingers. It glues all the days and weeks and months together into one big blur and finding the one definitive thing you have to change in order to feel better is very hard.
I remember keeping my depression a secret. I also remember almost every detail of telling my best friend how I felt almost 5 years ago, drowning in confusion, self-loathing, and with eyes that felt like they couldn’t keep up with the tear supply I was demanding, because this was only last July I told her.
I’ve always known that I feel more intensely than most but I have never been very vocal about it and have never known how to express it without feeling like I'm selfishly handing my load over to someone else. I keep my emotions tucked away and rolled up into little bunches, like forgotten receipts in a pocket, underneath a fruit bowl, at the bottom of a wallet. But I could always reach out and find them and know exactly where they came from but this time it was different, this time I had no idea where to look.
Poor mother, it meant the weight I couldn’t carry any longer was handed over to her; first in little passive aggressive doses and later in blown out anger. Emotions I never knew existed, let alone would manifest inside of me, were spilling out and it was often too late to try and clean up the mess.
I am not sure where I am now is where I thought I would ever be. Depression, to me, felt like being constantly compressed into a space too small to fit even half of who I was. It felt like being too much all the time. It felt like being not enough all the time. It felt like always having to resort to ironic descriptions and conflicting meanings of how I felt being diagnosed with clinical depression.
There was never enough language. I remember how conflicted I felt with the word dying.
I feel like dying, I feel like dying,
I didn’t feel like dying.
I felt like momentarily disappearing. I felt like momentarily not being. I felt like opening up a little corner of myself and discretely exiting but having the possibility to always come back. It seemed like too many words to repeat back to myself; such a long sentence for such a short attention span.
I stopped taking medication on a whim, on my own, on the other side of the world. I didn’t do so because I thought I could find a balance all by myself, I did so because I was embarrassed. I would hide my pills in the third drawer of my bedside table, underneath an array of different textures (crumpled receipts, bobby pins, chocolate wrappers) in my teeny tiny dorm room at Uni.
What I find more embarrassing now is being part of a society so backward that would take an aspirin within a few seconds of having a headache but would sit out an entire life of emotional pain and suffering without ever feeling like they can ask for help.
Everyone’s depression is different. But if I could tap my younger self on the shoulder I would say, go ask for help. You can start small. With a text, a phone call, or simply asking yourself what you could do today to feel a little bit better, even if it is just for a moment. A shower, a cup of tea, some time in the sun, you’d be surprised at the power behind such simple acts, and the compassion and unconditional love you might receive if you were to only ask. I remember feeling singled out, like depression had removed me from my social circle because I had never heard of anyone I knew dealing with it; but I can’t help but wonder how many of us have kept it a secret. How many of us with a phone full of contacts lived through our darkest moments in an illusion of loneliness.
I write this drinking a cup of tea in an Airbnb in Melbourne, watching the trees being swayed by the strong, crisp wind I didn’t expect to feel at the end of spring. I’m at a place in my life were I find it easier to remain in contentment, floating around the balance line (but this is not to say I don't experience the highs and the lows). The dark hole that was depression kept me blindfolded to the possibility of a lighter future, so the fact that I’m here, a little bit more aware of myself and the ebbs and flows I might go through, is something I’m extremely grateful for everyday and I think it is something that has required a lot of slowing down.
These days I try and prioritize just that. I give myself time to sit with discomfort and hopefully communicate it. I practice curiosity when it comes to my emotions rather than judgement. I make inquiries, I ask questions. I realize that uncertainty is a normal part of life, and not knowing why something is happening is ok too.
These might seem like such simple habits to implement but they have so much power. You might be surprised of what might come up when you’re sitting on your own drinking a cup of tea. It might be a feeling, a thought, a memory, something you might need to work on, something that might need to be brought to light. For a lot of us that is all it takes, a continuous awareness of what is happening within us and around us. A conitnous conversation with ourselves.
But it might also take a psychologist, a pshychatrist, medication and that's ok too. Depression taught me patience. I had to be patient with myself, with my thoughts, with those around me. I had to be patient as a reassurance to the fact that I wasn't always going to feel like this, it wasn't permanent because nothing ever is.
I know the last thing you want to do when you're lying in bed without a single clue as to how you're going to get out of it is to call someone and maybe it's because it doesn't start there. Maybe it starts with patience, with giving yourself time. It starts with recognizing that there is something that needs to be dealt with. It starts with self-compassion and it starts with trust that something good is on it's way.
It might also start with realizing that you might have been feeling this way for too long and that the first step towards a more self-loving life is knowing that you are worthy of it.
And for those who have never experienced the very lows that life can offer sometimes, check up on your friends. Make sure to ask them questions, make sure to offer that space and that conversation. Humans are one of the scariest animals on earth because of their extraordinary ability to adapt and to put on a front. Pain is never something we should adapt to.