"Don’t lose yourself,” the old, bedridden man said. I was four or five at the time, and my family was visiting him. To be honest, I can’t remember his name or how we knew him. But two decades later, his words haunted me as I lay paralysed on my bed and struggled to come to terms with my life.
For years, I had suffered from depression. The first incident I can remember happened when I was 14. As I walked to my home in Singapore after school one day, I was overcome with the urge to sit in a corner and weep. I barely managed to reach our flat before bursting into tears. These overwhelming, unexplained feelings frightened me.
By the time I was 16, these outbursts were happening about once a month. Most of the time I lived my life normally, but then my mind seemed to take a life of its own. Initially they happened for no reason, but now everything became a reason – a frown from a teacher, first prize for an essay, a long queue at a canteen stall. It didn’t matter whether the incidents were happy, sad or indifferent, all would be twisted by my mind into something horrible.
One incident I recall vividly was a call from a friend. After we chatted for a while, she said she had to go because her mum was calling her. I spent the next two days agonising over whether she had hung up because she hated me. It was like a demon had possessed my mind. And all the while a little voice in my mind kept telling me how worthless, hopeless and stupid I was.
For the most part, I kept all this a secret because I was scared and confused. I remember once trying to explain what was happening to my friend Ani*, but I couldn’t find the right words to express myself and eventually gave up.
Not that my friends were completely unaware of my problems. More than once they tried to talk to me about my difficult home life. My father subjected my two younger sisters and me to terrible verbal abuse, and my mother did little to support us, or even look after us. I now realise my family problems were a major factor in my depression, but at the time I denied anything was wrong.
When I was 17, I concluded that the only way to stop my suffering was simply not to feel anything. This wasn’t difficult because I was overwhelmed with my studies, two part-time jobs and looking after my sisters. I had no time to think, much less feel.
At first the numbness was a huge relief from the mood swings, but it wasn’t long before I realised that there was a vast emptiness in my heart. I could feel no joy, hope or pain. It got to a point where I would cut myself just to feel something.
I had become afraid of being by myself. I felt as if I was being chased by a black hole that would swallow me whole. Finally, when I was 25, I decided that this living hell had to end – I was going to kill myself.
Fortunately, I never got the chance. That night, I opened my bedroom door just as my 16-year-old sister Banu* opened hers. Her face was puffy, her eyes were swollen and she was sobbing. “I can’t stop, I don’t know why. I can’t make the crying go away,” she said.
I was horrified – someone I loved was going through the same hell I was. I knew that depression could be hereditary and that it wasn’t unusual for more than one family member to suffer from it. But I was so consumed with my own problems I had failed to see that Banu was suffering too.
This incident jolted me to my senses. The desire to help Banu prompted me to help myself.
I called my best friend Raj*, and he came over with another friend. I told them everything, and on their insistence I visited a Family Service Centre and arranged to start counselling. After a few sessions, my counsellor explained that my depression stemmed from the extremely negative and abusive family situation. The key was to acknowledge my problems and continue counselling.
I also joined a support group and started reading self-help books. More important, I made a decision to get out of depression. I forced myself to go out and make new friends. I also convinced Banu to start counselling, got her involved in community work and made her come out with my friends and I instead of being cooped up at home. Today, two years later, she is much better. She is taking a pre-university course and has a circle of supportive friends.
Depression is neither a choice nor a bad mood you can snap out of. It is an illness with an underlying cause. But no matter how much other people try to help, only the victims can help themselves get better. I am not saying that without help I would have been able to survive depression, but if I had chosen not to get out of it, I would not have.
My depressive bouts haven’t disappeared, but they are less frequent and less intense. I now recognise the early symptoms and take action to head them off, usually talking to a friend or writing about my feelings in my journal.
I have also become more positive. I am enjoying my life and my work as an English and Science teacher at a tuition centre. It has not been easy to open up or share my feelings, but it’s getting easier all the time. And the best part is, I have been able to help Banu. I did lose myself, but I managed to find myself again.
3 of 14 Comments
|Thomaswar Chakma on 19 December 2012 ,19:03 |
Very nice. Bravo !!!
|Gladys Molling on 05 November 2012 ,13:52 |
Hi, I feel the same way as you. I realised I become depressed after I broke up with my boyfriends. I feel I am living in a black hole. I did talked with my mum I am depressed, but she never belief as she said I always think negatively. I hope there is someone else can help me out from this. I am suffer, I feel hopeless.
|sana on 05 November 2012 ,03:10 |
God!...i am almost 16 and i feel the same!..
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