The darkest of all the ‘D’s: Depression.
Finding the light may not be easy, but it’s possible.
A lot of people look at me and tell me I don’t look 40. Now I want you to see what I looked like at 29. I certainly didn’t look 29 either! :D Now look at the next picture taken on my 40th birthday eight months ago.
You must know that I weigh almost the same in both pictures. But my body, face, skin, hair and even the way I dressed was different. So why is it that I look like I inhabited someone else’s body then?
Because that was a depressed person. When you don’t feel good on the inside, it shows on the outside. At least it did for me. I didn’t even care how I looked back then. And funnily, I wasn’t even aware I was depressed. Even though I was told by a psychiatrist that I was depressed. But he was a sexist pig so I shot the messenger (figuratively) and ignored the message. I have learned that a bad message needs a good messenger.
I know people have begun talking about depression and that is great, but one of the hindrances in treating it is denial.
It was easy for me to be in denial for years, because I was high-functioning. I was too busy raising a hyperactive, non-compliant toddler, driving him 50km every day to and from pre-school (long story), eating in the car, feeding him breakfast in the car, practically living in the car. Of course I also had another job as a free-lance writer. I lived from day to day just….coping.
I lived in a constant state of exhaustion. I remember one time I consciously decided to take a nap at a long signal. St. Johns signal, if you must know. I took the nap while I was at the wheel with a toddler in a car seat at the back. That is how exhausted I was. This should be a cautionary tale for anyone. But not me. I accepted that manic, overworked lifestyle and low-grade depression to be normal for years. Until it wasn’t low-grade anymore and it almost broke me.
I have learnt a few things in retrospect about depression that might help you.
1. Recognize it:
It’s far too easy given our uselessly ‘busy’ lifestyles to not recognize it. I wish I had people (other than the crazy shrink) tell me I was depressed. If your family or friends ask you if you’re depressed or suggest you speak to a therapist, do not dismiss them. There could be good reason. Being in denial is normal, but do you really want to suffer for longer than you have to? I keep thinking that if I had sought help earlier, done things differently, I might’ve enjoyed my child’s younger years a lot more.
2. Seek help:
No one is alone in this world, no matter how lonely you may feel. Reach out and talk to your loved ones, speak to a therapist, take medication if you have to. There is no shame in seeking help. It takes courage to seek help. Honestly, you owe it to yourself.
3. Take charge of your life:
It’s not as scary as it sounds. It’s simply taking care of yourself. If your life situation (job/ relationship/ living situation) makes you feel like you’re dying a slow death, exit. Yes, this part is not easy, but it is the easier option than staying in a perennial dark place in your mind that could have fatal consequences. Do things that help you regain a sense of well-being and self-worth. Exercise, get fit, eat right, sleep well, read, journal, meditate, dance, make art, do whatever makes you you. Choose a life that makes you excited to be alive. What other reason is there to live?
4. Lastly, be kind to yourself.
Do not shame yourself for what you’re going through. It is hard enough to go through depression without having to bear the additional cross of guilt and shame and negative shit that has no place in our lives. You wouldn’t shame a loved one for being sick, would you? So why would you do that to yourself? Give yourself whatever it is you need. Time to just be, do nothing, read, sleep, whatever helps you.
That’s it. I saw light at the end of tunnel, guys. And you will too. I am in a good place in my life right now and it is because of the choices I made. They have been hard choices, but nothing that comes easy has ever made a lasting difference. Things that helped me were Running, running and running. Haha. Also, meditation, EFT, yoga, writing, journaling, music.
I still have the occasional bout of anxiety, but I have learned to recognize it and deal with it in a way that is compassionate to my body and mind.
Remember, it is called Depression, not Black hole. Which means it’s possible to crawl out of it. Also remember, that you are not alone. And that you are very loved.