It’s a typical spring day at South Beach, Miami. The ocean is a boundless spectrum of blue. A few speedboats are traveling towards infinity. Someone is parasailing in a purple parachute in the distant sky. A group of little girls in swimsuits sit a few feet away from me attempting to build a sand castle. The sun is burning the skin on my back. My feet are covered in sand. Someone is playing Spanish music somewhere close by. This is truly a traveler’s paradise.
But there’s something else on my mind. I am here but still not here. I have a lot to say but don’t know where to begin. I want to strip off my soul and let it all out. I have a comorbid Major Depressive Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder. The road has been rocky all this while, and the struggle is still not over. I don’t know when it will be, or if it will ever be. But, I am lucky to have survived. I am lucky to have figured it out a little. I am lucky to have discovered myself despite my illness. I am a success story.
I was formally diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety disorder in January 2012 at the age of 19 in my freshman year of college. My move from India to Seattle and the associated culture shock, homesickness, bad living situation, roommate conflicts, academic pressure, gloomy weather and unfamiliar environment of the US only made it worse. Earlier this year, I was also diagnosed with Border Personality Disorder that probably went undiagnosed for the last few years and exacerbated my depression and anxiety.
I had three major relapses after a first major episode within a period of three years. I quit college twice and went back home for a few months both times to seek treatment. I fell in love with a man; only to have him tell me after being together for a year that his parents would never accept “a girl who is on the pill”. I lost friends because I wasn’t the same fun, bubbly and entertaining person that I was before. I gained 30 lbs. in 3 years. My self-confidence was completely shattered. I would stay in bed for 2 days straight without even getting up to eat, drink or pee. I would wake up in the middle of the night, frightened out of my senses, realizing that I had wet my bed. I would cry and howl for hours at a stretch. I felt like I had no purpose to live. There were days I slept for 20 hours and there were other times when I couldn’t sleep
for 5 nights in a row. I was scared of my own self. It was like a funeral in my mind. I didn’t know who I was or who I was meant to be. I would cry so much that I had difficulty breathing or swallowing. I was traumatized and tired of fighting every day. I used to wish I were never born. I felt caged in my own body all the time, waiting for someone to let me out. Happiness had become like sand. The tighter I tried to hold onto it, the more it slipped out of my hand. I felt like depression was going to slowly choke me to death.
I did not think I could live, but I overcame all the obstacles that life threw at me because I never gave up. I have now graduated with a double major in Finance and Entrepreneurship and a minor in Dance. During my four-year degree, I studied abroad one summer; interned abroad at world’s second largest financial newspaper another summer; interned at world’s largest aircraft manufacturing company another summer, held various leadership roles in college and founded two start-ups in the same year. I received multiple full-time job offers in my senior year and now work for one of the big 4 accounting firms of the world in San Francisco, a dream city for millions of people across the globe.
If I can do it, you can do it too. You can scare the black dog away. All you need is a truckload of patience, strength, perseverance and determination. I’ve learned from my personal experience that it is important to cry out for help, without the fear of being judged or hated. It is not your fault that you are depressed. It is like any other physical ailment that you could have picked up, except that it does not have physical symptoms that you can see. If you think you are feeling unlike yourself, please seek professional help from a psychiatrist or counselor. Medication, therapy, counseling, exercise, a disciplined routine and most importantly love, affection and support from family and friends can do miracles and help heal even the worst of depression. Nobody can fight depression alone.
If it weren’t for my family, close friends, therapist and psychiatrists’ unconditional support, I would not have made it through.
It saddens me to see the numerous stigmas associated with clinical depression. Please know that nobody gets depressed by choice. It is a biopsychosocial disease and anyone could have it, regardless of his or her age, sex, religion or culture. But you are only making it worse for the patient if you tell them that nothing is wrong and they need to try harder and cheer up. Depressed people may seem absolutely normal on the outside, but the disease kills them inside every second. Labeling or criticizing them is often far more detrimental to their healing process than helpful.
Patients with clinical depression will become irritated, agitated, angry, quiet, hyper or simply confused. They might push you away and protect themselves by developing a strange emotional safety mechanism. Give them all your love anyway. That is the only balm that will soothe their ache. Try to create a positive environment but never force anything upon them. Always empathize, not sympathize. A lot of people avoid helping out others with depression because they think they spread negative energy. Consider it as a social responsibility, and do it anyway.
No matter excruciatingly painful depression is, the truth remains that I would not have been the person that I am today if I didn’t suffer from the illness. I might have been healthier otherwise, but my perspective towards life and myself would not have been the same. It was indeed a blessing in disguise. As for the future, I am still dealing with a personality disorder and occasional bouts of depression and anxiety that accompany it. However, I shall wear my suit of armor and soldier on. I will keep daring greatly. I am a fighter and will always be.
Although I am not a medical professional, I found these resources helpful in understanding my depression and tackling it better:
The following articles, books & videos influenced me a lot during my journey and are worth reading/watching:
If you or someone you know is suffering from mental illness, visit these below resources for help and more information: