Depression is living in a body that fights to survive, with a mind that tries to die.Unknown
People often think, until now, that if you go to a psychiatrist (a ‘shrink’) or a counsellor, you are plain and straightforward — crazy. The stereotyping and prejudices viewed upon those who ask for help to help themselves are so severe that people just often keep it to themselves. I want to break the stigma by sharing my experience of dealing with depression which I know I have had for a long time but only diagnosed last year when it hit me the hardest.
What are those things that could put someone into a depressive state? Honestly, we can’t pinpoint a specific reason. There’s no one reason why a person gets depressed. It could be a combination of certain life events, genetics or hormonal issues that could trigger someone’s depression. It is a misunderstood and very complex illness. And it is never and will never be someone’s choice. You can try to cope with it, but you can’t just easily remove it from your system. An analogy would be — the flu; no matter how you wished it gone, you can take medicines, rest or be on a healthy diet — it will stay until its phase of havoc is over. The same thing with depression, you always wish it would go away, but it won’t. Some will feel depressed only for a few days, during certain seasons or even weeks or months. There are many types, but the general public still thinks the same thing — it’s all in the person’s mind, and it is his choice. Either the person is too dramatic, an attention-seeker or weak to handle life’s situations. They are even often told, “There’s no reason for you to be depressed. Get over it.”
I have been through a lot these past three years and perceived having a strong personality that many thought everything was just a walk in the park. Usually, I would smile and say “thank you” that they think of me that way. But deep inside me is a big urge to tell them it wasn’t easy, and if all my thoughts could kill, I would have been six feet under a long time ago. The chaos inside my head was too much that I would instead choose to have physical pain instead. At least people would see that I am suffering and would let me heal my wounds rather than them seeing nothing and me pretending to be okay because I know they would never understand. Every day, I had to go to work, fake a smile and act enthusiastic to everyone to avoid never-ending questions about how I was doing and why I looked sad.
I stayed that way and tried to brush it off all the time, thinking I could do it alone. I was thriving to look happy and laughed a lot. If not for my family (my sister and daughter) being here with me, it would have been worse. But still, the feelings were there. They are just hiding behind the curtain and waiting for the perfect time to hit the stage. And yes, when the time came, they had a party.
Post-partum, the pandemic (life’s uncertainty), an ugly divorce and a child custody case are enough to make anyone crazy, but I held on a little longer since I had my sister and daughter with me. But as soon as they went back to the Philippines and I was left to tend on my own, everything changed. I didn’t understand that loneliness and one more incident would trigger a major depression to set in. A few hours after they left, I experienced a near-sexual assault, and that was it. It started with an attack — sweating, trembling, and palpitations that I thought my heart would burst open. Whenever I felt someone was near my door, I started quivering and tried not to make any noise. I was agitated and paranoid about whether there were any holes or spaces where I could be visible from the outside. I slept with lights off and under the blanket. I changed clothes at a corner where I thought I felt safe. That feeling lasted for days, and nobody knew what I was going through.
The sudden attacks gradually evolved into anxiety — I started having issues with sleep — either I slept too much or couldn’t sleep at all. Headaches, diarrhoea and body pains became daily. Then another few weeks passed, and all the feelings I had tried to suppress for the past years and weeks came out. I woke up feeling empty similar to having this big hole in my chest, that whenever I breathed, it was a struggle. At work, I could function normally but felt like a robot. It seemed my body was in autopilot mode, I was doing what I usually do, but my mind was blank. Feeling anything or thinking anything was exhausting, so my mind automatically shut down. Even if I had headaches or body pains, I didn’t care, even didn’t want to think about it. At home, I didn’t want to move and changing clothes or taking showers were also struggles. I didn’t want to eat, I only ate at work because that’s where I felt hungry, and I had people to eat with.
I remember it was the second week of October last year; I knew I was living with depression, but I told myself I already knew how to handle it. I normalised feeling empty and staring at nothing. But I never knew that my depression was only building up its strength inside me for the past weeks to hurt me even more. I woke up with a severe headache, and my vision was blurry, felt very dizzy. I sent a message to my manager telling her I couldn’t go to work and rest the whole day. But after lunch, my head felt like splitting into two and lying on the bed didn’t help because I felt dizzy. I went to the hospital to check; the doctor was shocked that my blood pressure was 196/108. Enough to be at risk of stroke or cardiac arrest. They immediately sent me to the Emergency Room. I thought that was it for me. But my depression journey was only beginning.