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How I’m Moving Forward After Years of Depression 'Hibernation'

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I felt like waking up from a thousand-year slumber, opening my eyes to the world again. This summer, my husband and I went to a city close to where we live, where I had spent a lot of time in the past. First, as a student and later when I commuted to work there daily. Now, a few years later, the city felt completely foreign to me. New shops and restaurants everywhere. Some places I used to frequent were gone. Walking through the city, I felt like a tourist who had never been there before. But it wasn’t just the city that seemed unfamiliar. Being outside, in the real world, made me feel like a fish out of water. It was terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.

I have lived with anxiety all my life, but four years ago, I got caught in a downward spiral. I had daily panic attacks, severe depressive symptoms and my health went downhill along with it. I had to quit my job and was stuck sitting at home feeling awful. My panic attacks and bad health kept me from leaving the house. I lost all interest in things I used to enjoy. People would tell me that it must be great to have so much free time on my hands, but to me, it was like floating around in nothingness. Completely lost and disconnected from the world and myself. All I managed to do was lay in bed and stare at the wall or watch TV all day.

Being in this state lasted for about two and a half years. I have recently been doing better. It has taken a tremendous amount of work, effort and energy to pull myself out of this pit of darkness and despair. But the time I lost to being ill, I’m never getting back.

I missed a lot of life itself. I missed out on spending time with family and friends. I couldn’t attend weddings or christenings, birthday parties or family dinners. No holidays, going shopping, hobbies, making friends. Life just stopped dead in its tracks. I’m 36 now and I have no idea how I got here. I don’t remember anything from the past few years, like they never happened.

Having lost several years of learning, progressing and gaining experience in life and my profession, it has left me feeling left behind. I would love to start working again, but I don’t even know where to begin. It feels impossible to catch up. What was state of the art four years ago is now ancient history. The things I learned for my master’s degree are basically obsolete. I honestly feel too ashamed to even apply for a job because I don’t know how to explain what happened to me and I don’t see why anyone should hire me.

So, where do I even begin? I ask myself this question every day. What can I even do to catch up? Is there even a point in trying? There is this huge mountain of work in front of me and it’s completely debilitating.

The pressure is all mine. My husband and family are just glad I’m starting to come to life again. They just want me to build a life for myself that will make me happy and that is sustainable with my health problems. But before I got ill, I was an overachiever, perfectionist, workaholic. I still haven’t come to terms with the fact, that I can’t compare myself to healthy people. I expect myself to function. Anything else is a failure. I feel like a failure every day.

But when I think about the future, I don’t want to spend the rest of my life sitting at home feeling like I’m not good enough. I didn’t put in all the work to find my way out of the darkness to sit at home and watch my life go by.

So, I have decided that every journey starts with one step. However small that may be. I can’t catch up with four years of stagnation in a few months. I have to give myself time and space to grow. When you put a seed in the ground, you don’t expect it to become a flower overnight. From now on, my goal is to get up and use my time. This can mean going outside for a walk, cooking, reading a book, playing a board game with my husband, writing, doing some online courses and just generally exposing myself to new things. And with every activity I do, it develops some sort of skill.

There will be progress. And that is enough.

Getty Images photo via demaerre

Originally published: November 6, 2020
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