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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.

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?

I’d like to begin by apologising to anyone who is religious, it doesn’t matter what kind of religion. God here is intended as any kind of supreme being, regardless of the religious institutions attached to it. I totally understand this is outrageous to them.

Believing in God is not easy. But mostly, believing in God is not mandatory. Or it shouldn’t be.

I keep reading “stuff” on the internet, articles, blogs, self-help pages and more often than not, I come across sentences of various styles that could be grouped as “with the help of God you’ll make it”.

I’m not saying that this is the only alternative given, of course not, but for instance the fact that this is the foundation of each and every 12-step-programme is nothing less than scary.

I believe in science (and I would like to add, hence I don’t believe in God) and I believe psychology is a science and I believe psychotherapy can heal most of the psychological discomforts human kind can experience.

I strongly refuse to believe that I have to believe in God to stop drinking/using drugs/gambling/insert-your-addiction-here.

But this is only tangent to the point.

What makes me furious is that it looks like praying to God will bring forth any necessary change to heal. I’m looking for answers, or better, I am looking for manuals. I need to find strategies to get better, to heal, to cope, to change radically and what I keep finding are just statements that changes are necessary. Very rarely can people tell you how. Whenever you attempt to get to the how, there it comes: grace.

The hell with you: I’m never going to wake up one day enlightened and happy just because I said my prayers the night before. I’m going to have to work towards it. More than that, I want to believe that I can be a part of it, that there is something that I can actively do, that I am the one deciding where I’m headed instead of praying and well, really just hoping, that things will come on their own.

That of course is the definition of faith itself. You have to believe in God. And I may venture into saying that yes, those who believe in God can actually benefit from that faith in their everyday struggles. But please, do not tell me that those who don’t have one and only chance: convert.

You can’t force people to believe in God in order to get better, first of all because faith is not really something you can command, either you already had it or you don’t; of course some might find their faith while healing, but it’s not a certainty. But mostly, you can’t force faith on people because saying that you can heal with God’s help implies that you can’t do it on your own. Don’t get me wrong, relying on other people is essential, but God is not people. This feels like an ultimatum.

We are social animals, that is widely known, but we are not religious animals. Religion is a choice, people who are not religious are not ill, while those who tend to isolation also tend to suffer from this condition. So yes, everyone needs help to get better, I for first rely on a therapist, group sessions and friends and benefit immensely from it all. But I refuse to believe that I have to surrender to God in order to heal.

I imagine now how myriads of religious people would be nodding their heads and think “God helps those who help themselves”. Now that’s convenient. Those who help themselves, help themselves with or without God.

I understand how sometimes healing may look like a miracle. If nothing else, because being better often looks impossible when you’re still neck-deep in shit. I also understand how sometimes you fully realise you have improved almost suddenly, and can’t really tell what it is that happened or what strategies you used to get there. So telling other people “how” is almost impossible.

Still this doesn’t mean that God did the trick, or that your prayers did.

My late lack of posts notwithstanding, June has been a very “full” month. Or maybe it was so full, I had no time to put into words all that has been happening.

First came LARPing.
This may well seem a normal nerdy/geeky/dorky activity, but it entailed going back to my ex husband’s hometown, more precisely, to the exact same location where we got married. I entered the same garden, after some 400 days, all dressed up and made up again, holding a sword and a shield instead of a tulip bouquet. And there I rewrote history. What was supposed to be the quintessential remnant of failure became the symbol of new beginnings, of clean slates and second chances. It became proof that things can change, that stepping out of the loop is possible and that I am in power to manipulate my life to lead it wherever I want, even retracing steps I thought had collapsed.

Then came Vietnam.
Not Mexico, not Indonesia, Vietnam. The first proper journey after my honeymoon, my first time in Asia, my first time travelling for the simple sake of experience. And the Nth time I had to loath my mother because she HAD to say that she was scared about Maddie and I going alone, regardless of the terrorism she always triggers. Nonetheless, we are going.

Then came Marcel’s revelation.
Enough said in my previous post.

Then came the separation hearing.
I decided I didn’t want to think about it. Or rather, I just didn’t, as I know all too well that I can’t really control where my thoughts are headed. It was basically like getting married: it’s not the ceremony, it’s the decision to do it that changes the state of things. So yeah, it felt like a mountain on my shoulders to say “no” when the judge asked looking straight in my eyes whether a reconciliation was possible. But it didn’t change things, it didn’t feel as if it was wrong, or too soon, or uncertain.
Later that night I had dinner with my ex husband and we talked a lot, probably more freely than I’d ever done before. Because I have analysed the whole situation more, because I feel more detached now, because it is plain to see that it was the right and the only choice. The fact that he is desperately trying to get a new job at the other end of the planet does scare me, because even if he denies it, it speaks volumes of what he wants from me right now. And while it’s true that not much would change in terms of practical arrangements, it makes me wonder whether a do-not-resuscitate approach would be smarter and more proper.

Then came New York.
The reign of tanned, tattooed, trained, totally awesome biceps… and ugly faces.
Every one asks me if I liked the city and I don’t really know what to answer, because really, it wasn’t that much about the city. It was about facing an intercontinental flight alone for the first time after 13 years, it was about strengthening a friendship, it was about doing something good for myself as travelling can be. And I did like the city. When my flight approached JFK I had a glimpse of the skyline and all I could think about was “why the hell haven’t I thought of this sooner?”. But it wasn’t just for the Empire State and the Chrysler, it was about wondering why I had stopped travelling altogether, because this is something I have so rarely done with my ex husband. The excitement that a new travel brings is unparalleled and I needed this sweet escape the day after my separation hearing. And yes, I couldn’t help looking at men while I was there. It must have been the whole Sex-and-the-City effect, I thought men in NYC would be great. I was wrong. Don’t get offended, I am sure there are plenty of wonderful males out there and I just lacked serendipity but I was just a little disappointed, I expected… you know… the American dream. Sorry guys, Europeans do it much better.
But oh man, the sushi was great!

Then came my new therapist.
In retrospect, June was a “good” month: I was relatively calm and positive, probably due to all the innovations and the decisions taken. But May wasn’t and in one of the deep pits where I fell, I realised it could be a good idea to join group therapy sessions. So I asked my current therapists for a reference and ended up at my first appointment. It is all part of that master plan where I physically need to engage in attempts to help myself get out of this hard place where I have found myself in for the past few months. It was uncommon and foreign, but somehow illuminating.
He acts like the typical psychiatrist: he spits out comments and conclusions about your life which you cannot contradict, regardless of their accuracy; because he’s the doctor and if you don’t agree it’s just because you’re not accepting the reality of things. After three years of therapy and being the introspective person I am, one who’s no longer afraid of even the darkest and scariest truths of the human mind, I don’t really appreciate that, but I suppose it won’t be such a burden in a group environment. Plus, thank Sa, his conclusions were mostly correct in the first place.
The interesting thing was finding myself wrapping up the effects of a three-year-long journey through my mind and soul and discovering just how many things have indeed changed. How many things I managed to change. Perspective gave me hope. Once again I could see that I am the kind to get what she wants, I usually do, and this is no different. I wanted to get better, to change, and I have. My troubles right now are very different from what they used to be. Surviving is not a problem anymore, the task at hand is rounding the edges, getting closer to perfection, getting reality closer to dreams and desires. The way I can see my issues now… I am so much more perceptive. Every day I get closer to new answers and new revelations. And it surprised me to no end that what I have been trying to do for myself in the past six months was indeed correct. I have been praised for the idea itself of seeking a group therapy, since relating to peers is exactly what I need to get out of my cage. In order to step forward I need to step back, reconnect to the very place where my past took a wrong turn, where I became anxious to be a grown up and skipped the rest. That rest, where you take relationships with the opposite sex lightly, where you make mistakes to learn from them, where play is more important than being serious, where my peers help me choose my beaten track, not people from other generations.

So at 32 I LARP, so I get a tattoo, so I try to meet and know and talk to as many people as I can, so I try to seduce strangers and fuck as many different men as I can, so I skate to give my little-girl-self the satisfaction to wear a costume and try to win a competition.
So I regress. Because I need to step forward.