Only writers – and perhaps painters – know the terror of the blank page. For people with depression, it’s living with the terror of a blank life. Every. Single. Day. A blank life only to be colored by dark spots – those “friends” I was talking about last year: thoughts, ruminations, feelings, emotions that wreak havoc… The ever present enemies, the greedy monsters, demons, skeletons, snakes. They have become your worst nightmare. And they promise to stay until they’ve learned to master the place. And you’re not being evicted. They set the boundaries. They set the rules. You just have to learn to live with them.
One in two or three people I know are dealing or have dealt at one point in their lives with some form of depression. That includes people who are closest to me: family and friends. Last year when I started the monologue on depression, I was going through something but couldn’t put my finger on it. One day I found the energy to write about it. I knew nothing about mental illness at the time. I was merely describing my feelings, but I was being cynical and sarcastic about it. I hadn’t yet begun to see how many people were struggling with the same intense feelings or to realize the gravity of this issue.
Last year I was lucky enough to have my spirits lifted up by vitamins for hair loss, which also happened to provide me with what my organism lacked (certain nutritional deficiencies or gut imbalance can lead to feelings of depression). The problems I was dealing with had not been magically solved, but I started feeling a bit better, with a bit more energy in my body. And that was everything. It was enough to keep me going and to be able to head for a new start. That new start gradually came. I felt happy again. I’ve been through some of the happiest moments of my life this year. I had regained the sense of meaning and direction, there were colors and music again, the glitter, the magic. But the fear of relapse, of having to go through what I briefly went through last year lurked somewhere in the background.
I had read a vast amount of articles on depression ever since – mostly in an attempt to understand it better and to be able to provide my loved ones with the support needed – watched videos about it, looked for causes, symptoms, consulted natural treatment programs, even played a video game entitled Depression Quest (heart-wrenching!), read about what other people dealing with this wrote on their blogs.
And now I’m here, at the mercy of my own thoughts again. Dealing with loss. And it far extends hair loss. But it’s not mere emptiness or apathy, there is pain and grief and they’re threatening to stay for a while. It’s intense, but is it better than numbness? Because this time I feel. I really feel. And I feel the cries of people who are screaming for help, but only on the inside. And I feel the failure of comforting those who needed me.
All people suffer and feel sad every now and then, but what is so distinctive about depression? Here’s a really good quote I found while browsing through a psychology book in a library:
To turn natural sadness into depression, all you have to do is blame yourself for the disaster that has befallen you. Dorothy Rowe
The self-blame abounds. It’s practically endless. Someone said that living with depression is very much like living with an abusive partner – your mind. Not the light side of it, the one that creates, forgives, loves, the one that helps you plan, organize or play. Not the mind that observes quietly and doesn’t judge and is aware. But the ruminating one, the heartless murderer, the poisonous treacherous one that makes a vegetable out of you, a slave to its own patterns and convoluted ways.
The one that tells you lies so that it continues to live, the one that sabotages you relentlessly, remorselessly, ruthlessly because it wants to live. It keeps you away from your loved ones, from opening up, from talking to family, it distorts everything that is around you and prevents you from keeping an objective eye on things. Buddhists (and not just Buddhists) would call this the ‘ego’. It’s the reason why, I believe, depression and anxiety are often related to self-esteem, self-image, self-blame, self-sabotage. It may also be why people with depression have been called selfish or narcissistic. But that is limiting the severity of the experiences these people are going through.
There is one thing to look forward to when facing this illness: going to bed; they look at sleep as that eternal savior, when they finally don’t have to deal with the noise in their head. At the same time, what they most dread is probably getting up in the morning, they dread the thought of having to go through another day, knowing themselves still prisoners of the ever nagging and accusing mind.
I’ve tried almost anything lately (I’ve mostly tried to stay away from alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes): from coloring and painting, to more reading (fiction, non-fiction), writing, music, TV shows (one in particular), Facebook, YouTube clips, a night out with friends, meditation, walking, mindful walking, listening to music while walking, a bit of cooking, more reading (on depression and anxiety), more painting, music.
Nothing quiets the mind, not permanently anyway. For a few minutes, yes. And then comes another round of self-blaming, and torment and torture. And another round. And it’s becoming clearer to me that until we learn to be alone with our thoughts and emotions, and be at peace and in harmony with and within ourselves, the master machine won’t stop.
I am now far more equipped with knowledge and information on this compared to last year. You’d think it’s enough to be able to control it, to be able to stop it from turning into something more serious. I know that a prolonged state of deep relaxation during the day would help better sleep at night. I know the voices in my head do tell awful lies, about how I’ll never achieve anything, about how I’ll never be happy again, about how I’ll lose my way and give in to a sedentary, unhealthy, mediocre, boring adult life. And yet, there is nowhere to hide, to run to. From the turmoil, the overthinking habits, the worrying.
So you stay and listen. And observe.
Last year when I wrote my monologue on depression, I thought this was something ‘reserved’ only for the few. It was only after that post that I realized it was almost everywhere I looked, hiding under invisibility cloaks, and fake smiles, and really lonely people. Now I know it has devastating effects and that it’s devastatingly ubiquitous. At this point I should say ‘don’t give up’, ‘look for professional help’, ‘there is life after depression’, ‘it gets better’. It can be a solitary journey – working relentlessly to quiet the mind – but once you break free from the oppressor within, you will begin to appreciate the stillness and the flow of life.
Nobutada: Please forgive; too many mind.
Algren: “Too many mind?”
Nobutada: Hai, mind the sword, mind the people watch, mind enemy – too many mind.
Nobutada: No mind.
Algren: No mind.
“The Last Samurai”