This is the second part of a two-part post about my battle with depression. You can find the first post here.
I was not gone. I know that now. But for a long time, I didn’t. For three long years, as my depression took complete control of me, I didn’t know that. I thought I had changed and that the change was forever. ‘I hate the new me’, I remember telling my friend once. She stopped me in my tracks. ‘You’re still you’, she assured me.
I wanted so much to believe her, but I couldn’t. That’s a part of the illness; you don’t just question yourself and your reality and your soul, you question everyone else’s as well. People you once trusted with your life become liars. But the illness is the true liar; there is not a lie it won’t tell.
Not only did I distance myself from the people who love me the most, but my overwhelming sadness and my numbness coupled with my all-encompassing feeling that it was all too much culminated in episodes where I begged to die, to be let go. Thinking about that now brings all that back; it was numbness but it was also too much pain – the perfect paradox.
Even as I struggled with my daily life, I realised that I needed help. I wasn’t going to get through this challenge on my own; no amount of self-willing prepares you for the onslaught of depression. It’s impossible to ‘think yourself better’; my efforts to do so backfired on me when I quickly became frustrated at the lack of impact I was having. I decided to seek out help.
The first therapist I tried recommended intensive medication, and I did try Zoloft for a couple of weeks. But at the end of that time I knew it wasn’t for me. I was constantly sleepy, incredibly lethargic, and always hungry. I have a terror of not living my life, and the medication, I felt, was robbing me of it. I knew that spending twelve to sixteen hours of my day in sleep was just abnormal. I went off the medicine, ignoring advice to stay on it for two months. I wouldn’t recommend this to everyone, but it is what made sense to me.
I eventually found my current therapist and we embarked on a journey that comprised of actual therapy. I’d talk; he’d listen. He eventually won my trust, and I consented to doing some workshops with him and some of his other patients. Those group therapy sessions helped me a great deal; it showed me – perhaps for the first time since the depression started – that I was not alone.
I reached out for help – to my mother. I needed reassurance that I was loved; perhaps this seems trite to you (as it would to me if I had never had depression) but it is incredibly important. It could be the difference between life and death. When you know that you _are_ loved, despite whatever the voice in your head is telling you, you make an effort. You hold on to reality, as much as you are able. To assist me with this, and to help me maintain my grip on reality, I asked my mum to write me a series of notes on sticky notes.
I pasted them all over the house – on doors, mirrors, my laptop, picture frames, and even inside my car. Whenever I read the familiar rounded writing, I felt at peace. I felt connected to the woman who was the reason I was even in the world. I knew that she would never lie to me, and that I mattered. I still have a couple of notes on my fridge.
They were all variations of the same thing: You are Awanthi. You are my daughter and I love you. You are incredibly intelligent, brilliantly funny, and amazingly kind. I’m proud of you. You will get through this. Call me, even if it’s the middle of the night.
I frequently did. I called her; I called Aro, who at that stage was my only best friend; I called Kace, a close friend and someone I’ve grown up with. They were my holy trinity; the people I trusted the most. They were the people I’d turned to in my hour of need – and they didn’t let me down.
I also learned – eventually – to accept my depression. Acceptance does not mean embrace. It means a willingness to look it in the eye and say ‘Yes, you found me. So what?’
I don’t understand why I was chosen, I don’t understand why I was picked, but I no longer say ‘Why me?’ Now I say ‘It is me.’ It is – and always will be – a part of me. It’s shaped me and moulded me. It’s given me incredible insight. It’s made me more self-aware than I’ve ever been in the past. So yes, it is a friend. It’s an old friend; it’s a friend that knows me as well as I know myself — in fact, in some ways it knows me better. It pokes and fidgets at the things I’d rather not remember, and drags it into the glaring light so I have no choice but to look at it for I cannot look away, and in so doing I understand myself.
Despite it all, or perhaps because of it, I recently had a perfect moment. One moment of revelation when the skies opened and the sun reached down with its warmth and the darkness lifted and I understood, I finally understood. I know now why the things that happened to me happened. I know now why the people who came into my life did – I understood it all. All of it — the good, the bad, and the ugly. One perfect moment.
I had to endure it all to be me; I am a work in progress. I am a masterpiece. I am the ultimate symphony. I am my opus. I am proud of the journey that I have walked, and I am proud of the distance I will go, and I know that for a part of that distance, although I do not want it, depression will be my constant companion. But that’s okay. It is not a shock. It is not an unfamiliar thing. I know now that it will pass, and it will leave me a little different and a little changed each time, but it’s not unendurable, and it is not now, or ever, capable of defeating me.