Hooooo… This is probably not the easiest blog I am writing. I will keep my editing down to a minimum and just start writing from the heart from here on out. This will be an explanation of what depression is, how I experienced it and the life after getting better.
How did I know I was depressed?
This is probably the thing that most people have told me: ‘We knew you were depressed before you yourself even had a clue’. I suppose they are right. When you are too deep into your depression there is very little of anything that grabs your attention. Not visiting friends, completely changing your day-night rhythm, missing work, not caring about things you normally care about, sexual inactivity, … it’s something you yourself don’t notice, but others start to.
It started around august I would guess. I was frequently calling in sick at work. I mean… like nearly every week. Sometimes I would go to the doctor and talk about some not-existing pain or whatnot. After a while, even that became hard and I was prescribed longer time off, with a probably burn-out as a reason.
In September, I started to really tumble down the ladder of life. On the verge of losing my job, alienating basically everybody, not going outside, sleeping during the day and just laying in bed during the night, it was an absolute mess. That’s when more and more people started to get worried.
It must have been around that time that I started to realize what was going on myself. And it was also the start of the last leap towards total darkness. I just wanted to die.
What caused my depression?
Well, first of all, it’s important to know that clinical depression is a disease, not a state of mind. There is a big difference between feeling sad and being diagnosed with depression, although they both have a chemical nature, one is fixable with ‘mind tricks’, the other requires medication.
You see, depression is basically the consequence of a disruption in your brain. A chemical imbalance. In fact, everything you feel, hate, love or like is the result of a certain set of hormones interacting with neurotransmitters in your grey matter. These imbalances and faults in the working of the brain can be triggered by a plethora of external factors and events: loss of a loved one, extreme stress, heartbreak, financial issues, …
I had at that point already been single for 2 years, after breaking off from a 7-year long relationship. I had some whimsical girlfriends during that time and had -I thought- completely gotten over it.
Also, I was about 1 year in on my new position as the sole guy responsible for the E-Commerce of a tour operator in Belgium. A true dream job in an amazing environment.
I was, however, living with my parents for the first time since I was 18 (32 at the time of my depression). I don’t think I ever really considered that a bad situation, and I will always be grateful for the help they offered me. Without them, I would not be here today.
So, a single guy with a beautiful career in front of him, saving up money while enjoying mother’s cuisine, what could go wrong?
And you know what? I still have no idea. At some point, without realizing it myself, I must have become incredible discontent of my current situation and my brain got triggered in all the wrong ways.
What was the worst thing that happened?
Ah, the part no one likes to talk about. Even when someone asks me about how it felt to be depressed, they usually avoid (understandably) the subject of suicide.
At the deepest point of my mental disease, I thought about killing myself 24/7. I spent entire nights researching fast and painless ways to off myself. But living at my parents’ house, I was luckily unable to really get experimenting or buying items…
Until one day.
I do remember it because I was feeling happier (weird thing to say – I know). But I was only feeling a fake sense of joy because I had finally reached the point where enough research had been done and I just wanted it to be over.
So I grabbed an nice plastic bag and some duct tape. Put it over my head and wrapped the tape around my face to seal off any air. It’s a very painful procedure…
The next thing I remember was lying on the floor with my father smacking my face. The sound of me falling on the floor had alerted them and they jumped to my rescue. There was never another suicide attempt, seeing your loved ones that sad… it was my queue to try and heal.
How was I treated and for how long?
After some sessions with a psychiatrist, I was giving some medication. I believe the first one was called Seroxat and it made me very dizzy and even sadder. After that we tried several pills: Deanxit, Symbalta, Seroquel, and others I can’t remember now.
Finally Duloxetine was the one that started to have a positive effect.
We are talking about 8 months of trial and error. The problem is, those pills take quite a while to alter your brain chemistry so you’ve got another 3 months ahead of you before things get clearer.
The first time I really noticed the effects of the medication was when I realized I hadn’t been thinking about suicide anymore. In fact, the very idea of killing myself seemed like the stupidest one I could ever have.
The road to recovery was there.
I am now 35, so we are three years after the first symptoms of depression. It took me 1.5 years to pull through. During that time I had lost my job and gotten some overdue bills due to complete carelessness. Reason enough for a relapse you might think, but no. The pills saved me.
Those pills are still on my diet, probably for years to come. People often talk about how unhealthy they are. Those people have no clue how unhealthy the alternative is, I think. I tend to ignore most idiots who kept telling me to eat more veggies or go for a long walk. Seems like all your troubles can be solved by yoga too, yet you have to do it every day cause those troubles seem to come back. Patching something isn’t curing it. Bad analogy, but you get what I mean and if you don’t, I don’t care.
So how is life after depression?
Finally, a nice question to ask to myself! Life is good. I moved out of my parents’ house (after making sure the depression was in check). I didn’t quite move to the next city over though.
I made a radical decision and decided that I wanted to enjoy the life I had almost robbed myself of. So I’m now working, living and relaxing in Athens, Greece. I have my own apartment, many new friends, great scenery, financial stability.
I would not dare to stop taking the medication. This is a life I’m enjoying.
Often I think back at what happened. Some days I feel gloomier than others, and it scares me. But I always pull through and I am looking at the horizon with awe.
Rebuilding after depression, depending on how badly things went in regards to your job, family, finances, etc, is very hard. But when you’re on the road to recovery there will be others there for you, to lend a hand when needed or give solid advice.
It’s the perfect time to grab that second chance. If you go back to your life before depression, you will probably get struck by it again sooner or later. Those chemical imbalances will get triggered again if you remain close to what activated them in the first place.
The challenge is hard, the road is long, but it IS worth it.