Depression is a monster I know personally. I’ve encountered its hideousness 4 times in my life… I am a lucky survivor… I want to dedicate this post to all the ones I know and the ones I don’t who are still battling this horrid monster and are wondering when the hell it will let them go…
First let me say that emerging ‘victorious’ from depression, ie being depression free as I have been for 10 years now, is like quitting smoking. I don’t believe you ever become a non-smoker. You will always be an ex-smoker. I am talking from experience here also… What I mean by that is that you know there is something in you that is somehow prone to it and as such it is something you need to watch for all your life.
The way depression shows its ugly head is usually due to a conjunction of negative, difficult events in your life that suddenly swallows you in a hole so deep and so dark that you just cannot see the light at the end of the f-ing tunnel…
The most difficult thing about depression in my humble opinion is the lack of understanding of people around you. Sure they understand why you are struggling in your life right now: you lost your job, you are getting in a divorce, you have no money, you lost someone dear to you… ok… they get it but what they don’t get is why you can’t just snap out of it… Cue in all the good words of wisdom: ‘you have your life ahead of you’, ‘you can try again’, ‘you are talented’, ‘you are stronger than you think’, ‘there are other fish in the ocean’ and so on and so forth…
Truth is if you have allowed yourself to slide into depression (yes you will learn with time that you can choose NOT to go there), none of these good words of wisdom can reach you.
You are in a place where rationality does not exist anymore, the only thing that exists is the biggest fear of life you have ever felt, an excruciating physical pain and absolutely no hope whatsoever.
If I might give a word of advice to all the well intended people around the depressed, friends and family: first, please, stop the words of wisdom. Stop the lecture, stop the ‘you just have to’. Just stop and feel. Feel with your heart. Feel the immense sadness that has swallowed whole the person you love and who is struggling right now. Let them cry. Let them shout. Let them be silent. Just be there. With no judgement and no good words.
Before getting rid of the overwhelming sadness, it needs to be lived and expressed.
Whatever got the depressed there in the first place, acknowledge it is something that is hurting them like hell… Even if it wouldn’t hurt you like hell, this is what they are going through and believe me compassion is a true friend in those moments.
What you need to understand is that in those moments the brain doesn’t function anymore. At all. You are so lost, so hurt that the simplest of things, like going to buy bread downstairs, becomes an impossible act. And it scares the shit of you. Talking is difficult, forming a structured thought doesn’t come to you anymore, sleeping evades you, eating just doesn’t happen. All of life ‘normal’ things become an impossible step to manage. That is the reality of depression.
When you are depressed you are not living anymore. You are half dead. A zombie. You can barely function and everything hurts you. Simple as that.
I personally don’t believe in medication. I got drugged for years and getting out of it was incredibly difficult. Most importantly anti depressants actually make you feel less. Granted they are designed to numb the pain but what they do as well is make you even more sluggish, for at least a good couple of months, they inhibit any physical sensation and I mean any… For some of them they make you gain tons of weight, which by no means will help you get better… And to me this is completely counter intuitive. If anything, you should not feel less but on the contrary get help to feel more.
The only soft medication I would probably recommend at this stage is something to ease anxiety and to help with sleep. Sleep is an incredible important phase that naturally rebuilds your body and settles your mind. Sleep restores your abilities. Not sleeping only pushes further your mind into over drive. And you actually need your mind to settle down. You need it to stop hurting you with the never ending cycle of things that happened, things you did or did not do. And repeat. And repeat.
Because the brain doesn’t function anymore and the only thing that is left is an overwhelming flow of emotions, the only way to get out of it is first through emotions. By re-introducing the feeling of positive emotions. And this is where the depressed needs you.
They need you to take them to a massage. They need you to give them a make over and feel pretty or handsome again. They need you to help them laugh. They need you to take them to the beach and eat an ice cream. They need you to reconnect with the small things of life.
They need to rediscover the meaning of pleasure. With no pressure.
At this stage they need to feel free of pressure, stress, any deadline set to ‘be better’. Because when you are depressed the tiniest thing feels like a huge load of pressure. Take it off for them.
Once they have expressed that overwhelming sadness… by doing nothing but being curled in bed or watching stupid television, whatever… Once you have removed any pressure from their lives so that they have space to slowly function again. Once you have started to help them reconnect with the small pleasures of life then you can introduce structure.
Structure is an extremely important step because when you are depressed the only thing you see is a very, very, very long day with a very, very, very long night.
Time disappears and you can barely acknowledge that you have been going through multiple days and nights. It just feels like one long period with no beginning and no end. So slowly re-introducing structure, little routine is an important step to divide that impossibly long day that stretches in front of you.
It is waking up at the same time. Having a short list of easy things to do. Breaking for lunch. Having another little list of things to do. Having dinner. Watching a movie or going for a walk. But still with no pressure. If one day you succeed and the other you just stay curled up in bed it is ok.
In that little routine, exercising is fundamental. I do not mean 10k running through hills I mean anything that gets your body to move and doing it regularly. Exercise releases happy hormones and settles your mind.
Exercise reconnects you with your body and makes you feel again.
It is only once you have gone through all those little stages that you can start thinking again.
Because make no mistake if depression swallowed you whole it is because there is something fundamentally wrong with your life.
If you are honest with yourself you would acknowledge that there was lots of signs and warnings before that but that you just ignored. Believe me when I say that when you are out, and you will get out, you will learn to pay much more attention to those signs and warnings. They will prevent you from ever going back again. Trust me.
It is when you start feeling a bit better, when you start functioning again, when you start reconnecting with life that you can start thinking… about your life. Who are you? What do you want? Who do you want to be? What makes you happy? Therapy can help. Books can help. Positive and encouraging friends and family can help.
A lot of things can help but at the end of the day you have to face yourself and reassess your life.
Truth is it takes time. The whole process takes time. If you don’t give it the proper time it will just be back. And that is ok for that time it will be less deep, less dark. And every time you will learn new things about those important questions.
I am sorry to tell you it takes time because when I was told it takes time the only thing I wanted is to find a miracle cure that will make me feel instantly better. It doesn’t exist. If it is here it is for a reason and that reason will take time to reveal itself to you. I personally went through 4 cycles. It felt like the longest period of my life. It was very painful and it was very dark but you know what? I am here. I am alive and believe me I thought of ending this stupid life thousands of time. But most importantly I am stronger. So much stronger. I am aware, so much more aware. I am enlightened, so much more enlightened. There are still so many things I have to learn but what depression taught me is: I can survive anything. I have so much in me that still needs to express itself and I am grateful.
Depression was the hardest thing I ever got to live and I honestly don’t wish it to my worst enemy but it made me a better person.
To all those of you who are struggling, I say: hold on, it will stop eventually. If you are living it it is because you have all the capabilities to actually fight it and emerge victorious, stronger, better. Really. You might not see it now but you will see it eventually.
To all those who are trying their best to support someone who is struggling with depression I say: your love and understanding is better than any medication. Be patient. Give them time but be there. They need you but you cannot live it for them. You cannot shield them from it. It is an important stage in their life that they need to go through. Some parts they need to do alone, some others you can accompany them. Whatever you do, love them with no judgement.
If you want to share your experience with me, publicly or privately, I am here. Know you are not alone. Know you are not meant to go through it alone. Ask for help because, believe me, the whole universe actually wants to help you get out of it. That is a fact.
With all my love,