How depression has affected me
Alone, forgotten, broken
The fact that these incidences all occurred almost simultaneously or as a result of the other hindered the little moments of progress I felt I made in emotional recovery. I was alone. I was forgotten. I was broken. I was dead.
Life became easier to deal with when I started university as an international student in Taiwan. But then tragedy struck and I was in a horrible rail accident. Unable to walk, unable to sleep, unable to eat… Suffering from post-traumatic stress, I lived in a daily nightmare.
Alone and under pressure
What made this situation even more difficult was the fact that I was far away from my family and it occurred a week before my exams. I was forced to study and function. For months, I suffered emotionally, mentally and physically.
Depressed is an understatement when it comes to explaining how I felt in that situation. I was broken, scarred and drained. Each day brought about the same battles. Going to sleep didn’t make the situation easier as my nightmares were violent and would keep me awake most of the night.
Then after my second year in university, I was meant to transfer to a university in New Zealand, but the agent I used ended up being incompetent and led me and my family in circles; building my hopes just to crush them. I was on this emotional rollercoaster for close to a year and that experience left me feeling hopeless, discouraged and lost.
While going through that, my grandmother lost her battle to diabetes. Seeing an illness slowly take away someone you love is traumatizing. Seeing the emotional and mental toll it took on my mother weighed heavy on my heart. This experience left me faithless and angry which led to me being in a continuously emotionally unsettled state.
My mid-teenage years had nights of drunken stupors, alcohol abuse and poor grades in school. My parents were more strict than everyone else’s parents and this slowly built an unconscious anger towards them because in my adolescent mind all parents should allow their teenage to do what they want to do.
One morning, I went back home hung over, drenched in shame and the smell of alcohol, and I think my father had had enough of it. He called me to his room and in front of my mother and other siblings, he proceeded to whip me severely with his belt. He slapped me, grabbed me by the neck and tossed me around his room. The beating lasted for what seemed like centuries.
I remember going back to my room and sitting on the ground in pain… unsure of what had just happened. That was the first time I truly ever considered suicide. It was a passing thought but it was enough to make me realize how bad the situation was. None of my family members talked to me. I would spend day after day sitting in the same spot in my room, crying or sleeping. I wasn’t eating. I felt discarded… forgotten… dead.
I often asked myself “Why me?” when I was in the midst of this and the other ‘storms’ I have experienced. As much as I am a firm believer in ‘Everything happens for a reason’ and ‘We are bigger than any situation we face’, these mottos never really gave me a peace of my mind when it came to figuring out why I was going through these situations.
Better able to understand it now
Now that I am a bit older and at what I believe to be a safe enough emotional distance to analyze these circumstances, I’m gradually gaining some understanding. No one goes through adolescence peacefully (at least no one that I know of)…
Unacceptable response to my behaviour
Though physical abuse is never acceptable, my father dealt with my misbehaviour in that way… The wrong way. The only time I ever considered suicide was during that time and the main contributing factor was the torment I was going through at home.
Lack of control
The other factors that led to my depression, I believe, were beyond my control. We lose the ones we love. We are betrayed. We are hurt. We are not always in control of our circumstances.
Many things contributed
With recovery being the long and difficult process that it is, various activities rebuilt me as a happy, strong and confident person.
Learning new things
I took up Spanish and guitar lessons. Initially, they were meant to serve as a distraction to my emotional distress and my mindset was “I’ll do this to keep me preoccupied and busy”. Before I knew it, I was genuinely beginning to enjoy these new things in my life and my thinking was now along the lines of “I want to pursue this further because I enjoy it”.
Realising it was up to me
Another thing that helped me was the difficult yet powerful realization that recovery really was up to me. As much as we find a distorted sense of peace and comfort in reminding ourselves of how bad the situation is and how difficult our life is, the whole “woe is me” aspect never makes the situation better.
Persisting even when it was difficult
I had to consciously and continuously make the decision to be strong and move on. Some days were more difficult than others. But recovery never happens overnight. Though sometimes I felt like I was taking 2 steps forward just to take 10 steps back, what mattered the most is that I was even moving forward at all.
Knowing that it is not a hopeless situation also gave me a lot of emotional and mental rest. Our lives are finite, time is finite… therefore the situations we go through are finite. Knowing that one day, one time, the gloom, despair and sorrow will be over helped me a lot.
I didn’t have any friends or relatives that I could confide in through these experiences and the resulting depression and loneliness so all I had was my faith, my prayers and my hope. Though I am fully aware of and respect the fact that not everyone has religious beliefs, I found a lot of encouragement and peace in the Bible and knowing that though not physically present, God was there.
What I’ve learnt
Find something to be interested in
Keeping oneself busy with something constructive can definitely heal wounds more than expected. Hobbies, in general, give us something new to be interested in. When going through depression, they give us time off from the darkness and bring something new to our lives. The Spanish and guitar lessons did exactly that for me.
There is always hope
People tend to confuse feeling hopeless with firmly believing that their situation is hopeless. It becomes a dangerous situation when we allow ourselves to have such a mindset. Yes, we might feel hopeless but the situation is not hopeless – people need to engrave that in their hearts. There is always hope.
Treat everything as a learning experience
I’ve learnt that life is a difficult yet beautiful journey. Though through my dark times I never even remotely believed it, everything we go through really is a learning experience. I am now stronger and more courageous than I think I ever would’ve been if I didn’t go through those situations and depths of depression.
Failure helps us find our strength
I know now that I can overcome great emotional trials and not allow them to dictate my future. I am strong. We learn how strong we are when we try and fail and continue to try again to overcome our weakness. We see how brave we are when we try and we fail but decide to still push forward.
Depression’s twisted beauty
That’s the twisted beauty of depression and difficult situations in general, I guess. They destroy us only to build us. They crush us only to strengthen us. No matter how forgotten, broken or hurt we think we are… We are just learning… Painfully, difficultly learning.
We will not be defeated
Being depressed doesn’t make us weak, it simply means that we are human and carrying crosses that we feel are too heavy to bear. Getting up, actively pursuing happiness and peace while going through depression… That’s courage. We are human. We go through pain. We feel depressed and broken but we should try our hardest to be strong and hopeful. I was not defeated. You will not be defeated. We will not be defeated.