“I didn’t want to wake up. I was having a much better time asleep. And that’s really sad. It was almost like a reverse nightmare, like when you wake up from a nightmare you’re so relieved. I woke up into a nightmare.”
― Ned Vizzini, It’s Kind of a Funny Story
Now this is something I could relate to on every level at one point of time or several points of time or maybe actually years. Sometimes I would tell my mom I was depressed. I was in my teens and my mom would laugh it off saying I was too young to even say the word leave alone what it meant. I began to think I read too much (which I did anyway). I always had my nose buried in a book and I was lost in some other world beyond the one I resided in. I stopped talking to my mom about my “depressions” and tried to find ways of dealing with it on my own which was almost always finding something new to read. Something “beyond my years”. A lot of people who knew me growing up would describe me as “proud” or “snobbish” or “aloof”. In truth I just didn’t know how to relate much to people I was not used to and I still get that way sometimes.
I grew up and out of my teens but the depression did not end. When I didn’t know how to cope with it I would spend hours, sometimes even days, locked in my room, away from people and I would stare blankly into space. I had no idea who to talk to or where to go for help. My mom would keep telling me that there’s no such thing as depression and she would laugh it off. I was a little too sensitive by nature and when someone made sleights at me I would tend to take it seriously and retreat into my shell. I was always shy and I still am and sometimes meeting new people is quite scary.
I grew out of my 20′s and entered my 30′s but the depression didn’t end. There would be days I would just go deep into depression and I just couldn’t figure out why. By this time I learnt not to talk about it and I learnt to deal with it on my own, in my own way. Music was a good outlet. Writing poetry was another great way to get thoughts out on paper.
Then I moved out of my parents’ house. I was on my own. Well not completely alone. I had three dogs for company. One can’t really converse with dogs. No TV. New surroundings. At times the loneliness would get unbearable and the silence within the walls would be deafening. I went from a size S (and that was loose) to a size L overshooting M completely. That was another reason to feel depressed. I did not feel like getting out of the house. I did not want to be seen. I was embarrassed about the way I looked. I was not eating any extra food but I was ill and was put on steroids and that made me bloat.
One night I was exceptionally depressed. I had a couple of strips of sleeping tablets with me. Wild thoughts running through my mind in the dead of the night, I reached out for the strips and swallowed every little pill in there. There must have been something or someone watching over me because I lived to tell the tale. I have no recollection of those forty eight hours, it could have been more than 48 hours, I don’t know. All I remember is sleeping and sleeping a lot. That was the last time I ever touched any soporific substance or even thought about it.
Bipolar is not exactly how I was, I did not experience mood swings or rapid mood swings. I would just sink into a severe depression and not be able to get out of it for days and sometimes weeks. Sometimes I would let music pull me out, my writing would keep my mind off things, most importantly my pets always seemed to pull me out of the darkest places. Every pet I had as a child, growing up and now as an adult have shared deep and special bonds. Even though no words were spoken the hearts would communicate. They always seem to know when I was reaching despondency. Looking into those honest, soulful eyes somehow got me pulling myself together. I didn’t save my pets, in reality, in truth, they saved me. My Alsatian, Duchess, as stunted as she was, she was extremely smart. My father could never raise his hand or voice at me in her presence. She was like my shadow when I was home. Losing her made me plummet into a chasm I had no idea how to get out of. I went completely “recluse mode” as my mother would call it. Locked myself not only behind the door of my room but within myself. Luckily for me, at that point I had my band and some very good friends who refused to let me be alone. The wound of that loss never really healed.
I am blessed now that I can tell when I am about to sink into a depression and I can get myself out before I even go there. What’s my secret? It’s simple and as corny as it may sound, it’s “happy thoughts”. I think happy thoughts, indulge in things that make me happy. Music, reading, playing with my dogs, eating chocolates (I eat a lot of chocolates when I am depressed) and I would go swimming to a beach close by on my own. The sea always had a calming effect and I loved being alone in the deep, surrounded by water, sun shining down and the sky as a gigantic canopy. I don’t talk to people about it. I live in my own little prison but over time I learnt how to deal with it without paying a counselor or psychiatrist (and who can afford that? Definitely not me!). When there is no one and there has been no one I could really open up to about stuff like this I would lose myself in music, writing, reading, watching sunsets, spending time with my pets because I didn’t really have to talk to them they just knew how I felt and would stay by my side.
My advice to anyone and everyone who experiences depression is to eat your favourite food and don’t worry about the bill, if it’s going to cheer you up then just do it! Go for a swim or a long walk. Indulge in your favourite activities (stay away from alcohol, narcotics and anything that has a negative effect), go shopping if that is where your happiness lies. If you have family and friends who will understand you then there’s nothing better than talking it out. Depression is like a deep, bottomless rut, so easy to sink in but very difficult to get out of. Learn yourself well enough to know the telltale signs and nip it in the bud. It’s really tough to have to face it on your own but it’s quite doable if you know how. If you are fortunate enough to be able to afford a counselor’s fees then that is the best way forward. Be honest about your feelings, most importantly to yourself before anyone else. Never be in denial about it because that is when it will just get worse. If you have days when you don’t feel like getting out of bed or you feel like doing nothing then stay in bed and do nothing. If you live alone, keep a pet or two. Knowing that you have another being depending on you will keep you from entering the dark places you are so familiar with. Go for drives, dance, sing, take long showers, watch good movies, learn something new, learn a musical instrument or learn a new one. Do a course. Pursue a lifelong dream. There’s so much to life. So much to learn.
I am fortunate. I have not had to face a depression for quite a long time. All I did was to stay positive (and trust me times were unspeakably tough) and did things that made me happy. I did acquire a new skill, I learnt how to cook and I am still learning new things in the kitchen, discovering ways to make cooking faster and easier. I listen to music, I sing, I write poetry, I get all those dark feelings out of my system by blogging. Most importantly I have three lovely souls who keep pulling me out of those chasms. I fought my depression and it is not as tough as one might think it is. I did it all on my own and there’s hope for anyone else too. We’ve all had dark days. We’ve all reached the end of our tether but whatever the problem is suicide is never a solution! There’s just one thing you have to do and that is to follow Peter Pan’s advice and “think happy thoughts”.