Everyday I look at myself and think I am doing okay. Yet something tugs at me inside, as if more repairing work needs to be done. I did not know what it was until a meeting at the clinic recently – self-confidence needed rebuilding.
Most people who know me know I am opened to sharing my experience in clinical depression and burnt out. In fact, I want to approach more people in the community and raise awareness. My psychologist was supportive and we discussed holding a talk at the clinic. So, a few weeks ago I attended a meeting with him and the Marketing Manager of the clinic to talk about the idea and details.
I was brought up to the office floor of the clinic. As I stepped out from the steps into the staff area, which was usually out of bounds for patients, my head reeled at the kaleidoscope of fluorescent lights meshed with the hint of grey carpeting. Whitish grey desks spiraled into clusters. Computer screens crowded out the eye level. The humdrum of people conversing, photocopiers performing their duties and phones squealing shocked my cochlea.
Holding on to the railing of a cubicle wall, I edged into the meeting room with trepidation. Four chairs and a table crowed the tiny space, with a whiteboard at the back. An intercom spider phone sprawled in the middle of the table. I shuddered and stood at the entrance, mesmerized by flashbacks of client and office meetings. A few years back, I would arrive at a conference room, and knew exactly which chair to take for what meeting. Today, I was lost and stood frozen until the marketing manager invited me to take a seat.
My psychologist walked in and after niceties, we proceeded with the meeting. Ideas were thrown around, brainstormed. I followed their agenda. It was a strange situation for me – habit dictated that I led the meeting and discussion. I squirmed, and forced myself to stop thinking of the meetings in the past and focus on the one now.
We talked about the flow of the meeting, what my psychologist would present, and what I would speak about to the audience. We wanted to focus on what depression felt like, what I did to save myself and how I deal with depressive realities on a daily basis. I asked a few questions to participate in the conversation, answered a few and 20 minutes ticked away.
My voice was stuck in my throat, dry and strained. I did not sound like myself. I felt subdued yet tried to be chirpy. My toes were perspiring discomfort in my sandals. I kept my head down, pretending to be busy taking notes on my iPad. I could not look anyone in the eye, not even my psychologist whom I had seen for three years.
Two years ago when I met my Regional Head to catch up, and to tell him I wanted to quit, I was puzzled by what he told me towards the end of our coffee chat. He said to me, “Noch Noch, take some time to rebuild your confidence. No need to hurry.”
I did not understand. I thought all it took was for me to be not depressed anymore and life would be the same again.
Rebuilding of the self, the core, the mind, took much longer than I anticipated.
The environment has changed. Things have changed. I have changed. Although I am still who I was at the core, comfort zones have shifted. What was once natural to me has become foreign. Socializing, networking, voicing out, meetings, interaction – all new to me again. The presence and calmness I once owned in front of crowds shriveled.
Re-establishing one’s identity is perhaps one of the biggest challenges for someone coming out of depression.
The sight of an office setting could have sent me into a panic attack had I not been in the protected realms of my psychologist.
I thought I was slowly recovering and so did not expect my shocked reaction at seeing people at work. I did not realize I was still mending in some areas. I have to practice again. I have to let myself through perceived embarrassment again to reorient my comfort zones. My self-confidence and identity needed restoration.
The only way to do so was to put myself out there, inch by inch, meter by meter. Try again. Let myself immerse in situations that make me anxious and learn to manage it.
Public speaking was my forte until 3 years ago. This talk at the clinic will be my baby step to venture back into groups and crowds of strangers. I know I will feel uncomfortable and nervous (I always did before anyways but just somehow managed to not show it) in front of the audience, but I know people will not judge me.
I do not need to be perfect. I do not need to fit into the suave image I conjured up. I do not need to be a seasoned orator. I just need to be me.
Two steps forwards. One step back. To move forward.
What are your perceived steps backwards today? How could they actually propel you forward?