what I wish I knew about depression


A few days ago I spoke to Marty Wilson through a friend’s introduction. Marty was working on a new book project, “What I Wish I Knew About Depression” and was interviewing people about their experience.

He started the conversation with something I had written in the introduction of this blog. I had said: “Thank you sickness. Thank you depression.” He asked me why.

Because depression changed my life – for the better.

This was unexpected. My physical pains and emotional agony were my wake up call from a life I did not choose to live. It was my heart’s way of vying for attention, because I had ignored the small voice inside of me for so long. The endeavour to be what others wanted me to be, to chisel into perfection the image society would laud and honour, over exerted my soul, body, and mind. I had enough. But I was stubborn and did not take a break. So mini-me decided to stomp on the emergency breaks as protest. I collapsed like an air statue suddenly devoid of helium.

Had it not been depression, I might still be running on a treadmill aimlessly, going nowhere, and doing something I did not love, even though I was good at it. I could have broken down more severely.

Every time I think of those inexplicable, dark, murky days in where I could not control my thoughts, emotions or behaviour, consumed by lassitude and anguish, my heart muscle winces. It is not an experience I wish to go through again or wish on anyone.

Yet, self-tortuous as I am, I do sometimes think I should relive those days.
If I had known about depression, and the metamorphosis I would undergo, I would have let myself embrace the destitute hopelessness to a fuller extent to reap the lessons more patiently. Instead, I was in a hurry to get out of the state. I was frustrated at having to take anti-depressants every day. I was angry with myself for not being able to “pull myself together” when everyone told me to. I did not understand what I was going through.

However, when I was livid, distressed, in grief, in despair, in manic tears, in a tantrum, or simply rotting on my couch, I was at my most expressive time. Words tumbled out in my mind, thoughts penetrated through the subconscious, and suppressed emotions blossomed.

I wish I had written more of that down instead of swearing at my journal. I re-read one of the entries and all it said was “Fxxk this and fxxk that and fxxk life” etc. But there is no going back, and I do not regret how I faced this dark monster.

Indeed, I have qualms with painting such a bleak picture of depression. For a long time, I placed it across the enemy lines and made depression an opponent – something I had to win over, had to be stronger than, and more powerful than.

I tried to control depression. I tried to defeat it. However, that was exactly why depression consumed me.

The more I fought, the more it entangled. The day I noticed the glimpse of aura (unlike the aura I saw at the onset of an excruciating migraine) beyond depression, the dark force shattered, fragment by fragment.

Depression is not foe; depression is friend.

As Buddha would say: pain is inevitable, but suffering is by choice.

Depression is an angel, to bring a message, but in a way we did not expect and so we cast it outside. We define it as negative because our learned conditional responses equated any pain or despair as negative. We hide under the comfort zone to commiserate with other victims of this illness. We judged it with preconceptions before it had a chance to be heard.

If I could, I would go through the same pain again. Only this time, I would not classify the pain as something to get rid of, nor would it be a treacherous shark. It was only by my own decision that I let the pain devour me. I would embrace the messages the pain wanted to deliver. I would listen to my body and my soul. I would look for the root causes of the situation instead of trying to get rid of the painful symptoms.

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The pain is neutral; my suffering and my verdict that depression was an enemy, was subjective.

Once I opened up to it, listened to it, embraced it, depression became less threatening. Depression built my character, it reinforced self-awareness, it taught me to express my emotions, it brought me back writing, to cooking, and introduced me to Bearapy.

Take your time.

Let depression be a guiding light to a better understanding of your emotions, thoughts and behaviour.

Let it build you, prepare you, train you to become greater than you dare imagine.

You will get better. You will be better.

And so again, thank you sickness, thank you depression.

19 Responses

  1. Leslie says:

    Wow. I think this is one of the most gorgeous and powerful things you’ve ever written. Thank you for sharing this appreciative and illuminating perspective.

    Be well,

  2. TonyB says:

    I’m going to try to buy into this, but I know it’s going to be hard. Very hard.

    • nochnoch says:

      good luck Tony B
      I hope you can view it the same, and harness the power of depression to other outlets and creativity and know yourself more
      Take care
      noch Noch

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  4. Dipali says:

    When i was reading this i felt, hey this is what i felt last year. I had major depressive disorder and it changed my life. Listening and expressing emotions this is what i did not do. Thank you for sharing your experience its really helpful..

  5. temi says:

    Hey NochNoch 🙂

    I’m a student in college, and last week, in combination with my academic load, over worrying, a boy situation, and just LIFE, I completely snapped. I knew it was coming – I could feel the tension build day by day – but chose to ignore it. Eventually, it boiled down to me running down the hall to my best friend’s room to just have company. I was scared to be alone – I felt alone – and didn’t feel safe by myself because of certain, dark thoughts. I had to sleep with her beside me for two days, with me tossing and turning and getting worse and worse until I released my inner torment in a horrible animal-like crying seizure. She pushed me to take several days off from college, even though I didn’t want to. I’m so glad I did – I feel better even though I have much work to catch up on. However, I’m still recovering and have serious bouts of highs and low moods.

    Then I discovered your blog. It was amazing how every thought and point of view I had going through this difficult time of my life was being displayed in black and white right in front of me, AND by a different person. I didn’t think anyone could feel the same way as I did! I’ve been exploring it non-stop the past fifteen minutes and its brought SO much comfort and light. Thank you so so much for writing it and don’t ever stop being active! (on your blog and in your life too :)) Hope you reply soon, because I don’t think you’re real. 🙂

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Temi

      Good to meet you here! Hahah, I assure you, I am very real – you can check my facebook and twitter pages to ensure that too ahhaha 🙂
      I am happy to hear of your experience – not because you were suffering, but because you found company and help in your time of challenge. I am thank ful for your friend. I hope you also see your college counselor, s/he might also have some professional advice for you to avoid going back into the low moods.

      I am flattered you enjoy my blog and resonate with my writing. I am pleasantly surprised, for I am now 30 years old and I thought no one else younger or older would understand. But it also serves as an assurance to me that what I feel and think is not just me alone. We are very much in the company of others and can find solace in each other. So thank you for reminding me of this truth which I tend to forget.

      Please feel free to write to me any time you wish to. I cannot give professional advice but I can definitely listen and empathize and share my thoughts.

      Now, I hope YOU are real… haha just kidding
      Take care
      Noch Noch

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about Noch Noch

Enoch Li, (pen name: Noch Noch) was born and raised in Hong Kong and Australia. She has also studied / worked / lived in the US, France, UK, Japan, The Netherlands, China, and has travelled to more than 40 countries. She loves travelling and her curiosity in foreign cultures and languages has led her to enjoy her life as an international executive in the banking & finance industry. However, she was forced to take time off work in 2010 due to her illnesses and after spending time in recovery, cooking, practising Chinese calligraphy, reading and writing – in short, learning to take care of herself and letting out the residual work stress, she has transitioned into a Social Entrepreneur and founded BEARAPY to help corporates make workplaces mentally healthy, and support executives to become more resilient.