Life for me is a constant act of coming out. Major life events crescendo with me ‘coming-out’ about something, processing it and growing from it.
The act of disclosing something to which you personally are affected; something which is up until that point such a large looming aspect of your life can be so very liberating and self-reflective and cathartic. I’ve become a big progenitor and believer in the old adage: ‘Better Out Than In’.
So What Does This Have To Do With Me?
Life is a constant revision, re-edit and reinvention. A state of flux and change, and release and changes tends to happen when I ‘spill the beans’ as it were. I inform friends, my loved ones, family and in fact anyone connected to me. I will talk to them about my problem. The act of doing this, or ‘coming out’ has always lead to such an amazing and positive outcome. So what are some instances this has happened in my life?
I’ve had two big ‘coming-outs’ so far in my life:
Coming out as a Gay man for one. This was an obviously major life-altering event in my life, which changed things in my world for the better. I was suffering terribly before this, and it took years of coaxing from friends to be comfortable enough with myself to proclaim to my world that I was gay. ‘Duh’ said all the friends in my life at the time, but it was an indescribably difficult thing for me to acknowledge my homosexuality at the time in my early twenties.
The second, and most recent, was my opening up about my mental health, and specifically informing one and all that I have had a long and difficult relationship with Depression. This in some ways was far more confronting than coming out as Gay. As controversial as this sounds, my life with Depression was far more intimate. It felt far more taboo to talk about, less dialogue about mental health or resources were available and it made me feel as though this was a subject best left unspoken about. I spent years therefore suffering and coping alone with the hopes that self medication would work.
Since opening up about my very personal relationship with Depression, and posting about it online, I’ve received so much support, as well as empathy. It’s amazing how many people out there, close friends or complete strangers, have opened up to me about their life with Depression, or people they know suffering with it.
One thing I find most intriguing and glaring is that more people than I realised suffered from Depression. Not to mention how so many individuals found it difficult to speak about this problem. It’s unseen, invisible and can be deadly.
Nowadays, when I come across someone who I can tell is having problems or opens up to me about it, I naturally feel a compulsion to help in any way possible, whether it be an ear to speak to, a shoulder to cry on or for some simple and hopefully helpful advice. I’ve also found that more and more people want to speak to me about it, and what I’ve done and still do to combat it. Hence why I wanted to write this post.
For me, Depression is something akin to fighting a long, difficult war. Every lapse into a black mood is like a battle. There are two sides, the light and the dark. The positive and negative. Yes its cliche but its the most simplified way I can summarise it. For some people it’s different, however this is how it has been for me:
Every evening before bed, or morning when I wake up, it takes an effort to fend off a skirmish of negativity and pessimism. I believe our thoughts create our life, our relationships, jobs/careers, friendships and our general attitude.
Recently after attending Psychology sessions, it turned out I was right. Our mind is composed of two parts: one side rational, thoughtful and able to make reason and logic. The other far more elemental, experience-based and rigid. Our lives are based on those experiences our elemental side of our minds react to. If most experiences are negative, then our outlook becomes negative. That very negativity has created a cage which is very difficult to unlock and escape from. It’s up to ourselves to change this and break out of the cage. Again, Everyone is different, and it takes different measures and combinations of actions for different people. But hey, it’s worth breaking out of that invisible cage.
I see others I may know who obviously suffer from Depression, yet are unable to talk and open and process it with anyone. I see that they become wound-up like a rubber band ready to snap, that there are so many inhibitions and denial which transforms into a blockage that prevents any form of dialogue to help release. It is something terrifying to open up about it. So I decided to write this post.
Again, everyone is different, but here are 5 ways, or more aptly, 5 weapons I use to combat depression.
1: Speak to Your Doctor.
Probably the most important point I can make here is that for your sake and everyone else around you in your world; loved ones, family, friends and colleagues, please go to the doctor and have a chat about how you’re feeling. This is such a daunting experience even so if you are an emotional fellow like myself. I know many of us [myself included] traditionally view doctors as physical menders of pain and discomfort and are apart from mental health, but they really are able to help you especially as a starting point. On advice from close friends I decided to check in with a really amazing and helpful GP, [the immediate result of that one consultation was my deciding to start a course of medication as well as therapy]. After having a breakdown in front of my boyfriend, I’m glad I took his and my close friends advice and headed to the local medical centre. It was definitely make or break time, and in hindsight I went just at the right time. I opened up to this stranger who was so welcoming, understanding yet professional, and who genuinely wanted to see me get better. This has resolved in me taking steps to recover, including therapy and medication, and to become who I’m meant to be.
2: Get Moving.
Something so simple as taking a walk when I feel blue is a great way for me personally to clear my mind. I also walk to work every day and walk back after the day is over. I use this time to meditate on the day and push the bad thoughts out. It may not last permanently, but to me taking a walk through the park on a beautiful day or on the way to work is a great method of resetting one’s mind, as well as taking in the world, breathing in the fresh air and self-reflecting. Exercise greatly increases endorphin; for me, when I go to the gym, my mind is entirely focused on running on the treadmill or lifting those weights. Nothing else. My world narrows into the physical. Your mind becomes suffused with the simple and primordial: willing your body to keep moving and going further physically. There’s no time to dwell on your own thoughts which tend to slow you down and stop progress. I found swimming was great for this, as all you concentrate on is each stroke to get to the end of the pool. More recently yoga has been helping me calm myself and let go of negativity. I find everyone has a different route with regards to movement or exercise; some love a rigorous workout whereas others prefer a more gentle form of movement such as meditative exercise. The important thing is to ensure that you are not static in body and thought.
3: Do More Of What You Love.
Find the one or few things which you enjoy, and let yourself enjoy them without guilt. If there is something out there that you love to do [as long as you’re safe], then do more of it. Even if it’s something non-productive. Life is about down-time and recharging. Downtime away from work family and even loved ones is something I really enjoy. I try to give myself some time dedicated to whatever it is that brings me diversion. This could involve watching that trashy tv show, or picking up a hobby. Personally I love wasting hours playing video games or reading. The trick is not to berate yourself, but to help you forget about anything negative if even for a short while. Which leads me on to my next point:
4: Be Good To Yourself.
They say that we are our own worse critic. I know I can certainly be. I tend to self-analyse, critique and place blame squarely on myself. I think for many people, we tend to be stricter on ourselves than what the world actually is on us. But the thing that I keep repeating to myself is that blame can only hurt and diminish you. Not only you, but those around you; loved ones, family friends, lovers work life et al. By sending repeating messages of self-doubt, envy or guilt can only help make your life lose it’s colour. Coworkers might find you difficult to work with. friends may stop wanting to socialise. It’s hard to not blame yourself for the problems you envisage in your life. It’s so much more difficult to be good to yourself. I am still learning to cut myself some slack, to let allow myself not to worry. The late-night bedtime self-reflection times still occur, yet less and less.
5: Minimise Your Online Life.
Life now is so set upon the foundations of an online presence. Here I am writing a Blogpost to you about how to fight Depression, and espousing minimising your online presence in life. Yes, the hypocrisy abounds, yet this is an area that I know I personally need to work on. The idea being that ‘Minimising’ or streamlining your time online in the hopes of having some control over it as opposed to our online personas controlling our real-life selves. I recently came across a fantastic blogpost by Nomadhowfar, a nomadic-lifestyle based blog worth checking out about this very topic, as well as the effect social media is having on us. Not to mention how to work with our online selves in a more harmonious way. I find I can waste so much of my time and life online in a non-productive way. I also find that I can be easily influenced by what I see on social media. It’s so easy to get swayed and dismayed by someone’s humblebrag, whether it be someone close or not so close posting a picture of them attending great party, a new job or some other success in life. It’s only natural to feel that we are missing out on something in life, or that we are not in the know. Especially for someone who suffers from depression. Any negative influence has a greater affect as opposed to on someone not suffering from depression. Picture your reaction when you go away somewhere and there is no wifi or reception. We crumble like an old brick wall. Our online life is so entrenched in us it can be difficult to disconnect. A solution is to simply minimize how you use social media; for instance unfollow someone on Facebook or Twitter that only posts negative things; delete those apps that you never use that clutter your phone. Spend a bit of time clearing out that email inbox with junk mail from 2009. It can help.
Just to conclude, this is simply a loose set of tips to get you thinking of how you can help yourself and arm yourself to be the best you can be. It all has boiled down to the concept of opening up and letting those who are able to help in any way into your life. It’s very much like anything, the more you put in the more you get out.
Oh, and just one final tip, don’t let shit get to you.