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


  1. I have just two close friends, from two different countries. Both are depressed.
    One realized it when she started school in another town. She cried all day every day until she quit school and moved back home. It's been a few years and she still lives at home. She's on medication but can't bring herself to do much. She could never go to school or move out as things are.
    The second friend also had to take a break from school and move back home. For him the medication seems to be working and he's hoping to head back to school next year.
    It is incredible that you've been depressed since 2008 but managed to finish school degrees and have jobs and meet people and travel and live independently. You should definitely congratulate yourself on that. Both of my friends have been unable to travel or meet people because of their depression, even less unable to finish school.
    Depression is pretty common nowadays. Is it because it can be diagnosed more accurately than 30 years ago, or is it because of the society today? Who knows.
    Do you have any clue about what triggered your depression?

    1. According to new statistics, 1 in 20 people are depressed, in the Netherlands. I think that's a shitload. I don't know about other countries, but I know it's worldwide. And I don't think it's this generation, either. I believe it's as old as prostitution is - the world just got smaller with the internet. And maybe in the Middle Ages it was more important to survive plagues and witch hunts then to give in to depression. Or maybe they were targets of witch hunts, who knows.

      And as for achievements during depression, there are so many types and intensities, the chronic, the acute, the slumbering. I've had phases when all I did was sleep and cry. Nothing (productive) happened and friends stopped looking me up cause I was draining to be with. But really, to compare one depression to the other would be like comparing headcolds: your nose might be more runny and I might develop a bad cough, it's not better or worse, it's annoying yet different for both. People've approached me with "this sounds so familiar, it could've been about me," but it isn't necessarily similar by default. And even if people feel the same way, they do not act the same. I don't know how or what triggers depression, I don't even know if that really is a thing. Life does, and the situation you're in, in general.

      I hope both your friends find strength and peace.

    2. Ah, I see you edited the post. Sorry, I didn't mean "pretty common nowadays" as "everyone has depression", just a sort of "you're definitely not alone". I keep running into depressed people and blog posts about depression so it definitely can't be rare. And 1 in 20 definitely is a lot! My gut feel was correct, it really is common.

      Also didn't mean to belittle your depression by saying "you've accomplished so much". Just a sort of "on the bright side, you've managed to somehow live with it, kudos to you". Although I'm not sure how encouraging that is. Thank you for the info on how there are different types of depression, I did not know there were that many.
      I'm not sure about the causes or triggers either, just thought to ask. My friend has had a weekly psychologist's meeting for two years to try to process it and uncover the reasons and triggers in order to deal with it better. I think she said it might be partially triggered by losing connection with friends, listening to arguing parents and being jobless and uneducated when everyone else succeeds. It must really differ from person to person though.

      Ah yes, the plagues in the middle ages, and the witch hunts of the renaissance (I still find it crazy that witch hunts actually occurred during the bright new age of renaissance instead of the grim middle ages - did not expect that). Definitely a lot of other things to try to survive through in history.
      I actually got curious about the whole "depression in the past" thing so I looked it up found a really enlightening short piece about depression throughout history. You might find it interesting:
      At least we've come a long way from "demonic possession"!

      Strength and peace to you too.

    3. Sorry about that- I never implied you were belittling or standardizing anything. I edit my stuff all the time :D And I just found it really hard to give you simple answers to questions I feel go deeper than what happened to me personally. Thanks for the link, will check it out!

    4. 1 in 20 in the Netherlands??!
      Must be because it borders Belgium...
      In other news, this is a relatively old post and from more recent posts, I see you're doing better. I really hope that's the case.

    5. PS I often find myself blaming myself... It's easy to assume that I want forgiveness, and that's true. I can't forgive myself. It torments me.

      It's good to see you're doing better. I hope you're doing better. You deserve better.