No medical doctor has declared me clinically depressed. So, who am I to judge and label myself with such a serious and often painful condition?
I know what it feels like to be hopeless. To be frightened by the unknown future and the sick feeling that nothing you have ever done matters to anyone. The sudden feeling that the world sucks and that the only thing to do is sit in your corner for as long as possible. And avoid all human contact . Maybe this is mild for you. You might have heard of people who have had suicidal thoughts coupled with such feelings. A feeling that the world is against us and nothing but despair reeks out of the fabric of life.
I have felt that way. Not to the point of wanting to kill myself. But, to the level of neglecting my wellbeing for days.
So, you’re right. I have no idea what I am talking about. Who am I to be giving lessons on how to overcome feelings of despair? You have the right to ask like Will McCavoy in The Newsroom: “Are you somebody??”
Yes. I am somebody. I have felt sick in my stomach for reasons mostly explained by psychology and yes, I have been able (recently) to get off my state without medication.
I don’t know if I will be able to do so every time I get into the ‘dark room’. What I am writing here mostly is a reminder to the future me:
“Dude, we did this once. We beat this depression whatever thing. We can do it again. Here is how we did it the last time”.
In 2010 I was studying Medical Laboratory Sciences. I had switched from Biochemistry. After taking my second semester results, August that year, I was utterly disappointed in myself. I sat home, watched TV and ate only when I really had to. I took no baths, spoke and left my room rarely. I didn’t answer phone calls. Even from my parents. For one week.
This behavior spooked the hell out of my father. He travelled overnight from Bafoussam to Buea just to discover that had totally over reacted.
I felt that way again two days ago and I wish someone would have told me what I found out yesterday. I monitored my steps as much as my melancholic state allow and here is what I got:
1. Watch someone/something you aspire to be/do/become.
Because I have been working on preparing a promo of a new radio programme titled: “Meet the entrepreneurs”, I have been stocking quite a lot of TED talks and videos from personalities like James Altucher, Sir Richard Branson, Dave McClure, Rebecca Enonchong etc. Home, in my dingy hostel room, I forcefully double-clicked on a montage of snippets from Will Smith’s interviews.
“I love living…I think that is infectious” –Will Smith.
Watch the video for yourself and see if you can grab a few recurrent themes from books like: ‘The Alchemist’ by Paolo Coelho and ‘Think and Grow Rich’ By Napoleon Hill.
What I realized, is that when I am sad or depressed, I am essentially scared of everything. Life. The future. Living. Failure. Even success. I am just scared and I want to roll into a ball of energy and just disappear. Inspirational videos with people you believe in or look up to just have a way of pulling you back to ‘the now’. They make me realize: they’ve done this, I can too! There is no time to wallow in this dark pit of soulless tar. I need to wake up! Call a friend, your spouse, your mentor, and/or your parents. Listen to a trustworthy speaker. Read spiritual text.
Feel your heart leap out to bask in the wisdom of the universe and realize your journey is not complete.
2. Write ideas down.
After watching a couple of videos, I was still laying in my stinking, sinking ship. I decided to do two lists: What are the 25 skills I need to acquire? (Outrageous right? I know!) And Businesses I want to start. (Yep. What can I say? I am a born dreamer).
I did not complete the lists. I wrote 5 items on one then 6 on the other. However, what I noticed what that I started thinking. Focusing. What are the next steps? What skill in really important? What next? I was no longer feeling ‘doomed’ but rather starting my time-travelling machine. Not a very good habit either, but far better than wallowing in self-pity. I can handle a burst of enthusiasm. Isn’t that what we all need?
James says you need to write 10 ideas every day. He walks with a waiter’s pad and does that every, single, day. According to him, the idea muscle atrophies when it isn’t exercised every two days at least. And, after six month of daily practice, you become an idea machine. *clears throat* Let’s just say I am an ‘idea knob’ right now and that putting down those 6 and 5 items flexed the muscle a little.
Pick up a pen and a paper and PHYSICALLY right down ideas. Ten ways to cry. Ten ways to use the color blue. Whatever comes to your mind; just flex the muscle and watch it stretch out. It is painful, but we both know for a muscle to grow, pain is required. No pain, no gain. (Now you know why I don’t go to the gym).
3. Take a bath
This sounds like a no-brainer. But, I had to will myself into the bathroom and, felt much better afterwards. Try it. A cold one if you can. If feeling bad is your unrequited mental state, a shower might be all you need to remind you there are other feelings associated with living. Not just melancholy. Plus, you get to visit the loo and smell nice. Totally worth it.
4. Talk to people who respect/love/believe in /admire YOU.
When I was writing my list down, my sister called. We’d not spoken to each other for a couple of months now since she is in boarding school. I had to fake my happiness. Don’t get me wrong. I was happy to talk to talk with her but, if I did not heighten my sense of happiness so as to let if show in my voice, I know she would have sensed it.
When someone believes in or admires me, I feel the desire to keep that promise. I can’t seem weak in front of my sister. I can’t afford to be sad after all this time we’d not spoken to each other. So, I fake my joy. The call did not last more than a minute.
As soon as she dropped, I looked around my room and started packing up. This nonsense had to end.
Fake it until you become it. Period.
5. Take action buddy!
Get up! Get out! Live! Breathe! By the time I was done writing lists and watching videos, I packed my room and took a bath. Then, wrote my radio script for a programme I was to present that same evening. De-depressed Kamga was back!
I believe we all have a purpose. We all have a choice on how we live our lives and whether we achieve our dreams or not is entirely up to each and every one of us. Depression is just one of the many obstacles we face. For some people, it is worse than for others. The end is sometimes fatal. This post could seem like an insult to others.
But, I will end with what I know to be true. It is a quote from Confucius, I stole from Will Smith:
“The man who thinks he is can, and the man who thinks he can’t are both right”.
I think I can break the chains of depression with these five steps. What do you think?