SURVIVING DEPRESSION - updated edition
HOW I SURVIVED 10 YEARS OF DEPRESSION BY FOCUSSING ON RADICAL SELF-LOVE
Trigger warning: If you are currently experiencing deep feelings of unworthiness, self-loathing, depression please seek help. Call your doctor, find your local support. You deserve the best possible help. Don't wait. My article is a personal story, depression is different for everyone.
It started when I was 28 years old.
I was a beautiful young woman. Black hair, black and red clothes, bright red lipstick and huge golden earrings.
I was convinced I was plain, slow, fat and invisible.
A holiday with girlfriends in Portugal turned into a pitch black month under the South European sun. I clearly remember the horrid feeling of trying to stay sane while my holiday mood turned into a black mess of despair.
First I thought the feeling of inexplicable heavy misery was caused because I missed my boyfriend. I tried to cure it. Pushing it out. With wine. Food. With lashing out. With hiding myself in John Irving's “A Prayer for Owen Meany”.
It didn’t help. In the course of weeks I had become a Happiness Devoid Human Being. Empty and Unloved. Not Enough.
It felt as if some unseen force was able to seperate my light and soul from my brain and body. And that emptiness was filled up by a thick layer of impenetrable slimy mud.
Dead on the inside. Nothing goes in. Nothing goes out.I could feel how everything inside me came to a standstill. Numbed out. Like life had been sucked out of me.
Back in Amsterdam I regularly found myself at weird spots. I had no idea how I’d gotten there. After a near-collision with a big yellow tram I figured I needed help.
I visited a psychiatrist. It was like walking into Sigmund Freud's room. A sofa with a Persian Carpet and photos of Herr Doctor Freud himself.
I loved therapy.
A couple of annoying tears at the beginning of the session followed by a sensible conversation with a man who looked at me with a grandfatherly expression. I aced analysis. Dissecting feelings, patterns, upbringing and those incredibly boring emotions. Therapy temporarily pushed away the darkness and gave me a sense of control. I figured that all I needed was structure and a firm hand.
I feared the lurking pain that wanted to be acknowledged more than anything. Pushing out feelings and emotions was a delight.
After a couple of months I decided I was cured. I wrote a thank you note to my own Dr. Freud (I told him I had left the country!) and celebrated my new found happiness with a long solo travel to Asia.
But soon the darkness returned.
More dense, heavier and way more deadly than before. I had created two persona. In the daytime I worked. I never missed a day’s work. Composed and in control I worked my ass off. I was frightfully scared anyone would find out there was something deeply wrong with me. Only a handful of friends knew I frequented the Loony Bin.
At lunch hour I hid in the bathroom “Breathe in, breathe out. Don’t show any weakness. Don’t faint.” I feared I would go mad if I gave in to the inner voices.
As long as I acted okay. I was okay.
But I was not okay. I was very ill. I was dying inside and didn’t know how to make it stop.
At night and in the weekend I fell apart. Hiding between my sofa and the curtains. Not knowing what to do. I desperately wanted to feel.
I longed for tears. I listened to the saddest operas ever composed. I bought an expensive Maria Callas album, convinced Maria would do the trick.
Nothing. No tears. No feelings. Just pitch black soulless numbness.I wanted to feel, but the fear of being with my pain was too big.
The years of pushing out feelings and emotions had become too strong for me. Inside me grew the slimy swamp into thick unmovable numbness. I walked the city in desperation trying to escape the waves of self-loathing. Contemplating ways to kill myself without being a burden to anyone.
Twice a week I visited the Psychiatric Hospital. The psychiatrists in the clinic were impressed with me: “We would like you to start analyses. We would like to discuss how you are affected by your fathers’ years in the Japanese Concentration Camps. We seldom ask people for Analyses anymore, but you are so good at it. Every morning on the sofa for at least a year.”
I refused. All I wanted was to be admitted in the hospital.
I didn’t wanted to talk anymore. I badly wanted to be taken care off. I craved real attention. I wanted to be held. I longed for a safe place. I was just so tired of being me. I wanted to fall apart. I wanted out.
But I never told anyone. I remained composed and in control. I just talked and talked and the psychiatrist nodded. Very civil. Very intellectual. She never betrayed any feelings of her own.
When — years later — we had our last session I told her how much I loved the fact that she had been a white wall to me. I could throw all my inner shit at her without her ever reacting.
It was the first time I noticed a real non-professional reaction. I had really hurt her.
Art Work Esther de Charon de Saint Germain
I deserve love and happiness
There must have been some inner conviction that I was enough. That I deserved happiness, love and joy. That I could stand in the light.
My stubborn nature would serve its purpose. I wanted to survive and I would do it my way.
So I fought. And I did it the only way I could. By learning, unraveling myself, by trying to make sense of me and the world around me. Finding my purpose. I became my main project. I refused pills and read every self help book that had ever been on the market. I traveled for months on end, I studied, I sat on meditation cushions for weeks, I tried all kinds of therapies from regular therapy to unorthodox New Age stuff.
Surviving Depression: The first AHA moment
Then there came a turning point. A glimpse that lead to a great insight. As a single woman I was constantly on the look-out for someone to fall in love with. Somewhere at the beginning of summer, I had found a new objet d’amour. Someone convinced me that he liked me too. I persuaded a mutual friend to check it out for me.
I was at a particular fragile state back then. I had just lost a job I loved, my future was insecure, my mother refused to talk to me, and I felt utterly alone. I was waiting at home by the phone (no cell phones in the good old days) almost praying for a positive answer when my friend called me, and told me that my Love interest was not reciprocated.
I was swallowed whole by a murky wave of despair, making me almost sick to my stomach. New found love would have been a wonderful escape.
The Voice of Wisdom spoke
Day-dreaming about a brand new relationship had provided me solace. I could not stand being in my house anymore and fled outside. “As long as I keep on moving, I will not feel this pain”, I thought. But then, while entering the Albert Cuyp, the biggest market in Amsterdam, I had a Lighting Bolt moment.
Suddenly — between the stall with faux-leather bags and the stall with cheap oranges — I saw myself.
Roaming the streets like some mad woman, looking for any distraction to not feel the pain. And a voice - somewhere deep inside me - spoke:
“I am hurt, I really liked this guy, and him not liking me back is painful. But it hurts way more than it should. I am deeply, deeply disappointed. I am lonely. I am lost. I am not well at all and I deserve to be happy and loved”.
This was not the Normal Everyday Fucking Mean Voice that talked to me from dust to dawn:
„I don’t care, stupid guy, I hate him, I hate me, I am extremely ugly, and fat, of course nobody will ever love me, I must be the most unlovable person out there, I hate the world, I might as well be dead, nobody will miss me when I am gone, the world will be a better place without me.”
No, this was something completely different. This was the voice of wisdom allowing me for the first time to physically feel the pain. It washed through me like an avalanche of sorrow, cleansing all the anger and self-hate.
Then there was silence. Just silence.
It was the very first time I could simply BE with my pain. Allowing myself to feel pain and emotions helped me to get out of my prison of numbness.
Was that fun? Hell no!
It has been the scariest and bravest thing I’ve ever done. And if you’ve ever been depressed you know this.If you read this and you survived depression, if you learned to accept yourself without any condition — wrinkles, fat, inappropriate remarks, mood swings, not fitting in, anger etc. included — you are incredibly brave.
You see there is never enough love outside ourselves to cure depression. Nourishing the love inside will cure our soul, acceptance and care will heal our body and mind. We need that unwavering conviction that we are enough. No matter what.
When we're unclenching our fists, open our tightly closed eyes, when we release our breath, step into our space, it’s like standing in a rain of love.
It’s almost 18 years ago ...I’m a mother, a wife, business owner, a Self-love advocate and business strategist with clients all over the world. I know my traits. I can honestly say I love my life. And I love myself. I know I’m Sensitive, Fiercely Bright and Multi-Passionate. I am a Wonderfully Weird Selflovepreneur.
But sharing this with you is incredibly scary. It will always be painful.
But I will be okay because I know I am Enough. No matter what.
I shared the reason behind my depression in the Bestselling book Strong and Free