Up close and personal: How I deal with my depression

I’ve been thinking about writing an update for a while. If you know me or you’ve known this blog for a while, you know that I occasionally wrote about my ‘condition’. Writing about things always helps me to clear my mind and form my opinion or just, you know, deal with things. I rarely do that publicly, though.

In the past couple of weeks a lot bigger and smaller things happened that have urged me to confront this topic again, to reevaluate my situation.

What happened and what has changed?

You may or may not know, that about 2 years ago I quit my old college and moved home. I keep on telling people that my mother was in the hospital and that I was really sick. People usually assume then that I was physically sick. I wasn’t. I was suicidal. Again. And I was as far gone as I hadn’t been in years. I’ve been dealing with depression, anxiety attacks since the age of twelve, when you don’t have a name for what is going on with you. All you know is that it is dark and you’re hurting. Along with that I had low self-esteem for as long as I can think. I’m not entirely sure why but I did.

This is the perfect concoction to make people bully you. So that happened for the entirety of highschool and most of elementary school. Bullying doesn’t help low self-esteem one bit.

The problem with bullying and low self-esteem is that you push people away for fear they could turn on you and hurt you even more than you already do. And to drive that home you act like a complete bitch with a little arrogance on the side. To this day this experience with bullying and people picking on me is poisoning the relationships with the people in my life. I still keep people at arms length, I still test every relationship with the equivalence of an h-bomb to make sure people actually do like me. And I fall back into old habits when I meet people from school again. My brain just goes out the window even if they are people that never hurt me and never were amongst those that bullied me. On my worse days there’s a little voice inside my head that goes: ‘They never did anything, they just stood by.’ followed up by ‘You know, bitch, you never did anything either’ and then the self-loathing is in full swing. It’s nice inside my head, isn’t it?

I guess this is a blanket apology to everyone I acted a complete asshole towards after meeting them again years after graduation: I’m sorry and I have no excuse, but I’ll try to be nicer should we meet again.

So, this first round of college experience was bad and I was clinging on to this for way too long and after whole heartedly considering to pull my car in front of a tree at full speed or eating all the pills I could find in my appartement to see what would happen, I realized I had to change something. I organized my move home, quit college and for three months I did nothing but breathe, sleep, eat and maybe read a little. I was exhausted to the core of my very being. I felt raw. Stripped of all the defences I had. I had nothing to give anymore. Some would say I lost half a year, I would say I needed it.

After those three months of compensating I crawled from the rubble of my life and started to rebuild. I found a job. A menial job where all I had to do was function, where I would come home at night completely wiped from lifting heavy boxes unto shelves but with the satisfying feeling of actually earning my living, being a productive member of society.

I also enrolled at my current university with the wish to get my degree and bolt. Certain professors at my old university had taken the last thing I banked on from me. The bullies at school had taught me that I was fat and ugly but my intelligence had rarely been questioned. I may not be the ever sharpest tool in the shed but I’m not completely braindead either. Either way certain professors suggested that I was probably wrong at universty because I wasn’t smart enough to keep up. I started to question my brain. The one thing I always held on to was ripped out from under my feet (or out of my head so to speak). So when I left there I was a broken shell: fat, ugly AND stupid.

At my new university, however, and at my job I started to become a high achiever. I did have a rocky start but especially at my new school I wasn’t ridiculed for making mistakes and asking questions so I started to trust people there. And imagine my surprise when I realized that at work I put away the same amount of stuff the guys did who had been working there for over a year.

I started to heal. I made the experience that my family was there for me unconditionally. That my friends cared about me no matter what, that school mates and colleagues respected me and my opinions, that they listened to me.

I am much better now.

But to this day I have dark moments, where the world around me goes grey and I know I should be happy but I don’t feel anything at all. Sometimes these dark moments last for weeks on end. I struggle with getting up in the morning (’cause what’s the point really?), I take everything overly personally, I get scared and aggressive, I push people away again and in my worst moments I become a bully myself.

On my better days I pity those who bullied me, poor little souls who didn’t know how to deal with their own problems but by hurting others. On my worse days I want to line them up against the wall and pull the trigger. Thank God this is Germany and I don’t have access to a gun whatsoever and even if I did I wouldn’t do it, but I want them to hurt mentally the way they hurt me. Petty, I know, but I am not ready to forgive just yet. I will come around eventually, I know that, but it may take me a little while longer.

I have enough experience by now to know that those dark moments don’t last. I realize now that they are no dark pits, no bottomless abyss but a dark tunnel and after a while the sun will peek in around the corner. I keep on breathing. ‘This too will pass’ has become something I hold on to very tightly. It works both ways but most of all it reminds me to keep going.

What I have learned is that it is okay to hurt, it is okay to panic and be paralyzed for a moment, but you have to step back, break through the flailing after a while and take control of your life again. When bad news hit, that send me into a panic I usually never react on the very same day but the day after. I allow myself to freak out but then I take a deep breath and try to look at things very carefully and rationally and then I outline a strategy. After I got my strategy in place I am normally ready to sleep. Insomnia is another thing I struggle with but that is a story for a whole different post. In the morning after the bad news have hit I write the e-mail or make the phone call or whatever else is required of me to fix the problem. I have found that people are perfectly willing to help you if you ask nicely (it doesn’t hurt to play the damsel in distress-card either especially if you are a girl, but most of all it helps to be honest and to show the willingness to work on the situation) Never forget that the people on the other side of the line are human too and humans are capable of great kindness if you let them but be kind and honest in turn, too. You are in this situation together and you both want to make it work.

But never let a problem build up to the point where it is looming over your head and you feel like you can’t deal with it anymore! Combat it one or two days after you found out about it and trust me the feeling after you solved a problem that seemed huge and unsolvable is the best thing in the world. Also, treat yourself to something after you solved a problem. I usually allow myself a massive marathon of my current tv-show of choice.

All this seems so commonplace to say but it is something that I needed to learn, so maybe it helps somebody out there, too, who knows.

Mind you I am no psychiatrist, I have only been living with this for a while and I thought I’d share what I have learned.

When I am in the dark tunnel I cut myself some slack, not overly much, but some. I allow myself bad food, bad movies and I allow myself to be misanthropic. Thankfully my family and friends usually know how to take that.

I am healing. It will take me probably my entire lifespan to heal up. My ideal is to be understanding, loving and forgiving, just all around kind. I am far from there yet, but at least I know where I want to go. I will overcome this or at least learn how to live with depression and anxiety and I know it gets better and I will have a good life.

Oh, and I am neither dumb nor ugly. I have nice eyes and nice hair and if sarcasm is a sign for intelligence I’m friggin’ Einstein. I may be a little chummy but that’s okay, nobody’s perfect.

I am loved.

And so are you, the one reading this. Trust me!

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