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This article contains references to depression, suicide, and substance abuse. If you are in any immediate danger please dial 119. (Indonesian Emergency Line)
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Discovering depression: is feeling bad everyday normal?

For me finding out that I was depressed came as quite a surprise. I had been going through the motions of my day to day life for quite some time with no real awareness of my own mental health. I was like someone who was walking while staring at their feet. For a long time I had been focused on tackling life day by day, putting one foot in front of another with the goal to just keep on moving. When I finally looked up and realised I had walked quite some distance and was lost it came as quite a surprise. I can to this day remember the conversation I had with a friend of mine where I realised I was depressed. A friend mentioned that she thought I might be depressed and it blew my mind. A lot of things fell into place and I realised just how long I had been unhappy for. Realising I was depressed was both empowering and terrifying. For so long I had felt like I was just scraping by in life. I assumed I was just someone who always felt kind of down and that it was just normal for me.

The realisation of depression

Realising that feeling down everyday wasn’t normal and that I was depressed was both empowering and terrifying. Empowering because I could change my life and start to enjoy it again. Terrifying because I knew making those changes would be hard and take consistent, thoughtful effort. This realisation actually made me mad at how hard being happy again was going to be. Just getting through each day was a lot of effort for me. Realising that I had hard changes and thoughts to go through just in order to feel normal again really got to me. Life was hard enough as it was without having to actively try to be happy. For me this feeling highlights what my depression felt like. My dominant feelings were indifference, weariness, listlessness coupled with feeling discouraged, unhappy, gloomy, heavy-hearted and crushed. Everything felt like it was an insurmountable mountain. Taking the bins out was a huge effort that would take forever, seeing friends was a chore, cooking was a battle. When I realised how many changes I was going to have to make in order to not be depressed, it felt like an insurmountable task that would take more effort then I felt capable of. Being on the other side I now know that fixing my depression wasn’t an impossible task with no end. However at the time I could barely conceive of a future where I wouldn’t be struggling to be happy.

This shows another aspect of my experience of depression. Without realising it I took a negative perspective on just about everything. Whether it was the world around me or myself, I would focus on the negativity that I saw. When thinking about myself I would harshly judge myself and way over exaggerate my flaws while making up horrible critiques of myself. I thought I was a horrible person who was bad at everything. No matter how well I treated someone it was never nice enough. When I played guitar I would beat myself up for how bad at it I was. This lead to me pulling back from trying new things or pushing myself to accomplish things. I thought that not only was I not going to be good enough to do something, but during my attempt and subsequent failure I would give myself yet another thing to feel bad about. I was very much my own worst enemy. I would constantly think horrible negative things about myself. For the longest time I thought I was just being realistic, that I was this broken person and that those around me were just better than I was. With time I realised that wasn’t true. What I was doing was focusing as hard as possible on the negative aspects of myself, blowing them way out of proportion. I came to realise that the set of standards I was trying to hold myself to were superhuman. That I was very forgiving of other people, but did not extend that generosity to myself.

The journey—struggles with coping

I found myself using large amounts of marijuana. I did this to feel ‘normal’ as when I was high I was somewhat numbed and had an excuse to do nothing but sit on the couch. This played a large roll in simultaneously worsening my mental health and perpetuating my depression. Getting high all the time prevented me from doing everyday tasks, seeing friends, doing hobbies I enjoyed and doing things to better myself. This in turn made me feel more and more useless and worthless, whilst also making that true. I felt useless and worthless because I was being useless and worthless. In order to avoid dealing with these feelings I would turn to getting high so I could not feel so bad for a time. I was in such a bad mental space that I was barely keeping my life together. Being high and dealing with the hangover effects the next day robbed me of the little energy I had. Eventually I got to the point where I was eating both erratically and minimally. Many times when I finally ate late in the day I would feel sick and not be able to eat more than just a small amount.

Around this time I started to experience suicidal thoughts. I struggle to say whether or not I was suicidal. I had daily thoughts about killing myself but never a desire to kill myself. Despite being depressed I still enjoyed life and I found death to be a terrifying alternative to being alive. I also knew logically that life would get better and that suicide was not an answer. It was like there was a salesman for death in my head, desperately pushing a sale. Despite rejecting every attempt of his to get me to buy his horrible product, he just kept on trying to sell to me. I’d be hungry and need to cook dinner, along comes the salesman, “Well Brian I have a way of avoiding this whole situation, all you’ve got to do is sign the line here and end it all”. I’d say something silly in front of a pretty girl, and he’d jump out from behind a bush “Brian I have this unique one time opportunity for you that will fix your embarrassment, all you’ve got to do is kill yourself and your problem will be solved, too easy”. Saying no to this little purveyor of death in my head wasn’t hard, just alarming in how frequently I had to do so.

Reaching my turning point

Hitting this low point was a milestone for me. When I was at my lowest point I spent a lot of time thinking about my life, where it was and what I wanted from it. I realised that I was not happy with how my life was, that I wanted it to change more then I wanted anything else I had ever wanted.

This began my journey to recovery. One of the largest realisations I had was that my mental health is something I needed to shape and to stay in control of. When I don't maintain myself well enough my mental health is one of the first things to feel an impact. I learnt that my happiness wasn’t something I could take for granted, and needed to be nurtured and maintained in a wholistic way through all aspects of my life. Our bodies are complex systems and we are all complicated emotional beings. For something that sounds very simple being a complete and balanced person who finds fulfilment and enjoyment from their life is surprisingly hard.

The names have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.

Learn more about depression at Seribu Tujuan

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