Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Rains I Must Walk Through -Living With My Depression


I've often felt frustrated over the years when trying to explain what I feel like when my depression hits. Earlier this month, for example, I had a long break from school. My last day at school ended and that night should have been a time of rest, relaxation and relief. My first term as an ESL teacher had ended. I had two weeks off, and I would be spending the bulk of it traveling around Laos, a country I've never been before. 

I had dozens of potential adventures to look forward too. Plenty of time for relaxation and respite. And yet, all I could focus on that evenings, for reasons I can't pinpoint, was a severe feeling of inadequacy, inferiority and self-loathing. All I could think of was how much I hated myself, how I wished I was a completely different person from myself. How disgusting I am because I don't have a girlfriend and how no one could possibly love me in a billion years because of my sensitivity, my belly my not so perfect teeth, etc. I'm a failure as a teacher, a failure as a writer, a failure as a person. At some points I even tell myself all the blood in my veins is shit, the pale skin I carry is the color of bird dung, Imperialism and slavery. I wish I was another race, another nationality. Any characteristics but the one I posses I deem superior and more dignified. I saw saw myself as an evil Nazi and a worthless untermensch at different times. I never fired a bullet at Auschwitz or smashed a strip of leather into ebony skin. Yet somehow, in these moments I feel I should be killed and tortured. On and on this barrage of negative thoughts went, and counting my blessings, my fortunes and the opportunity I have as 1st world citizen to do as much as I have, couldn't consul me. 

Throughout life, I've found people who don't regularly struggle with self-loathing and depression often have trouble understanding how intense and all consuming these episodes of mine are.  This depression is an external opponent using an internal voice to destroy you. Much of the time I know this poison is false, or greatly exaggerated. Yet I can't bring myself to feel positive because the negativity is so complete and overwhelming.

Depression, the kind I've dealt with for a large portion of my life, is not a force to be reasoned with. It doesn't respond to rational thought.

I've struggled to come up with an appropriate metaphor for the times when my self-hatred strikes, but the rainy season weather here in Chiang Mai inspired me lately.

It's like walking around on a sunny day, when out of nowhere the clouds grow grey and an icy downpour engulfs you and the world around you. There's nowhere near by to take shelter and there's no transportation to get you where you need to go under a metal hood. You have no choice but to walk through the downpour to your destination. You feel the rain soak every inch of clothing, your skin and you begin shivering as the cold permeates you.

You keep walking and after a while as suddenly as it appeared, the rain stops and you begin to feel warm again.

All the icy negativity, which burns through you like a frozen fire, dims and goes out.

This is what a bout of depression looks like for me. It's a storm that I, from time to time, have to endure. It's not just a bad mood or a bad day. It's a force of nature I have as much control over as the weather. It is a storm which drenches every part of me, and makes me feel cold and icy towards every part of my life, national heritage, international upbringing and general existence. I've almost let it stop me a few times. I've almost let it pound me to the ground and drown me but I've always managed to get back up.

Yet each and every time it is a struggle, one that I will probably have to contend with for the rest of my life.

Though it's at times impossible to remember during these downpours of despondency, I do try to recall the faces and voice of all the people who were willing to listen to me over the years. At times I know my constant bouts of self-loathing, put them under strain and made their lives difficult. For them I will always be grateful because they have allowed to become far stronger than I could have been alone. 



Living with these rainstorms for so long as taught me how to wrestle with them better. I can prepare myself with certain techniques and precautions to make sure the rains don't always drench me. Cognitive techniques, medication, journalling and sharing with friends are my raincoats and umbrellas. 

In spite of this I have to concede that one day this, battle might be one I cannot win. While I am stronger and certain I can walk through these times in the future, I can't be sure that one day a storm may come that will prove too much for me to handle. 



In the past, I've come close on occasion to letting the sadness guide me to a place I couldn't return from. Somehow, sometimes for reasons I haven't figured out yet, I have kept going. Hope, love present and future, and the sheer will to live despite having no clear purpose or discernible reason to keep living, can be as strong a force as despair. 



No comments:

Post a Comment