It’s been two and a half years since I was diagnosed with Clinical Depression. No therapy seem to have worked enough to keep me afloat, until I discovered writing. Well, “discover” isn’t the most accurate word of course. I’ve been journalling since I was eight. Blogging my journey through this despairing diagnosis had bought new meaning in to my life. I met new friends who were like me, and that somehow made things a bit more manageable.
In my blogs to come, I will share thoughts, and insights about life through the eyes of a clinically depressed, how I see my days as they come and how I continued my practice as a medical specialists, and a critical care physician in one of the busiest hospital in my country. There’d be times when I’ll be writing about giving up, and ending it all. I have always been considered as a dark writer, a deviant in the world of the written art.But it will not be in my darkness that I’d want my readers to dwell, but on the flicker of light, the undying hope that always persist amidst my darkest, coldest struggles.
Time would still move amidst the existence of tragedies, and I learned that even in my slow motion moments, I had to keep phase with the world. I also learned that isolation is not protection. We have to reach out amidst the fog, and the stories we share to humanity still counts as wisdom. It is my quest that my stories would touch hearts. That it would somehow educate the world that depression has a face and a story to tell, lessons to share. And inspite of the haze and dark clouds that perpetually shadow us, we are just like you, wounded, broken, but by no means stricken out of the game.
Why do you fear me and not your own madness? Why are you haunted by the shadows I cast when your very own darkness hover within you? Not every outcast are taken over by blackness. Some try very hard to find the faintest flicker of light; Some choose to build dreams upon dreams out of broken pieces, like a stepping stone that would eventually take them across the filthy, infested swamp of depression. We ran like the wind to escape, to cope, or at least to find that part of us untouched by the cruelties of circumstances. Most of us do not run after the world, but rather, we ran away from it. The world is dangerous, and we are already severely wounded. We hide to nurse fresh wounds, and we reach out with scarred hands, still hoping to make that essential communion that makes life worth living. Not all deviants are bad, and not all those who profess normalcy are sane.
Don’t search the darkness for ghosts. Don’t search my eyes in the hope to see emptiness. Look within your heart. It’s where you’ll find a void not even my madness can compete with. Don’t search the asylum of the insane for coldness. The space that once housed your soul burns colder than ice. I am mad but not cruel. You are supposed to be sane and yet with your every step you harbor a grudge that boils down to hate and paranoia. How tragic it is for such a healthy mind to get crippled by blows no one had cast but his very own hands.
I find it amusing that people try so hard to find something to fear on every ounce of vagueness conjured, when the worst predator this world had ever created are the so called “normal race”; the cold and calculating face hidden within every sweet smile; the tortured, vengeful heart that knows no end. The most lethal poisons are those served by trusted hands.
I like to read. I plan my day carefully so that I will still have time to read my books. Unlike other children, I don’t play much. Television and movies bore me. Books are my sole source of entertainment. The old people do not approve of it. My Grandma once said, “ if you don’t move, mosquitoes will drain all your blood”. That frightened the hell out of me, nevermind if the entire house then was screened. So I tried to learn to read while walking around my room. That kinda gave me some terrible headaches, but I was not going to let the mosquitoes drain my blood.
My classmates think I am a bit different. I am painfully shy and laid back. I know things they don’t and my ideas are way above the level of graders which made me some sort of an outsider in their eyes at a very early age. I write a lot. I am the youngest contributor in our school paper. Again, my writings screamed “ nuts-o!”. My poetries are darker than dark, and once a concerned school counselor asked me why, I just shrugged and said, “I don’t know. I just write that way”. Of course being eccentric allows you to win a lot of creativity awards, BUT it dismantled any chance I had to have a normal social life. Being darkly creative is fine among artists, but disturbing maybe when the artist is just 7 years old.
So when I was diagnosed with Major Depression, I wasn’t surprised. I’ve always been odd. I just didn’t know then that my bouts of “brain flu” as I used to call it had a medical name and that it was an illness that could have caused me my life.
I remember that in high school, long before the “emo” generation had come to be known, my style had already been Gothic of sort. I emanate a kind of gloomy air without really intending to. To them, I am someone who is incapable of having a good time.
During college, the bad emotions became more apparent. And I dealt with it by drinking. I remember mixing vodka in my orange juice. I’d go to class dead drunk. There was even a time during my swimming class when I couldn’t remember how I crossed the pool. I couldn’t remember getting in the water. I passed with a grade of 1.75.
I am in accelerated class in college. How I managed it while being plagued with depression is beyond me. I have not been diagnosed then, and so I am running purely on will power. No medicine nor therapy to aid me. Fatigue was a constant ramp and the feeling of hopelessness was almost reaching its threshold. I abused substances to help me cope. I engaged in risky behaviours to fill in the emptiness that seem to grow bigger than I am every single day. I still had a long way to go. To give up had never been a welcomed notion as far as I am concerned. I am never one to quit. Maybe, my persistence and pride did saved my life all those times.
Along that time though is when I started to cut. Not deep enough to warrant intervention. Just deep enough to bleed. I did not want to die. I just wanted to feel. I am numb and I did not know why. I felt alone and frightened. I knew something is going on inside my head I could not control.
I finished college and went on to Med School. I am 3rd year med proper, during a psychiatry class that I was introduced to Depression. It stared me in the eye, and I knew then that my secret demon had a name.
I knew I had to be managed. But I was afraid to be found out. I had this absurd idea that when the school finds me depressed, I will not be allowed to graduate, and I couldn’t accept that. So, I self medicated. I researched, did my very own, personal PCP, asked a teacher an Rx of Fluoxetine and boom! For the first time in my life, I felt free. I felt the gray cloud lift up, the perpetual veil in my eyes is gone. I felt a different person after that.
The freedom was short lived. Taking the antidepressant aggravated my insomnia. It also affected my eating habits. I lost my appetite so drastically I was almost skin and bones. By the time I started clerkship, no resident wants me in their OR because it was simply too tedious to find a gown that I won’t trip on to, and find me surgical gloves that fit snuggly on my hands. They were also afraid I’d collapse on them during a 12 hours long Whipple surgery. I stopped the antidepressant. I still didn’t know better.
As the years passed by, the depression grew worse. And by the time I was finally diagnosed and properly managed, I’d have tried suicide more than 50 times, and I am nowhere near who I really am. The suicide attempts, I could say now with conviction that it was not because I wanted to die. It was simply a part of the fulminant stage of clinical depression. I had no thoughts about death. My consciousness never once consented to dying. Suicide is just something the ailing brain pushes you to do and you are helpless to do anything about it. I did not want to die. I wanted help. I knew I needed help. I just did not know how to get it. And I am a doctor. I can’t begin to imagine how others might be feeling.
Why am I sharing this? Because I wanted people to know that Depression is not a “status illness”. It is not a hype disease. It is real and it has our faces all over it. I am one of the lucky ones. I got to catch it before it literally blew me away to kingdom come. I am not saying I don’t have it anymore. I still do. Unfortunately, it still has no definite cure. But I was able to reclaim my life from it at long last. If one medicine doesn’t work, don’t give up. There are more chances that one will work. You also have to wait at least 2 weeks for the first noticeable improvement, so hang on and don’t let go no matter what. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to talk about it. Fight the stigma. You are not crazy. You are simply ill. People who brand you as “nuts” are people who don’t know better. They are morons and their opinions don’t matter, BUT you do. We do.
This filthy man whose laughter is hollow
Chasing his thoughts and tracing his sorrow
A nameless footprint too many
A tiny footnote in a broken story
He cries but no one hears
The cold wind dried his tears
A broken trinket in a dispensable world
A dirty piece of tattered robe unfurled.
Maybe he knew the one called sadness
Felt the demon’s deceitful caress
But he’d gotten lost inside his own maze
His confusion hidden by an empty face
They saw his outward gruesome decay
Unworthy to walk the world they say
To the beleaguered there is great animosity
From the mediocres who’d defined acceptability
The world is torn to pieces by the jagged teeth of hypocrisy
Masked to the bones by the holographic idea of humanity
We dig graves and bury our tainted souls away
And then we resume our righteous roles in this tragic play.
I woke up not knowing what to expect. I cowered under the sheets, allowing a few more moments of forged security to calm my senses. It’s a mean world out there after all, and I am just another grain of sand in the vast desert of moving mortals. Among the triumphant titans, I am just another broken soul, just another grain the rain washes over, just another useless body to use, just another name to forget.
The world is suffocating from the smoke of burnt offerings. It had gone blind from the glitter of fake gems crowding the altar floor. It had gone deaf from the roar of pretentious praises. I have nothing to offer but my broken soul. My pockets are empty except for the pieces of my being I tried to keep but failed to put together. My feet are muddied because of the puddle my tears created. Will the altar accept my fears and nightmares as offering? Will it be willing to take my dark memories? Maybe not, so I’m walking on.
The clean congregation mocked me. I have soiled their sacred ground with my careless mistakes. It is sacrilege to come with my sadness, my shadows misfitted among the crowd of the enlightened. I am a sinner walking along the clean floors of the baptised and the chosen.
Some dreams are created in dirty alleys. Some hearts are born along infested gutters, like colorful confettis left by a grand parade. Some souls scavenge garbage bins for a bit of kindness, a drop of compassion. Often though, this world is fast to sing hallelujah, but too stingy to give love to those who need it the most.
I am my sacrifice. My life is my offering to God, along with the shadows of my past, my mistakes and my weakness; my fears and my confusions; my broken dreams and my endlessly bleeding heart. I have nothing that glitters, for I am a black hole. I have not memorized scriptures but I can recite what I often tell myself when the devil wants me to end it all. I can tell you the names of the people I cried with, people I allowed into my hiding place so that even for a moment, they will not be alone. I will tell you the story of my life, grit and all, for it is all that I am, and it is all I have to give, in this makeshift altar among the outcasts, the lepers, and the lost.
We have two kinds of thought processes: the conscious and the unconscious. One is the gatekeeper, while the other is the task master. They are like two individuals living in one body, similar in many aspect, but ironically contrasting as well.
Our subconscious mind often acts in autopilot to free the conscious mind, which is programmed to do a task one at a time. We learn through our conscious mind, but it’s ability to hold information for a long time is often faulty because it is distracted by new informations and new tasks to be performed. The subconscious then gets into play. It is our storage warehouse of old informations like life experiences, vital functions, mechanical tasks, and beliefs. Therefore, it greatly influences behaviour, future thought processes, and well, character. It is that part of us that does not sleep. In fact, it influences our dreams, and of course, even our nightmares. It instigates our anxieties and fears; it holds some vital explanations to our phobias, even our negative emotions that we now all know trigger depression.
I see it as two individuals residing within my head. One subjected to logic and reason, and one that is resistant to it, and ultimately defiant to change. Our subconscious mind is dramatically attached to old routines. It embraces habit and it is aggressively protective. It often walls out traumatic events from resurfacing to the conscious self, though it may allow a leak out since no one and nothing in the natural world is guaranteed infallible. The leak out often comes in the form of a sudden feeling, an extreme reaction to certain experiences, smell or sight. A vision that seem to momentarily cloud logic. These are what we call triggers. A phenomenon that could only be explained by psychoanalysis and hypnosis since it traverses the dark and often misunderstood domain of the subconscious. Triggers are things, events or people that invoke extreme and often illogical negative emotions that shatters all carefully build defenses, allowing a moment of recall, a temporary flashback to a world that had once caused too much pain, a memory the subconscious mind perceived as too painful and hence blocked out from freely resurfacing to the conscious domain.
The subconscious mind holds most of the answers to why we are what we are now.
I held the guitar and I’m barely breathing
With no clue what to sing, I started strumming
I closed my eyes pretending to be strong
How can the world get it so very wrong?
The tune was bitter like hate spewed from broken dreams
It was ferocious resonating from a thousand screams
Around me were the cheering and dancing fools
Like shadows of mindless, graveyard ghouls.
I strummed until the dead sings
I strummed until it no longer stings
I strummed until the ghosts go away
I strummed until I could no longer play.
And I’m still not okay…
I can no longer play
I can no longer play…
How close can you capture sadness while I laugh in your face? While I dance around you, swinging and swirling like a stranger to sorrows? How close do you need to hold me to understand that while I blaze like a huge bonfire in the night, I am freezing cold? How close do I have to be for you to see that I am a void I have no idea how to fill?
A black hole resides inside of me and I am pulled in little by little until nothing of me is left , and I hold onto your hands hoping you still have the strength to pull be back. I hold unto your heart hoping that it could beat for the two of us, while mine rests for awhile.
How much of me would stay to catch another day close its eyes? To bid it goodnight without actually believing that I’d still be around to see it wake up. How much of me could continue tickling the world while a thorn stays imbedded within my soul? How much of me could still keep up?
Do you see me, the real me, with all the shadows and sad memories? Will you trace my scars and say I am still lovely? I am being consumed and I need you to save me. I need you to want to save me.