Mental Health during Lockdown: Lessons I learned from my tryst with depression

Depression- The Devil Inside Me

When I discovered that I am suffering from depression, I just didn’t know how to accept it. At one end, it was a relief because I had a problem that only I could see and others could not, like a ghost. Visiting a psychiatrist, getting a screening done and labeling my issues with a name assured me that there is a hope that I would be alright. But at the other end was a dark tunnel. I didn’t know when exactly would things get better or would it even get better. What if it stays there for a lifetime? This didn’t appear to be a life-altering disease, at least to people around me. But it did alter something. My identity. The way I used to think, the way I reacted to situations, the feelings I had for people around me.

Everything appeared blurred. Everything seemed to be distant. I felt as if the world was going away at supersonic speed and I was locked inside a statue, not moving, just watching. You would think I didn’t even try to get better but I did. I would make plans, very detailed plans, would even draw charts- when to wake up, what to eat, what exercises to do, people I need to talk to, jobs I need to apply for. I would wake up and listen to special playlists I had created, full of motivational songs, I would talk myself into doing things as per the plan, I would keep reciting inspirational quotes like nursery rhymes, in a desperate attempt to hold the fort. I would last for an hour and two and then I would be so tired that staring at the ceiling would be the only thing I would be capable of doing.

Did Things Change With Time?

To say that one day, it all changed suddenly would be like writing a happily ever after epilogue for a fairy tale. It wasn’t easy. And nothing was the same. I felt better when I stopped fighting with myself to get my old life back. It was more like surrendering myself to the inner devil and accepting defeat. All the long term, short term plans were thrown away and the only objective was to breathe and to survive. I forgot what all I aspired for, the college degrees I accumulated were useless for me. I just wanted to live. I just wanted to keep myself busy.

As I started accepting myself, things did get better. And then came the struggle to get back to normal adult life- meeting up to the family’s expectations now that the sickness was over, trying to get in touch with friends who I lost during the entire ordeal and getting a job that might not pay me as good as the previous one but would at least help me stay afloat. It felt as if I had returned from time travel or I had slipped into a coma and had just gained consciousness. The world had never been the same.

How Writing Helped Me?

There was a lot to vent out but no one to listen. Of course, I had great friends but after some time, I felt I had overstayed the welcome. During those days of darkness, I came across a few questions on Quora- some well-meaning friend was really confused about how to behave around their depressed friend? That question could have been answered by anyone but I had this feeling that finally, finally someone asked me how should have people treated me while I was fighting depression? I answered that question with all the love I had in this world and it made me feel better. And from that day onwards, I write about my mental health- not because I see it as a career choice or as a hobby but because of a compulsion. Every time I feel vulnerable, undermined, or not understood, I pour my feelings in a blog post. Blogging has become my therapist writing and reading blogs my therapy sessions.

Identifying Myself As A Blogger

Exactly one year back, a popular online website recognized me as a mental health blogger. Since then, I have been contacted many times, for articles, for discussions, for collaborations and sometimes just like to convey appreciation and support. To say that I don’t enjoy the attention would be a lie but honestly, sometimes it does feel like committing a fraud. What do bloggers do? They are influencers who inspire and motivate people with their content. Their most important characteristic is their regular presence. They are always there, with their followers. Is it something I do? Barely. There are instances when my inbox is just full of unread messages and I spend time trying to find solace in my pillows.

How Am I Coping With The Lockdown?

During this difficult period when people are looking around for support, for mental health advice, for tips to be productive despite the gloom, I am sitting on my bed, rocking my anxiety to sleep. What did I think seriously? That I would be able to finish all my pending projects? That I would win this work-from-home game? That I would write that book I have been procrastinating for the last two years? Is it a holiday? Hell no! It is a very unfortunate period when people are just falling sick and dying as if Thanos has just snapped his fingers. You are away from your loved ones and your overthinking mind is just asking you questions like – if something happens to your family members, how would you even reach there to help? Would you have a steady source of income once this is over?

For the last three weeks, I have been fighting with this situation, just like the time when I discovered that I was depressed. I have tried all the tips- from exercising to painting to cooking to binge-watching.

Did it bring any peace to me? No.

Did I spend the last month struggling with the thought that maybe I am having a relapse? Yes.

Do I know any way better than bring on my survival mode? No

So what’s my next step going to be? To survive…. to accept my vulnerability, to surrender and just let this storm pass

This might include

  • Not watching the news
  • Asking people for more time to complete pending projects. I am sure they would understand.
  • Avoiding social media if it is making me anxious or envious or inferior
  • Choosing peace of mind above everything else
  • Keeping my ego aside and asking for help
  • Talking to self like a friend.  I know I won’t be disappointed.

And most importantly, I need to be kind- to myself and to others. I am entitled to feel anything but when communicating with others, I need to remember, we all are victims to the same circumstances. I might be lonely, angry, disappointed but the people I meet are not the reasons. They too are the sufferers.

I know it’s a long post and I am not sure if anyone right now wants to read this. But if you have reached here, do let me know how are you managing. I would love to know if you are doing well, taking good care of yourself and your loved ones.

Also, please don’t take my speech on do’s and don’t very seriously. Every individual has his/her own coping mechanism. I don’t know your story. This post is more of a note to self kind of post.

But I hate to end my posts with sad lines so here’s a good thing that happened to me- I could see the stars in the night sky once again, after decades. It might be due to low pollution level or it might be because of my efforts to reconnect with old childhood memories but it’s definitely like getting a piece of childhood back.

Take care. Stay safe.

PS: Here’s a song that gives me the hope of a better future every time I listen to it

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