I recently wrote about an experience I went through. This is without a doubt a life-altering experience, during which I tried to make sense of what was going on, not knowing for a long time that it was in fact depression, likely triggered by several recent life events. Due to various reasons, I wasn’t able to properly deal with it for a few months. Now that I am in a better place, I can reflect back on it with a more objective view.
My realization that this is depression was facilitated by analyzing my thoughts and behaviors. I oscillated between not being able to get out of bed, not doing enough, and doing too much, which then made me anxious, and that exhausted me. For a while, I tried to brush it off, thinking that I’m strong and I can beat it alone without any help. I didn’t realize how bad of an idea that was until I exploded one day because I had bottled it all up for too long. I also didn’t know how heightened my emotions could be due to a high level of stress.
It all began with feeling a lot of shame and guilt, as well as very low self-esteem.
I felt lonely and unworthy of love. I was overwhelmed. I became irritable and reactive to things, which then made me embarrassed for my behavior. I would then flip into overthinking and ruminating on things, and apologizing too much, which made it worse.
Everything became really hard to do, even simple tasks. On the opposite side, though, I would keep pushing too much once I felt good enough to do those things. So in a large sense, I was living in extremes. I knew this was ridiculous and I couldn’t figure out how to escape it.
That made me feel even more self-conscious and ashamed. My feelings of depression were mostly manifested by a lack of motivation and low mood, and some migraines. It then switched to very high levels of anxiety, and not being able to sleep at night. In some ways that was even worse to deal with, because it made me impulsive and even more reactive, resulting in some decisions that I later regretted.
Due to my anxiety, I became more convinced that nobody loved me, and started thinking that something terrible would happen pretty much all the time.
I interpreted behaviors from others as negative, and just waited for the worst-case scenario to occur. The lack of human connection and feeling unworthy of love then made me feel really lonely. I turned more to social media to try and fill that void by creating some type of connection to the outside world. But I quickly realized that it was becoming detrimental for me to be on social media and to compare what I was going through to everyone’s seemingly perfect life. That only increased my depression and anxiety. I’m learning how to use it more sparingly now, and in ways that might help maintain a connection with those far away, without relying solely on this method to stay connected with people. To use it more as an addition to my life, rather than a replacement for it. In order to try and deal with my feelings of anxiety, I started meditating, which helped only temporarily, in addition to therapy sessions where I first discovered what might be going on. After several months, I was given some medication for depression, whose positive effect I could feel pretty soon afterwards. This made it obvious that I needed to change something internally and not just externally, although these factors are all helping in combination. It took me a while to use therapy and medication. And while I had an easier time accepting that I needed therapy, it took me a while to realize how to utilize these sessions effectively in order to get to the root of the problem and begin working on it. But the day I was sent home with the medication made everything much more real that this was something serious which had to be addressed. I was reluctant to take the medication, but I knew that it was necessary so that I could get some of my life back.
Now that I feel more like myself again, I still struggle, but I’m able to look back and reflect on what I learned.
As a scientist analyzing this situation, I knew that something was definitely wrong and that I needed to gain some control over it, instead of letting it control me.
Once it was labeled as depression by a doctor, I started looking into it more. I learned from a bunch of youtube videos, as well as from a podcast, that “depression lies,” and tells you that you are worthless. Many of the things I was feeling, and the resulting behaviors, were making a lot more sense now. At the same time, I wonder about several things which made this harder to deal with. Could I have tried harder to control it? Could I have looked for resources sooner? Could I have changed my behavior alone without help? Should I have sought help sooner? What kind of help would have been best? I don’t know the answer to these questions, but I’m trying to be proactive about my healing now. Realistically, I don’t know how much of this was in my control during the time when I didn’t have any help. However, now, part of me wonders if I was using this as an excuse to not be a nice person. If depression taught me anything, it is that I can and want to do better than I have in the past, and to never be in that place again.
I want to educate myself more on how to deal with it, and learn how to be more tolerant of others who are experiencing it.
To stop pushing these feelings away and instead let them happen, be aware of them, and work through them. To stop believing the lies depression tells me, and to realize that this does not define me. To start over in a sense, and to figure out how to move forward and live life to the fullest. So I’m going to commit from now on to be the best person that I can be, which I feel is a step in the right direction.
To listen more, to be kind, to be less selfish, and to do the right thing. To apologize for hurting people, and to change my behavior if needed towards what I know to be right. To realize that some things can’t be changed, and to focus on what I can control. To spend less time on social media, and to go out and make real, genuine connections with people, which is something I had been missing. To build lasting friendships and relationships that I can rely on, and to be the kind of person that others can turn to. To go outside more, to read a book instead of being on my phone, and to learn something new every day that will help me grow. To spend more quality time with my dogs, preferably outside, although they also enjoy home cuddles. To assume the best about other people and their intentions. To look ahead and hope for the best in the future. To engage more in community, and to find hobbies and other activities that I enjoy. To forgive myself. To realize that I’m a good person and that some people out there love me. To figure out who I want to be from this point on, and to let people see the real me. To find the people who will love me just the way I am. To engage in more things that are meaningful. To be present in the moment and to listen to others, and respect their needs. To focus on, and be more grateful for, what I have in life. To pause and reflect more, and to respond rather than react. To be a positive person. To be kind and nice, and just a decent human being. I’m not saying this shift will be easy, but I’m committed to taking the first steps to turn my life around, and to hopefully also lift others in the process.
Dr. Adriana Bankston is a scientist working as a Principal Legislative Analyst in the University of California Office of Federal Governmental Relations (FGR). She obtained her PhD in Biochemistry, Cell and Developmental Biology from Emory University. Adriana is a member of the PhD Balance Development Team. She is also the Vice President of the Future for Research (FoR) and a member of the Global Consortium for Academic Mental Health (GCAMH). Learn more via Adriana's website!