When it’s more than just a bad day: the Truth about Depression

I’m cycling lately. Not like exercise on a two-wheeled, manpowered vehicle, but emotional cycling. There’s something people don’t tell you about being strong in the face of struggles- it’s full of periods of great weakness, moments when you just want to fall into your bed, pull the covers tight, close your eyes and find some way to get rid of the exhaustion. And apparently my generation is prone to a new phenomenon dubbed the Quarter-life Crisis that hits somewhere around the late 20s and early 30s. Gee, thanks world.  -_-

(See the following: The quarterlife crisis: young, insecure and depressed, The Quarter-life crisis, and How to Survive a Quarter-Life Crisis.)

It’s another taboo subject among Desis: depression and the big black hole that it truly is. Oh, everyone and his brother will say that they’re depressed or have high blood pressure or migraines, and it’s some kind of a fashionable thing in the Desi culture nowadays to faint out of some extreme emotional intensity. It’s like, oh my God, this is too much, I’m going to fall down unconscious all soap opera-style until I get my way.

But real depression, the drag you down, I can’t see any sign of hope, my whole body and brain and heart physically ache kind of depression? That’s not discussed with anyone. The maybe I should just give into this severe exhaustion because giving up is easier than trying harder suicidal thoughts? Never ever should a Desi mention that, not to friends, not to family, not to a therapist or a psychiatrist or anyone qualified to help you. That’s not socially acceptable or culturally comprehensible.

So if I say to you, yes, I’ve been depressed in the past and I’ve been close to the edge of it recently, I would once again be voicing something that Desis typically keep silent.

But it’s necessary. Speaking up, honestly saying I’m not okay, that’s the only true weapon against this almost supernatural monster of an illness. Because it IS an illness. It has symptoms and causes and a specific set of recommended approaches to recover from it. And like some illnesses, there’s no cure. The disease is always in you, able at any moment to take over and incapacitate you.

The trick is to expose the enemy, bring the hidden into the daylight and fight it head-on. Say to yourself and to the world around you that you can’t always be all smiles and confidence. That some days, some moments, some events are enough to have you withdrawing within yourself, tired, lonely, scared, and confused. That nights can become sleepless and the repetition of your daily existence becomes less a refuge from drama and more often the cause of it in your inner self.

For all my friends and family reading this who are about to start calling and texting and visiting to make sure I’m “okay”, please relax. Understand that my best form of defense against these feelings is to admit them and write it through. I know people like to tell me how strong I am…and I know when I look back on my life and what I’ve been through and how I got through it so far that I’m surprised, too by my own will to survive. I also know that I’ve done more than just survive. I’ve learned to be excited, to challenge myself, to enjoy and laugh and breathe deeply.

But like I said, depression is always in you. Our minds like to overthink and overreact and suddenly it feels as if nothing is how it should be. Like being divorced, working full time and being a single mom, and then trying to see where this path is going to end up. A certain amount of planning and intelligence is necessary to be successful, but for me, too much analysis of what might happen or what my life currently lacks leads to an emotional crash.

My therapy is sort of simple: first, what I’m doing right now and telling you. Second, retraining my brain to stop going over and over what I sacrificed or using the word NEVER for what may be in my future, and instead, repeating that I don’t need to have it all figured out. Third, going back to basics and remembering to make the small changes in my day so I can fulfill my responsibility to myself amid the things I do for everyone else as a grownup in this world. Fourth, and this is key if I want to truly stop cycling, I have to do something new to help me get and feel unstuck. I have some ideas on this and I’ll keep you updated on the results. But for right now let’s just leave it at this:

I’ve been depressed in the past and I’ve felt myself nearing that precipice lately. But I’m not going to just close my eyes and hope I can get around it. I’m going to walk a bit more carefully, pick out my path in the looming darkness, and find my way safely to the other side. And meanwhile, I’m going to continue to be the kind of girl who doesn’t care if it’s taboo to talk about it and who refuses to shy away from the topic. This is me, people. Wordy, honest, emotional, and real. That’s the side of myself I won’t ever change.

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