blessing

BY SINA BERRADA
Well hereʼs something I never thought Iʼd say: suffering from depression has made me a better person.

If I had heard someone make that statement a year ago I would have said “you obviously donʼt understand the soul-destroying darkness of depression.”

But I do. I really do and although depression has taken away a big chunk of my life, it has given me back so much in return.

A year ago I suffered a full on nervous breakdown. It came out of nowhere. One week I was a well rounded and productive twenty-something with a prosperous career in  advertising. And a month later I was checking into a psychiatric hospital, unable to even remember my own surname.

In the months before I was admitted, my mind grew more and more foggy. It reached a point where I wasnʼt quite sure where reality started and my depression ended. To me it seemed like my entire world had been stuffed inside a snow globe and was being violently shaken. I had no idea what was happening to me.

I would wake in the middle of the night, my pajamas soaked in sweat, certain I was about to die. Gasping for air and fearing imminent death I would pace up and down my flat waiting for morning. By the time morning came, I felt like I had wrestled a bear and lost. I was utterly exhausted.

It was around this time I decided to kill myself. I cannot begin to describe how liberating it felt to plan my suicide. The sheer euphoria and relief I experienced plotting my escape from the world, made me happier than I ever thought possible. It was like looking forward to a holiday. A permanent holiday. I kept thinking “I canʼt wait to get to heaven! Iʼm gonna meet Jesus and Santa and Mrs. Doubtfire!” Hooray!

Fortunately, I never made it to heaven. My suicide attempt failed and it was unanimously decided that I would benefit from a visit to a psychiatric clinic.

My brush with death taught me so much about life. I learned that sometimes we have to live in darkness before we can see the light. Because I encountered Thanks to my depression, I do not fear death.

And I appreciate life so much more now. Because I see how easily it can all be taken away with my own doing.

After a few weeks in the hospital I began to improve. Thanks to the medication I was prescribed, my anxiety slowly dissolved and my depression began to lift. I finally convinced myself that I could get better. And eventually, after almost a year, I did.

I learned more about myself in the year I was sick, than the 27 years preceding it. Depression taught me that, happiness requires work. It requires maintenance. I had always assumed happiness was just a state of mind. I never realized it was also a choice.

While in the hospital, I learned to take my happiness seriously and protect it by setting up strong boundaries. I was taught how to recognize unhealthy patterns in relationships. I learned that ʻnoʼ is a full sentence.

It also solidified my relationship with my boyfriend. During the months leading up to my nervous breakdown, I decided I would break up with my boyfriend. My job, my family, my friends and my boyfriend…all of them overwhelmed me. It felt like it was all too much to handle and the relationship seemed the easiest to get rid off.

Even though my boyfriend respected my decision to end the relationship, he remained a close friend and carried me when I could no longer carry myself.

In its way, Ddepression is a great filter. It naturally filtered out all the friends who were not able to support me the way I needed and the ones who did step up to the plate became stronger and better friendships.

During my depression, I was at my worst. I was incredibly malnourished, irritable, angry and just a complete emotional wreck. I didnʼt smell too god because I had decided that showering was a pointless activity and eating was for the weak. I did nothing but sleep. My boyfriend saw me through my darkest days. He showed me what true, unconditional love is.

Depression completely humbled me. I remember staring out the hospital window, at the train station below. Looking at the people waiting for the train, I thought “do these people know how lucky they are? Waiting for a train to take them to work. It seems so normal.

Why canʼt I be normal? What has happened to me that I canʼt do that anymore?”

Never again will I take my sanity for granted.

It also gave me the boost to make some big changes in my life. Depression washed away all the hard earned structures that I had put in place – my job, my family and friends, all the plans I had made for the coming years…everything changed.

Due to the stress in my job, I was unable to return to work. For the first time in my adult life, I was without a job. After the initial shock of having no income wore off, I made a vow to make this my best year yet. I finally had time to do all the things I had always wanted to do. I started a blog, wrote short stories and began drawing comics. When people asked me what I did all day, I smugly replied “whatever I want”

Depression forced me to take a look at my old life and throw out everything that wasnʼt making me happy. My job wasnʼt working out for me, and it took a stint in a psychiatric hospital for me to realize that I was limiting myself.

Itʼs difficult to see out when youʼre engulfed in darkness. But what I clung to was the belief that everything was unfolding as it should. I felt like there was a bigger reason for my being sick. Depression bulldozed my entire existence in one swift motion. And whilst it has been a painful transition, it allowed me to build myself a much happier and stronger life.

Thanks to depression Iʼm finally on the right road to becoming who I was supposed to be.

Sina Berrada is the author of the blog, Depression Darling. You can follow her Twitter and Facebook. Art by Sina Berrada. 

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