When writing the post about my experience with depression, or the daughter of some bitch and the devil as I love to call it, I never thought I’ll be going back to the topic and writing another one. It’s not that easy to write about the painful things you went through while your brain was consistent in destroying everything you love and gradually killing every part of your body and soul.
It’s even harder when you’re well aware of the fact that there are some ignorant people who will consider your words to be nothing more but attention seeking syntax of pathetic. But you know what? Screw them. This article is not even meant for those who are not informed enough and so closed-minded that they are able to pronounce those horrifying words: “It’s all in your head” and/or “There are people who are going through much more serious and worse stuff than you do”, by which, in the majority of the cases they’re referring to a physical illness or disability. If you’re one of those people, please stop reading this post, be kind enough to never say those sentences again to those who are in a need of a help, you’re not aiding them with it, by opening your mouth and letting those words come out you’re proving to be nothing more but oxygen thieves, and lastly, but most importantly, PISS OFF!
Anyhow, I got a lot of positive and inspiring messages from people who had either been through depression, who are trying to cope with it now or who know someone who’s been stuck in this vicious circle of attempting to continue their normal life in which every activity or just a simple move feels like a burden and writing suicide notes over and over again when all of the struggle they’re going through seems pointless.
The main question, the one listed in every single message I got, was “How did you do it?”. “How did you beat depression?”. Spoiler alert! I didn’t. That daughter of some bitch and the devil simply refuses to leave me alone! But just because I didn’t defeat her all the way and banished that Devil’s descendant from my life forever, it doesn’t mean I’m not fighting her on a, well, almost daily basis.
If you’re seeking for a step by step guide how to take your life in your own hands again, I am very sorry to inform you that I can’t provide you with what you’re looking for. I’m pretty sure that by now you’re more than aware of the fact that curing depression is individual for everyone. Therapy, medication, life style changes, exercise, nutrition, stress reduction, social support and well deserved sleep are just some of the many ways of getting yourself out of the hands of Hades’s daughter, which you probably already know, thanks to the numerous times you googled your symptoms or tried to help yourself with searching the Internet.
Unfortunately, I can’t tell you what methods will work for you, but what I can do is share my carefully and painstakingly acquired knowledge of the things I’ve learnt after entering the gates of Hell. So, welcome to my Chamber of Secrets which depression made me learn.
1. Never Justify Yourself to Anyone, Not Even Yourself.
I’d been wearing a social mask for more than two years, so it was hard for people to realize something was off. I was using humor and sarcasm as parts of my shield. Alas, my self-preservation system of portraying my old self failed me, and when the mask fell off, people noticed and even suffered from the bitterness and emptiness I carried in me for a long period of time. That’s when the things started to change.
My friends, the real ones, the ones I can still call in 4 a.m. for no reason, did their best in attempting to protect me from those oxygen thieves I previously mentioned, but, as history and our own experience have already though us, the minority can rarely win.
There were situations in which I would be sitting at a cafe during the break between lectures, feeling down, wanting to escape from that place, that town, those people, that life I was having, staring at a single spot with no physical movements at all, trapped in my own thoughts of hating life and wishing for death, when all of a sudden I would be pushed by someone’s elbow and asked: “What’s wrong with you?”, with a strong and extremely negative emphasis on the pronoun “you”.
Don’t justify yourself to those living creatures. Those are the same people who will tell you that it’s all in your head, paraphrase some inspiring story about a person surviving some disease with no cure, about their suffering, how they must have had it much worse than you do, how someone’s family was killed in a car accident and if they could put themselves back on their feet, so can you, because their amount of sadness, the only emotion they consider depression to be consistent of, must had been far stronger than yours, etc. No disrespect to any of the people who had gone through something I’ve mentioned in the previous sentence, I applaud you for that, but this is not going to help anyone suffering from depression. Those words will just make them feel more guilty, more ashamed of themselves for feeling like they do for “no reason”, more incapable and not worth of living.
You, my depressed fellows, don’t snap at those ignorant people. Maybe they’re just trying to help. They’re failing at it miserably, but who knows what their motives are. After all, they’re not worth of your precious and not that existing energy. Save it for the fight with the real enemy.
For some reason mental illnesses are still not recognized as “real” and “severe” by the majority of people, at least not the ones I was forced to be surrounded with. Even if they do consider them as existent, they will not glorify them as they do with physical illnesses and disabilities, and, when it comes to depression in particular, they’ve constructed this idea of some kind of a trigger which sends a person to this Hell on Earth. For instance, people going through break-ups were getting much more support than I was, due to the fact there was a reason for them to be sad, and, apparently, I had none.
Yes, triggers do exist, for some people, but not for everyone. You can have your perfect little life, as I did, succeeding in everything you ever wanted, when all of a sudden you find yourself trapped in the “hunger games” your brain is playing with you. I can’t count how many times I asked myself “Why is this happening to me?”, “What’s wrong?”, “What did I do to end up like this?”, “Why me?”. Trying to solve those mysteries was a part of my daily ritual. Sadly, my knowledge of Agatha Christie’s work and Sherlock Holmes’ methods didn’t help in resolving the crime of life turning against me. Don’t seek the answers to those questions. Don’t get trapped in the vicious circle of decoding the reason for the chemical reaction in your brain, like I did.
Depression doesn’t discriminate. No one is safe from it. And, going through the same and pointless questions with no solid answers, over and over again will not help you. On the contrary, it will make you feel even worse, even more isolated, guilty and less confident than you’re already are.
Going through those questions also leads to another one, the most scary out of them all. “What’s the point?” When that one comes along, run away. Run as fast and as far as you can.
2. Cherish Those Good Days.
That’s the point! Don’t you realize that your one good day is far more precious than the best day other people are having? You know you can have those sometimes. They might be rare, but they’re worth every single struggle you went through to get them. Even if you’re not there yet to fully perceive what I’m saying, just trust me on this one.
I made a horrible mistake by assuming that I’m cured, after having just one day filled with milled laughter and, later on, whenever I would be a bit jolly, my brain would start screaming: “This too shall pass and you will be back in Hades’s chambers shortly”. Ironically, I never had this thought when I was in my normal, empty, pointless and hopeless world. In that world I would turn into Gandalf, yelling at my depression “You will not pass!”, but in a different context than he did in Lord of the Rings.
Don’t do what I did. Try reversing it and saying that positive quote to yourself when you’re having those horrible days and if you can’t, well, then who cares about something half of the population has put as a Facebook status in one point of their lives? Just appreciate the good days and in a words of Morrissey and The Smiths: “There is a light that never goes out.”
3. You Will Lose Some “Friends”.
I had a lot of “friends”. I had those with whom I would go out, I had those with whom I would drink coffee. I don’t go out that much anymore, I drink coffee every day, but I’m either doing it with one of the five people I love and respect more than anything on this world or all by myself.
One of the precious things depression teaches you is who your real friends truly are.
I understand the amount of loneliness you’re experiencing. I found that the worst kind of it is not the one when you’re all alone at home with nobody whom you could call, or when you want to stay all by yourself and avoid other people’s calls and/or lie to them in order for you to stay isolated in your own world, which was, in my case, consisted out of my bed entirely. The worst type of loneliness is the one you feel when you’re around the people you love. Sometimes even just people, the ones about whom you couldn’t care less. This goes to those times when you feel abandoned, unwanted, unneeded, like no one understands you or what you’re going through. As Mother Teresa said: “Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.”
It’s hard talking to your friends, pretending like everything is alright, when the inside of your mind is habituated by the Devil’s daughter whom had possessed your entire body and soul. It’s even harder to tell them the truth. There’s that paralyzing fear of them not understanding, not believing your words and finally, abandoning you completely, leaving
you all to yourself and your devious mind which is working against you every single day in the universe filled with emptiness, disappointment, bitterness, sadness, hatred, hopelessness and all these emotions you never thought could be this tremendous.
Making up excuses for not leaving the house and presenting them to your loved ones, or simply avoiding their calls and not answering their messages, also adds to that emotion of loneliness and guilt for deceiving them.
You know how when someone has a flu and says “I’m not feeling well”, everyone simply leave that person alone so they could get some rest and feel better? Well, the same thing should go for you. I hate referring to depression as of an “illness”, mostly because that would mean I’m actually sick, and, that’s something I’m not ready to admit to myself just yet, but sometimes I did, and still do, feel “sick”. I know some of you are more than aware of the fact that saying about how depression doesn’t have physical symptoms is just a myth. My entire body ached, particularly my head, I was incapable of falling asleep for days, I had already mentioned in my previous post how I turned into Keith Richards and slept three times a week, sometimes I just wanted to sleep, I couldn’t eat, I developed a Restless Legs syndrome, I was constantly tired, both, physically and mentally, etc. Having just one or two of these symptoms would lead to people leaving you alone if they didn’t strongly believe you could “just snap out off it”, which is, of course, something people with mental illnesses can do, due to the fact “it’s all in their heads.” You got the sarcasm in the previous sentence, right?
Remember how I told you not to justify yourself to anyone? That advice goes for this as well. If you’re not feeling well, you’re not. Period. People could and, probably, will tell you, that you’re dark, how you’ve changed, they will get frustrated by the constant rejection and the wall they’re facing every time they want to do something with you, which will, eventually cause some of them to stop calling.
Don’t get discouraged by this! Believe it or not that’s a positive thing. Try thinking of this as of the universe’s way of providing you with the tool to purify your life from those who were not to be in it in the first place. And, when you enter the gates of Hell, go through the fire and flames, and leave Hades, that bitch of his and their daughter behind you in their hometown, those who were and, still are standing by your side are the ones who truly deserve to stay there forever.
I had a strong believe that everyone will leave me all alone in the darkness. There were days when I wanted them to do such a thing, but then, there were those when I was afraid of ending up lost, all by myself, with no light to be found. If you also think that people will give up on you completely, or that they already did, that is most likely not to be true. At least it wasn’t in my case and the cases of many others with whom I’ve talked to before writing this article.
But even if somehow that is to be a fact, concentrate on Buddha’s words of wisdom. “If for company you cannot find a wise and prudent friend who leads a good life, then, like a king who leaves behind a conquered kingdom, or like a lone elephant in the elephant forest, you should go your way alone…Better it is to live alone; there is no fellowship with a fool. Live alone and do no evil; be carefree like an elephant in the elephant forest” (Dhammapada, 329-330).
To conclude this chapter with Morrissey and The Smiths, once again, “Why do I give valuable time to people who don’t care if I live or die?” Thanks to depression, you won’t have to ask yourself that question anymore.
4. Lower Your Expectations and Don’t Push Yourself!
This goes especially to all of you overachievers, such as the previous version of myself. When I look back at the things I’ve been accomplishing and doing every single day before depression took over my life, I’m pretty sure I had some secret superpowers of whom I wasn’t aware of. I was passing all my exams with flying colors, I worked for several music festivals, for a movie festival, for a marketing agency, I helped in organizing numerous music shows and parties, I wrote for a website and my personal blog, I was learning English, French and Italian, I traveled, I went out almost every night, etc, and, I was doing all of those things at the same time. Somehow, I was never exhausted, I was filled with enthusiasm and a huge amount of desire to work, learn and create something. I had strong believes on politics, social issues, economy, and, I fought for every single one of them and did my best in trying to speak out as louder as I could and change things for the better.
Then, to paraphrase Hurts, the world surrounded me and I didn’t try to save myself, nor cover up the grey. So, you can imagine how I must had felt when becoming incapable of doing a bloody thing and when every single task, no matter how small it seemed, such as brushing my hair or getting dressed, felt like a burden.
The main mistake I made was consisted of pushing myself to do everything the same way I had before the Devil’s descendant found her place in my life. When you can’t brush your teeth without crying and your entire body aching, it is impossible to write a perfect paper, get the best marks and continue to work as you had been previously. Alas, rational thinking is not one of the side effects of depression, therefore this precious advice was not there for me when it was needed. Even when I became well aware of the problem I was dealing with, it was hard for me to understand that now I have to take things slowly. I continued pushing myself in fail attempts to work as hard as I did before, which led to tears, misery, feeling incapable and not good enough, lower self-esteem, constant self-doubt and anxiety.
Don’t blame yourself for not being able to work as much as you did before you’ve been thunderstruck by depression. Just bear in mind that this is not your fault, that you are most definitely not incapable of accomplishing anything and that no mater how hard your work and daily activities were, now everything is much more difficult and unbearable.
So what if you didn’t pass your exams, get a promotion or maybe even got fired? The main thing you need to have on your “To Do List” is to survive.
Don’t get all stressed, frustrated and mad at yourself because you’re not doing great at school, university, college, job, or whatever. There are far more important things you have to deal with at this stage of your life. As it happens, the ones dealing with depression face with lack of motivation, will and power. Save your energy! Don’t go around wasting it on petty things such as hating yourself or maybe feeling sorry for yourself for not being able to fulfill all your or someone else’s expectations.
Please don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean you should entirely give up on all of your daily duties. Sometimes it’s all right and more than necessary to put things on a pause, which goes for life in general whether you’re depressed or not. What I’m strongly advising you not do to is put even more pressure on yourselves to work in the state you’re currently at and start hating on yourselves for thinking your “incapable of anything”, which you most definitely are not! Try accepting the fact that sometimes life turns against you and gives its best in enabling you to function properly, which is a battle you should never let it win.
Depression is like a state of mind in which all of the blackness takes over your being, but from darkness comes light, and with that illumination you can bring farther more goods to this world than you could ever do before finding it in you.
5. Find Someone Who Understands.
It was always difficult, almost impossible, for me to talk about my problems and feelings. That’s why it’s understandable why talking to a therapist was never that efficient in my case. I also found it pretty annoying that I have to meet a professional at a particular day at a certain time by which I would put that social mask back on, so the doctor never got the chance to see me at my worst.
Talking to someone, whether it’s a psychiatrist or someone you trust, does work. I know people who swear by this. Sadly, that wasn’t the case with me.
What I found to be useful are words of wisdom written in books or sang by artists. Those were, and probably will always be, my people. There’s a long list of writers, singers and bands whose products of talents, creativity and past experiences helped me in, not only understanding what I was going through and dealing with it, but also feeling accepted and like I’m not alone in this Hell on Earth. From Sylvia Plath and Dostoyevsky, past Bukowski and The Smiths, to The 1975 and Ed Sheeran. I could make these lists for you if you hadn’t been able to find your personal little helpers you are making it possible for you to survive.
I’ve already talked about not being able to read while being in the darkest corners of my lightless universe. That’s the thing with depression, it finds what you love and makes you watch it while she destroys it. Remember those good day? That’s why they are here for! Yes, it did take me three months to read a book, which is horrible, due to the fact that I used to be reading three books and more per week, but reading words like: “I can never read all the books I want; I can never be all the people I want and live all the lives I want. I can never train myself in all the skills I want. And why do I want? I want to live and feel all the shades, tones and variations of mental and physical experience possible in my life. And I am horribly limited.” (Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath), soothed me and made me realize that there were people who went through the exact same things and had the same thoughts as I do.
Of course, Plath may not be the perfect solution for quoting here, due to the way she ended her life, but those were just some words of wisdom to whom I related at the time, and still do. That moment when you realize you are not alone and that someone understands you is the second of epiphany and enlightenment. And, in the words of Fyodor Dostoyevsky, “My God, a moment of bliss. Why, isn’t that enough for a whole lifetime?” (Dostoyevsky, White Nights).
6. You Are Not Weak!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
On the contrary, you’re a bloody hero! I said this already and I will repeat it numerous times. It takes a lot of guts to decide to stay on this Mother Earth of ours while you’re going through its darkest places.
I used to think I was weak for getting depressed, than I thought how weak I must be for not being able to take my own life after rewriting my suicide notes over and over again. That’s how low I was. I planed and reconstructed many ways to take matters in my own hands, but for the worst. And, here I am, almost a year later, writing about it. My intention is not to make this story of mine some kind of an inspiration and the reason for you to move on. I would love if something like that would happen and if, at least one person relates to my words and finds them helpful, but this is not one of those “If I could do it, so can you” stories.
This is a story about a girl who went through Hell and periodically goes back there, just to see if everything is as she left it. The story about the things people rarely tell you when you’re trying to find the way out of Hades’s chambers. The things some of you need to here. This is a story to all of you heroes out there, who have decided to fight this daughter of some bitch and the Devil, and who are ready to kick her arse, even though every atom of your body hurts and your soul is nowhere to be found. This is not an “If I could do it, so can you” kind of story. This is just a “You can do it” story!