Friday, September 14, 2012

On Depression and the Fragile Human Psyche

This post will have a bit of a different tone and is a lot more word-heavy than most. I like to stay positive and share the good on here because I think the world needs more positivity. And at this current stage in my life, things really have been going great and I have a lot of reasons to be positive, so it’s genuinely me right now. But you know, life is never perfect and I thought I’d share a little bit more. It’s long, but I really hope you read through it. =)

Buying a house is interesting. I’ve shared some of my excitement about it on here in small bits, but it’s also a huge process. I can’t wait to slowly realize my vision for the place. But right now, there’s a lot of things that require time, money, and energy. It’s stressful for everyone involved, and like any stressful situation, it tends to exacerbate certain qualities in people. I’m generally fairly private about my relationship, so I don’t share a whole lot about it here, positive or negative. Like any relationship, there’s ups and downs. Moving brought out a few of the downs for both of us and it has made me realize a few things. Humans are so fragile. We know how fragile our bodies are – sometimes it shocks me how many things out there are dangerous, how there are so many things out there that we are vulnerable to. But what I’ve really thought about lately is the fragility of our psyches and our happiness. Maybe it isn’t that way for some people, but I think it is for a lot of others.

Sometimes I read other bloggers’ entries about depression, about insecurities that plague them, about their fears. And sometimes, I'm ashamed to say, my initial reaction is, “that’s silly – life is so good and we’re so fortunate… how could anyone be that sad about it all of the time?” But I immediately think back to most of my life, throughout high school and most of college.

Here’s the thing. I had no real reason to be unhappy, as if you need one. I didn’t understand people who weren’t unhappy, and I didn’t understand why I was. Circumstances obviously make a big difference, but for me, I think it was just inherent. I needed a reason to be happy and I didn’t have one. I just felt very blah about everything. Feeling depressed wasn’t being sad all of the time, it was just not caring about anything. I remember this event freshman year of college. I used to play tennis and be really obsessed with it… and I had the opportunity to go with fellow tennis club members to see the Venus sisters play a tournament, along with other top tennis stars. I sat there, watching the Venus sisters play, thinking, this should be one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had, and instead I was just wondering, why isn’t this making me happy? Why can’t I be excited about this? I should be thrilled! What’s wrong with me?

I eventually worked through things, and once I became more sure of myself, more comfortable with who I am, who I wanted to be, and what I wanted to accomplish, happiness slowly started to follow. I also really hate to admit this because I very strongly value my independence, but being in a relationship has always helped me feel more stable and happy as well. I know, it’s a silly thing to resent. But as much as I’d like to think I would be stable and happy on my own, I just don’t know. I haven’t really been single for an extended period of time since high school.

So this just sounds like a long pointless entry now, but I do have a few things I want to say. And I really want to emphasize that I don't think I'm any kind of expert on depression. As with any other emotion, depression manifests itself in all sorts of ways. People react differently. I realize that. So I'm writing this based on my own experiences, with no claim that I understand exactly what it's like to other people. But help me learn - if you have experienced (or are experiencing) it yourself, it can be terrifying to talk about, but it's important. I hope you write about it, talk to other people, leave me a comment or e-mail, or share in whatever other way works for you. Without further ado, here are some thoughts.

1.       If you are a naturally happy person, kudos! I really do think you’ve won the life lottery (in this regard). But please just understand that some people don’t need a reason to be unhappy, they just are. Just because they seem to have everything and there’s nothing to be ungrateful about doesn’t mean they can just force themselves to be happy. (A recent internet example I found interesting was Bloggess, who has been open about her lifelong struggle with depression.) For some people it takes a lot of work and it’s something they have to actively work toward, work through unhappiness, work on being more comfortable with themselves, or work on opening up emotionally. Unhappiness can often seem selfish, because it is. But that doesn’t mean an unhappy person is just a selfish/self-absorbed person. When you’re inherently unhappy with yourself or your life, it’s so, so hard to see beyond that because it clouds everything else. It’s like you’re driving, and your windshield just keeps getting foggier and foggier. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad driver, you just can’t see what’s going on outside as well and you have to work on clearing it up inside first. So if you are fortunate enough not to have experienced this, please don’t judge those who have. And please try your best to be understanding. It really, really helps.

2.       If you are unhappy yourself, you can get through it. I honestly don’t remember ever being truly happy for more than a few months at a time… until just a few years ago. There are so many causes of unhappiness (or, as I mentioned, some people just naturally are), but if you try to continually improve your life and yourself, I really believe/hope you will get there naturally. Of course everyone is different, and this may not work for everyone, but it’s worth a shot. Though I’ve never been to therapy, I imagine a large part of why it works is because it helps to tell people things, to say it out loud, to admit things and let out your emotions. I used to think I was a very unemotional person because, well, I was. It took me a long time to realize that I actually have quite strong emotions. But because I was proud and who knows why else, I didn’t want anyone to think I was emotional, or to ever show weakness of any kind. I was so proud that I almost never cried in front of anyone. But that was a lie. When I really, really needed to cry, I learned to suppress it all day and act fine. Then I would wait until it was night time and I was all alone. I’d lock my bedroom door, the door to the attached sink/closet/bathroom area, and then close the door to my walk-in closet. And sit in the closet and cry alone, hidden safely behind three layers of doors. Or I'd cry in the shower at night, where no one could see or know, and then I'd wash away my tears and go to sleep.

I forced myself not to care, and eventually I didn’t. But for me, I couldn’t just suppress the sadness. It came as a package deal. If I couldn’t be sad, I couldn’t be happy, like a big blanket over my emotions. Hence, I was just nothing most of the time, which really is one of the most terrible things to be. Work on yourself. Figure out what you want from life, what you want from yourself, and then do it. And that’s much easier said than done, because (for me, at least) the nothingness feeling meant I also didn’t want to do anything. But doing something sometimes is just trying to understanding yourself. First step to self-improvement, I'd think. Write a journal. Write down goals and work through them slowly. Your goals can be small to avoid getting overwhelmed and giving up. But it gets easier and easier. I promise. And don’t be afraid to talk to someone about it, someone you truly trust. If they laugh at you or treat you like a freak (which I really hope they wouldn’t), they didn’t deserve to be trusted in the first place. Depression is something so many people go through – it shouldn’t be embarrassing. I write that, knowing it can be, and that I'm afraid to write about this here, where a lot of people I know can read it. But it shouldn’t be embarrassing. So let’s break that. I promise myself I am going to post this.

It’s so easy to be jealous of other people who appear happy - people who have things you think would make you happy, like money or beauty or talent or a slim figure, whatever it is you covet. But when it comes down to it, happiness is something that comes from you. It’s in your mind, part of that fragile psyche. So who cares what the heck other people are doing? I’m not saying envy is easy to get rid of, but it doesn’t help. So try your best to look within instead of looking at what everyone else has around you, because the answer really is within.

You know what I learned about me? That I’m an introvert, and I need time alone to recharge. But if I get too much time alone I psych myself out and depress myself. I think about friendships lost, things I consider failings in my life, how much I need to do but haven't done yet, etc. So I need a good balance, and I don’t apologize for that. If I need alone time, I take it, I don’t go to a group event just because I should, or sometimes I leave early if I need to. Being around people constantly wears me out and when I’m worn out, I’m stressed and more prone to feeling depressed. I plan my schedule and agree to or say no to things as necessary. I try my best to be a very, very good friend, but I can't be a good friend if I'm a mess. So sometimes I don't pick up my phone when I'm in a mood and need some time for myself. It works for me. I choose the people in my life very carefully, and they are ok with me and my random quirks. I've made sure my boyfriend understand the importance - when I really want to leave a party or sometimes if I really don't want to go in the first place, he gets it. Who you surround yourself with makes a huge difference.

3.       If you went through a period of depression in your life and you’ve conquered it, congrats! I hope you will use your own experiences to help others, rather than to judge others who haven’t conquered their demons. Nowadays, it is so easy to sometimes read entries about other people’s struggles with depression and think, snap out of it. I did. But I didn’t. I’m not sure it’s even possible. I don’t ever want to forget. Not because I think we should dwell on it, but because like anything else, we can learn. We can learn to be there for others, to be patient, because I needed that from others back then. And don't forget to appreciate anyone who helped you sort things out. This is my reminder to myself… never forget. Use my experiences for good, to help me appreciate things I have, what I’ve accomplished, how I’ve grown in so many ways and moved toward my goals.

If you've read through all of this, thank you! If you feel comfortable, I would appreciate so much if you would share any of your thoughts or experiences.


  1. You are very brave for making this post. Reminded me a lot of my early high school days. Those were some very lonely and empty days but It got better. Pick your friends wisely.

    1. I agree - so much of it is who you surround yourself with. Thanks, Angel!

  2. -hugs- thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences, and i'm really glad that you've found ways to help yourself :)
    last year, after my best friend left for university, i was depressed for several months. (i didn't realise it at the time, but looking back...) it took me a while to get used to everything changing, and the thought that soon the person leaving will be me is occasionally terrifying... but i try to remember to breathe and distract myself.
    i too am an introvert, so i understand needing time to yourself for sure!

    1. Thanks for sharing, Zia. That's the funny thing about depression sometimes - you don't always realize you are. I would sometimes think, well I'm not suicidal, I don't think I need medicine, I'm not sad all the time, I must be fine. But I clearly wasn't.

      Hugs to you too!

  3. A very well written post. This is a subject I struggle with a lot, as I have known people that shout positivity from the roof tops yet never confront the sadness within them- because it's a sign of weakness, or negativity breeds more negativity. I'm not saying we should all walk around bummed out all the time, but talking time (like you have) to acknowledge things that suck is seems to be the best path to happiness. After all, nothing comes without struggle, right?

    1. Thank you, Michelle. I appreciate your response and I totally agree with you. We don't have to dwell on the sadness, but it's better to acknowledge and face it together. =)


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