The Battle With Depression

So this is something I’ve been dealing with most of my life. I don’t know if it’s a chemical thing or a personality thing or what. When I read Eat, Pray, Love, and Elizabeth Gilbert mentions that her therapist said that she would battling depression on and off for most of her life because she has a tendency towards it, I was like “Yes, that’s literally what I felt like I’ve been doing”.

The American Psychiatric Association provides the following definition for depression:

Depression (major depressive disorder) is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Fortunately, it is also treatable. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home.

The funny thing for me is that there usually isn’t a huge cause for it. I’ll be wandering around just doing what I need to be doing and suddenly, I will realize that I’m just not feeling like myself anymore. It’s not like some big event always causes it (although that has happened as well). It almost feels like a bunch of little things that stack on top of each other and when I look up, I’m under the weight of all of that stack. I end up feeling like no one gets it. I end up resenting people for not understanding how I feel. I end up feeling like I’m a hole that I will never get out of.

I remember feeling that way when I was younger but I didn’t realize what it was. I’m really good at continuing to put one foot in front of the other so I would just keep doing whatever I was supposed to be doing (school, work, etc.). I think when I finally visited a therapist for when I had it really bad is when I learned to recognize it for what it was.

It comes and goes. I’m in the middle of trying to pull myself out of it right now. The best thing about recognizing it and beating it is that once you do it one time, you know you can do it again. It is tiring. It is overwhelming. But it is possible. I’ll continue to put one foot in front of the other and find love and happiness where I can. I’ll find help where I can because I know that it’s not possible to do this entirely by myself either.

The American Psychiatric Association also says that:

Depression affects an estimated one in 15 adults (6.7%) in any given year. And one in six people (16.6%) will experience depression at some time in their life. Depression can strike at any time, but on average, first appears during the late teens to mid-20s. Women are more likely than men to experience depression. Some studies show that one-third of women will experience a major depressive episode in their lifetime.

So if that’s you, please know you aren’t alone. There are a lot of us out there and we work hard at finding contentment and happiness. It’s not an easy battle but it’s one that is worth it. So get help, talk about it, do whatever you need to do to fight it. Because I promise that not being depressed really does feel good.

Why Don’t We Talk About It?

I met someone who was telling me about her journey to have her children. She was open about it which she mentioned was unusual for an Indian person.

She wasn’t wrong.

Why don’t we talk about it? I’m not just talking about things like miscarriages and infertility but also other things that we think are embarrassing or that we will be judged for in the Indian society.

Why should we be embarrassed? So many people go through things such as depression, therapy, divorce, miscarriages, in vitro fertilization, difficult births, and having a hard time adjusting to being a parent. The list goes on and on.

Why shouldn’t we talk about it? I’ve personally been through quite a few of these things and I try to be open about it because if my experiences can help one other person see that it’s normal to feel like this or go through this and it helps them figure out how to make themselves feel better, then it’s worth it.

We keep worrying about being judged by our community or society but seriously, what the hell? Who cares if some aunty talks about the fact that you had trouble getting pregnant? I promise you a fair number of the generation before us also had the same problems. So why do they believe that not looking like the “perfect” person is a bad thing?

As I said in Emotional Awareness- Yes, It’s A Real Thing, mental health is important. And as a South Asian Indian, we hide from our feelings. We try to play off that everything is always okay. Everything is not always okay. And most of us probably understand that even though we don’t share it. It’s a good thing to be able to recognize when you aren’t okay because recognizing that is a step to helping yourself.

It’s okay to not be happy 100% of the time. It’s okay to go through things. It’s okay to have physical and emotional health problems. And talking about it gives you a chance to finding a solution. It also gives you a chance to find a support system to lean on. None of these things makes you a worse person. None of them make you a weak person. Acknowledge and own what you are going through. Once you do, no one else’s judgment matters.

So let’s talk about it.

Coping

Life is hard sometimes.

I don’t want you to feel like just because you have everything you physically need that it can’t be hard as well. Many of us deal with emotional issues on a daily basis. And it’s just as important. It’s easy to argue with ourselves and list down the positives that we have and therefore, ignoring the things that are difficult for us. I believe that you should definitely acknowledge the positive but instead of ignoring the negative, find a way to deal with them. Find a way to make it better.

Me, I’m constantly struggling to feel my value in this world. My brain can argue with my heart and list 100 different ways I am valuable to many people. But I really need to feel that contentment. I have been diagnosed with depression at least once in my life. I haven’t felt the need to see a therapist again about it but I am aware that I probably am fighting against it constantly.

I cope with this struggle by exercising. Not only does it help me get out from inside my head and heart but it makes me feel good about myself physically. Dance is also a big one for me. Just being able to fall into the music and leave myself for a few hours is really helpful. I’m not thinking about anything except what my body is doing. I’m not really thinking about anything. I’m just feeling.

I have a sister who does a lot of coping by being out in nature. It helps her to deal with whatever she needs to deal with in her life. Whether it’s hiking or traveling, just being outside helps you to realize how much positivity there is in the world. I once did a hike where I had no cell service the entire time. It felt good to disconnect and emotionally recharge.

There are a lot of ways to cope with the emotional anxieties that we face. These are just a couple of examples that work for my family.

I hope you find whatever helps you cope.

If You Aren’t Happy, Change It

We have all probably gone through a time where we felt stuck and didn’t know how to get out of it. We all know that person who complains about the same thing over and over again.

Me, personally, I didn’t necessarily complain. I just fell into a deep, dark depression while pretending everything was okay. And then, I’d explode and cry and be extremely confused on what I was supposed to do. Then, I would fall back into the same cycle I was in before I exploded. It was never-ending.

After going through that a few times, I realized that nothing was going to get better just because I was dealing with something I didn’t like. Things didn’t just fix themselves. I had to fix them. I had to change something.

Change is hard to make. We all get used to the way things are or the way we think they are supposed to be. One thing we have to realize is that there is no set plan on how to deal with something. What works for one person might not work for another. We are allowed to adjust our life to make it a happier place for us to be in.

Sometimes, these changes are the biggest decisions you will ever make. One of mine was to leave the college and major I had chosen and move back home and attend a local college with a different major. It took me a year and a half and a lot of depression to figure that I was not supposed to be at that school, doing what I was doing. I have never regretted it.

So take the leap. If you are stressed about something or unhappy about something, change it. Figure out a better way to deal with it. Don’t just accept that this is the way life is and this is the only way it has to be.

We Indians Need To Learn How To Be More Compassionate

I had a hard time writing about this topic: compassion. I just wasn’t sure what I could write about. I wasn’t even sure if I knew anything about this topic at all. I even looked up what compassion means so I could figure out what to write about. The problem is I tend to be more empathetic and can see that more clearly. But Webster’s said that empathy was not the same as compassion.

So, 3 days after the deadline, I finally realized what I could write about.

I’m a South Asian Indian born and raised in America. I come from a background where we tend to judge each other quicker than we show compassion. If something doesn’t go right or something bad happens, it somehow had to be that person’s fault. They did something that caused that bad thing to happen. I had a friend once tell me that when she told her mother about her miscarriage, her mother’s first words to her were “What did you do?”.

We, as a community, also don’t speak about so much that is happening around us. Things that require compassion are being hidden and causing emotional havoc in our lives, things like broken engagements, broken marriages, emotional abuse, physical abuse, miscarriages, infertility, depression, suicidal thoughts.

It upsets me that these are things that so many of us have gone through but yet, we still worry about telling the person next to us in fear that they will judge us. We aren’t able to share what we have really been through.

I have personally been through a few of these things. When I had, I completely disappeared from our community’s social scene. The only time I felt I deserved to be back in it is when I had done something indisputably good to make up for a few of the “bad” things I had done or been through. I couldn’t hold my head up around them until I had finally achieved something that our community could be proud of and say “Yes, I know that woman”.

Why should I feel ashamed for my circumstances in life? Why should I feel like everyone is talking about me behind my back? Why should I have to worry about being judged for making decisions to make my life better?

So my call is to the South Asian Indian community today. Be compassionate. Stop letting others feel like they will be judged for going through hard times in life. Not a single one of us is better than another. We will be stronger as a community if we help each other instead of tearing each other down. Share what you personally have gone through because I can guarantee you that the person next to you has gone through something that’s been life changing and difficult as well.

I was inspired to write this by #1000Speak. Compassion is something that I believe in but don’t see often enough.

Check out the other stories of compassion.

Depression

Yes, it’s real. And yes, it can happen to anyone. 

Depression is one of those things that unless you’ve been through it or know someone who has, it’s hard to understand. Someone may look like they have everything but sometimes, it’s not about that at all. Whether it’s based on a chemical imbalance or life circumstances, depression is one of the hardest things to battle. It’s especially difficult because it doesn’t have physical symptoms. It’s hard to see. And it’s really not all that hard to hide. 

I don’t want to discuss the hows and whys someone falls into depression. My bigger concern is how does one get out of depression. 

Have you ever gotten into a fight with someone? And no matter what, that person wouldn’t listen to anything you had to say? Depression is like that. Only you’re fighting yourself. You sit and tell yourself that there is no reason to feel like this, that everything is going well, that you are loved by many. Yet, for whatever reason, it’s hard for you to understand those exact words. It’s hard to feel okay. 

And it’s okay. It’s okay to be depressed. I think the first step to getting past it is to admit that you’re going through it. And I know that that is a really difficult thing to do. I have a hard time admitting it because I don’t want to ever feel like a failure. And being depressed especially when I know things are good or that I’m making moves in the right direction still makes me feel like a failure. 

I’m a big advocate for therapy. I think that that is the next step. 

Another thing that can be done is reaching out to people who will understand. If you know someone or have friends who you know understand these feelings or have training in the mental health field, reach out. It’s hard because when you’re depressed, it is really hard to reach out to anyone. You want to go under a bed and disappear. But getting help is really important to getting out of this state of mind. Knowing you aren’t fighting the battle alone is important. 

Depression. It sucks. But it is possibly to get past it. I have before. 

We Are the Masters of Distraction

Yesterday, I went to a board meeting for a charity that I have been involved with and watched these amazing people in the generation above me spend their time and passion to furthering a great educational cause. These people are the examples of what I want my future to be like, especially when I retire. They are using their time on this earth to really make a difference in the world. I started thinking that they are doing a great job at getting involved and distracting themselves from what could be a really boring daily life routine otherwise. Then, it occurred to me that we, Indians, are really the masters of distraction. We have extremely busy social lives, we work abnormally hard, we do as much as we can in the short amount of time we have on earth (that is, if you don’t believe in reincarnation and that we will come back and do it all over again). We know how to fill up our day so we just go, go, go. But sometimes, this isn’t a good thing.

I wanted to talk about the other side of how we use distraction in our daily life. There are so many times that we use all of the things we do to hide the emotional side of our lives. We go to these events and hang out with just about anyone to really turn off the insight we have into our own feelings. We figure if we don’t think about it, it doesn’t exist.

A few years ago, I went through a pretty bad depression. I was lucky enough to have friends and family that made me realize that I needed help. If that had not happened, I would have either continued being depressed or used other events in my life to distract me from having to deal with it. I don’t know if that would have helped or prolonged it. I do know that I am glad that I learned how to deal with all of my issues head on.

Facing depression isn’t easy. Being Indian, we come from a culture where emotions aren’t a recognizable reason for doing something. If you think about it, we haven’t had to struggle as our parents have, we have led pretty stable lives with a lot of opportunity, we have had the choices in life to really do what we want. What reasons could we have for possibly have for depression?

Depression isn’t something that you can always control. External factors also can trigger it. If you go through several big losses in your life, I’d be surprised if you didn’t have some sort of strong emotional reaction to them. Just moving on is ideal but in my opinion, it doesn’t seem realistic.

I think it’s time for our culture to realize that emotions don’t just happen in movies. Emotions happen and sometimes, they happen a lot harder than anyone realizes. The only way to get past it is to take the first step into awareness. Only then, you can get help. I have seen people in our generation and even the generation above us be sad but not understand why. Sometimes, the lack of awareness for these types of emotions is astounding.

So, if you have experienced something like this to any extent in your life, know that it’s normal and it’s okay. We all go through it but as any “good” Indian society member would do, we just don’t talk about it. We need to get it out there and realize that this is a very real thing and the only way to deal with it is not by just distracting yourself but by acknowledging it and then, learning what to do to make it better. Your emotional well-being is important to your health and your happiness.

So why do we have such a hard time taking our emotions seriously?