(If you thought the last post was too long you might want to hold off on reading this one and buy the movie when it comes out. :D)
Ladies and gentlemen, depression is not a figment of someone’s imagination, in the sense that a lie is. Depression does not require common sense or placation. It is not something you ‘come out of’ or get over. It is an illness. And though it exists in the mind, it has physical symptoms. It is not something you can pray yourself or anyone out of. My earliest memories of being depressed are from when I was about 13/14. This is coincidentally the same period I was sexually abused. Although I did not relate the two incidents in my mind- and still cannot now because it has been a long time and my memory is unsure- I clearly remember trying to hang myself. The problem was that the place I tied the rope to was not high enough so here I am.
My latest bout of depression was brought on by the factors I outlined earlier and when I look at the whole situation in retrospect it occurs to me that there are things that depressed people battle with in their head. These things can be summed up in these two situations: we are afraid that some things in our life will never change and we are very angry about some other things.
In my own situation, the things I fear(ed) would never change in my life was my seeming inability to ‘settle down’ in the way adults settle with my own house, car, furniture, finances. It seemed every time I took a step forward to be in that space something came and overhauled my life again and I was left floating. Over the years I have lost so much property through these moves that I so not even bother to decorate my personal space anymore. In my room in my brother’s house all I have put in are a bed and a ceiling fan; just the basics. My property, or what is left of it, is in bags in the store. In relation to the anger/ rage we carry, I am angry that a lot of people who have deliberately led worse lives than I did, missed this illness. I am angry that I have all this talent and yet I seem so inconsequential to God, and in life.
So back to my depression; just by a series of thoughts bordering on hopelessness and constant worrying about my present situation fell into a dark state of hopelessness. That is the only way I can describe it. I felt – for the second time in my life- that I was worth nothing and my life would be better if it ended. I would sleep for several hours non-stop waking up at odd times of the day like 1.30 am, to eat. I used to make my meals, if I got up during the day, by 6/7 pm. And that was when I ate food. Otherwise, a coke and a snack worked. Anything with sugar, lots and lots of sugar. Depression is a hard thing to explain because to many people they see you in your self-destruct mode and they just dismiss you as lazy or stupid. The battle is in the person’s head and you must appreciate that to understand how to help. You hear of people who just wake up one day and walk into a railway line or traffic just to be killed. They fought the battle in their head and lost. And it’s not an evil spirit that can be prayed away; this is especially by those for whom God and prayer are an escape from life. I could go on.
I think I am here by virtue of the fact that my mother saw the signs in the text I sent to her and alerted my brothers. So because I knew I was being watched I was kept on my toes. My daughter was also another factor that made me seek an end to this problem. Also, personally, I did not like who/ what I was becoming. One day I picked up my phone and sent a direct Twitter message to a friend of mine. I think sending that message to that girl, of everyone else, was the result of the prayers of everyone praying for me. My friend was able to put things in perspective for me without patronising me or making me feel insane. In a nutshell she advised that I begin to rediscover and reinvent myself by only doing things I enjoy or am happy about, and be mindful of the things I am thinking about myself.
The thing about being faced with your own mortality is that you are also forced to decide what things really matter in your life. I think that is the point of every tragedy: to forge not find your own meaning ( words of Andrew Solomon). I did a mental check recently and found that I only have about 2 of my numerous friends left. I am fine with that. When your health and your life depends on the choices you make you tend to be drastic. So what choices did I make to get mentally healthy? Let me explain it this way.
A few years ago, I stumbled upon a commencement speech given by Steve Jobs. If you haven’t read it you can google it. From the moment I read it I adopted it as a mantra, a guide, a beacon. Many things within it spoke to me and read as if I had written it myself. I will extract some parts that are relevant to this post and my life at this stage
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
I somehow have always believed this but now more than ever, I have realised it is true. This explains many of my decisions at this point even times when I have just seemed difficult or stubborn to others. A few of my friends and even some people I met on the blog have tried to help me in their own way or the other. One of the situations they have met a brickwall has been when I am offered some work that is clearly not in line with my skillset and/or is something I would hate doing. For a lot of people they can do any job; work is work as long as it brings in money. I wish I could reason like that but I was not programmed that way. It is not pride or pomposity, I was just wired differently. For me, my identity is my work and I can literally not do anything that I do not like, I will become miserable and cantankerous fast. Even before I had been diagnosed I was leaving jobs because of dissatisfaction without a second thought. Now that a large part of my health depends on my happiness and avoidance of depression I take doing what makes me happy as a full time vocation. When the bible says guard your heart, this is what it means. Which brings me to the next Steve Jobs quote.
On Love and Loss
You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it
Steve wrote describing a time when he was fired from his job- from the company he started, he described himself as ‘lost’ at that point in time, but said he later realised it freed him to pursue his passion.This is why he mentions work a lot here. For me, more than work, this is about self re-discovery. When you are depressed, you are in disconnect with yourself, your identity, your aspirations. I lost all that because I had been seriously rattled psychologically. One thing I heard from my friend with whom I had the phone conversation was ‘ find the things that you like doing, and it’s not big things it’s little things’. This awakened me.
I have now begun my journey to rediscover myself. My abilities, my passions. I realised that though I did not really like exercising, I was always on a high for the whole day after doing it. So now I exercise EVERYDAY and I love it. Walking or running early in the morning with my iPod full of up-tempo songs is very exhilarating and my distance is increasing daily. I have also found out that sugar makes me very miserable and ill so I have cut it out. I mind what I think of myself, to myself; I really guard my thoughts. If I need to watch a movie or eat a particular meal or go swimming to be happy, I do, even if it is with the only money I have. If I need to turn down a job to avoid unhappiness I will even if I am broke. When I want to talk, I call my family and/or that friend. Work-wise, I am beginning to discover how far-reaching skills in media can be. There are so many things people with a media or TV/ film production background can do in this day and age and I am gradually finding my niche.
I am always learning daily to trust in God that in the words of Steve Jobs ‘the dots will connect’.
That’s the end of my PHD thesis o.
Love ‘n’ Light