**Just a quick disclosure ** This is my personal story about depression. As the title says, nothing helped my depression during that time. Literally, nothing. This was years ago and I am writing about that time now to reflect and shed some light to bring some insights for myself as well as those others who might be exactly at where I was then. I hope someone finds this somewhat helpful and if not, I hope this post will provide some sense of validation as you are absolutely not the only person going through this experience.
In the pitch darkness
It is still hard for me to talk about that time but it is necessary to bring awareness and also to allow myself to re-visit so that I can embrace that suffering. It went on for over 2 years. All I felt were heaviness, dread, self-loathing, and that dark clouds or even spirit hanging over me and wouldn’t leave me alone. I am sad to share that it was 95% of the time I felt that way consistently. I tried just about everything to not feel the way I felt. I tried eating something delicious to feel good, listening to some music, coloring, going for a walk, smoking, reading, psychotherapy, etc…. I looked up ways to beat this depression and went down the checklist. But nothing helped.
One summer, I remember going outside to smoke and sinking deep into my depression as I sat there and watched the sky go by.
“What am I doing so wrong that I’m feeling this miserable? What have I done so bad to deserve this? When is this gonna end?”
Of course, I had no answer. In my mind, I immediately started going down the list of what I was and not doing that could have contributed to this depression. Despite my effort, I found no answer. As I took a deep breath with a heavy heart, I put away my cigarette and went back inside the house like a prisoner going back in his cell.
I’m here – but I’m not here
As days and months went by, I became more and number and started dissociating. Even before going on many different medications, I felt as though I was alive as in my heart was beating yet not really alive because I couldn’t really feel my soul if that makes sense. When written in a blog with words like this, it makes those times seem so tolerable and way smaller than what they really were.
Between feeling numb and dissociating, my memories are kind of foggy. But I do recall those times consisted of back and forth of feeling so intensely depressed to feeling numb (probably because my mind/body got so drained from feeling depressed for so long).
The most interesting part about that time that I still recall despite those obvious depressive states I was in and the self-harming behaviors is that I was in denial. I remember saying to my therapist “But what if I’m not depressed and maybe I’m just making this up? What if this is all my fault and I’m doing something so terribly wrong to have caused this?”.
My therapist looked at my serious face and said gently, “Honey, do you hear yourself? Do you remember telling me about all these dark thoughts, depressed moods, and even engaging in self-harming activities? You are depressed, sweetie. And it is manifesting as we see it.” I fought her denying after denying for the next few months.
Looking back years later, I’m as shocked as my therapist was.
Could I have saved myself?
Looking back, I can’t help but ask myself “Was there anything I could have done to reduce the pain and suffering? Could I have saved myself?”. Those years were pure misery and darkness and I am not sure if I know how to accurately describe how scary those years were. Having a perfectionist nature with a little bit of obsessiveness, I can honestly say that I’ve done literally everything I could on my part to cope with depression. Honestly, I feel so terrible for my old self. As I blamed myself repeatedly then, I wish it was my incompetence to deal with negative thoughts that kept me in that loop. I wish it was that simple. Years later, I am now able to see things clearly for what they were and have a sound understanding of it all.
- I was depressed
- I have Major Depressive Disorder and it was very severe then
- It was not my fault
- Unfortunately, there was nothing I could have done to make it go away.
To my old dear self
I wish I could gently hold my old self whose face was always wet with tears and her arms covered with cuts.
I did not know self-love. If I could somehow go back in time to save myself, I would probably hold my own hand through those times and never leave my side. I would show myself that I am always going to be here for myself and my suffering no matter what. I would show myself how to be very gentle and compassionate towards myself and my suffering instead of hating myself and inflicting by cutting or turning to drugs. I would also teach myself how to soothe myself by focusing on my breath.
I didn’t need that self-punishment of cutting and purposefully putting myself at harm. What was needed instead was the very opposite. I was in pain and that pain needed to be taken care of, by me.
Some of you might wonder, so how am I today? Well, I still struggle with depression but it is nowhere close to how it was then. It is not as severe and I no longer have suicidal thoughts. Depressive thoughts and feelings pay a frequent visit but most of the times, I am able to embrace them mindfully. I recognize them as they come and validate them because they are a part of me and important. They do get a little irritating and frustrating at times kind of like my siblings coming to me with the same story over and over. However, I teach myself to remain patient and compassionate and listen to their “story” as often as they like to tell. I am not feeding my depression but simply embracing them by recognizing their existence. There is no suppression nor fighting. I simply try to co-exist with them as harmoniously as possible while I focus my other energy on trying to water the seed of hope and joy. I am still learning and there are days I do get swallowed in depression. But I feel that the practice of self-love and acceptance is worth doing for the rest of my life. I know when I am kind to myself, I can almost feel my depression lose its tension and responds better.
As I always say, I never claim to know everything and unfortunately do not have the cure for mental illness. But I can share my story so that maybe just one person who reads this can feel some type of validation or hope in any way. Everybody is different and their story is all unique. This is my story and what helped me along the way. I hope that everybody who struggles with mental illness finds her own relief and light. Most importantly, I hope she realizes that the light has always been with her even if she couldn’t see it.
**Resources for those who are struggling with depression and need help with mindfulness**
These books are all written by a Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh. His compassionate approach and true zen teaching have brought me valuable insights and peace within myself. I highly recommend giving it a try even if you don’t have a mental illness.