Initially, I wanted to write a review of Dear Stranger: Letters on the Subject of Happiness, but after reading Bebe and Christa‘s posts about mental health (depression in particular), I decided to write a bit about mental health in the hope to raise awareness, especially here in Indonesia (the review about the book will be in the next post, I promise!).
Just a disclosure, I’m talking based on my personal experience, so it might not be the same for others. But I hope my experience can shed some light for better insights and understanding about mental health.
It all started when I came back to Indonesia, early in 2015. What started as unhappiness quickly spiraled downward, and I suddenly found myself in this situation where I felt despair. I don’t want to go into details as to why I plunge into depression, but I’m gonna write what I’ve experienced, and how I’m trying to get out of it.
How does it feel?
I don’t know how to explain this exactly. For me, it feels like being stuck in a dark hole, and I don’t see how I can get out of this, or how things will get better. Some days I feel extreme sadness, coupled with despair and hopelessness that things will stay like this, and there’s no way out. I’ve lost all sense of purpose, and I’ve also lost interest in things I used to love. I used to have many interests; photography, traveling, reading, writing, dancing, design, etc. I love creating things and getting new experiences. But in the worst days, I can’t be bothered to do anything, let alone creating and going out. These days, I’m trying hard to stay afloat, to not drown. I don’t even expect a ‘good’ day, just an ‘okay’ day is enough for me. But even an okay day requires a lot of effort, and it exhausts me.
How does it affect me?
Physically, I have been aware of the effects on my body since early on. I started losing weight, my hair falls at a worrying rate, I’ve got insomnia, and I get ill quite often. A few times, I got illnesses that I hadn’t got for years. Mentally, in addition to what I’ve mentioned above, I also feel that I can’t think clearly, like my brain is clouded. I forget things easily, like things I said/read/wrote a few minutes earlier. It worries me a lot, this thing. Sometimes I go to the kitchen to get a glass of water, but once I’m there I can’t remember what I was going to do. This happens a lot. In the lowest times, I can’t be bothered to talk to anyone, and I become more and more introverted. This has affected my relationships with closest friends and loved ones, so now I’m putting more effort to chat with them, no matter how much I don’t feel like it.
What helps me?
I have done a lot of research about this, and I’ve tried things that said could help treating depression. So the things I write here are the ones that I’ve tried and worked on me:
- Exercise – Honestly, this is a struggle, especially when I don’t feel like getting out of bed. But I have a dog and I have to walk her every day, and I force myself to go for a run with her at least 3 times a week. Afterward, I always feel a lot better. If not happier, then less sad
- Playing with my dog – there’s so much love and loyalty in her, and to cope with depression for this long, I owe her a lot
- Writing – It doesn’t even have to be structured, or make sense. I just need to let it out, and I’ll feel lighter afterward
- Meeting up with friends – still a struggle, but I have 1 best friend who lives close by. Unfortunately due to her job we can only meet every other weekend, and I always look forward to this. Even if we just chat or watch videos on YouTube, or do nothing, I’ll feel better
- Distracting myself – In these current circumstances, there are many things that could easily upset me, or push me over the edge. I try hard not to think about those things, by distracting myself with reading, watching Friends or funny videos on YouTube (I’m not kidding, sometimes Ant and Dec and Ellen DeGeneres are the only things that could make me smile/laugh. Many thanks to them)
These are some of the things that help me, but there are lots of other ways too, and I’m planning to try these soon, including yoga and meditation.
How can I help someone who suffers from depression?
Be there, that’s the simplest and easiest thing. Don’t tell them to ‘shake it off’ or ‘snap out of it’, or don’t say ‘Why are you depressed? So many people have it worse than you.’ (depression can occur to anyone, and pointing out the fact that some people have it worse does nothing at all). Let them know that it’s okay to feel that way. Let them know that you care and you want to help, and you’re there should they need anything. Don’t be forceful, but be patient and supportive. Sometimes, little acts of kindness can go a long way, so don’t forget that too.
I think that’s all I can write about this from my experience, and I really hope this helps. I’m still trying to get out of this, and I’m taking it one day at a time. Right now, I’m forcing myself to believe that better days are coming.
Related post: Review | Dear Stranger: Letters on the Subject of Happiness