Disclaimer: I am not an expert nor a trained psychologist. This is based on my ONE tiny experience. It has given me huge insights to dealing with internal imbalances. This is me beating depression.
For the first time ever, I experienced depression. Still one of the most fucked up thing I ever experienced, but it taught me a lot and I am stronger now because of it.
TL;DR: Figure out what makes you depressed, why it makes you depressed and do something to change it.
Not A Superhero
People like to see me as a “she has her shit together”, “she has everything figured out” and “ask Lisa. She will know” sort of person. And I’m immensely grateful for having such an image in many people’s mind. But at the end of the day, I am only human. I have massive limitations and weaknesses.
One experience that brought me down to my knees is experiencing depression. Yes, depression is a big word. And I’ve only experienced it fully for a little more than 2 months. But it was depression nonetheless.
What Depression Felt Like
If you know anything about me, I am seriously a very happy person. Optimism is in my blood, I look for the best in everything and I don’t enjoy wasting time feeling sad. I’m also quite the go-getter, plan a fuckton and achieve things that I set my mind to. I’m also massively in love with myself. (Perhaps the only times I loved someone else the same as loving myself were when I was in relationships.)
For the first time (2017), I lost my internal locus of control.
I could not be happy. Trust me, I tried. I went outside, met with people, buried myself in my hobbies, travelled, read, tried new things. But I simply was not happy.
It was not sadness either, more like numbed emotions. Strangely, I was also becoming very short-tempered, insane mood swings and basically what you’d generally define “a psychotic crazy person”. It was the first time I did not love myself.
I have simply lost the ability to enjoy anything in life, to feel anything. It’s like I don’t know what makes me truly happy anymore. Nothing interests me. I’m just floating around.
It is so surreal. Especially since all my life, I enjoy living in the present, taking everything in and appreciating every little moment.
This disconnect feels like the physical body I was in does not belong to me. I was not in control of my thoughts and emotions. Nothing seemed to matter, nothing made sense, nothing I did felt value-adding. I lost my identity, my purpose, my focus in life. It just felt like an emotionless blob flying around space, being pushed around by the external world.
It was the worst and strangest feeling in the world.
How I Overcame Depression
Understand the cause of it
There isn’t 1 huge significant factor that caused the change. It was an accumulation of little things. But in general, I classify that as a collapse in my world. I have a fantasy of what life is like in my head. But the reality then was the furthest thing from what is in my head. Then everything went in a downward spiral, and I fell into a dark pit.
Got myself out of the situation
Reflecting on the cause, a short-term solution to get out of the situation is literally to fly myself out of that country to somewhere I felt safe. That was exactly what I did. A few times actually.
It did not solve the problem, but it gave the the opportunity to extract myself from the negative toxic environment. That gave me space to think, be myself again, and figure out the long-term solution to the problem.
Support from someone I could trust
Above all, I’m most grateful for E. He came into my life before all these happened, and stood by me throughout it all. He did something I could not do for myself. He loved me for who I am, and he sees me beyond this negative toxic side. E supported me and trusted me during this journey, encouraging me both near and far. He was there. Without E, I don’t know what would become of me today.
Get my internal locus of control back, one day at a time
After 2 months, I permanently moved out of that country. I continued to reflect and understand what I was going through. Then, I did not know this is what depression is. I thought it was just a bad period in life, like the emo-phase in teenage years.
So I focused on my internal locus of control. To understand my feelings (or lack thereof), to stop bullshit thoughts (e.g. “you are not good enough” “oh for fuck’s sake. Shut the fuck up.”) and to look for the goodness in situations again (e.g. “wow blue skies today!”)
Re-read my past journal, diary and entries to remind myself of who I used to be. Realise that she never is gone, just hidden somewhere, waiting to be found.
I don’t have idols or individuals I look up to, but I have pages and pages of my old notes and diary entries. They could be a collections of quotes and stories that describe me, my reflection and experiences of specific moments in life or just anything that empowers me to become me. That helped a ton. It was like an instructional manual to build me. Like an IKEA table instruction.
It took some time, and it’s finally all good again. I was in that shitty toxic environment for ~2 months, and it took me 10 months to be 100% me again. With time, we heal.
- Humans are basically sophisticated machines. Sometimes, the machine fails. So, build a manual to reboot the machine when it fails. It’s ok to fail. The important thing is to reboot and stand up again!
- Each human has a specific manual. No 2 manuals are alike. For some, overcoming depression is to exercise and have endorphins in their bodies again. But that is not a significant solution in my manual. So start preparing this manual now, when the machine is good and working.
- Internal locus of control is essential to overcome anything. As much as we like to blame something external for issues, that does not work. More often than not, we realise that things are within our control. We can always take definitive steps towards the right direction now.
- Having someone who loves you when you are hard to love is the best thing that has happened to me. We all need love to survive. And I always had love for myself. But when I am difficult to love, I’m grateful to continue receiving the love from another person.
- Face the hard truths. Better to see the ugly reality now and suffer the pain, than prolong it and suffer later. It’s easier to live in the fairytale fantasy, but that is simply not the reality. To deny oneself of the cold hard truth is to be unfair to oneself.
Beating Depression: Practical Steps
- When feeling sad: Own the feelings
- When lost in life: Remember the 3 rules
- During good times: Reflect, observe and learn from mistakes
- Daily life: Write down things that helps you become you. (aka Principles)
- When frustrated: meditate and be aware of what is going on inside