A bit of history
It has been more than 10 years since I had the first real-life contact with depression. Back then it was not about me - of course not! At that time one of my best friends attempted s*icide for the first time. Theoretically I knew about depression and mental health. In practise I did not know anything. Above all I did not recognise anything 'looking like depression' before that very day.
A couple of years later I met my partner, Andreas, who also fought with depression and anxiety. We shared an intense time, we went through the ups and downs for almost two years. He went twice to hospital for some months. We both thought (hoped?) it would get better. Until that very day when he finally decided to end his life (link to blogpost currently only in German).
My world got dark in October 2012.
After staying strong for some time after Andreas' death I finally visited my doctor. I told them that I feel "not functioning well". My world just didn't get bright again after some months. I got diagnosed with a depressive episode. So we agreed on me taking supporting medication over a couple of months to finally get my mood back on track. Also I went to see a psychotherapist. And as time went by I felt better again. I just grieved a bit too long, right?
Everything was functioning "normal" again: meeting friends, doing sports, being successful at work, having a relationship, changing jobs, meeting new people, going to conferences, studying psychology, relationships breaking up, moving a couple of times, still having close friends, pursuing my career... all the stuff and the usual ups & downs in life, right?
Most of the time I really enjoy(ed) life with all its facets. Anyhow, from time to time it felt like some things take a tiny bit more energy than they should.
"That's normal", I told myself. "Life is not always a holiday" that inner voice whispered. "You have to work hard for success and for positive feelings!"
Over the last two years I took part in several IT or agile (un)conferences. There I met a couple of awesome people and also some new friends. Some of those awesome people shared their stories of burnout (podcast in German), stress and depression stunningly open like Gitte Klitgaard and Dennis Traub.
I owe them deep respect for their courage to speak up and share their stories. I am also truly grateful for several conversations with people sharing their stories, their experiences and their journeys over a coffee or a walk. And viewed from now - in retrospect - all those puzzle pieces resonated just a bit too much in me.
Most of the time I attributed that resonance more to my genuine interest in psychological topics and the interest in depression because of my past experiences with "friends having it". Back then I also stumbled about that short video about "the black dog" which made me remember once again that hard time after Andreas' death and that medically attested depressive episode. Grief is (the only) one valid cause to be depressed, right?!
If I would have been truly honest with myself I might have realised a bit earlier what my body told me bluntly over the last weeks or months:
depression does not need any f**reaking "valid cause" to occur or to come back again!
Basically depression (a bit oversimplified) is like a peculiarity in the brain's synapses and chemicals which can occur almost any time to any body and can have various causes - even still unknown ones.
I just ignored the signs a bit too long like that creeping normality you might know from the boiling frog metaphor. Or imagine a car showing a blinking warning lamp, then a second one, and a third one, maybe you hear already some crazily alarming sounds... and then you either finally decide to do an emergency stop right now or you might end up with an even more uncontrollable accident right onto the highway.
It is not about shame.
It is not about blaming anything or anybody.
It is about being aware and taking responsibility for your own life and health.
Nobody else does that for you!
I repeat it again for my (and maybe also your) inner critical gremlin-ish voices:
Depression is nothing to shame myself for.
Mental health is something that matters at least as much as physical health
- we are not just flesh and bones functioning like a well-oiled machine.
... and doing one step at a time
What did actually help so far?
Retraining my brain helps.
Rebuilding healthy routines helps.
Being compassionate - with others and with myself helps.
Remembering, leveraging and strengthening my resilience, the "ability to bounce back", helps.
Writing about depression helps.
Talking with people helps. (even if it's hard sometimes)
Listening helps as well.
Speaking up and sharing helps. (even if it scares at first sight)
Taking myself f**king seriously helps.
(Like I learned from Dr. Robert Duff and his book F**k Depression which another friend recently recommended - just in time.)
Doing one step at a time helps.
Moving slowly, steadily, sustainably,
and at a healthy pace.
And, still, most of the time I feeling deeply grateful for being alive - with all its facets - that helps (me) as well.
... to be continued...