I didn’t believe that I would survive after contracting depression 13 years ago. There didn’t seem to be light at the end of the tunnel. However, it is real and people do suffer from it. Often, I felt that I was largely alone and no one else could understand what I was going through. The solution to overcome depression is to speak about it openly. Time can heal things and words can set you free.
The Day I Died. I suffered from depression from about a year when I was 24. My great-grandmother committed suicide previously. Life was so bad that I contemplated suicide. Even my appetite was affected. This was an existential horror. I literally attempted suicide.
Death was something that scared me. And death only happens to people who have been living. There were infinitely more people who had never been alive. I wanted to be one of those people. That old classic wish. To never have been born. To have been one of the three hundred million sperm that hadn’t made it. – Matt Haig
Why Depression is hard to understand. It is invisible. Your troubles seem to be never-ending and tormenting. It is mysterious in nature and anyone can suffer from it, even comedians.
A Beautiful View. I wanted to attempt suicide when I was holidaying in Spain. I did manage to walk to the edge of the cliff. A depressed person doesn’t want to feel happy, they just want to be freed of pain. My loved ones didn’t know what I was going through. I decided not to take my life.
I think life always provides reasons to not die, if we listen hard enough. Those reasons can stem from the past – the people who raised us, maybe, or friends or lovers – or from the future – the possibilities we would be switching off. – Matt Haig
Pills. My doctor advised me to take pills, even though I didn’t want to. Even after medication, I still felt that I was divorced from reality and a sense of panic was still within me
Killer. Suicide is becoming increasingly common and it is very scary indeed. Some people underestimate the effects of depression.
Negative Placebo. I tended to drink too much when I was not anxious. Diazepam seems to increase my panic levels. To me, the drug was the problem.
Feeling the Rain without an Umbrella. We are made to believe that medication can work all the time. To me, sleeping pills were more effective than anti-anxiety medication. In reality, many people cannot do without pills like Diazepam. There are professors who believe that there are other ways to counter depression other than drugs. Examples could be intervening and recognizing when we are in a low-mood state.
Life. I didn’t get along with my ex-colleagues. I felt out of my place when hanging out with them. I quitted the job and thought that I was a failure in life.
Infinity. Normally, people only think about one thing at once so as to simplify things. However, depressed people think about hidden stuff.
The evolutionary psychologists might be right. We humans might have evolved too far. The price for being intelligent enough to be the first species to be fully aware of the cosmos might just be a capacity to feel a whole universe’s worth of darkness. – Matt Haig
The hope that hadn’t happened. It felt better seeing my parents smile. I returned to where I grew up as a child. I seemed okay for now.
The Cyclone. Depression felt like a weight, both a metaphorical and emotional one. I felt trapped in a cyclone.
My symptoms. There were many different types of symptoms at play here. The warning signs were all present. I kept thinking that I was going through this alone.
But with depression and anxiety the pain isn’t something you think about because it is thought. You are not your back but you are your thoughts. – Matt Haig
The Bank of Bad Days. You store memories of bad days but you always remind yourself of worst days.
Things depression says to you. Depression will tell you to continue staying in bed. It will tell you that everyone will be dead eventually. It will tell you that tomorrow will be worse than today.
Facts. I craved for knowledge. Many people are not open or acknowledge that they have depression. Men are three times more likely to kill themselves as compared to women. Depression is becoming more common and it is scary.
The head against the window. I thought it would be better to be the 80 year-old on the street as compared to my own current identity. The tears came from my stomach. My dad cried too. Crying can be contagious sometimes.
From the outside a person sees your physical form, sees that you are a unified mass of atoms and cells. Yet inside you feel like a Big Bang has happened. You feel lost, disintegrated, spread across the Universe amid infinite dark space. – Matt Haig
Pretty Normal Childhood. People with depression may have mental illnesses in the past. However, I was often anxious when I was younger.
A Visit. I realized that I had a phobia for tight places.
Boys don’t cry. Men are more likely to kill themselves as compared to women. Why is that? Most men see mental illness as a form of weakness. Often, they don’t like to seek help. Learn to accept that depression is a human experience after all.
It took me more than a decade to be able to talk openly, properly, to everyone, about my experience. I soon discovered the act of talking is in itself a therapy. Where talk exists, so does hope. – Matt Haig
Once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about. – Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore
Cherry blossom. You become obsessed with how your brain functions. I wished I could be a blossom that floated away from a tree. Depression is a mysterious illness.
Unknown unknowns. The brain is incredibly complex. Depression is not about chemical imbalance. It could be due to the lack of serotonin. However, there are also research which point to other directions. Neuroscience is constantly improving. However, the human brain hasn’t evolved from years ago. Our cognition ability hasn’t improved from the past. Exercise does help you to feel better about yourself.
The brain is the body –part 1. When you are depressed, your body feels it too. For instance, you suffer heart palpitations, aching limbs, sweaty palms etc.
Psycho. I realized that I talked in my sleep when I was younger. I had many troubles and worries when I was a kid.
Jenga Days. Time passed extremely slowly when I was 13. A week seemed like a voyage.
Warning Signs. Depression is essentially an illness. It is often invisible. One might feel fatigued for no particular reason. Other symptoms could be loss of appetite, irritability, crying episodes etc.
Demons. I imagined a demon licking me when I closed my eyes. The more I tried not to think of it, the more it appeared. I couldn’t get rid of it at all.
Existence. It is not easy to not think that life is hard. This is the human condition. Humans have created remarkable things in their lifetimes. However, life is sweet even though we know that nothing lasts forever.
Life is hard. It may be beautiful and wonderful but it is also hard. The way people seem to cope is by not thinking about it too much. But some people are not going to be able to do that. – Matt Haig
Part 3: Rising
The art of walking on your own. Depression is often associated with anxiety issues. I forced myself to walk into situations alone. Although I was scared, I told myself that it would be ok. Even walking to the shop alone was incredibly scary for me. I told myself that it was just a shop. I had trouble standing still after purchasing something. It is never easy for a depressive to perform even simple tasks.
A Conversation Across Time – Part 2. I kept telling myself that I could do it. I made it to the shop. I realized that I needed to give myself reasons to stay alive.
Reasons to Stay Alive. Many other people have been here before and been in your shoes. Things are only going to get better from here. The pain won’t last forever. Hurricanes will run out of energy someday. Tell yourself that life will be worth it. There will be happy moments again.
You hate yourself. That is because you are sensitive. Pretty much every human could find a reason to hate themselves if they thought about it as much as you did. We’re all total bastards, us humans, but also totally wonderful. – Matt Haig
Your mind is a galaxy. More dark than light. But the light makes it worthwhile. Which is to say, don’t kill yourself. Even when the darkness is total. Always know that life is not still. Time is a space. You are moving through that galaxy. Wait for the stars. – Matt Haig
Love. No matter how much you love, you will never be free of pain. Andrea saved me. We have been together for 5 years. Love is being able to do weird stuff with another person and be yourself fully. I was lucky. When depression hit, Andrea was always there for me. I could always talk to her. She covered for me.
How to be there for someone with depression or anxiety. Understand that your presence matters. Listen. Educate yourself and realize that depressives can’t do simple tasks. Learn to be patient and ask them what can you do to help.
An Inconsequential Moment. I thought about work. It was a neutral thought. It was massive progress for me.
Things that have happened to me that have generated more sympathy than depression. There were a lot of other things.
Life on Earth to an alien. Explaining depression to someone not suffering from it is like explaining life on Earth to an alien. It can be very intense. It is your life. Everything is magnified in intensity. Even minor changes in weather seem massive to you. It is like a sharpening of the senses.
White Space. I liked the white space. Light was everything. I started to pick up reading. It was good that I fell in love with reading all over again. Words are the escape route. Books were the way out for me.
There is this idea that you either read to escape or you read to find yourself. I don’t really see the difference. We find ourselves through the process of escaping. – Matt Haig
The Power and the Glory. I read ‘The Power and the Glory’ by Graham Greene. I loved his works. There was something which I could relate to. There was hope of redemption at the end and it was inspiring. Some of the other books which inspired me were ‘The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton’; ‘Letters of Keats’; ‘Oranges are not the only fruit by Jeanette Winterson’; ‘Money by Martin Amis’; ‘The Diary of Samuel Pepys’.
Paris. I was afraid of travelling and felt a panic attack coming back. I was afraid of saying no as it made me seem like a loser. Eventually I went and realized that things were not so bad. I confronted my fears calmly. Travelling gives you perspective and solution. Travel has since become one of my favorite things to do.
Reasons to be Strong. I needed to be near Andrea. I had to be strong one after I realized Andrea’s mum had cancer. It was horrible having to wait for her mum in hospital. However, eventually, they returned and I was okay again. Later, I challenged myself and eventually got a book published. I dedicated the book to Andrea.
Weapons. I was going to be a published author. My self-esteem was boosted massively. I knew that wellness was possible.
Running. Running was a great alleviator of depression and anxiety. It was difficult but that only motivated to work harder and train more. It undid the damage from smoking and drinking. Murakami loved to run too. It really helped to train the mind. My weapons against depression were writing, reading, talking, travelling etc.
The brain is the body –part 2. Mental illness leads to other ailments too. Derealisation is a symptom that makes you feel well, not real.
Famous People. Even famous people like David Foster Wallace and Robin Williams took their own lives. Depression can happen to just about anyone. Being overly attached to material items can lead to greater suffering. Depression makes us think too much.
Abraham Lincoln and the Fearful Gift. He wanted to accomplish something in his lifetime. He insisted in acknowledging his fears and delve deeper into them. He was one of the most serious men around. Depression was something Churchill had but that inspired him. The motivation behind ‘The Scream by Edvard Munch’ was also existential terror. Franz Kafka was also a depressed person. Melancholy fueled Lincoln’s great work.
I find that being grimly aware of mortality can make me steadfastly determined to enjoy life where life can be enjoyed. It makes me value precious moments with my children, and with the woman I love. – Matt Haig
Part 4: Living
The World. If everything was happy and great, why would people need anything more? However, it is important to be calm and learn to settle.
Life is the people who love you. No one will ever choose to stay alive for an iPhone. It’s the people we reach via the iPhone that matter. – Matt Haig
Mushroom Clouds. It is easy to ignore warning signs. Now, I know what to look out for. I had to give a speech in public in school and I felt incredibly nervous. A rash broke out around my skin. I experienced a panic attack but managed to finish my presentation.
The Big A. Anxiety and depression co-exist like a nightmare marriage. We are all overloaded by information in the modern world. Do we all have to live with anxiety?
Slow Down. It is important to learn to slow down. We can use CAT and MRI. Neuroscience isn’t perfect yet. Pills might not be the only cure too. Yoga is good at helping you to slow down. Take deep breaths. Learn to meditate and let the tension go. Always live in the present.
Parties. It is difficult to walk in a room full of people. I hated parties. My panic episodes seemed to be entering relapse. I ran to Andrea. Thankfully, after I left the party, the panic attacks subsided. Failure can be a step forward.
Part 5: Being
Fighting makes it worse. I learn to accept depression and anxiety. Now, I am simply glad to be alive. I want to experience as much of life as I can. I want to feel as much as I can.
I feel the sheer unfathomable marvel that is this strange life we have, here on earth, the seven billion of us, clustered in our towns and cities on this pale blue dot of a planet, spending our allotted 30,000 days as best we can, in glorious insignificance. – Matt Haig
How to be a bit happier than Schopenhauer. Schopenhauer thought that life was about futile purposes. He thought that achieving goals only brought a short satisfaction. Unattained goals cause pain. Even if you achieve your goal, you will need to set another one and the process continues on and on. The solution is to give things up. His solution was to lead a very unambitious life and deny their instincts. How do you stop wanting and worrying? How do you get off the treadmill once and for all? The answer is acceptance. Buddhists believe in mindfulness. It is important to connect with the Universe and meditate more. It is important to grateful and compassionate. One should be selfless and mindful.
We all matter because we are all alive. And so kindness is an active way in which we can see and feel the bigger picture. – Matt Haig
Thoughts on Time. We all fear death. Time does seem to travel at different speeds. Being aware is important. How much are we living in the present? We think that life is short so that we need to achieve as much as possible. However, by doing so, it seems that time will pass too quickly. We all have to accept how small we are in this world.