When being in a new environment unravels something, you did not know about yourself

Moving to Germany was an all-new experience for me. For the first time in my life, I was moving very far away from home, from my family and friends, from a familiar environment. In fact, I was entering an unknown territory. One could say, I was leaving my comfort zone.

It wasn’t all glamour, it had its gloomy days. But my social interaction skills were not questionable. Socially, I thought I was okay. I wouldn’t approach you for a conversation, but when you did, I indulged. I easily connected with other beneficiaries of the same scholarship I was on, and we had our fun. But on certain occasions, I bailed out on events to meet new people. I thought I had valid reasons for not attending those events, yes, I did.

Then, I moved to a new city, to begin with my studies and that was when I realized I was becoming “socially awkward”. Each time there was an event to meet outside the class to hang out with my course mates, I freaked out. I got extremely anxious, thinking of all the things that could go wrong at the hangout. And when I did go, I was less myself. After a couple of tries, I told myself, enough of the torture. I decided to end it all and I stopped attending any gathering of any sort. In as much as I enjoyed the time spent with my course mates, I couldn’t get over the inner battle I had to fight each time. No more anxiety to battle with. I chose the comfort of my bed and laptop over social interaction.

And now, two months after successfully completing my studies (Yes! I did it. Thanks be to God), I have noticed some changes. I no longer turn down invitations to go out with friends (new people I met during my work on my master thesis). I still do get anxious about going out with them, but I look at it from the point of hanging out with colleagues to have some fun. I must admit though, that sometimes I am tempted to bail out. I may still turn down invitations, but I do accept some. I am not a party freak and I have never been, but in the last month, I have had so much fun with these people.

It had never occurred to me that I had social anxiety. I wasn’t a frequenter of events when I was in Ghana, but the few times I went out with friends, it never crossed my mind about getting anxious. I describe myself as a shy person, but my close circle of friends will tell you otherwise. I am sure they’d equate me to a parrot if you asked them. Being in an unfamiliar and new environment, I have experienced new emotions and learned something about myself I never thought.

I still do get anxious, but I make an extra effort to not let my anxiety weigh me down and have fun. It’s not been easy for me dealing with my anxiety, but I am trying my best to keep it under control.

After everything is said and done, I am my own hero

Maybe friendship is overrated, maybe you would never find the perfect friend in someone. But what better friend can you have than yourself? When there is no one around to help you with your mental illness, you can decide to do something for yourself. I call it self-help.
Living with depression comes with struggles, ups and downs, good days and bad days, and you may not want to go through your struggle alone, but when no one seems to be there, the best you can do is to be there for yourself. Accepting and taking charge of your condition is the first step towards recovery.
I recommend these self-help tips

  • Keep a log of your day

Keep track of what you are able or not able to do daily, either in writing or by voice notes. Record your feelings, ask yourself questions about the progress you have made, and the drawbacks you’ve had.

  • Don’t be hard on yourself

Good days and bad days will come. The good days will give you the hope that you are a survivor and can make it. Knowing your good days will help you identify the things that made it good and how to achieve more of them. From bad days, you will learn about what should be improved and help you identify triggers to bad days.

  • Set little but achievable daily goals for yourself

Although daily chores may be hard for you to carry through, you can set them as targets for yourself. Little things like making your bed and brushing your teeth give you back some control over your life. At the end of the day, all you care about is you could achieve something, you weren’t that hopeless.

  • Be spontaneous

Even though you may feel comfortable and would want to stick to your routine, do something out of the blue occasionally. Do something you haven’t done in a long while. Allowing some variation in your life would boost your morale and give a sense of hopefulness, you are not a lost cause after all.

  • Give yourself time to recover

Recovery, be it being able to get out of bed or getting back to your life or being able to carry out tasks you used to perform in the past, takes time. Whiles taking your medication and availing yourself for psychotherapy be patient with yourself. Results don’t spring up overnight. The little efforts you make each day contribute to the bigger picture of your recovery.

Above all, remember to take each day at a time. There is no need to be in a rush to figure out how tomorrow will unfold. Concentrate on getting out of today alive. Tomorrow will take care of itself when it comes. But for now, it is today that matters. And when things don’t always go as you’d have wanted, forgive yourself. You will have another day to try again.
Keep living. You are not alone and when you can, talk to someone about how you feel.

 

Everything but physical pain

How would you explain the fact that you are sick, to someone when you have no physical evidence to show? It is easy for people to understand that you are hurting and having pains from a toothache, but hurting from depression? It is almost impossible to explain if the person you are talking to has never been there.

The absence of physical pain is a driving factor and may go on to explain why depressed people would mutilate themselves to provide evidence of their illness to doubters. In his accounts of his experiences with depression, Andrew Solomon recounts how he tried to infect himself with HIV so he could kill himself with it as an excuse. Although I find it crude and extreme, he explains, “I needed something I believed in, something to show so that everyone would understand how desperate I was. I had to give up the invisible impediment for a manifest one”. This wish for self-harm, I have come to learn is a common occurrence for depressives who resort to physical harm to bring the physical state in line with the mental. They often do not care which form it takes, be overdosing on drugs, injuring themselves or in extremes, attempting suicide, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do about it.

This is what you could do:

  • Keep a log of your depressed mood shifts, what’s going on around you at the time, and what your thoughts and feelings were.
  • Learn to identify triggers, and develop some control because then you can strategize how to avoid or respond differently to things that make you feel bad and want to self-destruct.

This helps you gain some awareness; the fact that there are explanations for your mood shifts and the realization that your depressive episodes are not isolated events but may be linked to some triggers.
Depression may not be a physical illness, but it is a mentally and emotionally painful illness that can rid you of your will to live and affect every area of your life. When you feel like hurting yourself to prove to others the extremity of your pain, remember you can always talk to someone.

 

A new dawn

It is a new year, a new dawn and a new beginning for some of us. Many are the aspirations and resolutions. Many are the hopes of reaching the targets we have set for ourselves. The dreams of yesteryears, which we were unable to achieve, we are more determined to achieve. Others are empowered to build on the achievements and successes they chalked up.

Our expectations are high, the pressure to achieve them will mount and our anxieties will rise. But every new dawn presents us with opportunities to make amends, to right the wrongs and to move a step closer to our goals. So, let’s remember to take each day at a time and never lose hope. When we fall, let’s remember to rise and keep going. The journey won’t be easy, but step by step, we will reach there.

After all is said and done, ask for guidance and counsel when the need be. Someone has been where you are before and there will be someone to take your place when you leave. Like the adage in my mother tongue goes, “the one who asks for directions doesn’t get lost”. Talk to someone, Seek help.

Happy and a prosperous new year. May we never give up and strive to be better versions of ourselves.

Your team at your service, #LTD #Let’s Talk Depression

Depression is ruining my Christmas

It’s the festive season and there is so much merry. Everyone seems to be happy, except me. Everyone is making plans, visiting and inviting family over. People are shopping, buying stuff for themselves and others. Gifts are being exchanged. People who haven’t spoken to each other in a long while reach out. Yet, here I am, locked up in my head and struggling to go about my daily routine.

And I ask myself, can I just be this way or do I need to pretend to also be merry. Am I allowed to be depressed during this time or should I fake happiness? Do I have to reach out to people who I haven’t spoken to in a long while, or keep thinking this festive season is overrated? Can I just not care about anyone but myself?

But then, this is the depressed me talking because deep down I’d love to be with the people I love and care about. I’d love to be with family and friends. So when I am this way, please be patient with me and permit me the space to be depressed. But don’t take your love away from me. You are family and I value our relationship.

Your love and care will help me heal. So before I get on your nerves and push you away, I would like to wish you a Merry Christmas and a supportive 2018 with less drama.

 

You are no different from me

How different are we from each other? Are we even different at all? Don’t we all have demons we are battling with? We are all fighting. Maybe different things, but we are still fighting. Be it physical, mental or spiritual. The depressed, the sick, the addict; we all want one thing, to be sane, to be whole.

But even the sane, are you sure you are sane? We all live with so much uncertainty and so much want; a better tomorrow, a job, a promotion, a partner, a child, a climb up the social ladder. The list is endless. What won’t we give to gain them all?

But then you know what I want? I want just one thing: to be able to feel something else apart from depression, apart from fear and sadness. I want to feel pain, I want to feel anger, I want to feel love, I want to feel joy. I want to feel everything that makes me human. I want to feel everything you feel that you take for granted. I want it so much.

So just because you have control over your wants and I don’t, doesn’t mean you are different from me. No, you are not! You are just like me. So, the next time you want to judge, STOP! and ask yourself, am I any different from this person. Because, deep down, we are all fighting, we are fighting to survive, we are fighting to achieve something.

“Do you expect help, when you do not help others?”

What would you consider as helpful enough though? Lending a hand to someone who requires assistance in whatever form it may be, pointing someone in the right direction if they are lost, or simply being present for someone in need of comfort? No matter which form of help you offer, no form of help is insignificant.

And this brings me to the last but definitely not the end of the blog series on supporting someone battling depression. Just to recount what I shared in the last couple of weeks; Inform yourself about depression so you are better equipped to identify it when it rears its head, secondly we spoke of availing yourself to assist someone going through depression when the need be. After you have done all the above, but you still do not feel confident enough to assist the person, you could recommend the person to a trustee. Even after that do not leave them alone, offer to accompany them when they talk to this person. They may need a familiar presence to assure them they are not alone in this.

Never turn down an opportunity to help someone. You never know how far it may go to relieve the person of a problem and you also do not know when you will need theirs. Life becomes much easier when we work together and have people to count on. Be that shoulder, be that hand. Be the help someone needs.

Be that someone somebody talks to.

Seek help, Find help