Naming my depression and anxiety was just the first step. It felt monumental, it probably was, but it was a small step in the life that awaited me. Reactions ranged from disbelief — my mother was worried that I was labeling myself in a way from which I would never recover. A lot of my friends still stuck to the ‘what do you have to be sad about’ reactions or told me to watch a funny movie, stop thinking (ha!), go out and just snap out of it. I was also told that I had ‘western’ problems. It didn’t help that I also thought that a lot of how I felt was situational (alcoholism at home, stressful work life, relationships failing).
I went through a phase where I would work very hard to explain what was going on to my friends, get frustrated by what felt like a lack of understanding and empathy, be overcome by extreme sadness and step back. This cycle went on for a long time and I felt isolated for a long time. It took a combination of meeting people who were willing to listen to me as well as realizing that sometimes I would have to meet people where they were and not where I wanted them to be for me to break the cycle. I was angry for a very long time at everyone who I felt was trying to fit me into an idea of theirs’ instead of understanding me.
Another lesson I learned is that naming it does not lead to ‘fixing’ or ‘curing’ it. There is a long and tough road ahead. There is no one solution, rather it is a combination of different things in a varied doses. Exercise, medicines, counselling, diet, thinking patterns, activities, sleep and so, so many other things. If that sounds like a lot, believe me it is. When you are struggling with motivation in life, healthy meals and exercise are not really at the top of your list. I now know that all of these things help with my anxiety and depression. They cannot fix anything nor can they completely prevent it but they can reduce the intensity. If anyone tells you the only cure is medicines, run. If they tell you the only fix is yoga every morning at 5 am, run again. Anyone who tells you there is only one solution is misleading you.
What works for you may not work for me. Medicines are not bad nor are they the cure-all. They are important and help a lot of people manage. But the research and science of depression still evolving. Medicines work but doctors still don’t know why they work and who they work for the best. There is a lot of hit-and-trial in figuring out what is most effective, which side-effects are most manageable.
It took a lot of work for me to get to a place where I am not constantly overwhelmed or struggling with hope. Another thing that has really helped me is removing myself from all the toxic and judgmental people — and there are a lot of them — never happy if you succeed, always ready to pounce when you fail. I know it is not always possible to do this and it is far easier said than done. But it is one of the ingredients in my recipe for managing.
Featured Image Credit: Portrait by Agnes Cecile