How Living With Depression Is Teaching Me My Pain Is Temporary
“If the foot of the trees were not tied to earth, they would be pursuing me… For I have blossomed so much, I am the envy of the gardens.” ― Rumi
I still remember the day so clearly, I woke up with the tightest pain in my chest. I got out of bed and went about my normal morning routine. “Normal.” What a strange word, defined as “the typical state or condition,” according to Mr. Google. But to me, this day changed everything I knew about “normal.” I felt like someone was watching me, glaring at me through the walls. I got on with working on my dissertation when suddenly I found myself staring at the darkness of the shadows on my bedroom wall. How did 8 a.m. turn into 8 p.m. in seconds? What was I doing all this time? Was I really sat staring at a wall for hours?
Shook up, I went and made a cuppa — the British solution to every problem.
Each day after that felt the same, the numbness. I woke up and somehow got on with my daily routine of getting through my final year of university, trying to maintain a social life when I put my GCSE drama skills to use. We hear about the symptoms such as feelings of dread, the anxiety and numbness, but no one really talks about how it feels like there are two people in one body. One ready to eat you up whole and another trying to save the little pieces of you that are left.
There I was, in my early 20s, at the prime of my life according to the magazines and blogs. Yet I was at the darkest, loneliest time of my life. I was scared to leave the house, I felt like I was claustrophobic and would die from all the air outside. Sounds silly right? Catching the bus was a big no no, I couldn’t cope with all the people. Why were they all staring at me? How long until they realized I was about to explode from all the worrying?
I counted down the days until I thought it would be my last. I secretly hoped each morning would be the day. Death felt easy because life was hard.
Everything I did felt half-hearted. I distanced from family and friends and at the time, this truly felt like the best thing to do because it was easy. In hindsight, I understand how easy doesn’t necessarily mean it is the wisest thing to do. I had never truly understood what was happening in my mind until many years later when a good friend encouraged me to speak to someone. I chose to go with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Being a logical person, I found peace in admitting there was an issue and finding a way to deal with it no matter how scary it felt. This was by far one of my strongest turning points. I finally saw I needed a helping hand.
Seeking help in my community isn’t the easiest thing to do when we are taught from an early age to just get on with things. For me, having to prove myself as an Asian as well as Muslim in a western world is difficult enough, without throwing emotions into it. The stigma attached to mental illness is all too common. People assume there has to be a recent “real” reason to feel down. A relationship break up, a death or even career failure. Why can’t we simply feel sad because it is difficult to get out of bed and face the day? Why is it after a year of experiencing a loved one’s death we should be expected to get over it? I could sit and go into that topic and be here for another rant. I’ll save that for another time.
I guess my point is, mental illness is a real thing. It is a state of being, our bodies telling us something doesn’t quite feel right. If someone broke their leg would you tell them to walk on the pain? Why do we dismiss mental health so easily when our bodies are crying out for support, help, even a hug? If you woke up today and managed to get on with your day, then well done. If you completed the task you took up weeks ago, well done. If the only thing you did today was take a shower, then well freaking done, because I know how hard it feels to muster up the energy to even open your eyes in the morning and plod along with a sunken heart.
Now having hit past my mid 20s, I feel each and every day I am understanding this pain. Sure, I still have my bad days or weeks, but this pain is no longer a burden. It is teaching me how to be stronger and see the beauty in this temporary world. Temporary.
This pain is not forever, hold on.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.
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Thinkstock photo via amana productions inc.