First, a story:
Once upon a time there was a duck. Not an ugly duckling that turned into a beautiful swan, although now that I think about it, that might’ve been what actually happened but that would be awfully narcissistic of me to say… what was I talking about again? Right, a duck. Just a regular, quacking duck.
This duck had depression and lived with the shame of having depression for 10 years. When she went to a psychologist in high school, the psychologist asked her many questions about her schoolwork and concluded that she was suffering from exam jitters. She then prescribed breathing exercises. Fair enough. The exams were coming up after all, but deep down inside, the depressed duck knew that wasn’t all there was to it. It felt a little more serious than just being nervous about exams.
One day, when the depressed duck was close to finishing her completely useless arts degree, she popped into the campus health building and asked to speak to a psychologist. See, she had made the terrible decision of taking four advanced language units together in order to fast track her graduation (for peace of mind, the depressed duck doesn’t recommend doing this) and was under an overwhelming amount of stress.
Not only that, but this year was the year some of her friends had abandoned her for reasons that continue to elude her now, although she suspects she was probably also at fault #socialanxietyproblems, #restingbitchface, #snobbyorshy. Now that her graduation was coming up around the corner, the depressed duck had no choice but to evaluate her future prospects and came to the obvious but sad conclusion that her completely useless arts degree was, in fact, completely useless. All that lead to massive feelings of failure and doubt.
Making the choice to see another psychologist was not easy. If you remember, this duck had an underwhelming experience with a prior psychologist, who diagnosed her with exam jitters. She didn’t know if this new psychologist would level another diagnosis of exam jitters as well because when she decided to see this psychologist, it was also exam period, which goes to show that the depressed duck isn’t that great with timing. Anyway, at her first meeting with this new psychologist, she decided to get straight to the point and said, “I think I might have depression.”
“Let’s do a test to find out.” The psychologist replied.
The depressed duck had never been so nervous in her entire life. What if it were true? She thought. What if I really am depressed? She had heard stories of a turtle, who was a friend of a friend of a friend, who was diagnosed with depression. He was miserable. His family was ashamed. His friends didn’t know what to make of it despite their best efforts, and came across as overly pitying. Would that be the spectacle she’d receive from her own family and friends? Nonetheless, she took the test.
“Well,” The psychologist said, scrolling through the results after a harrowing 20 minutes. “It looks like you’re right. You have clinical depression.”
So it was true?
The depressed duck had never felt so relieved! She had anticipated feelings of shame, of guilt, of inadequacy but instead, feelings of relief flooded over her as she finally had a name to the face. All those years of suffering, all 10 years of it, she finally had a name for it!
“Do I have to go on medication?” She asked.
She didn’t want to go on medication unless it was the last resort, even though her depression was bad enough to warrant it. She had read about the side effects and wasn’t willing to risk it. Also, she’s a very stubborn duck.
“No.” The psychologist replied. “We can talk it out and there are other things out there like cognitive behavioural therapy…”
One problem: the depressed duck had sought help three months before she was graduating, which meant that she had to find another therapist because she was no longer a student (students in this duck’s pond get access to the university’s medical facility for free), and she just couldn’t afford to do that.
Years went by and she let it go untreated. It got worse, predictably. It got so bad that she couldn’t even do the one thing she loved best—writing. That’s when she decided that enough was enough.
She might not be able to pay for therapy sessions, she might not want to take medicine, but she DOES want to get better.
So I changed my mindset.
This is also when I switch POVs 😛
I wasn’t going to sit here wallowing in self pity any longer with my depression controlling every aspect of my life, wondering why everyone else gets to live the easy life while I had to struggle. Maybe I can’t get rid of my depression, but I sure as hell ain’t gonna let it ruin my life!
With that in mind, I perused the web relentlessly, read all sorts of books, even tried my hand at peer-reviewed journals looking for answers (my sister is still a uni student so free access, yay)—not just empty affirmations or hackneyed platitudes, but doable, concrete plans of action that get results. No bullshit. No sugarcoating. Just simple things you can do everyday to keep your depression at bay.
Now, I won’t lie to you—you can’t completely get rid of depression (at least not clinical depression). There’s always a chance of relapse. But you can MANAGE it so when it does reoccur, it’s less potent, less damaging, less controlling.
Yes, you really can get on top of your depression!
It won’t be easy though. If you’re expecting a magic pill that makes everything better or a fairy godmother who waves a magic wand to make all the bad stuff disappear, bibbidi-bobbidi-boo, this isn’t the place for you. Depression isn’t a paper cut that you put a bandaid over and leave overnight to heal. It’s much more complicated than that.
You’ve experienced it. You know what it’s like. You know what it’s capable of.
However, if you’re willing to put in the work, overhaul your mindset, and commit to taking full control of your life, then buckle up because we’re gonna be in for a VERY rough ride.
Your friend in the trenches,
Benita AKA the depressed duck
PS: Breathing exercises might work for you. Give it a try anyway.
PPS: I decided to forgo medication but that doesn’t mean you should too. Depression affects everyone differently and what works for me may not work for you, so if you really need meds, go for it. Just be aware of the side effects and make sure you’re not taking anything that might interfere with them.