This was the question quite a few people asked me when I told them: “I’m in severe depression.” Coincidentally, most of them were adults, or rather people of my mother’s generation or thereabouts (my mother included). I guess they have a point: I had a pretty good job with all the benefits and perks as an expatriate, had a good boyfriend, had a more or less functional family, am not too ugly, and had lots of friends etc – all at the age of 28. To many people, I had it so “together.” So what was I depressed about?
I don’t know.
For the longest time I tried to find out the reasons for this “stress” that resulted in this “depression”, and to understand why I ended up in this cul-de-sac. I felt so angry at myself for being depressed, and I felt extremely guilty for being sick. I asked myself minute after minute what I was unhappy about and mused over the fact that here I was being depressed, sprawled out on my carpet in a 240 sq m apartment when there were people sleeping in the park and shivering in the merciless cold of Beijing! They had nothing to eat and yet I could have had anything I wanted but I just didn’t want to eat. They walked miles on bare feet begging for small change while I had a driver taking me to and from the hospital. What on earth was I thinking? How could I be so ungrateful? What was wrong with me?
I kept beating myself up over it, and doubted my own feelings and thoughts in depression. I couldn’t answer my mum when she asked me “why are you depressed?” nor when an auntie asked me over email “why do you need to be depressed?” I just didn’t know. I was very frustrated when they asked me and I didn’t know how to answer, feeling so guilty as if I was committing some heinous crime and now trying to hide from it. I felt that behind their questions they were accusing me of being a crybaby and I was silly to be depressed. Almost belittling. I’m sure they had no such intentions but it didn’t prevent me from feeling worse.
To be honest, to this day I cannot identify exactly the stress that caused my pain – because there was too much built up over the years, right from the days after childhood amnesia. There was a lot of little things from work and the corporate international executive lifestyle I thought I thrived on which was eroding me. I was living life robotically and brainwashing myself with this world’s standards and expectations. There was disconnect in many aspects of my life. We’ll get to all this soon enough in future posts.
But I do know that I had spent too much time feeling ungrateful, guilty, and wrong for being depressed. Time not very well spent. Actually, there is NOTHING wrong with being depressed, whoever you are or whatever situation you are in. It does not help to compare yourself with others nor feel bad for your own pain. You have as much right as any other person in this world to be depressed, if you are. It is this process of depression that helps you re-evaluate your life, your choices, your values, and to think through the past, review it, deal with it, and then let go. It is a time to extinguish the negative energy within you so you are born again, becoming a more confident person in your own right, and being who you really are.
Of course there are other ways to do this and rethink your life, and depression need not be the only way. But if this is the path you are on, do not resist it, listen to your inner thoughts and your heart and let yourself feel your emotions. Let everything come out. Cry. Shout. Yell. Sleep. Whatever it takes. Embrace depression. Tell whoever it is asking you “why do you need to be depressed” to get lost and mind their own business. You need to go through it, and let it make you stronger on the other end – so that you, too, can come in touch with your inner self and let it lead you. (And I highly recommend that you have a psychologist or counsellor you trust to support you along the way.)
Through it all now, and you can ask me again “why do I need to be depressed?” and I can tell you: because it was my body’s way of telling me, it’s now time to stop my seemingly happy life, and deal with all the unhappiness and frustrations inside of me. Otherwise, I will not only break down as I did then, but crumble into millions little pieces sooner or later and then that will be too late.
If not for depression, I cannot be me, I cannot now be natural.