I don’t know what to write about but it’s Saturday, again. I’m at home in sweatpants, binge watching YouTube videos…again. It’s also been about a month since my last cigarette. I’m dangerously tobacco deprived and annoyingly sober, at home, with no weekend plans. Again! But you wanna know what the crazy part is? I’m okay with that.
It’s been a month since I started my YouTube channel, and revamped my blog. Honestly, its been a month since I can actually say I’m okay again. I feel like I have purpose and it’s not that dramatic end of the f**king world phase I’ve been stuck in for over a year now.
Don’t get me wrong, everyday is still a battle, some days are easier than others, but the grass is finally looking greener and the sky, the freaking sky is finally blue again man! Nothing is dull and nimble anymore, dragging myself out of bed, getting into the shower and facing a new day isn’t an emotionally traumatic experience anymore.
I can kinda breathe again!
The First Step is Admitting That There is a Problem
It’s only now that I’m feeling better and that I’m in a better head space that I’m actually realising. No, scratch that; self-diagnosing myself with depression. Now wait just a minute judgemental Judy, put that eyebrow right back down where it belongs! I know, trust me I freaking know! As a ‘coloured’ South African, I never grew up with depression or mental ‘illness’ as a topic for open discussion. We never went to shrinks or sought out council. In fact, it’s a rather taboo topic in most South African households. I was taught to ‘suck it up and soldier on’.
This whole depression thing is literally what we’d refer to as, (no offense to all my white friends out there) ‘white people problems’ because it was and still is such a foreign concept to us. ‘White’ or rather Westernised Societies were far more open and receptive to the whole notion of emotional trauma. Where “talking about one’s feelings” was encouraged, not frowned upon. That, my dear friend, just wasn’t an option for us growing up.
My siblings and I grew up, and my parents grew up with a ‘thick skin’ mentality. Which in most cases is a blessing, but in some cases surprisingly damaging. It doesn’t always benefit us to be completely vacant of vulnerability or emotional awareness. It doesn’t always benefit us to cling onto misinformed perceptions of mental health. I’m almost certain that at least 90% of people I’ve crossed paths with, have experienced some form of depression. After all it is a human emotion right? I have learned however, just like every human is different and unique, so is everyone’s experience of depression. Some people can bounce back quickly while others literally have to climb mount Everest just to feel mundanely ‘okay’ again. Personally I feel like I’ve experienced both sides of the spectrum. This is what I’ve realised about depression:
1.Depression Is An Isolating Experience
One never truly comes to fully understand loneliness until falling into depression, its an incredibly isolating feeling. I couldn’t help but feel as though no one else in the entire world possibly knew what I was feeling. I was literally suffocating through my own pain, so much so, that common sense or logic sometimes escaped my perspective. Days would go by where I would lay on my bed staring at the ceiling for what felt like hours with this overwhelmingly heavy weight of emptiness. It was such a conundrum of feeling so sad yet so emotionless at the same time.
2.Sleeping Was My Drug
I remember I would go weeks just sleeping until my body physically couldn’t anymore. There was a time I would take sleeping pills just so that I could go back to sleep again. Sleeping was my escape from reality, very much like a drug. When I was sleeping I didn’t have to think about my pain, or overthink my emotions. Sleeping meant that I no longer had to be tortured by my thoughts.
3.God Becomes Your Enemy
My desperate prayers for relief from pain would slowly graduate into a very different conversation with God, and by conversation, I mean lack thereof. Completely blocking God out and literally feeling angry when wanting to pray was how my relationship with God was. This also came at a time when I was incredibly in tune with God. Which naturally became a tough head space to be in. In my mind the pain and hurt I was going through was God’s fault. I accused God of not hearing my pleas and prayers. I was convinced that He abandoned me. I’m still working through those emotions today. The difference now is that I’m realising that I was a spoiled child whom was blaming their parent for ruining their life. That of course was and is not the case. I think blaming God becomes the easy thing to do.
The book of Job literally held my hand through this time. I’d read Job in its entirety while crying and then read it again, because I related to Job’s despair on such a spiritual level. However, it also taught me that God is much bigger and beyond our comprehension. Yet sooo deeply and passionately concerned with us as individuals. Just as easy as He can give, He can also take away. If you read the book of Job you’ll understand my thought process during my depression. In fact, you’ll understand the inner workings of depression in general.
4.Food Became My Comfort
I developed this unhealthy relationship with food. It almost felt like another escape for me because I was able shift my focus somewhere else for a while. Now don’t get me wrong, I love food and I’ve always been a chunky girl. But everything amplified for me, I started smoking more, and eating more. I’d even eat until I actually felt sick and I wouldn’t care. Eating a lot would in turn make me feel tired. Then I would get into bed and sleep. Literally; eat, smoke, sleep, eat, smoke, sleep was how I’d live my life for large chunks at a time.
As I type this I can honestly say that it’s been over a month since my last cigarette. One day at a time I’m taking the steps to improve my health. It’s a daily battle, but with a renewed perspective I think, in fact, I know it can only be uphill from here. I’m here writing an article about my depression, a seasonal change is inevitable at this point, and honestly, I’m ready!
5.Joy Becomes Uncomfortable
Not every single day is doom and gloom. There are easier days and there were some days that I felt happy even. I must admit however, that feeling happy would make me feel an overwhelming sense of guilt. As though I’m betraying my depression, like it was some sick twisted friend whom I was abandoning. Beyond that it just felt foreign to me. Feeling happy didn’t always sit well with me. It was an uncomfortable heavy feeling, as though my body was telling me I’m not allowed to feel that way.
The best way I can describe it was the feeling that I was not supposed to be feeling that way. As though it was a bad or naughty emotion, if someone else noticed me being happy, it would automatically make me a fraud. This guilty feeling eventually fades the more you start feeling happy, but I found it strange how joy had the power to push me back into a depression in the beginning stages of what I’m now loosely labelling as ‘recovery’. Because do we ever fully recover? I don’t know.
6.Pretending To Be ‘Okay’ Becomes Easier
I can honestly say that I don’t think my close friends or family were able to tell the extent of how incredibly depressed I was. While I think some people close to me could definitely recognise I was down. I don’t think anyone truly knew the depth of it. I can attribute that to the fact that I put up a really convincing front when I was in the company of others.
Admittedly, sometimes it was hard and the depressive vibes would literally ooze out of my being. I could tell that being around me was difficult for some people. Which is understandable, as someone who isn’t depressed, finding yourself in the company of someone who just reeks of depression and negativity brings the mood in the entire room down. So I understand why being depressed can be an isolating feeling, and I also get why others prefer not being around depressed people.
7.Depression Feels Like Grieving
The root of my depression stemmed from a number of different factors, there wasn’t just one instance that I can pin point as the cause of my depression, because I don’t think depression is as black and white as that. Its complex and overwhelming and extensive, just as we are as individuals. It’s because of this complexity that I can say depression felt like I had suffered a great loss and I was mourning something, but what? No one died, nothing was taken away from me so why then, am I grieving?
I think it’s a metaphoric loss. When experiencing depression, you’re going through an innate loss of self, a certain part of your identity is stripped from you, and you have to come to terms with that, and how do we come to accept the things we lose? We grieve. I think that’s why I felt like I was mourning, I lost a sense of who I was, what my purpose is, I lost a sense of what I thought my life would turn out to be, I lost a relationship, I lost an era of my life, and the realisation that I could never get those things back is damaging and mentally taxing, so yes, depression without a doubt feels like grieving.
8.There’s A Numbness To Depression
This is what I look back to as the dangerous phase of depression because I would literally (ugh! I need to find a different synonym for ‘literally, because I literally can’t even) go several weeks without feeling anything, I’d be completely numb to any sort of human emotion. This is oddly also a very suicidal period. While you feel nothing, the ‘nothingness’ alludes to you therefore being nothing, and the thought of taking your own life is an almost romanticised feeling. In fact, it actually feels like the next ‘logical’ thing to do.
You must also remember that depression is the ‘devils playground’ and it’s the perfect mental state to be in for suicide. So, when you get to a point where you feel like taking your own life is the next logical move, you’re balls-deep in the mindset of feeling insignificant, unworthy, abandoned and also a burden to those around you, so ‘kicking the bucket’ automatically – Just. Makes. Sense.
I think one important thing people need to understand about this is that someone being or feeling suicidal is not ‘looking for attention’, especially when it’s not something they’re advertising to those around them. No one in my life can say that I told them or made them aware that I was suicidal. In my personal opinion it’s people who threaten others with suicide that are quote, unquote ‘looking for attention’, because when you keep it private and personal, that’s when its genuinely scary, because the contemplation is real, the reality is being internally planned out and intellectually negotiated with one’s self. I remember going through a rush of different emotions during this time. I’d go from feeling complete anxiety to a rush of adrenaline and the desire, no need to leave my physical body.
9.There’s A Certain Guilt That Comes With Recovery
Just as I explained how joy feels uncomfortable, the entire recovery process is similar. I truly started feeling bad and uneasy when I began feeling okay again, as tough I was betraying my depression. It’s the most bizarre position to find yourself in, and you really do have to soldier through it and remind yourself that it’s okay to feel okay, its okay that I feel excited about waking up today, or that getting into the shower isn’t a traumatic experience, or that eating that extra slice of toast isn’t necessary anymore. I literally had to teach my body how to look after itself again, and in many ways I’m still doing that, everyday I have to wake up and make the conscious decision to love myself and to choose joy without feeling guilty about it. I think it really is the process of teaching your body positive habits again.
Then there’s the phase where you feel angry at yourself for having felt depressed in the first place. Feeling that I wasted so much time wallowing in my own self-pity, when I could’ve been spending that time improving myself. My mental space is consumed with a lot of could’ve, should’ve, would’ve, at this point. It takes a while to accept that it happened, and acknowledge that it’s something I had to experience in order to grow. That I don’t have to feel bad for feeling mentally healthy again.
It truly is a daily journey of accepting the things I cannot change and respecting the fact that I made it to the other side, still intact. I think acceptance is the hardest part because you’re acknowledging a part of yourself that you’re not necessarily proud of, its through acceptance that you’re owning the fact that you are flawed and vulnerable, and broken. But it’s also through acceptance that you fully realise your strength even while being a little broken.
I’m the perfect combination of insecurity and resilience …and I’m learning to be okay with that.
Thank you for taking the time to understand depression. If you read this and felt like you’re going through the same thing or that you know someone who could be going through depression; I want you to know that you are not alone and that you should let others know they’re not alone too. Please share this for someone who might need it, also make use of these links below if you are feeling depressed or suicidal, or just want to learn more. You don’t have to go through it alone: