Shadow of sadness: My journey of depression and recovery
I was 18 years old and unaware of many feelings and thoughts. I was very enthusiastic about life and looking forward to learning so much that was yet to come my way. When I finished school, I felt I'd stepped into adulthood and felt like such a grown up. That feeling was great and really encouraged me to have a positive approach to life and not be afraid to face challenges. I considered myself to be a very strong person, who wouldn't break easily.
In 2000, I started college where I became very popular with my large group of friends. Life was great, with no stress or worries and no fear of what was going to happen tomorrow. Family life was ideal and I was very happy at home. I felt very secure around my parents and siblings.
At that age, it's hard to stop the giggles once they start. Together with my sisters, we could laugh at anything. Fun, gossip, and shopping were what life was all about. Home was where mum, dad and my sisters were. My sisters were my best friends, they were my life, my best gifts.
Our house was always busy and noisy, but in this noisy house one day I woke up feeling like something inside me had changed. I heard a strange silence that nobody else could hear. Even around my sisters, I felt a bit lonely, it was strange. I had never felt like this before. I thought it must be one of those days but when that silence continued for some time, I tried figuring out on my own why I didn't feel like talking as much. Why didn't I want to see my friends? Why did I want to rush home before the day had ended? I didn't have answers.
When I experienced consistent extreme sadness, I thought to myself "maybe I am just changing as a person." Other times I tried reassuring myself by thinking that I will feel better soon. Eventually, it became very difficult and painful to make the simplest move to get out of bed in the morning and go to college. I didn't want to meet anybody, didn't want to see my friends or take their calls.
It was easy to pretend to myself that I had a migraine so wasn't going out but it was equally hard to hide in my duvet and stay in as this was later followed by the guilt of missing my college lectures and falling behind with my work. My number of friends started reducing as the number of sick days increased. My performance at the college dropped and I couldn't achieve the grades that I was capable of. This left me worrying about my future and uncertain about what options I had left.
I was waiting for the academic year to end as I imagined I would feel better if my surroundings changed. During that summer, I went out of the country for two months but only to come back and find myself feeling like I had fallen down into a deep dark well where I had given up hope of ever coming back out again. I was trying to make my peace inside this well instead of screaming and shouting out for help.
After returning from abroad, I became so depressed that I couldn't go back to college and resigned from my part-time job. I was unaware of what went wrong. Sometimes I used to think maybe I needed help, then I would think but help for what? Feeling sad all the time? I didn't know I had become severely depressed and could have received some form of treatment or help by approaching the right professional.
Everything seemed so meaningless and empty. It felt as if no one would understand how I felt. If anyone did ask, I had no words.
Every morning the day coming ahead felt like a huge mountain that I had to climb without help, without a rope or harness. Every afternoon I waited for the evening then during this time I hated to look out and see some darkness and some leftover dying sunshine.
Finally, the day would end and I couldn't wait for sunrise again. From morning to afternoon, I began counting months and years to pass by in the hope of feeling the happiness which I had lost. No matter what I did and where I went, I couldn't escape from the sadness within. That sadness felt like a scary shadow that chased me everywhere.
There was a race going on within, I wanted to win against that sadness but I was losing. The world and life ahead felt scary. I didn't want to face anything and wanted to hide. That's when my little bedroom became my shelter where I found some comfort and peace. I felt helpless and couldn't leave my room for days.
Every morning I sat on my bed staring out of the window for hours as I enjoyed watching nature. I watched leaves falling from trees and flowers growing. Through that window, I saw the seasons changing. I wasn't helping my situation at all by locking myself in my bedroom. Eventually, I started having health problems. Everything had gone downhill, from my education to my appearance. I had lost my self-esteem and confidence.
With a lot of encouragement from my sister, I went back to college. But I didn't feel better. I tried very hard not to feel depressed but this monstrous, scary shadow just didn't leave me alone, it was with me everywhere I went. I felt in a mess and couldn't see a way out.
This is when the concept of death seemed interesting; it felt like a way out. I felt relieved thinking that one day I was going to die and everything will be OK. Instead of living my life, I found myself waiting for the end of life, for death. It felt like an escape. I couldn't see how life was better than death. Eventually, death became an enjoyable idea.
It is likely that a person feeling depressed and/or experiencing suicidal thoughts may not reach out for help, as they may feel hopeless. This is where family or friends can help and support. If you know a person who is struggling then ask them how you can help. Talk to them.
My reason for sharing my personal experience is to increase awareness for anyone who may be suffering what I suffered and to encourage them to call for help. Silence will not help you and help is available for you. If you feel consistent sadness then you could be suffering from depression.
Some people are aware that they need help but do not ask due to the stigma that society has put on people suffering any mental health conditions. All mental health conditions are biological, they are the same as being epileptic, asthmatic or having a broken bone. We are not embarrassed or hesitant when telling anyone about these illnesses, so why do we encourage stigma on mental health by hiding any mental health conditions?
Talking to family or friends can help but the best way is to seek help from a professional, a counsellor, psychotherapist or psychologist, who offers a safe, confidential space for you to share your deep feelings and experiences.
Some people with this mental health condition will feel better just over time. Studies show that depression can be triggered by a life-changing event or at times there may not be any reason for its occurrence and it could take a person a few years to have a normal life again. In my case, it took me several years to feel back to normal life, just to simply feel happy again.
There was an event that took place in my life which triggered depression. Many years passed, life moved on and that scary shadow disappeared over time, but it took away many years of my life – those years I was breathing but wasn't living. But, those years also taught me so much about life, about happiness and sadness.
Today, I appreciate the smallest and the biggest things that I am blessed with, whether that's my lovely small family or the air I breathe in. I am thankful for everything that I have in my life. Today, 20 years later, I feel grateful that I decided to live, despite all hardships.
I can't get those years back or make up for them. But what I can do is make the most of it now and just live in the present, not past or future, just present.
My experience taught me the value of empathy, the value of human connection, and the value of care for other people. Some years after I recovered, I asked myself what I should do with this experience? What should I do with this new respect for life? I felt a very deep and strong emotion and ability to understand, feel others' pain and empathise with them – because I felt the deepest sadness myself, I knew what it was like to hurt.
And so, I wanted to help others heal and recover – that’s when I decided to become a counsellor, and I completed my counselling training last year and with a student of the year award.
I recovered fully many years ago and chose to start all over again and be happy. In the end, I got to decide how to treat life. Once again, I am ready to take on more challenges that life may bring. Life is precious and great and everyone has the right to be happy.