I got an email with a readers story and advice about depression which I thought I would share for inspiration to others as well!
We joke about depression; we use ‘depressing' as an adjective to describe a painting or simply when we’re sad. I’ve done I do that too. Probably too often. Some say it helps take away the stigma away from it, others will argue it leads us to believe it is trivial, or a choice. Growing up, I was one of those people who believed that. I couldn’t understand why people complained about not being happy. I couldn’t see it for what it was: a sickness of the mind, an illness that catches you off-guard no matter you want it or not. It took me so long to accept that. It all really is like looking your own life through a dis-magnifier glass. You’re sent into a spiral where you lose connection with reality and your mind rules.
I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa a bit more than two years ago now. It took me long to accept it. It took me two years before that of slow descent until I hit bottom rock and was urged by the school to do something about it or I’d be removed from the Diploma. I was never interested in being a model, wasn’t superficial, didn’t undergo traumatic experiences when I was a kid, even been happy most of my childhood. Yet I had been living the last year in the darkness of my room waiting for someone to just knock and ask how I was.
I'm recovered now. It took me a full gap year, and I can hear the thoughts creep in if I let myself doubt too much, but I consider it a story of the past. It made me who I am today so I don’t regret it but I know it could all have stopped there. Anorexia is a strange illness. It’s self-destructive but not strictly speaking suicidal. It's more like ingesting a lethal poison very progressively so your mind slowly goes numb, and then keeping it at it only because you start believing you don’t know better. I’ve never done drugs, but that’s how I picture dependence. You slip into this semi-state of oblivion and it becomes your everything. You love it and hate it at the same time. You convince yourself you’re stuck.
Oh how wrong I was. We’re always waiting for the world to give us the Answer but fail to realise we are looking for the wrong thing. It’s not about answers but questions. Life is too complex to come with an answer. Happiness is not a destination it’s a journey, a series of questions we reformulate, adapt and strengthen to lead us to the places we dream of. Happiness is a touchy concept. I could write a book now on it. But it has to come from within. Depression is not a choice, but recovering is. The hardest step is probably to realise that’s what it is. And then it’s to stick to the plan to get out of it. Because the problem with it is that it doesn’t really have symptoms. When it’s there, you might not even feel it. It is like happiness really. You usually realise it was there once it’s not anymore. You know how people say it’s politically incorrect to say we’re “cold” because it really just is a “lack of heat”? Well depression is the same. Only you can’t fill in the sentence: it’s a lack of…. And that’s why it’s so hard to tackle effectively. It takes a couple of trials, you fall back, it hurts, but as long as you keep getting up, it only goes for better.
A very common trait for people who go through it is perfectionism. Depression comes with understanding we can’t do it all, with the harsh realisation that no matter how hard we try, the world is just that much bigger than us. When we grow up we’re told that the world is not fair and that we have to fight for what we want, but it’s not the same to hear about it and live it on a first hand basis. Coming out of school and learning more about the world, without the protective barriers set by our parents when we’re kids, exposes us to the reality of life. It might sound cliché, but responsibilities eventually catch us up. Entering the grown-up world is said to be daunting because for the first time we literally have to fight for our lives. Competition is a sport in school; it becomes a necessity once we’re out. Priorities take a whole new proportion and that’s what scares us. Scare us into hiding our vulnerability to others and slowly sink in the deep world of our mind to escape the dangers of the jungle. We’re scared to show we’re afraid because we’re expected to have it all figured out. So we let it all boil inside of us and that eats away every bit of hope we had left.
I always pictured depression as being trapped in the corner of an old cabin, freezing to death, able to see the light sneaking in through the frame of a closed door at the other side of the room, but unable to move because of how cold and numb you are. The exit is just there but you’re keeping you’re eyes closed in the hope you’ll fall asleep and when you wake up realise it all was only a dream. That’s why opening your eyes is the first step. Accepting you’re not gonna wake up because it’s not a nightmare. It’s called a new step in life, it’s called growing up and realising what the world is made of. The second step is accepting you’re numb and that the first movements will probably be hard because of how numb your extremities are. The third one is opening your eyes for good and keeping them on that door. And tell yourself that you might have to deviate your eyes from it to look around at some points but eventually they should go back to it. Once your eyes are locked into position it will only be matter of pushing forward. Keep moving even when the skin starts bleeding from the cold bites. Eventually the skin gets tougher. And as you move closer to the door, the air gets warmer. It takes time but with perseverance, support and hope, everything is possible. I did it, so anyone can do it too.