Saturday, 8 October 2016

To share, or not to share, that is the question: Depression.

Alright. I’ve been gone for a long time.  I know.  Inspiration and being busy vs writer’s block in when you having nothing else to do, similar to the never- ending dilemma: Either having time or money, never both at the same time.

It’s fine though. For once, I don’t feel guilty about having stayed away for so long. I don’t want to feel obliged to write something just for the sake of it. I want to write because I feel like doing so.
That’s how I want to spend the rest of my life, ideally. Doing what I want.
Not egoistically, not minding those around me and being a downright bother.
I just don’t want to spend a lot of time doing things because I feel I HAVE to.

After having completed last year’s reading challenge, I just did not feel like sharing anything.
I did a great many things, though. Some worth talking about, some not so much.

I’d been doubting about sharing one major thing: More than a year ago now, I was diagnosed with chronic and severe depression. It’s not as scary as it sounds, though. I am still me. I’ve been depressed (off and on, most likely) ever since 2008. It sneaks up on me, and I always think I’m just having a “bad phase”, and “it will go away on its own”, as a year or more passes.  I kept this to myself for a long time, and only true friends would see shadows of what was haunting me. I thought, like a lot of people do, that it is a normal and good thing to be a happy human being all the time. Being sad all the time is just a downright taboo, and a waste of a good life. Wanting to die, despite being physically healthy, when there are literally thousands of people dying daily in wars and because of diseases who would not if they had a choice. Being sad, even when the sun shines.

One of the major downsides of depression is that it is an invisible – yet horrible and destructive – disease.  People who have never have experienced it, make the mistake of meaning well but ending up saying totally wrong things:  “Oh, cheer up, I am sad sometimes too, things will get better”, or “Of course you’re tired if you’re in bed all day. Just get up and you’ll be energetic in no time”, or “How can you be sad all the time, just try being more optimistic!”,  “You seem fine though, whenever we meet up, aren’t you exaggerating a little bit?”. 
Edit: "Everyone is depressed nowadays." is another one.
Being depressed isn’t about feeling “sad” sometimes, and yes, some days are easier than others, but most of the time, there is a huge black weight on your lungs, shoulders, heart, legs. Yes, the term gets abused. No, it's not something to treat lightly. It's something upsetting when getting up in the morning is the biggest struggle of the day, trying to stay out of bed the rest of the day even more so.

Your own thoughts turn into your biggest enemy when you are depressed. They are capable of making you feel the entire range of emotions, but they have a paralyzing effect when those negative emotions become part of your habit, your daily existence. Every bad thought gets multiplied, enlarged, echoed. A friend canceling an appointment will turn into “I have no one who cares about me”, losing a wallet is “I have the worst luck in the world,” or if you make a mistake you can become your own worst critic “being the most stupid shit that has lived on the surface of this planet”.  It’s nothing anybody does or says. On good days, compliments manage to have a small impact, a smile, a small flame of pride. But it’s the negative commentary that lingers, gets enlarged in your head, and your own thoughts rub it in “See? I told you you were a failure.”

You can’t tell people “I want to die”. Not when you really mean it. At that point, you’re not looking for any attention. You are not seeking any help. You really are sincerely and genuinely done with life. Before that, it’s a plea, hoping that if you say it aloud, people will help cheering you up, motivating you to hold on. At some point, you realize: People don’t motivate you at all. If you can’t motivate yourself, it really is over. It all looks so dark, and feels so hopeless and gloomy, and there is this nagging voice at the back of your head, telling you things are never going to get better.

In the end, you do one of three things: 
1. You battle on, silently. Nobody can help you. So why bother getting help? This is how life is. Life sucks, is unfair. You might or might not end up growing old.
2. You seek help. You reach out to family, friends, professionals. Whoever is willing, whatever helps. You get better.
3. You give in. End your life. Most of the time, successfully. Unsuccessfully, you try again, or go back to options 1 or 2.

I sought help. In all forms.

I wanted to type “like I said, it’s not as bad as it sounds, all summed up here harshly”, but that is the old me, belittling the entire disease.  It is exactly that: Bad, and harsh. It has been a horrible fight, and a hard one. It still is. There are still days all I want to do is curl up in bed and just wait it out.  Sleep. Ignore life.

But I’m doing alright. Better than I was.

My psychologist once made the comparison with what you would do if you were invited to dance – or rollerblade—with a broken leg. The smart thing would be to put that leg up, pop a painkiller, and apologize but you’d rather do something fun that wouldn’t impede the healing process (or cause you more pain). Therefore, you should be just as patient with a mental disease. Give it time to heal and help the process in any way you can. There’s no point in being frustrated because you’ve had another unproductive day, or being angry that you can’t enjoy things anymore, or sad that you’re tired all the time: those negative critical thoughts are what got you here in the first place, and they will continue draining you of your energy.

Also, fun fact: You don’t actually want to die. Really. All you want is the suffering and pain to end.  Dying is, in fact, just a means to the end. Not the only means, even though that’s what it feels like. If the feeling of hopelessness and eternal pain wasn’t there, or the feeling that everyone is better off without you, you wouldn’t even think of dying.

Like I said when I started: I am still me. In fact, I think I am better off after seeking help, and getting out of that denial. A dear friend of mine told me, once I came out of that “dark closet”, that depression is worse than, say, Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s is a disease that attacks from the outside, changing your body, and you realize you’re losing yourself to it and your brain becomes cheese with holes in it and it’s horrible. Depression blooms and parasites from within. It fools you into thinking it is your own personality, your own thoughts, that make you this pessimistic and vile nuisance to the world. It becomes part of you, and instead of attacking your memories physically, attacks and colours them in a way that changes the way you look at life in general. It is a figurative poison that seeps in silently, unnoticed, and by the time it’s obvious that you really need help, it is in a stage beyond recognition.   This thought helped me a great deal, and pulled me through the worst of it. “It’s not me, it’s a disease” became a mantra.

I have a strength that is my pitfall: I think. A lot. And when I start over-thinking, I can get anxious, caught in net of my own worries, entangled in nightmares that haven’t happened (and will not happen, most of the time), paralyzed.  I know this now, and awareness is the first step. I don’t want to die anymore. Not now, anyway. I’m not there yet. And I know, now, that I’m in this battle for life. Maybe it’s similar to being an alcoholic, even if you never drink another drop in your life.  The moment I will let my guard down, that black monster of a weight will rear its ugly head and deposit itself on and in me all over.

But I’ve met great people, visited awesome places, and even sometimes, lately, caught myself truly enjoying something, if only momentarily. Today, I’m grateful for it all. I hope I’ll always have the energy to remember this thought, even in the worst of days: “It really isn’t endless. Nothing is.”

The Gypsy

PS: A good video about depression, something to make it more visual -
I Have A Black Dog Called Depression