In this emerging blogger post, La Protagoniste writes about trying to deal with depression when outside help is unavailable.
It is really confusing when you have a condition that you do not have a blame for. The thoughts that cross your mind are that you must be the only one going through it. It sometimes might make you feel like a weirdo or an alien with questions of “why me?” Instead of dealing with it you repress it, try to no confront it and form this sheath around you. This is the perfect description of how I found out I had depression.
When I was in my teen age, I started having deeply sad times. They had no specific triggers and I was still in high school. I’d wake upon a day and be so sad that I’d want to not go to class. was in boarding school and the routine was inflexibly strict. I started giving out my food, sleeping too much, avoiding friends, crying a lot alone and avoiding football practice which I so passionately loved. Back then I saw it as a character flaw and defect in my being. That I couldn’t keep up with the routine as perfectly as my peers were. I couldn’t find the enthusiasm to be competitive academically which was a major mission in my life then.
What I did instead is pray that it’d eventually go away. That I’d wake up one day and I’ll be okay forever. I tried harder to be more disciplined, to do things that were supposed to make me feel better. I laid out timed routines that I ended up not keeping up with after a day. Because I thought that there was something wrong with me that needed to be fixed, I signed up for counselling. The counsellor never mentioned that I was facing any mental health issues. I might have sounded like any other student in a very competitive school under a lot of family and societal pressure but I was not.
When I couldn’t find help, I started thinking of death. I didn’t start out suicidal, I started thinking of going away to a far off land or country and starting a new life. I always thought of disappearing and I wrote a lot on watt pad about leaving earth. I thought that maybe I should let go of everything and start anew. When I realized that it was never going to happen, I started thinking of taking my life away. A few months into my depressed state, I attempted to take my life away.
After failing, I booked a session with a free therapist (unpaid). I didn’t get much help because she never talked much and had a bored look on her face. All she did in plenty is offer me coffee and tissues. I was very uncomfortable around her and I left altogether. She said she couldn’t help unless I figured out where exactly my problem was which was why I had come to see her in the first place. I was looking for answers and she offered none.
One day, I contacted a friend we had been on the same sports team with back in my University years. I was talking about her insane poetry then. She started writing WhatsApp statuses about her mental health and mental health advice. I weirdly related to everything she posted. I jokingly admitted to her that I was thinking about death a lot and she advised me to visit a professional. Since I had ruled out counsellors and therapists, I booked a session with a psychologist. That is when I confirmed that I had clinical depression or major depressive disorder. I like to credit my friend for being the eye-opener because she taught me more than certified professionals could.
Dealing with depression
How I am dealing with it now is not the same way I was dealing with it when I just found out. I would say that once you got to know what it is that you are going through, then you start dealing with it better. I must stress though that it is important to know what exactly you are dealing with including the confusing depression symptoms in order to find the right help.
I will suggest a few options that have really helped me through the years:
When I started feeling very sad in high school, I started journaling. These journals have helped me to learn more about the genesis of my situation and to trace my mental health journey. It helps me identify repetitive patterns which happens more often than not. When talking to someone doesn’t sound like an option, try writing it down. It really helps to unpack the feelings. Do not worry about writing a great piece or poetry, just put it down as it comes. It can range from just a sentence to pages on pages. I still journal to date when I can but I have found other coping mechanisms too.
- Taking up a sport
We aren’t all sporty but you might want to try it out. Back in high school, I engaged in sports as a way to destruct myself. It kept me busy when classes were over. It took the stress away. (something to do with the hormones that are realized when one engages in physical activity). It created an environment to bond with my teammates and that was the destruction I needed. During competitions, I got to interact with other schools and it got me time off school. Later, in university, I took up martial arts which has helped me build character, control my emotions and in some way visit my country much.
Presently, I gym a lot and I have even progressed to be a fitness trainer. What has helped me a lot in my mental health journey has been working out. The accountability partners and clients I have made over time make sure that I show up to the gym even when I simply can’t get off my bed. When my situation gets worse, I fail to go to the gym for months but when I go, I feel better. It doesn’t have to be an extreme contact sport, I have taken up chess and scrabble and they both helped too. Swimming my ultimate best though.
- Talking to a friend/ friends
In my situation talking to my family isn’t an option. There are a few who’ve proven to be more than I needed and that’s what I go for. If you have a supportive family, I suggest you embrace them but if you don’t a friend will do. I got to talk about the role of a good friend in mental health in a recent post. What they do is that they give you the luxury of pouring out your heart without fear of judgement or stigma.
WhatsApp support groups, private Facebook groups and safe twitter hashtags really act as the safe space needed to share our mental health concerns. There are a lot of genuine support from such groups if you don’t find the friend to support you.
- Talk to a therapist
I know you have had t a million times but do go and talk to one. Not all of them are a fit but try out till you find the best one. I haven’t gotten the right experience with them but I cannot downplay the role they play. I have heard friends, family and strangers talk about therapy and how it has improved their health.
I would say though that if you cannot afford one like me, try free online platforms. I am sure there must be good ones out there. They do more than just listen, they recommend the right medicine if needed and they are better at distinguishing symptoms.
I am a bookworm. I might have spent an entire day drowning myself in literature. It helps me a lot when coping with difficult situations. A good book can carry me away to places unvisited and by the time I am in touch with the reality, time has lapsed. Apart from destructing one’s mind, reading helps when it comes to gathering information about mental health. It has been a great source of my information.
Even if you aren’t that good of a reader, you can always try newspapers articles, blogs, journals or novels. There is always something to take away from each story. It does boost your creativity too which I know is a plus.
There is a whole lot of activities that’ll aid your metal health journey including yoga, meditation, breathing exercises and dance classes. Find one that fits you and embrace it. Moreover, try all in order to find out the best one for you.
Technology has really come in handy when dealing with mental health. There are numerous online platforms that’ll offer advice, tests and resources on mental health. in developed countries, I see suicide prevention hotlines and find a therapist phone numbers. Browse through the net and find one if you can. Find a therapist or professional and talk to them if possible. If you aren’t sure of your condition, ask google. Self- diagnosis is the first step to clinical diagnosis.
Coping with depression
The good thing about mental health is that it isn’t fatal. Unless it comes to a successful suicide which is the reason why you need to fight to not get there. You can get better if you take the right steps. I am still in the process of getting better but I am optimistic about it. Let me give a few parting pieces of advice though:
- Take it one day at a time. Don’t rush yourself. Push yourself enough through each moment but take it slow. Inches matter as long as you are moving in a positive stride. Keep trying.
- Be intentional. Be very clear about wanting to get better and working objectively towards eat. Eat healthy even when you don’t feel like it. Do a sit up if you can’t get to the gym.
- Avoid people that bring you down. Even if it is a family member. They will delay your recovery because they’ll act as triggers most of the time.
- Rest is an achievement too. Take a month off social media. Sleep instead of going to the club. Take a 5mins walk alone. Rest is very powerful.
- Remember it is not the end of the world. These are just bad days and there will be good ones.
Mental health is important if you need to achieve more in life. It is difficult to deal with it when they aren’t enough safe spaces. The internet serves as a good start even though you have to be careful because it is a negative space too. This is my own advice to you and shouldn’t be treated as a substitute for professional help. Let me know how you have dealt with your situation too especially in the absence of the required help/ professional and family help.
The author’s blog is La Protagoniste.