Is it Depression?

“I will never overcome it, this is the end. Will I have to stay in this perpetual agony with this feeling of nothingness, forever?” My mind wandered to almost 5 years ago, when I was struggling to see a tiniest of hope in my life, just a small rope to pull me out of the seemingly unending well that I was in. The emptiness I felt at the time can never be described in words. I was struggling physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, struggling to just survive. “Let me just pass through this day, without breaking down into millions of pieces, because if someone will ask I won’t be able to give the answers. I was looking for an answer myself. Sleeping successfully used to be my only plan of action. “Just sleep and everything will be fine”, I used to tell myself.

There was no specific reason for why I was feeling the way I was. I tried hard to find a reason but could not arrive at an answer. A series of several events might have triggered something that created a vacuum which just sucked everything out. That’s the closest I can ever come to explain the cause and effect.

Today, while sipping a cup of warm cup of tea in one of the busiest places in the city, I remembered these feelings after a long time and realized, that 19 year old girl never thought she could survive, but survive she did. From a lifeless existence to filling life in every atom of her being which were once left empty.

Today, for the first time ever, I had the courage to pen it all down. To be honest, I am absolutely terrified by the thought of someone reading such a personal and defining part of my life. However, braving my fear I am exposing it all for 1 sole reason. Five years ago all I wanted was someone to be able to understand how I am feeling and guide me on what to do for all of it to pass. I had lots of questions, which could have been answered only by someone who knows and understands what I was handsomely failing to communicate. So, I want this article to be that someone for someone. Through this blog, I’ll try to articulate what many of us feel but fail to express. If you or anybody you know are feeling even remotely like I felt, this is for you.

I know, I know how you’re feeling and I know it’s really really hard right now, but if you can just trust me it’ll be all over and you’ll come out stronger than ever before. If you can handle this shit, there’s nothing in this whole wide world that you can’t handle. You’re going through a journey which almost everybody goes through at different points in their life, but in different ways. It’s shared by all and yet it’s so personal that nobody can ever fully understand your experience. It’s your unique personal journey, the outcome of which is entirely in your hands. It can make you or break you, the choice is yours.

The trick, is to just hang in there one day at a time, one moment at a time. Try to push yourself to stay positive but at the same time don’t supress your negative feelings. When you feel you’ve nothing left inside, know that it’s the opposite instead, there’s a storm inside you which is just blurring your vision, so you’re not able to see anything.

I remember trying really hard to find something which will just make me feel a bit alive, just fill a bit of that emptiness. Whenever I had a bit of energy I would try my best to feel something in my absolutely numb self, it felt like I was in a dream. No emotion, no event was penetrating the surface to reach my heart and soul. For the outside world, I was smiling, I was upset, I was angry, I was laughing, I was complaining, I was working, I was doing everything as normally as possible, with a lot of effort, but I wasn’t feeling what others were seeing. I was moving and yet I was stationary.

Fights lost their zeal, love lost its honesty, the time spent with mom’s unconditional love left me disappointed for not being able to revert it back with honesty, time spent with friends left me more drained, music lost its rhythm, my walk lost its perpetual spring, that girl who used to laugh for absolutely no reason, just left. I felt like that greasy surface where you pour any amount of water but it would just not get wet. With every attempt I was falling harder and hopelessness was setting in. Nothing, absolutely nothing worked. There were days when I would just not be able to get out of bed, but every day I tried really really eff-ing hard, just to get up and go to college. I just didn’t want to make my parents sad or worry because of me, so going to college became a necessary evil.

Whenever, I could muster the courage to try to explain a friend what’s happening, they would just think it’s a phase or just mood swings and provide solutions and opinions without understanding, saying “it’ll be fine” when they are mentally distracted by something else. (To be fair, I absolutely sucked at communicating my feelings, still working on that.)  However, these failed attempts just pushed me away from everyone, I closed myself in. I figured, it was easier to put on a happy face or maintain a socially acceptable distance than expect people to understand something which I myself didn’t understand.

This was all happening during my final year of college, “6 more months for college to end then I wouldn’t have to tiringly pretend anymore”, I used to think. During the last few months, it became extremely difficult to put on that brave happy face as well. I remember, everyone used to click pictures during those final days. I used to try, really really hard to smile and then I would just give up, it was too much. Everyone used to play some random games, joke and laugh but I wasn’t able to feel anything at all, just numbness, which at times used to get replaced by resigned sadness at my failed attempts. I wanted to enjoy with everyone, laugh and be happy. I knew that I might not meet a lot of these folks again and these moments matter, but I could feel nothing but numbness. I wasn’t sad which lot of people thought (including me), I just couldn’t feel those emotions, it was like an absolute shut down.

It was much easier to stay away and make excuses. Not feeling well, need to study, or just hide in the library. I used to literally hide between bookshelves instead of sitting in the reading room, just to avoid any sort of human interaction. I started avoiding making eye contact because I felt, if I’ll make eye contact with someone, they’ll see it all, they’ll ask questions or worse, they’ll understand something which I don’t. My self-confidence and self-esteem were at an all-time low. At times, I used to inflict some external pain on purpose to just make myself feel something, to just take my mind off from the unbearable headache (Looking back, I am glad that I didn’t go any further on this devastating route and realized in time that this wasn’t the right solution).

Many times I considered seeking professional help, but the fear of not being able to express myself to a doctor, like I could not to my friends, was crippling. I did consult a professional much later due of the fear of relapse, but my worst fear came true, had a terrible experience and didn’t go beyond second meeting.

So, there it is! A peek at almost 1.5 years of my life, spent in continuous struggle. I never went to a proper doctor so I still don’t know for sure but a friend studying psychology at John Hopkins and the internet told me that I was suffering from Depression. To be honest, I still don’t know if I’ve successfully pulled myself out of depression or it might still come back unannounced, but I do know that if I fall back again I will definitely be able to pick myself up all over again.

Not knowing what I was going through was the worst, because I didn’t know what I needed to do to end this nightmare. At the time, I did not know it was depression, instead I used to hate myself for being so weak and insensible. For the longest time I thought I was just sad or just being unreasonably stupid. Which a lot of us end up doing, due to lack of awareness around mental health.

Only after you acknowledge your feelings and what you’re going through, you’ll be able to help yourself out. Remember, it’s not something to be ashamed of, it takes a lot of effort to even just hang in there and not resign. It take a lot of effort to change your mind set and be willing to get better when your mind itself is not in a position to support or think of a change. Thoughts like “Life is useless, there is no point of doing anything so why even bother” become a constant companion. Tell me something, how would you induce the willingness to do something to get better in a mind which believes that there is no point of doing anything in the first place? Do you see what I mean? It’s a complex paradox.

If you or someone you know are depressed, it’s very important to understand that saying, “Get your shit together, go out with friends, watch something nice and you’ll feel better” will do the opposite of helping or making you feel better. Because when you expect them to do something they are not able to do, it just makes the person feel all-the more low. So don’t beat yourself up if you don’t feel motivated to do something, it’s absolutely normal. While going through it is tough, and it seems unending. The day, you feel in every bone of your body, that you can’t live like this and you want to get out and feel alive, that’s the day your upward progress will start.

When I had this realization, I decided that I need to take care and pull myself out of it, self-loathing and self-pity will definitely not take me anywhere. I started paying more attention to myself, my physical and mental health, staying positive, doing something productive every day and then there is this immense confidence which developed over a period of time that if I could survive that and manage to achieve my short term goals, there is nothing in this whole wide world that I can’t handle.

Looking back I can connect a few dots and see what helped me sail through it all. I’ve tried to summarize the things that probably worked for me in this blog.

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