A Personal Story of Living with Depression
Guest post by Alexandra Li
Author’s Bio: My name is Alexandra Li, and I have a Master’s degree in International Trade. Since I have been struggling with depression, I have been working in the mental health field since I graduated. Besides, our company website, www.sandaki.com, is also a platform for people to share their stories about depression and anxiety.
Here’s a message I want to share with all Depression Warriors:
Hey friend, I just wanted to let you know that you are doing great, I’m proud of you. Things will eventually get better, and I hope you know that.
I was always on the verge of depression, and my mood was not stable, but I didn’t think seriously about depression because I told myself “I just came to the U.S. and I’m not used to live here yet” and “I’ll get better”.
Then I realized the seriousness of the problem when I finished all my final exams and started my vacation, but still couldn’t get rid of the depression.
Personal Story: All the efforts I’ve made to live an ordinary life through my depression
Some “sad facts” about depression
You are surrounded by depression for 24 hours
It’s like falling into a mud puddle, as soon as you stop struggling, you’ll be drowned.
When I looked at other people who were active on Facebook, appearing in various group activities and parties. I looked at their messages on Facebook, and I was thinking at that time: why can’t I be as normal as them and be interested in these things, food, and various American festivals?
People with depression may appear extremely normal
I usually behave normally. But few people will tell the truth about their depression, because when I really cannot hold on and found some friends to talk about it, I found that It’s an exhausting thing to explain to them.
Besides, I basically blocked myself out when I wasn’t depressed, and when I was depressed I went to my friends for help. Gradually, I felt like a bad friend, after all, everyone has their own things to do, and sometimes they can’t take care of your emotions well, but depressed people are especially sensitive to this, therefore, I didn’t want to be a burden to others.
Put yourself in the shoes of depressed people to comfort them
“There was a bad thing that happened to me last week, but I didn’t let it ruin my life” – congratulations, I envy you for having that ability to live like a normal human being. But I just can’t do it. If I could, I would have done it already, wouldn’t I? It’s because I can’t do it that I struggle desperately and silently, and your flippant remark just might make me feel so incompetent.
“Take more exercise, you will feel much better, trust me” – please believe me, I go to the gym regularly, I eat healthy food, I read, travel, talk to friends, etc. I have tried every possible way. But these methods treat the symptoms but not the root cause. “If I had your life, I would feel content instead of depressed” – if you had my life completely, you would have my depression too.
After I suffered from depression, I felt that my parents were the ones who had the right to know about it, so I informed them. My mom called me: “I just don’t get it, you’re fine with everything now, and you can travel on vacation, why are you still unhappy? The previous generation of people who went abroad to work still have to brush the dishes, you have been so happy. Get over the difficulties you encounter, don’t keep putting the depression label on your head.” — See, another reason why depressed people don’t speak up is that others will always think you’re playing poor or making excuses.
If you can, let us know that you are the friend who will be there at two o’clock in the morning, but don’t be too pushy. when we really can’t hold on, we will reach out to you. At that time, go with us to sit on a park bench, don’t ask anything, don’t comfort anything, just stay with us quietly.
Just because I’m happy, that doesn’t mean I’m fine, and just because I’m depressed, that doesn’t mean I have to kill myself.
“You were happy yesterday, people who are really depressed are never happy” – people with depression are ordinary people, we also celebrate birthdays, parties and feel sincere joy from these activities, but that doesn’t mean we are completely fine.
That only means we won that day’s battle for now, but the war goes on forever, so imagine the real battlefield where both sides rest their troops. Why I didn’t kill myself? Because I’ve been working very hard to get better!
Unhappiness or suicidal thoughts are just some of the symptoms of depression, which can affect all aspects of life.
For international students, I think the stress of studying, the lack of language and culture, and the small group of overwhelmingly closed international students are all hotbeds of depression. As I said before, depression is when everything is fine and you are still unhappy, but being in a very stressful environment for a long time and closing yourself off can also lead to depression.
Why do I always let others down? Why is it always that others can do it and I can’t do it? These are not what I want to see in myself, and I know I should change, but I just can’t do it. And so the vicious cycle continues.
Also the road to study abroad is indeed a lonely one. You have to do everything on your own when you live alone in foreign country, sometimes you lack a benchmark and worry if you are going off the rails. You know when you are the only one on a path, you will always question whether you will find a new empire or still go completely to the extreme.
When it comes to difficulties, not everyone feels comfortable with seeking for help, there are many people will choose to digest themselves. I’m not against digesting yourself and growing, but don’t go to the extreme of closing yourself off completely, or the situation may worsen, and depression can be dangerous if not handled properly.
Opening up about my personal story and experiences
Don’t randomly turn to any doctors when you are seriously ill
In order to prevent student depression, there are generally counseling rooms in American schools, do not be afraid, you can seek for help from professional psychological mentors.
Instead of grabbing a random person to talk to, you can talk to your peers who have the same experience. You will find out from the conversation that they also have such difficulties and confusion as fellow international students, and you can listen to how they get through it. Someone who has no knowledge of depression or is not in your context may react in a harmful way to you, such as accusing you or talking about your depression everywhere.
Also find out if there are regular group sessions near you, so you can avoid disturbing your friends and have an understanding and tolerant group. Find some information and articles about depression and read them to see it objectively. I often read Humans of New York, which is very inspirational, but still very positive, it makes me know that everyone has a difficult time, and expand own horizons.
Find the depression triggers
Depression has some emotional triggers, and when you do something, the consequences of the behavior will always put you in a depressed state. Finding these triggers and trying to avoid them is the first step to fight depression. For example, if you get upset by the gossip, comparing and hugging among international students, stay away from the noisy social networks and try to live a life without friends for two days.
If the study procrastination caused by bad time management can make you frustrated with yourself, then forget about depression for a while and start fighting the procrastination every day. Depression can be a very ambiguous thing, but a depression trigger can be a small, tangible thing, and finding them and tackling them down one by one will help a lot with depression.
We don’t want to be “understood”, but to be “accepted”
To be honest, I don’t expect people who don’t suffer from depression to really understand us. As myself, being accepted is much more effective than being understood. Depression is inherently a very subtle and close-minded illness, and I often felt like I was walking alone in stagnant water with the circle of study abroad, I hid the fact that I was depressed and was lonely and scared inside. I didn’t know if I was the only one who had the disease, and I desperately wanted to know that there were other people in the world who were experiencing the same pain as I was.
Find people who can accept your dark emotions and know that there are many people in the world who feel the same way as you do. I listen to Westlife’s music, and read novels written by Haruki Murakami, philosophy of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. Also, piano music by Bach works for me. You can take your time to discover a system that works for you, and whenever depression strikes, immediately seek out these spiritual pills that you have built up and can get by reaching out, and that you are familiar with something will quiet you down quickly.
Focus on one simple thing
Concentration is actually to temporarily let you get rid of the overwhelming feeling, all the stress is temporarily thrown aside, let the nerves in a manic state rest. Running is a good way, because exercise makes your body release endorphins (which make you feel better), when I cannot run, I will say to myself “I can do it”, so attention needs to be very focused.
Meditation (if you cannot meditate, you can also sit down quietly and adjust your breathing). Soak in a hot bath for 20 minutes, find a place to stand under the sun for 10 minutes, these small things that I have done myself are very effective.