Two months ago my friend Aili asked me to write about the positive side of depression. The idea caught me off guard, and seemed ridiculous. How can one draw anything good from a disorder that leaves you drained, both physically and mentally? How can anything positive come from something that has managed to turn your entire world upside down?
But this past week, two young men taught me a few things about patience, pain and growth. It is from interacting with them that I learnt the following things about my depression.
1. I appreciate the small things in life
When you are depressed, everything looks dark. Its like the world is black and white; void of all colour. That is until you have a good day. On a good day, the sun feels warm on your skin, food entices all of your taste buds, and music is just that much sweeter. I love these days. On a good day I find any reason to be outside. I listen to the traffic, and the silent hums of its occupants. I watch builders walk back and forth between various construction sites, carrying their lunch in multicoloured plastic bags. I smile as children walk by, and give a polite nod to their parents. For a moment my life is filled with the joy from those around me, and I love it,
2. I am more empathetic and a better listener
Depression takes you through a multitude of emotions. Emotions, that in a normal setting, you would have never had to experience. I know what it means to have extreme bouts of rage, loneliness and sadness. I have felt trapped and cornered by others and my own emotions, so when someone talks to me about these issues I can easily relate. And because I can relate, I will be less likely to be dismissive of their emotions and how they impact their lives. I appreciate someone that can listen when I am down, so I try and do the same for others.
3. I am less judgemental
I have tried to kill myself more than once. I have been in relationships that are less than desirable because I believed that is what I deserved. I have had the darkest thoughts and the darkest days… SO when someone tells me they drank a little too much last night and did something they shouldn’t have, I know I have no right to judge. Depression has made me realise that an action does not define you. People are more than the actions they make, or the words they say. I know that not everything can be taken at face value.
4. I am a better writer
You know how they say creative people are depressed, well there may be some truth to it. It’s during my darkest days that I write the most. This is a time when I am honest about where I am and how I feel. It is a time that allows me to clearly articulate my feelings, as they are tangible and real in that moment. I believe this is why many people can relate to what I write.
5. I am more focused
I never know when a bad day is coming, so I maximize the good days. I now make a conscious effort to write down what I wish to do in life, and how I plan to achieve it. I actively pursue my dreams because I know at any moment the depression will come creeping back, and I will be trapped in my mind for days, weeks or months. I don’t create reasons why I cannot do something, neither do I listen to those that do not believe in my dreams. I sow as many ideas as I can, and tend to them with every waking moment. Knowing that even if I become depressed tomorrow, my dreams will grow and bare fruit in my absence.
6. Exercise and a good diet become your friend
I am a vegetarian yogi. There are many foods I try my best to avoid because they have a negative impact on my mood e.g. chocolate, alcohol and coffee. I try and eat as healthy as possible so that my mind has a strong body to support its recovery. I exercise at least three times a week. This is a must for me. The moment I start skipping exercise, my mood begins to slip and my body tenses up.
7. I always have something to talk about
I do a lot of research on depression, as well as other mood disorders. I often find myself stumbling on information that I never knew before, which comes in handy during conversation. And when I don’t know what to say, I mention having depression. People are always curious, and are always ready to learn more about mental disorders.
8. I am no longer afraid of death
Like I have stated in no 3, I have tried killing myself multiple times. Depression had a way of making you think about death constantly, to the point where saying it out loud doesn’t send shivers down your spine. You begin to get comfortable with the idea, and start focusing your life on other issues such as writing that book you have been planning for years or practicing that cool yoga pose. Death is no longer an obstacle.
There are days when depression has me locked away in the shadows of my mind, but it is in this darkness that I continue to grow my character.