DISCLAIMER: It is important that you explore treatment options that are good for you and pay attention to how it’s working for you. I am not a clinical psychologist and am solely relating my experience with my own depression and how it’s working for me.
Let’s face it, with today’s political climate there’s been a surge of anxiety, depression and anger across the country. Depression however, is nothing new in our society – it’s something I’ve struggled with for most of my adult life and at one point, depression along with its vile cousin anger almost ruined my life.
It was 2003 and I was diagnosed with PTSD related depression – stemming from traumas I experienced as a child and young adult. I had suicidal thoughts and even attempted to take my life at one point. It has been a very hard, rocky and often dark road towards recovery. While I still experience myself feeling incredibly depressed I have to say that my outlook in life is more positive these days than what it was a few years ago. What did I do?
One of the first steps I took in order to not let these crippling feelings continue to rule my life was recognize there was a problem with myself. Many people don’t know what’s happening to them and therefore don’t know they need help, and often refuse any assistance that their friends and family might offer. It’s not easy, for years I didn’t know there was something wrong with me or my extremely negative behavior. I labeled it as being “tough” and excusing as a tool that was very much needed to survive in a city like New York. There were moments of clarity though when I knew that I was not right with the world and what was in it, but those moments dissipated quickly.
However, I became fully aware of what was happening, what I was doing, what I was going through when I was exposed to a different lifestyle other than my own…I made friends with a girl who had a vastly different life than I did and she showed me that life can be different – that while you can start off in a dark place, like her mother did when she emigrated from Taiwan to the US, you can make a good life for yourself and your family – you just have to want it bad enough. Her mother had a real hard life acclimating to the new culture and a horrible experience in her relationship…but she was such a sweet lady and I wondered who she remained sweet and seemingly untainted by the bad. I never found out about her, but I found out about me – and who I am today is nowhere near who I was during my 20’s.
Still, after being exposed to her life, her family and their positive energy it took me a while to realize what was happening to me and how that was preventing me from attaining good opportunities in life – for years after meeting “Mum” I still viewed the world my angry eyes through the darkness cloak of depression. I should note that all of this; was after three years of counseling that led to me just being more angry about everything. Counseling or therapy can work for some people, so please, explore that option before anything else.
I was lost for so long and was tired of feeling like useless, unworthy, most importantly I became tired of feeling emotionally and physically heavy, but I didn’t know what to do or where to turn to, since counseling didn’t work so well for me. I turned to alcohol and made effort to escape my reality every night as I danced, drank, danced, and drank twice as much as I danced. It was a morning, after one of those crazy drinking nights that I realized that I was withering away to nothing. I realized that I was slowly achieving what I failed to that night in my apartment in the Bronx when I decided that I wasn’t worthy of love or life.
I looked at myself in the mirror and saw that the usual glow to my skin had become a gaudy ash tone of green, and like that day, I decided to make a call for help because my life was and is still worth something. So I did…by asking for guidance from God (or the universe, or whatever you want to call it, or prefer) and instead of going out with my friends I stood in and waited for an answer. It was the first day of being open to something good – thankfully it wasn’t the last. Years later I realized that good things start to happen when you’re open to them. Not a moment before.
With that said, I’m going to say that suffering from depression is very crippling, it’s something that many people can’t get over – and I still struggle with it, as well as struggle with (albeit brief) suicidal thoughts – but I make it a point to stay focused on what helps me move and work through the emotions as best as I can. I write down my feelings, and even make lists of things I have done so far, and the things I want to do, sort of like a pro and con list of what makes me such a great asset to life and those around me – a pros and cons list of why I love myself and why it’s so important to me for me to stay alive and emotionally balanced.
As a person who finds that staying busy and creative is a positive, I make sure that my mind is clear and active. When I go through those weeks of darkness it’s painful, not only emotionally, but also physically. Those weeks that I experience migraines, paralyzing pain throughout my body and other physical conditions that are challenging, I try my best to stay focused on the things I need to do in order to get my work completed and done by making lists and jotting down activities in my calendar. While some can classify me as a workaholic since I focus so much on work, but honestly, working on writing, film techniques and listing all the other things I need to get done for the current and next day helps me. Listing to-do’s, helps me go through the motions and move through the day, even if I don’t smile that entire day, or when I do I feel as if I’m falling apart internally enables me to feel good for working through the darkness. When I’m feeling better I revise whatever I created and give it a dab of positivity as I see fit.
Another and important thing that I do is I meditate, a lot. Meditation has helped me get a better outlook in life, clearing my mind, my heart, my soul from all the negativity and all the things that kept me incredibly angry for so long. Once that happened I began to love myself both emotionally and physically. I was also able to see the things I was capable of doing and achieving, what’s more, I was able to open myself emotionally to the world – something so many people are afraid to do because they’re afraid of being hurt. This last point is quite ironic, because I’ll be the first to admit that I was completely shut down by past experiences with being hurt. Experiencing emotional, physical, mental and sexual abuse from people who were closest to me and supposed to protect me as well as repeated sexually assaulted by a former romantic partner, and the countless of failed romantic relationships in my adult life – I had my fare share of pain, which led to destructive behavior that crippled me for so long. It also led to that suicide attempt in my early 20’s.
As soon as I let go of that fear, that anger and opened myself to the world I was able to feel more freely and recognize all sorts of emotions, be them good, bad or neutral and accept them as they are happening. Because of the ability to recognize feelings I’ve been able to freely talk about my traumatic experiences with those I’ve think are able to handle such harsh and traumatic events. I’ve also been able to recognize and accept feelings of love in different areas of my life and welcome warmth and happiness with an incomparable ease. I’ve even had people say that they feel happy and calm when they’re around me – so I know I’m doing something good and what I’m doing is working, not only for me, but for those around me.
Another thing I’ve been able to develop is an honest indifferent to the negative thoughts and words of others. It is because I know what’s true in my heart and life that negativity doesn’t bother me anymore. It’s like a sense of purity that comes over me and a short term curiosity of “what would motivate them to do that?” but that doesn’t last long (no more than a day or two). But that’s more important, I don’t feel like I should go after them and make their lives miserable. It’s also important to note, that while I an indifferent to negative talk, I do not allow it in my life because it will permeate and therefore contaminate all the good I’ve accomplished these past few years.
So, how do I see the light in the dark? I am open to the good things I’ve done and plan to do. I block out the negative and meditate after I work on my list of things to do. I acknowledge every emotion I have and try, my best, with an unbiased heart and mind to understand other’s reactions to their lives when it comes to directly dealing with them, as well as realizing that we don’t have complete control of what happens to us. We can only just experience what’s going on, and try to find a solution to any given and immediate problem, but sometimes, there isn’t a solution and things just have to be ‘left alone’ just like some people should be left alone or out of our lives.
As of today, I have to say I rarely drink, so much so that one beer gives me a buzz and that’s more than enough for me and while I like to spend time with my friends, I like to do so completely sober because it allows me to fully enjoy the experience.