There are different forms of depression. Some are internal, such as: loneliness, anxiety or low self-esteem, while some may be external like: rejection, abandonment, or lack of resources. Often they merge and it becomes difficult to identify the origin. Sometimes they lead us down a path of unhealthy coping techniques because we don’t know how to channel our struggle in a positive or more constructive way. I’ve heard someone say, or maybe I read it somewhere—the stages of radical change are as follows. Alarm. Resistance. Acceptance. When something in our life has changed, for example, a break-up, the death of a parent, or the change of residence, we go through a period of panic. I can recall similar situations in my life where I experienced this type of change and I went into a frenzy. In my worst moment I boarded a plane and felt so much anxiety that my body was pulsating all over, I was spitting blood, and I grasped the seat for the entire duration of the flight. I can’t recall feeling a sense of alarm that topped that moment. Usually my escapism has been through alcohol, however, for many it could be much more haphazard. The resistance stage is where people really get stuck. After the dust has settled we think of all the things we could have done differently… but guess what, that is not an option. We play out hypothetical scenarios for weeks, months, some even years. We could waste a good portion of our lives thinking this way with no real progress. Resistance to change is the epitome of backwardness. Lastly we go through the acceptance stage where we become ready to move on. We either have closure or we simply cease to resist. This is where you want to be, the quicker the better, and if you could avoid the resistance stage the better you will be.
I’ve learned to channel the bleaker periods of my life through literature. In The Rebel, Albert Camus maintains that all novels are more or less the author’s way of reconciling a wrong that has been done to them. In my latest novel, A Grave Situation, my character starts off with depression and anxiety. She has been cheated on by people in her life. In all the relationships she has been in, men have betrayed her by sleeping with other people, once even with her best friend. Her escapism is through alcohol. Binge drinking, arriving hung-over at work, promiscuous sex… these are all things we resort to when our lives are spiraling out of control. This often leads to negative thoughts about yourself, such as thinking you are overweight, thinking you are ugly, thinking you’re not good enough… and the list continues. Someone recently picked up my book and mentioned they were recently reading the manifesto by Elliot Rodger about the 2014 Isla Vista killings in Santa Barbara and would read my book next because the back matter reminded them of that incident. I didn’t know how to respond since I wrote a psychological thriller about obsession, revenge and murder, back in 2008, which was partially based on a true story about someone dealing with mental health and social problems. We all have choices of how to channel frustrations, I choose to do it through literary output. Some paint, some play music, others join a gym or comfort circle, some go back to school, whatever it may be, the idea is to find a way to put it behind you.
Nowadays on the internet you can find all types of information on how to deal with your depression. You can first identify the symptoms and see if you can relate. If you’re going through loss, abandonment, alienation, or inadequacy, there are tools to help combat these concerns. You’re not alone, there is help. You don’t have to feel sorry for yourself, you can bury yourself in literature like I’ve done in the past or take up a new hobby. You can get into a new routine to help distract you from being so caught up with your egocentric self. You should do things that make you happy like hanging out with friends or family, by engaging in your favorite exercise, or by traveling to some place you’ve always wanted to visit. Some people go back to school to get a master’s or take electives, maybe learn a new language. The point is to stay active and distracted, challenge yourself to do something different, and fight the negative thoughts that plague us with conviction.
To see how I channeled or reconciled my depression, pick up my latest novel—A Grave Situation.
Photo credit: Bablekan, Mikael F. 2011