Lessons from my Depression: Being in the Moment

featureimage

Over the last year, I’ve played hide and seek with depression. The rabbit hole has been deeper, tougher and so much more unpredictable that I could’ve even imagined.

Now and then, I’ve been asked questions like, “why are you depressed? What is lacking in your life?” Other times I’m the lucky recipient of benevolent advice: “Smile. Just try to be happy. You have so much more than others. You just concentrate on the negative things.” These tidbits of helpful buck up advice — for those who don’t know — cause more havoc than happiness to a depressed person.

Why? Because they’re nudging me towards a well of self-pity in which I am already drowning. I know I have so many things to be grateful for, that’s partly why being a privileged depressed is like being a dog running around its tail. I’m hashtag blessed, but I feel like a worthless pile of shit. Instead of being grateful for what I have, I feel nothing, thereby making me a bigger pile of shit than I’d thought, right?

Wrong.

Took me a while to get to this, but now I know depression has nothing to do with my material belongings and achievements. It feeds off of my fears and worsens as I engage with my paranoia, instead of reality.

Not many months ago, I would constantly second-guess myself. There’d be the parallel dialogue in my brain every minute of every day. If I’d write something, I’d wonder if it sounded okay, or if my concept made any sense. That escalated into me not being able to write at all. Around people, I felt a million stares perforating my skin, two million eyes ridiculing everything from the way I dressed to my voice and the way I walked.

Being alone was the greatest struggle, though. Depression makes one crave alone time, but during those hours all I did was emotionally wring myself over imagined situations or hate every part of myself.

I’d ask myself over and again: why am I trying to fight the constant feeling of misery? What light was there at the end of this tunnel, and will it be worth another day of living?

sosickofmyself

My low came at work one day: going over a story I had written, I felt dissatisfied with my writing, and within minutes I was in the middle of a full-blown panic attack. A stream of nauseating thoughts began to plague me. “No one likes me, I’m a useless employee; my bosses will try and get rid of me. I enjoy working here so much, will I get another such opportunity?”

I felt hot, dizzy and nauseated as the entire office seemed to turn hostile. Too paralyzed even to rush to the washroom, I broke down right there at my cubicle. Ironically, the story was published later without any edits.

Eventually, these panic attacks became a regular feature in my life. There was no telling when one would hit, whether it was during sleep or while watching TV or, the worst, in the middle of conversations with people. I went to a counselor, and remember her how it felt like my life was just passing me by, that I was a mere spectator, helplessly out of control.

Finally, I turned to meditation to calm my mind, hoping to have complete silence for a fraction of a second. In the long, long process, and through some soul searching (what else can one do in dog pose for 15 minutes? I’m on to you, Yoga!) I learned a lesson that changed my life. Being in the moment, which means being completely aware of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it and taking responsibility for it, is the best I can do. And, it is enough.

I’ve made this my mantra, and it has helped. The instance I feel like I’m falling back into the dark, tiring abyss of imaginary wrongs and situations, I remind myself that they are exactly that imaginary.

It’s made to see that the judgment or animosity I sensed from people was an extension of my fears and self-image. Whether they rooted from jarring childhood memories or a history of sexual abuse, I allowed these instances to take over my mind, and for that, I must assume responsibility.

This mantra didn’t come to me overnight, though how I wish it had! First, I began by actively listening to conversations I had with people because it was the easiest situation in which I could control my roving thoughts. Instead of thinking about what to say or how to behave in public, I would listen to what the person was saying and then flow with the exchange. The biggest challenge was speaking my mind, without fear of hateful repercussions. Slowly, steadily, I managed to hold conversations longer and more often. And then, I implemented this maxim to every situation in life.

When I feel judged, I remind myself it doesn’t matter because I must paddle my own canoe. When I get angry or anxious, I turn to silence and remember it’s just my tired mind acting out. When I feel under-confident, I remind myself of my many skills. When I feel unusually tired, I tell myself it’s okay to rest. And when I go to bed and begin overthinking my life, I remind myself I have work to do the next day and not sleeping would only be counter-productive.

Learning these lessons has brought me more in tune with myself and the world around me. I learned, for example, that when I lose sleep, hyperventilating all night, I wake up feeling tired, angry and frustrated.

I’ve learned that when I go through my day without listening to those negative thoughts in the background, time doesn’t seem to fly or run out anymore. It flows.

I’ve learned to let go of the ego that makes me averse to others’ ‘judgment’ and accept myself as a unique individual. I remind myself that I am all nothing but stardust.

I’ve learned that the most challenging experiences teach me lessons that vastly improve my quality of life; lessons that I could miss if I weren’t mindful in that moment.

And most importantly I’ve learned that everything, the good and the bad, is impermanent, and only a part of life.

Sure, I still get hit with a bolt of panic when I find someone staring my way. And I’m still learning to enjoy my time and personal space. And I’ve not found an answer to “what is the point of all this?” But, I might be okay with it not having a point at all. Because, perhaps, the point is just to be and swing my best swing at whatever curveballs life sends my way. I like being surprised at my resilience and I like looking into the mirror and telling myself, “I’ve got your back, Vishakha. I’ve got your back.”

 

Feature Image (c) www.emmadarvick.com
Vishakha Saxena
Written by

Vishakha Saxena is a journalist and multi media producer. She currently works for India Today. Her bylines have appeared in Hindustan Times, Indian Express and DailyO. Follow her on Twitter @saxenavishakha

2 Comments

  • Neeta Bhat

    Reading this article made me feel that you had written everything I could never express in words. Its the exact same feeling that I’m going through. Thank you for the advice about living in the present and living each moment. I’m going to capitalise on that for sure! I’m sure you have inspired a lot of people with similar issues. Thanks! 🙂

  • Janani

    It’s such a challenge to explain and breakdown the various facets of what depression means and feels like for an individual and therefore a lot of people end up only dealing with it in their own heads. You’ve articulated your experience so beautifully – thanks for sharing ❤️❤️

LEAVE A COMMENT