A Battle of Depression and a Few Tips to Tame the Monster
Storm wandering around inside the heart.
Darkness and more darkness.
You feel like you are a ghost of yourself.
Those are the sentences I can use to describe how a depressive
episode feels like.
Basic things in life become chores. You watch from
inside how life is slipping away from your hands helplessly.
Depression is a coma in which you are awake. You function at
some level, and yet you are not there; you are trapped inside
somewhere in your own mind. You are aware of what needs to
be done. But you can’t comprehend why you cannot do
things you know you should do.
Depression feels like you have been robbed of yourself
and the ability to function: the average ability to see past the
darkness. Guilt and shame are your best friends. There is an
internal conflict so intense that every bit of energy you have is
required to hold yourself steady—to feel as though the world
isn’t pulling you apart.
I struggle with depression and anxiety. Yes, I am saying it
out loud. It took me years to accept this.
Even Today, I have trouble saying it out loud. I have what it
is called high-functioning depression.
Meaning, I kick its ass daily.
Yes, people! I kick its ass.
Come on, I hold a master’s degree in engineering. I have
read many books, and I speak up and stand up. Yet I have
issues accepting depression. I have problems talking about it. I
have shame about it. Yes, I am putting myself out there, as it
is now time to do so. Education, whether you are self-taught
or getting it from an academic environment doesn’t guarantee
a change in mindset. Such change has to come from deep
inside us, from deep-rooted empathy.
So I am telling you, from my life, how hard it is to live with
depression and to accept it. If you struggle with this, I am on
your side of the fence, too. It is hard for me to accept someone
with the same struggles as I do. Even when I am
struggling, the poison of depression sometimes makes it hard for me to
understand others. It is how deeply infected—yes,
I am calling it an infection—this stigma is.
We do not make fun of people who have diabetes or high
blood pressure or thyroid problems, and we do not tell them
to will those physical disorders away. Why do we tell people
who struggle with mental illnesses to just think differently
and they will be better?
One result of trauma depression is the many things that
people without mental illness take for granted things most of
them don’t even think about it. Some daily tasks take me a lot
of mental strength and positive self-talk to achieve, such as
ordinary, mundane things everyone else does, like even getting
out of bed some days.
One day, I had a flight to San Francisco, departing at 8:00
p.m. But that flight left without me while I lay in my bed,
trying to recover from a panic attack. At first, I didn’t know
what had triggered it.
When you live with depression and anxiety disorder,
you truly learn to live in the present. Like everyone else, you may plan for the future, but things could change for you at a
You could end up on the side of the road, trying to talk
yourself down. Trying to make your mind and body see that
it is not in a life-threatening situation and that it is just your
imagination can be grueling and exhausting.
Since I became a mom, my highest priority in life was to be
there for my kids, which means I need to be alive with a sound
mind and body. They drive me to stay alive and to do
what I do (literally).
As I was driving to the airport, I pulled over, as I could
see and feel an attack coming on. I have taught myself not to
overthink or to overanalyze at these moments, as doing so will
only make the attack worse. My whole focus shifts, at these
moments, to talking my mind down.
I talked myself
through the panic, but I did not make that flight. A panic attack happens when your mind tells your body
that there is an imminent threat to survival and your body
is reacting to it. So I talk my mind down. I have a few steps
that I follow to get myself through the attack.
The next day I woke up, and I knew what had triggered the
attack. There is a strange relief when you realize the why—as
if it no longer holds a power over you. Later that day, I was
sitting at the airport gate and writing this chapter.
Writing is what I call my fail-safe to life. I work tirelessly at
it and get tired at times. Sometimes I pay a very high price for
my writing. But one thing always this universe has blessed me
with is a zest for life. I do not give up.
When you see me write about tenacity, I mean it. I live it.
Every single day.
Trust me: no one wants depression. Not one person I have
met in my life who struggles with this monster uses it to get
any kind of advantage. Almost all are ashamed of it.
No. No. They are ashamed of themselves for having it. I am
ashamed of myself.
It took me years to recover from the thought that I had
somehow caused my depression. I didn’t. I know I didn’t.
But even Today, there are moments when I go back into that
thought pattern. It’s my mind playing tricks on me. It is why
fail-safes are important. It is why empathy is important—
towards yourself, and towards others.
Life is precious and beautiful. Let’s live and let live. Let’s be
kind. Let’s show compassion.
If you are tuned into your desire to feel better, at some
moment, you will get a jolt of your clear self; use it. I fight
every day to get on with life. It’s not easy, but even a tiny step
is a step. Even if you can hold your position just where you
are, it’s progress. You may be able to move each day, a bit more
forward. This is one of the toughest things I have ever done.
But I slowly realize that this is probably a lifestyle adjustment.
Give the people in your life who struggle with this monster
a tiny bit of empathy. They are fighting one of the hardest battles:
fighting against demons we all hold inside. Most people
are hiding it deep inside, as the taboo and stigma are so deeprooted
in our society.
I have found that the very thing that makes me susceptible
to depression and anxiety is the very strength I hold. It is a different view of the world, and it makes me creative. I see things
others don’t see. I started to look at creativity as a beautiful
side effect to the curse of depression. Perception matters. No
matter how whacky it sounds to others, perception matters.
Find yours: find your spin on this. And I bet you have a
hidden talent. Almost all who struggle with mental illness do.
All people have some kind of creativity hiding inside them;
the trick is finding out what it is. It will help you live with
mental illness. Find your perception; write your story.
Most important, after acceptance, find a few fail-safe things.
For me, a fail-safe thing is my word and my fire stations.
My word is 50 percent of my fail-safe things. This is why I
said my kids are my biggest priority. Parents taking their lives
increases their kids’ odds of mental illness and suicide by 50
percent. That percentage drives me. It helps me pull myself
out of that darkness. It helps me fight it. I made my kids a
promise to be there, and I will fight till my last breath to keep
Fire stations. Yes, I said that right. Why fire stations?
Because I find teachers and firemen are as dedicated and
empathetic as anyone else can probably be. Most of them don’t
do what they do for money or fame. They do it because most
are genuinely kind and empathetic people who want to help
others. So when I fall too far down to come back up on my on
and I need additional help, there is always the fire department.
And when I do come back up, I don’t mind seeing a few hot
firemen around me . . . Jokes apart, they are trained to handle
tough situations. I trust them better than I would trust an
emergency room to help me wake back up.
Today, I smile at the monster’s face and say, “Today, tomorrow,
and every day after, I am not giving in. I am a warrior,
and I plan on fighting you. I understand that I may win some
days and that you may win some days. But giving up is not
something you will see me do. Stay as long as you want. You
do not get to see me give up. Period.”
Somewhere along the lines of my battle, I realized that my
depression was and is influenced a lot by who I am. I have
moved on from where I don’t belong; now the next step is to
find a place where I do belong. Nothing can happen overnight,
and everything I do makes me get closer to where I want to
be. That knowledge is a comfort. Fighting your own mind is
not easy. But it’s the best choice out of the two we have at any
Fighting depression is not a one-fight-fits-all scenario. I am
told exercise helps, but it’s unbelievably hard to get yourself
moving. Find a good doctor and then a good therapist. Sit
down with pen and paper and write. Don’t analyze what you
write. Scribble as much as you can. Go back and read what
you have written, and then write all of the things that make
you feel better. Go do it. Denying your truth can be a trigger. It
creates an internal conflict, and that is adding fuel to problems
that are already an ember waiting for fuel.
There is a catch: anything you think makes you feel
better shouldn’t make you feel guilty or shameful afterward.
So no binge eating. And be careful with that alcohol.
Find a friend or another human being who will sit with you
in silence if you need to. Most of us face depression alone, as
you won’t understand how it feels unless you go through it.
Just like in any area of life, theory and practice are different.
Don’t give up. In any given situation, we always have two
choices. Give up or go on. Ask “what if ” questions. What if I
give up? What if I fight it? Keep going with it. You will reach
a place where you will see a tiny ray of sunshine, a way out to
start recovering from that moment. Ask for help; even if
asking brings judgment, ask for help.
Always remember: as humans, it’s difficult to comprehend any amount of pain unless we go through it.
So take responsibility;
if you can’t at this point, enlist a trustworthy person to
do it for you till you can get back on your feet.
You are not alone.
If you look, you will find what you need.