From personal experience, what has helped me is understanding my depression, why I developed depression, and understand myself as a person how my brain works as well as how it is affected by my experiences. Reading about other people’s depression experience and understanding how they recovered was a big part of it. Therefore, I will narrate to you my experience and hopefully you (or anyone else reading this) will find this helpful.
Disclaimer: I do want to note that my mind does seem to work in uncommon ways, and I do lack emotional appeal and appeasement in the ways I process and deliver information.
When I was 17 years old, I came to realize that there was something not right about my brain. I felt extremely “down,” and I could no longer reasonably explain it. I have had this motto since my earliest of years “you cannot be weak” which greatly contributed to me ignoring and neglecting my needs and emotions. I did not allow myself to feel things that I deemed unnecessary to feel, or not useful. I thought that was healthy at the time, but I can tell you now that I know better that it was not healthy at all. I would generally seek an explanation for how I felt, and then use that to dismiss my feelings. I came to a point where it did no longer make sense as I deemed my life to be perfect. I had everything I ever wanted and more. People liked me and treated me kindly, I was no longer seen as a burden by my family members, I was accepted, I had good friends and could easily make friends, I had an amazing boyfriend, I had good grades, etc. I had no reason to be depressed, and yet I was.
When I started to open up about it to my best friend, she mentioned that the contraceptive pill causes people to feel depressed. There I had it, my reason. With that in mind, I did as I always did – used that reason to dismiss how I was feeling. But, it kept getting worse. 5 months later, I was at the point where I really really could not handle it anymore, for which I felt so incredibly weak, and therefore ashamed, for admitting it. I decided to stop using birth control completely, thinking that once my body is back on track I would no longer feel depressed.
I waited, and waited, yet it kept getting worse. I was breaking down all the time, I was self-destructive, I regularly had the urge to stab my thighs with a knife. I felt as though I was addicted to torturing myself mentally as if the more I hurt the higher I got. My thought and judgment were severely impaired, and I was (vaguely) aware of it, yet I believed my thoughts with all of my being. Every small things, whether good or bad, triggered unstoppable trains of thoughts – all with the purpose to make me feel things in ways I did not even know one could feel – the guilt, the pain, the self-loathing, the hopelessness, the anger, … I did not even realize how little control I still retained over myself. I very likely had been depressed for far longer than I was willing to admit to myself, but I used all my energy blinding myself instead of helping myself. I let my depression grow like a malignant tumor – even worse, I fed it. The contraceptive pill likely only weakened my ability to manage my emotions, and thus allowed to me feel things, and with much more intensity, than I would not normally feel. It’s like the pill just opened Pandora’s box.
That is when I Googled depression for the first time, hoping dearly to find something that would contradict how I felt. I remember crying that day while reading about depression. I was crying because I was coming to understand that I was seemingly undergoing a chronic depression. I was lucky, however, as depression do not last as long on those with a brain in development. It is easier to cure depression as your brain is still undergoing a lot of changes. I was 18 by then, which meant I still had a good 5 years before having a fully matured brain.
Still in my “you cannot be weak” mindset, I refused to use medication to help me. I was determined to beat this on my own now that I knew my enemy. I was still not fully accepting of it, and going to see a therapist would confirm my “weakness/disability.” It did not help that I also grew up in a society where “only the crazy see therapists” and you should not seek help unless you really really need it (it was very shameful to see a therapist). I did make an appointment once but I chickened out and canceled it last minute. I am not doubting for a minute, however, that my brain truly was diseased, especially now that I have a sane mind and can truly see the difference.
Spoilers: I can tell you that I did manage to beat depression on my own. I can tell you that it gets worse before it gets better, and you should not give up as it is getting worse. It’s just your depression fighting back and trying to make you surrender to your own self-misery.
When I was 18, I wrongfully associated my boyfriend with being the cure to my depression. I thought the cure to my depression was to be convinced of the opposite of my deepest insecurities, and only him could prove to me those things. I could not do it myself. I burdened him with the impossible tasks of making me feel worthy, loved, important, etc. Then, I lost him, and he later moved on with another girl. I was then all alone. I could have gone two ways, I could choose to give up and submit to a life of misery or cure myself using my own self and not relying on someone else. Understand that you are your own cure to depression, no one or nothing else is. No friend, lover, therapist or medication cures depression – all they do is help you cure yourself.
Realizing that I was my own remedy is what got me on the right track of curing myself, and shortly enough, after enforcing that mindset upon myself, I gradually regained my sanity. It is not immediate and there are relapses. It is extremely easy to fall back on all your progress. I certainly have fallen back into unhealthy habits numerous times during that time period.
In my journey to fight depression came a few realizations:
- Depression causes strong wrongful desires: I wanted to torture myself, I wanted to feel bad, I wanted to isolate myself from everyone, I wanted to be uncared for, I wanted to hate myself, I wanted to give up, I wanted to let myself be a victim, I wanted to prove how worthless I was, etc. I did not want to get better. It is important to recognize and acknowledge those conflicting desires. As much as you want your pain to end and you want your depression to go away, there is this part of you that is fighting to stay depressed and to seek pain.
- Depression uses your healthy and unhealthy desires as weapons against you. All the while having wrongful desires as referenced above, you want all the opposites too, which are the healthy desires. For instance, you want to be loved. But your depression uses your feelings of being worthless to make you believe that you will never be loved. But, understand that part of you believes it because you want to believe it, and you will search and/or create every reason to support that belief. Remember that when you have depression, you have an impaired mind – your thoughts are impaired, your reason is impaired, etc..
[Sorry for my poor choice of words on the next point, I do not know how else to put it right now]
- Depression, like anxiety, is the result of taught behaviors and mindsets. As far as I know, for most, those learned behaviors and mindsets are resulting with how they processed and reacted to their experiences growing up, such as self-defense mechanisms. This implies several things:
- 1) Everything that can be taught, can be untaught – or more precisely, corrected. You can correct all those wrongful mindsets and behaviors you have adopted over the years which lead you to where you are now. Failure to correct those would ultimately result in you relapsing into depression, or develop other mental disorders as you are not tackling the underlying problem that diseased your brain. I suggest you to read about distorted thinking as it exemplifies numerous wrongful taught thinking processes. I was guilty of nearly all of them.
- 2) There was always a choice to begin with. You chose to adopt those behaviors and mindsets, even if you were not fully aware of it and did not have the knowledge and maturity to know any differently. For instance, I was emotionally neglected as a child and the way I reacted to that was by blaming myself and focusing all my time to please others in order to get some form of positive attention at the expense of neglecting myself. No one made me blame myself, I chose to blame myself. No one made me please others as a means to get positive attention, I chose to do this based on a conclusion I made – these were all willful bodily movements, willful decisions I made. It made sense given my experience and personality for me to react that way, and I could not have chosen better for myself as not only was my brain too underdeveloped but I also lacked knowledge. I did not know better. As an adult, however, this is no longer the case. I have a much better understanding of the world around me, I have a more developed ability to reason and process information, I have more acquired information I can use to understand the world around me, and most importantly, I am much more self-aware. I can choose differently for myself, and I have. You have control, you always did. You just do not think that you do, and you probably do not want to think you do because then you are left with accepting responsibility for your decisions. It’s easier to accept that something is out of your control and that there is nothing you can do about your mindsets and behaviors.
- Depression makes you be incredibly self-absorbed, and the worst part is that you probably think the exact opposite. It takes a certain level of objectiveness and self-awareness to realize it. This is something I came to realize when I was 19 and near the end of my ‘treatment’. I am not sure how to explain it, but in many ways, you tend to make everything about yourself and you only focus about yourself, even when you think that you do not. For instance, I would spend my days thinking about everything that was wrong with me, how others should interact with me, how everything affected me, etc. I would believe things like because my boyfriend did not spend time with me it meant that he did not care for me. This was the time I needed him the most. I was so absorbed in my own misery, I was oblivious to what was going on in his life. I felt somewhat entitled to his attention because of all that I had given him and sacrificed for him – things he did not ask for. I am the one who chose to give him so much, who compromised myself allegedly for him, who wanted to give him so much stemming from my own insecurities. It is not because you give something to someone that you are being selfless and altruistic, even if those things benefits them to your detriment. It’s a fallacy to think that. Your behaviors and thoughts still point right back to you, your desires, your insecurities, your needs, your objectives, etc. You honestly have to stop thinking so much about yourself, it’s incredibly unhealthy and often results in you hurting and pushing away those you love the most – you destroy whatever support system you actually have (even if you do not realize or acknowledge that you even have a support system).
- Depression is a battle of oppositions. As I mentioned above, the disorder causes you to have wrongful desires. You will notice that all those desires are precisely what is making you and keeping you depressed, such as social isolation, unwillingness to move your body, unwillingness to complete tasks, self-harm (both mental and physical), etc. The road to recovery is doing and believing the opposite of those wrongful desires. That was a huge part of my recovery, which I sometimes took to extremes but in the end, it was necessary and worth it. For example, I did not want to be social but I forced myself to be social, despite my social impairment, forced myself to participate, be joyful and fun. I would go dancing with friends, have lunch dates, go to parties, go to the gym, invite people over to play games, talked to people I did not know and make new friends, etc. Did I enjoy all those things? Not initially. I wanted to stop it all together all too often, but I persisted because I knew I had to distrust my own perception for the moment being. Then, it turned into an escape from myself where I would not be absorbed with myself, would not think about myself and thus would get a break from the self-inflicted torture. I would instead be distracted from my mind and just focused on the world around me, the people I would socialize with, the games I would play, the music I would dance to, etc. Later, I found myself actually enjoying life more and more, one baby step at a time.
I can assert that by the time I turned 20, I was completely free of depression. I was in much better mental condition than I have ever been in my life. Depression was a learning process for me, and forced me to face my psychological problems at an early age. I live a much happier and healthier life now, and gained so much wisdom from my journey. I am grateful that I had depression for all those years, because without it, I would not know what I know now, I would not be how I am now and I would not appreciate life the way I do now. I would have so many unresolved issues which would have kept resurfacing, tormenting me and impeding on my life and those around me.
Such is the case of so many around us. For me, it is my mother’s unresolved mental issues that have affected me the most where a lot of her behaviors can be considered as abusive. I used to resent her for it, I blamed her for my problems as I developed a lot of those insecurities and traumas because of her behaviors and mindsets. It is funny because that is exactly what she does. It’s a vicious cycle that gets passed down each generation. I learned to know better now and feel more sympathy for her. I do not resent her, I am grateful to her. She did what she believed to be her best. Her behavior may be the reason behind a lot of wrongful behaviors and mindsets I myself have developed, but I was responsible for perpetrating them and not correcting them. I may have a problem because of what she made me experience, but I did not have to continue having a problem – not because of her, but – because of my unwillingness to take responsibility for my own being and seeking differently for myself. You are responsible for the person that you now are and choose to be. You are responsible for the choices that you made or did not make. All the power is in your hands.
I hope this helps, and that you find the answers that you are looking for. Best of luck in your own journey.