I recently blogged about the emotional letdown that I have been going through a week before my birthday. Some of my friends both from Jakarta and Manila have privately reached out to me to check how I was doing.
To those friends: you know who you are. Thank you.
Although I’m not back 100% just yet, things are getting better. Every day, I’m trying to make an effort to make things better, to feel better. Writing about it was an essential part of the healing and recovery process. First, I had to admit that things were not as rosy as how they seemed to be.
I needed to acknowledge that I was suffering from a form of depression so that I can move on, so to speak.
This whole episode started a few months ago, when I began working an average of 55-60 work hours per week. I felt like a hamster running in circles, with no end in sight, with no gains perceived from whatever I’ve been doing.
Sleep became elusive. Either I had difficulty falling into it or I found myself waking up at 3 or 4 am, not being able to go back to sleep again. I lost my appetite and my usual food cravings where nowhere to be found. If there was one benefit from it, I lost a little bit of the excess weight.On most days, I found myself exhausted. Tasks at work that I can do in a jiffy, even with my eyes closed, took longer than usual to finish. I stopped reading my books and it took me hours to peel myself off the couch to do my usual workout routine that I know so well and which I used to look forward to doing.
I lost my joie de vivre. In most parts of the day, it felt like there was a dark cloud hovering above me, following me around wherever I went. This pesky dark cloud did not want to leave me out of its sight.
I started feeling sad for no particular reason, hiding my tears as I locked myself in the bathroom to weep, whimpering as quietly as I can manage so that my husband won’t hear me. I didn’t want him to worry about me and I didn’t want to talk about it.
My friends didn’t know any better, as I never shared what I have been going through. It’s not me to talk about my issues with friends, even with the inner circle.
In the process, I’ve alienated my family and my best friends. They wanted to know what’s going on, but I wanted to shield them from the negativity. I became unresponsive and I shied away from conversations that will lead them to ask what’s been happening.
In a way, I somehow felt guilty getting depressed. I have a great life and for some people, I have nothing else I should be complaining about. My life isn’t perfect but I have a supportive husband, a good job, a happy family life and an amazing circle of friends. Arshad and I are living a good expat life in a market that is replete with opportunities. We can travel and go to places we like, even randomly selecting islands where we can quickly and quietly spend the weekend.
That’s why I never talked about it. To me, it seemed frivolous to complain, to even feel what I’m feeling. It felt like an unfair sense of entitlement, that I had no justifiable reason to get depressed.
An aunt even posted on my Facebook: “April, you are blessed beyond compare.” But in my head, I was asking myself: Am I? If I am, why I am feeling so rotten?
Luckily, some of my friends who have gone through depression have reached out to me privately to tell me that they’ve been through the same thing. Some suffered through it silently, whilst some sought the counsel of friends. Others got professional help.
One of my trusted friends gently told me that I shouldn’t feel obligated to always do everything for everyone, which she felt was what I was trying to do.
“Even heroes have the right to bleed.”
And that it was okay to acknowledge how I was feeling and my current state of mind.
Denial was a river in Egypt that I had to swim through so that I can finally accept where I am and how I’m feeling so I can properly deal with it. The moment that I started recognizing my depression for what it is and the reasons causing them, the days started to get better.
I forced myself to read my books and deliberately searched for literature that can help me deal with this. I slowly clawed my way out of my misery by picking up my fitness routine again, with the hopes that my endorphin levels will shoot up and give me quick bursts of happiness.
For the close friends who were incessantly badgering me to talk about it (they have the best of intentions for me, God bless them), I made an effort to share with them, albeit in general terms, what has been happening.
The crying bouts became less and less frequent, although I still get melancholic every now and then. Whenever I feel that I’m going to crash again, I take a moment to acknowledge the emotions and deal with them. I realized there was no point in trying to shove it down further. It only made me feel worse.
My productivity started picking up again and I can think more clearly. When I spend time with friends, I genuinely enjoy the company and the conversations. Oh, my appetite came back (darn it!).
As I walked home tonight, I looked up and saw the star-sprinkled sky, which is quite rare these past few nights in Jakarta as it had been raining. I whispered a small prayer of thanks and told myself:
“It will only get better from here.”