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I do not believe depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not contradicting science and arguing that there are demons in our heads that need to be exorcised. I simply refuse to believe that depression is just a chemical imbalance in our brains.

Depression in an illness. Implying a detectable abnormality in our bodies makes this assumption more real; it can be seen, proved. In other words, we are not making this up and moaning about being sad, it’s a fact. Having a scientific way to prove that depression exists and it’s not just a musing also makes most of us accept the idea of taking pills.

My problem with the idea of blaming the chemical imbalance is that some people seem to believe that depression is only a chemical imbalance that can be cured with pills. My fear is that they would rely solely on the pills and refuse to do the rest of the work.

I know a few people who think that and have read about many others who maintain the same point of view. They are just fine; before depression their life was basically perfect, they had no problem, only one day the chemical imbalance struck and everything was turned upside down. But then they started this medication and everything was fine again. Sounds familiar?

It’s wrong. And it’s dangerous. Well, no, it’s just mainly petty.

The relationship with antidepressants can be complicated and frustrating. Many of us fight strenuously against them, some of us are dangerously eager to get them and never cease to do so, some can’t take them even if they want to, some go through excruciating months to find just the right one. I belong to the group of people who prefer to do without them.

I wrote a post a few months ago where I stated I had decided to take them just for the sake of trying something new and get a fresh chance at getting better. In the end I never did start, because of some of the many, possible side effects and because it’s not just an in-and-out thing, it takes ages and I am not keen on the idea of embarking in a year-long journey. My kind of depression, dysthymic disorder, allows me to choose. If it got any worse, I know I could resort to antidepressants. It can help, but it’s not mandatory.

For other, major depressions it is not only recommended but necessary. Still, this doesn’t mean it is the only cure.

I know how depression works. I live dysthymia every day and I have watched major depression very closely. It put ideas, monsters in your head. And yes, they do go away when you feel better; not because you realise it’s just the depression talking, but because you get out of the loop, because you can block the anxiety, because you manage not to think about it. Even when I am not in a depressive bout though, I get to the same answer: I am not fully happy because of my negative thoughts. This I believe is the core.

The chemical imbalance might be responsible for the bouts, the loops, the anxiety, whatever. But at our core, we are not alright. Pills could be good enough. Dysthymia is as hard as it gets to eradicate and I know that I will probably never be as “fine” as those who have never suffered from any mental illness whatsoever. So I am content with the idea of being better, without strong bouts, without most of the anxiety, possibly without the chemical imbalance. But that doesn’t mean that a pill is the answer. That it isn’t worth trying to fight to eradicate the faulty thought process altogether.

Because pills are like a pause button. They allow you time to breathe, which is essential, but when you stop taking them you are back at square one. Because they do not cure the disease, they only take the pain away. I want a cure. I want a long-lasting, long-term solution and I strongly believe that modifying our negative thought patterns is the answer.

Those who believe that making the chemical imbalance go away will solve the problem are ostriches. They want to believe in the magic pill, the blue pill that will erase all change and let your life go on undisturbed. I understand. I wish it were that simple. Unfortunately, it’s nowhere near that simple. Maybe to some, depending on a drug to live an acceptable is fair game.They prefer to sweep it all under the carpet and leave it there hoping it will disappear.

I could never accept it. I have already spent many years of my youth turning my head away from the problem, I would be constantly terrified that it all could backlash at me when I least expect it, making me realise just how much time I have wasted way too late.

But maybe, here’s the deal: they do not even realise how badly it could backlash.

So please, do the work. That hard, frightening, menacing work of getting to know yourself and your problems, your weaknesses and try to embrace change. Because it can’t really get worse, worse than not being aware of your emotions, worse than living subjugated by fear, worse than being the cause of your own pain. And if it does get worse, it’s only the first mile of the road to getting better.

This I would like every single person on Earth to understand. Not just the family of the depressed, but every one struggling with an emotional problem. Do not live in slavery of your imperfections. Anxiety can be defied, panick attacks can be defied, depression can be defied. It’s not a settled and unquestionable God-sent curse. Fight for a better life, because you can have it. Fight or die trying.

Silence is scary.

Silence is scarcity, silence is subtraction, silence is proof of loneliness.

Noise is reassuring, you always know there is a world out there, driving by, ringing, talking, barking, existing. The world is and every action of human beings, animals and forces of nature is stressed by noise. You know that there is hope out there, there is society, there is humanity.

You surround yourself of sounds and noises and welcome them, you listen to your friends’ voices, turn on the radio while driving, turn on TV resting on your couch, lose yourself in the tapping of your fingers on the keyboard. You fill up your head with external influences.

But late at night, one by one the noises fade and disappear. Minute after minute you are left alone by the world outside, forced to face your inner voice, the one that never ceases. The one you can never fully cover up, the loudest one, the one you can’t run from.

Sometimes, it’s just made up by grocery lists, to do lists, foam-peanut thoughts, noise. When you decide to mute even that noise, what fills the void stinks of inadequacy, fear and torment. To do lists are replaced by what if lists, enumerating every single thing that might go south in your life, every imperfection, every weakness, every point that makes you hopeless and unlovable. Your inner voice screams in a hundred different voices how you’ll always be left alone, in silence.

When all the silence you need is that of your own hate.

Sometimes I amaze myself. Considering I’m supposed to be depressed, this notion amazes me in itself.

Yesterday at training the most awkward thing happened to me. It was a “good” session, it had been long since such a good session, I’ve been feeling very negative in the last few months. It might have been because I received the final list of participants for my upcoming competition and the spark lit up again. So at one point in the evening, I was jumping and my feet autonomously and anarchically decided to perform a technical element I had never tried before. And it came out perfect. Just like that out of nowhere.

I’ve been laughing about it ever since. Thinking of it, there was just another instance in my life when something similar happened: when I would use a particular word in English I had no idea I knew.

It makes me feel gifted, special.

I am also amazed of how I keep growing, even, especially when I don’t realise it. You feel stuck, you are sure you keep dealing with the same issues over and over again, in a loop, then all of a sudden you lift your head in astonishment when you grasp you have come to a turning point. And you didn’t even notice you were walking on that path.

These are the times when I almost believe that things can change. It’s not a belief yet, it’s just a background question. It puts desperation on pause. It makes you wonder that you have to concede that the ways of the world are wiser than you and things are going to be ok in the end.

No one will ever know how long it’s going to take and patience is always scarce, but there is a path and sometimes I wake up walking on it.

Today then I stumbled upon this column from Dr. Deepak Chopra and it was one of those moments where you can’t help nodding at every word you read, because they are describing your life like a mirror.

A few seconds after reading how I should stop feeling unlovable just because an unlovable person made me feel like I was never enough, I connected the dots.

I started out my career as a personal assistant in a polished world-renowned consulting firm – please add sarcasm to the statement. When I started working, I was thrilled at the idea of spending 10 hours in an office and working my ass off, because I was finally aware and confident of my skills and capabilities and 18 months of Ivy League level companions made me feel like I belonged to the brainers’ club. I couldn’t wait, I was ready to face any challenge and come out of it victorious.

Too bad I ended up serving – or should I say babysitting – one of those narcissistic assholes who are parked inside a company at highest positions like a statue, who likes to bully people around, dispense insults and humiliations like morning greetings and just loves to make your life miserable with the excuse that he’s really teaching you something about life. Nope, in my country people like that don’t get fired or sued, they make partner. That’s the reality of life that he actually taught me.

Needless to say, I was burnt out within 2 months, crying every single morning before going to work within 3 and looking for a new job within 4. Of course, I had to go through the typical stigma of people not believing that it was that bad… until they overheard one of the Saturday morning calls, then they would believe just how bad it was. Everyone in my position would have fled, would have burnt out, cried and gotten depressed. It’s just how it is when someone shatters your self-worth day in and day out.

But only today I fully realised that it was just a little bit worse for me. I never regained a particular joy of work, I don’t care for my career anymore, I am scared to leave my current position, which does not stimulate me in the least, because I know how worse off I could be. Not because of a single bully, but because once again I found myself in the situation of facing someone who could not be pleased with me no matter my efforts in the matter. I could have been the best worker in the whole continent, he would have deprecated my job nonetheless. I was smart enough to understand that even back then, I saw how he kept contradicting himself just to prove that he was always right and anybody else was always wrong, but the damage was done.

I wonder if all of this would have happened anyway had the wound been left closed.

I haven’t written absolutely anything anywhere for a while, a couple of months.

Fact is, I don’t know what I should write about.

In my head, this space was to be used as a chalkboard. The place where you can get the big picture from the scraps of ideas that are swimming freely in your brain. It did serve its purpose in the beginning.

But then it became the notorious emotional dustbin. The only place where I could basically whine and put into words my worst thoughts. I think I wanted to be inspirational. But at some point along the way, I realised it wasn’t working. It felt as if I had stopped working towards an end, a goal.

It feels as if I have lost my goal: finding sanity. Somewhere along the road I lost hope, I lost the strength to fight, so if there was no future to tend to, writing wasn’t going to be of any use anymore. It would only make me observe my uncertainty. And I didn’t want to look.

I just wanted to exist and maintain my unstable balance as long as I could.

I still want to.

But there are major differences now, I suppose. When I lost hope, I thought there would be no end to the state of numbness and hopelessness I was in. I thought it was the end, that there was no other way out, that every day from that moment on would be just the echo of a resigned acceptance to mere survival. Every day.

It turns out, it’s really not like that. I have realised that there are good days and bad. It sounds obvious, but it’s not. Every time it’s a red day, it feels like it lasts forever, it feels like a vortex dragging you down which will never cease. But it ceases alright. Then come the orange days, the yellow days and even the green days. Lots of them, not just once a fortnight.

And when lost in a red sea, I only wish I could discharge the feeling of oppression that blocks my lungs, but writing isn’t the answer. Writing propagates the pain. Makes me focus on the pain. So I don’t. Nobody wants to hear about the pain anyway. Not even me.

I haven’t stopped rummaging my thoughts and trying to figure out a way out of this though. It felt as if I had, but it was just running in the background. Until I came to a basic but fundamental knowledge: I can pinpoint exactly the source of all my issues. I know all the answers to questions such as why, where does all this come from, why do I react this way, why am I suffering. My very personal answer is a deeply rooted lack of self-confidence and self-love in very specific sections of my life.

People say that the first step towards solving a problem is finding out what the problem is. True, but…

True, because I now fully realise that it wouldn’t have been possible to try to tackle this problem before my years of therapy. Which maybe didn’t “cure” me but certainly let me open up myself enough to look at the problem in the eyes, analyse it, interpret it and recognise it for what it is.

But… because the same years of therapy, or I should say analysis, led me to see the problem but provided no weapon whatsoever to fight it, to uproot it, discard it and build again.

It took me years to finally find the source of the leak, now that I have, I see very clearly that I need two types of tools: rugs to prevent the flood from spilling any further and a wrench to replace the broken pipe. In other words, I’d like to find a way to snap out of my bad days when they come, or at least prevent being overwhelmed by them and to build the confidence I lack and overwrite my negative thought patterns.

This I believe to be a milestone.

But more than that I was propelled to write today because of this video.

I feel that shame. I never talk about what I’m going through. I may talk about the fact that depression is there, and that I do things because of it, but what actually goes on in my mind and how it affects many of the things I do, many of the reactions I have, many of the choices I make… no, that I do not speak about.

I joined group therapy sessions, because I was hoping I could do that. Not to dwell on self-pity all together but to hear a second opinion from someone who’s been there, who is there now, who knows what I am talking about. But it’s really not working like that. I still don’t know if it’s because they are holding back since I’m new or if it’s just not their thing.

So how? How do I beat shame, how can I begin talking about this to people who don’t understand? I have talked to Maddy during my “attacks” sometimes and she means well, but she just doesn’t get it. She doesn’t get to the source, she stops at the surface. And getting the wrong response might be worse than getting none at all, because it only makes you feel more misunderstood and alone.

Do I have to give up to the idea that as long as my “attacks” come I’ll just have to handle it by myself and wait it out and that I will get relief only as they become less frequent?