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Fighting hopelessness

why depression is so hard to recover from

To fight, there must be a hope that one day we may win the battle. That our lives can change for the better. That we can overcome whatever debilitating circumstances that triggered the depression in the first place, or somehow progressively rewire the neurons in our brain, or try our hardest to negate the genetic code we carry.

To manage depression, there is a lot to do. Our diet has to change, we hope we can afford psychotherapy, convince our extremely fatigued bodies to go for that one walk or swim, try to remove ourselves from potential triggers, among many other things.

Our diet has to change, we hope we can afford psychotherapy, convince our extremely fatigued bodies to go for that one walk or swim, try to remove ourselves from potential triggers, among many other things.

Progress is typically excruciating slow, the journey is not linear. Sometimes we feel a little better, only to be crushed by that overwhelming desire to die the next day. Imagine asking someone who has their will to live and their energy to function all sapped out of them to do a long list of things every daythat may or may not help. Most of the time it will seem it is not helping and it is pointless.

To fight, we need hope. But in many cases, depression happens because the hope had been taken away in the first place. Where do we find hope that has been robbed?

I have had chronic depression my entire life. The thing with depression, it blurs the lines between what I believe and what my brain tries to make me believe. It takes away my identity. Do I genuinely believe there is no hope, or is my brain trying to convince me?

I am one of the luckier ones. I have been through good times. But you see, having had good times can mean two things: I have fought so hard to be better, and yet I am back to this dark pit again — how many f*cking times do I have to fight, how much do I have to do, how hard do I have to try, just to live;or, since I have had good times, I must believe that some day I will experience them again.

The truth is, when I am really in that dark pit, I don’t give a shit about good times. It is the apathy. Nothing seems to be worth living for. Not with this pain, not with this despair.

We read of people killing themselves. A twitter friend retweeted this:

Perhaps people are wondering how did he go from that state to ending his life? I don’t wonder. I think I understand. I am afraid for myself sometimes. I don’t think of suicide as a viable option, but so many times I have read of people being so alive and so full of love and the next moment, they are gone. Why do I think I am exempt from this?

People think that people will kill themselves don’t try hard enough. Maybe they have tried everything in their capacity? It takes one moment of despair against a lifetime of trying.

Managing depression requires a lot. It can be like trying to convince a child that vegetables are delicious. Sometimes it feels more like developing the art of self-delusion rather than genuine hope. It is like I try to convince myself that vegetables are delicious even though I know they are not and yet I hope against all odds, I will start to believe it enough.

Developing forgetfulness helps. I have this personal observation of happy people. They forget. They suffer, but they move on and forget. People like me, we have a long memory. A long memory that is skewed towards pain and suffering. Sometimes I shock myself when I remember a vignette of love and happiness from my childhood. It seems like all I remembered was the suffering. I now know why. Neurons that fire together, wire together. If traumatic events keep replaying in my head, they are all that I remember.

And this is new: perhaps it can only come with age. Acceptance. I am still learning this now. To accept that maybe there is just no hope. Or the hopes that were robbed from me will never come back. I must either become a person who harbours new hopes, or accept living is possible despite the hopelessness:

G.Y.: There are times when the sheer magnitude of human suffering feels unbearable. As someone who speaks to so much suffering in the world, how do you bear witness to this and yet maintain the strength to go on?

N.C (Noam Chomsky).: Witnessing it is enough to provide the motivation to go on. And nothing is more inspiring to see how poor and suffering people, living under conditions incomparably worse than we endure, continue quietly and unpretentiously with courageous and committed struggle for justice and dignity.

I am one of the luckier ones. Somehow, I managed to wriggle myself some space to heal. But I write this in hope (wow, I do have some) that our society will develop a ton more compassion towards people who suffer from mental health issues, not just depression, and perhaps more importantly, I hope people like us will develop more compassion towards ourselves.

It is very hard. Surviving is hard. Give yourself a pat on the back if you made it this far. Give your loved one a pat on the back if they made it this far. We are asked to be better as though switches in our brains can be on and off at our will, we are asked to make so many changes in our lives despite so little energy and having our hopes robbed. We have to put up with people trying to inspire us by telling us others are suffering more as though the guilt of being a burden is not enough. We have to smile weakly and hope not to break down when people tell us “just exercise more!” or “just let go and be positive!” when they don’t know that even getting out of bed seems like a herculean effort and well, maybe we have already tried our hardest to be positive or maybe they should try acknowledge that sometimes there is truly very little to be positive for.

Some people think depression is a choice. Like we can choose the cards we are dealt with.

Why would anyone wish themselves this pain if they can help it? And sometimes, people are in pain because there are reasons to feel that pain. The worst thing someone can do is to dismiss their story, to ask of them to pretend the scars and wounds of their survival didn’t exist.

The other day, I woke up angry. Why do we think of people with mental health issues as the ones to be fixed when there are grounds to have poor mental health? We are products of an industrial-education system, tools of capitalist-hoarders, we are made to work unreasonably long-hours to pay for expensive housing that gives us barely any room to breathe and healthcare to fix us from working those long hours, politics is simply broken, selfish people seem to thrive, good people get persecuted. We are not free.

But we can harbour the hope of working towards freeing our future generations, like our ancestors did, no matter how many missteps there were along the way. Maybe it takes a little delusional faith, a little bit of storytelling to ourselves, but the alternative is worse: to believe in a history that is immutable, whether for ourselves as individuals, or for humanity as a whole.

Originally published on Medium.