Depression is a term that is so commonly used that it has lost its meaning. Some people think that depression is a feeling and it will go away if they engage themselves in fruitful activities. Unfortunately, depression is the very opposite of that. There is a difference between “feeling depressed” and “clinical depression”. Clinical depression is a state where the person does not want to engage in any activity at all. The person often deals with suicidal thoughts and experiences a constant low. The person loses interest in activities that they once enjoyed. The person does not feel like getting out of bed or completing daily chores etc. The kind of symptoms a person experiences will depend upon the scale of their depression. Unfortunately or fortunately, I fell into this abyss of despair last summer. I adopted a fatalistic attitude towards life and constantly battled suicidal thoughts and negativity. However, thanks to my loving parents, friends and most importantly my therapist, I fought my depression and emerged victorious. I learnt a few lessons from this melancholic episode in my life. I would like to share them with you.
After experiencing an extreme state of sadness, I realised that I was neglecting myself. I was putting others’ opinions and others’ needs before mine. It really mattered to me what others thought of me. But what did this say about what I thought about myself? I would never take a stand for myself for the fear of distancing others even if they were rude to me. I would allow some of my acquaintances to mistreat me because I was scared of not being invited for social gatherings and being lonely. I would rethink my social media posts several times because I was worried about what others might think. I would easily believe any criticism levelled against me and would often think it to be true. I was socially anxious and would often be awkward in social gatherings because I actually believed that I wasn’t worth having a conversation with or interesting. I would constantly worry about what to speak to others. I always thought that others were better than me. In short, I had a very poor relationship with myself.
However, depression changed all of this for me. I learnt that the only opinion that matters to me is that of myself. Everybody’s opinion of me is coloured with their own experiences in life and there is nothing I can do to change it. I learnt that nobody has the right to talk to me rudely and putting others down is a reflection of their own insecurities rather than my shortcomings. With the help of my therapist, I adopted a new approach towards friends and social situations. This new approach was, “I am okay. You are okay”. Nobody is perfect and everybody has their flaws. When I decided to love myself and put myself first, I realised that I don’t want to hang out with certain people who bring negativity in my life. I understood that if people don’t invite me to parties, then I don’t need to hang out with people who don’t want me in their lives. I only deserve to be around people who genuinely want me in their lives and will make this known to me.
Loving yourself and accepting yourself unconditionally is one of the most beautiful experiences in life. It is a shame that most people don’t fully understand it or fail to ever learn of this life-altering philosophy called self-love.
“When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.”
Loving my own company
Followed by starting to love myself, I began to cultivate a healthy relationship with myself. When you become your own best friend, you don’t need anyone else in your life. You don’t need approvals from others because you approve of yourself. You don’t constantly seek to hang out with people who may even be injurious to your mental wellbeing because you are happy alone. You are not scared of being lonely because lonely is a word that you deleted from your dictionary a long time ago. How can you be lonely when you enjoy your own company? When you enjoy being alone with your thoughts? When you actually enjoy your “me-time” so much that you willingly give up night-outs just to be alone in your room to read a book or chill with yourself? As a result, you will start hanging out with people who genuinely care about you and bring positivity in your life. You will start distancing yourself from crowds that are not your type or those who bring negativity in your life. You will learn who you are and what you like. You will be very selective in choosing the people you spend your time with. You will not allow others to scream at you or make fun of you.
“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.”
Life is not black and white
Through my depression and therapy, I learnt that I will never have everything I want in life. Life will never be exactly how I want it to be. There will be failures and there will be gains. But the only way to deal with this rollercoaster ride is to accept it for what it is. I accepted my life unconditionally and strived to change the things that I couldn’t accept. I also saw that people will never be who I want them to be. They will not always subscribe to my opinions, habits, hobbies, likes and dislikes. They might not always do things the way I want them to. They are their own people with their own struggles and I cannot change them. I just have to accept them for who they are and if I cannot, then I must remove them from my life. If I want to be happy (because happiness is a choice), I must get rid off all the “shoulds” in my life and replace them with preferences instead. For example, instead of thinking that I should have gotten that internship or he should have called me, I began to think, “I would prefer if I got that internship” and “I would prefer if he called me”. It is difficult to adopt this approach and it only comes with a lot of practice. Even after a year of trying, sometimes the “shoulds” come back to bring out the worst in me. Nevertheless, I try my best to remind myself of this technique everyday.
Turning to religion
I am a Hindu by religion and in my darkest times, I resorted to religion to help me out. The Gita (a sacred text for the Hindus) contains some useful phrases that appealed to me.
For example, the Gita says that whatever happens happens for the good. Now when I look back at my depressive episode, I realise that I have become a stronger and better version of myself. It happened to me so that could purge my life of all the relationships, attitudes and beliefs that were not serving me.
The Gita also says that nothing in this world is permanent whether it is love, sadness, success or failure etc. I did come out of my depression even when I thought it was impossible and therefore, this statement resonates with me.
The Gita says that a person is either his own friend or enemy. Post- depression, I fully adopt this philosophy in my life by trying to be my own best friend and developing a loving relationship with my own self.
The Gita teaches that you become what you think. I believe this is true because if you think poorly of yourself, you will be a poor version of yourself.
You can turn to your own religion to investigate its teachings to endure your hardships. You will be surprised to find how ancient teachings still hold true in everyday lives.
“The mind acts as an enemy for those who cannot control it.”
You are in charge of your own life
Finally, I learnt that I am responsible for my own happiness and wellbeing. I am responsible for how others treat me. I am responsible for the kind of relationships I have with friends, parents, or partners. I am responsible for my own health and success (in most cases because sometimes you can’t control what the universe wants). I cannot play victim anymore.
In conclusion, I hope you find this post useful to combat your inner demons.
“I love the person I have become because I fought to become her.”