“King Solomon once searched for a cure against depression. He assembled his wise men together. They meditated for a long time and gave him the following advice: Make yourself a ring and have thereon engraved the words “This too shall pass”. The King carried out the advice. He had the ring made and wore it constantly. Every time he felt sad and depressed, he looked at the ring, whereon his mood would change and he would feel cheerful.” (The Story of King Solomon)
This is a very personal post today. I want to share one of the darkest periods of my 34 years of life so far. It was the time when I was studying and when I suffered from a clinical depression or major depressive disorder. It was an extremely difficult and numbing time but it taught me a lot and I came out of it pretty strong.
My intent is to show what I have learned from it, how I came out of it and to inspire people who think they are in a hopeless situation right now.
I started university when I was 18 years old, right after school. When I just turned 19 I suffered a strange event right after a tennis match. It started with sight-problems, I lost the ability to see at the focus point of my sight, I could see everything around it, but the very point I was looking at in the center became blank. Then I lost the ability to speak the words that I wanted to speak, I still could think them, but when I opened my mouth it was pretty weird stuff. My friends around me laughed at first and I got pretty uneasy … If you are 19 years old, if you are any age and something like this hits you, it scares the hell out of you. Besides of that I got a tickling feeling in my left arm and leg. I lay down for a while and it lessened in degree. I could see and speak again the next day. Yet the creepy tickling stayed for a while and altogether I felt pretty disturbed …
Until today I’m not quite sure what it was exactly and doctors could not find too much. I think it was a circulatory disorder in the brain or even a minor stroke. Even when I am writing about this today, I still have a very strange feeling and body-sensations about it.
Unfortunately that event was the starting point downhill. I searched for answers to this really unpleasant experience. As a 19 year old you really are not very easy about your body breaking down like this without any warning. My mind went desperately looking for answers. So I went to my doctor in the hope of competent help and some reasonable explanations. I could not have gotten more disappointed with the approach of my doc, even the other one in the medical office did some very nice measuring of blood pressure and telling me some easy-going story. In my state of anxiety and uncertainty I really was not happy with that kind of treatment. I mean I lost the ability to see and speak for half a day. I don’t think this is properly examined by measuring blood pressure?!? Still I needed explanations why my body ceased to obey my orders so completely. The doc transferred me to a physicist who tried all kind of equipment on my cardiovascular system. Nice move! … but really not so helpful for my psyche at this time. At this point I wanted to have my neurological functions checked out and also to see if there is any brain damage, because I felt worse with time. My parents also seemed unable to help in any way. So it begins to dawn in me that there really is nobody there who understands anything, including me …
My psychological situation got worse, I felt hopeless, misunderstood and very ill. Looking back now I see that out of the hopeless situation I developed my anxiety and fear of being seriously neurological ill into a depressed condition. After my condition went really downhill then, I lost more control over myself and my environment. It seemed to me that I became unable to help me in any way and the people around me were even more incapable to help. Because I felt so much wrong and stupidly treated by any doc and they seemed to be looking in wrong places, I became convinced that I’m lost with some kind of brain disorder, possibly a tumor or any similar thing that is going to kill me in the end. I really lost any trust in doctors and what was even more devastating was to see that even all other people around me, my family and friends could not help either. That was frustrating and adding to my depression.
My thoughts went in circles without finding any solution out of it. This is very typical in developing a depressive disorder. It is learned helplessness, the mind struggles to find answers but can’t and then thoughts and emotions repeat until it gets out of control:
Learned helplessness theory is the view that clinical depression and related mental illnesses may result from a perceived absence of control over the outcome of a situation. (Wikipedia)
Additionally the problem for me was that it all was about my mind, I was convinced that there is something seriously physically wrong in my head. If you recognize such a pattern of repeating thoughts in you, the best way is to make a clear decision and then act directly from there. Or to let it go completely and turn your attention to something else, if that is an option. It is important to get competent treatment for depression, it is a serious illness. Seek for competent people, the internet may be helpful here.
At this point I already had developed a clinical depression. Whether the initial event had any impact on this or it was just my feeling of being lost by the bad treatment I got, I don’t really know. And I’m convinced today that the treatment was bad. If I get a 19 year old patient who lost sight and speech for half a day, I take any neurological and psychological problem into account. In case that you don’t know the condition of a clinical depression or major depressive disorder, there is a biochemical disorder in the brain where the neurotransmitters have been implicated. It is not to be confused with a temporary sadness or feeling down which can usually be changed by changing something in the outside world.
My energy went to the floor. I was just not able to lighten up any more. Laughing and smiling was just a mechanical act. The ability to think more deeply was gone. All in all it was the worst condition I could imagine. Thoughts of suicide really went through my head, because life at this level was really totally meaningless. It was a burden, nothing more.
If you know someone or expect someone to have a depression, the worst thing you can do is try to lighten the person up or even worse: try to motivate them by saying something like “Come on, it’s not that bad!” etc. The person is just not able to lighten up, there is only emptiness. I felt like the inner animating me was gone. Another friend I had suffering from depression said “Life feels like standing on the fast line with cars passing by and you are not part of it.” The best thing you can do is be understanding, try to really understand and then let impulses emerge from the person.
It got so strange that I totally lost the ability to recognize the meaning things in my environment had to me. My consciousness was dull and confused: I really lost touch with reality at this point. I could not differentiate between the meaning of a chair standing in front of me and a person. What meaning does the chair have anyway? Have you ever asked yourself that question? ;)
Somehow I still managed (on my own demand, my doc did not made any effort) to get myself transferred to a psychiatrist who diagnosed depressive syndrome and prescribed antidepressants, which showed no effect until at least 6 month or so. I also managed to persuade the psychiatrist to make a magnetic resonance tomography to finally check if my brain is still all right. That was very important, relieving to me, when I finally got proof that I’m not terminally ill but it is mainly a psychic condition.
Coming back to life
This process was approximately a year. It went sideward from here for about another half a year and then slowly upwards. I continued my studies of computer-science but was really not in the best condition to get something done. Before the event I got a 1.0 in my last test, now I was struggling to get 3.0. My whole studies were deeply influenced by my depression. When I started studying I was totally looking forward to discover and learn, now that was not present anymore. It was disappointing and yet interesting to see how my friends behaved. Some behaved nearly destructive by calling me dumb (in a depressions your cognitive functions are slowed down massively). Others were supportive and I value that very much until today.
In the end I did not finish my studies which went not so well as I imagined when I began, but started a venture about a new passion that developed slowly at this time: a business in online gaming.
The whole thing took about 8 years until I was completely free again from any depressive signs. To describe the condition again very precise: my consciousness was numbed. When I started to write my personal journal, which marked a turning point in my life back in 2005, I can remember asking the question to myself: how do I know, that I am 100 percent conscious again, at the level I was before the depression? I could not answer that question at this moment, but worked towards this goal.
What I have learned from all of that
1. Responsibility. Besides of that I learned something very profound a very hard way: I alone am completely responsible for my life. Nobody else, there is no safety net. My parents, doctors and everybody I encountered was no real changer. Basically I had to do it all by myself. I learned that I am responsible.
I belief that everything that happens in life has a seed of positive change, we just have to look for it. Besides I nearly lost at least 5 years of my life in my twenties, I am pretty grateful for what happened and what I could experience and learn from that early on. It matured me incredibly. And learning to take full responsibility for myself was really extremely useful.
2. This too shall pass. I also learned that I can handle such a difficult and almost hopeless situation and come out of it to build a successful company and fulfill important goals within 2 years by the willingness for personal growth. It clearly shows that there is always a tomorrow. And however hopeless a situation may seem, hang in there! The situation will change, even by smallest steps first. Then you will become able to improve it again. You will get through it, there is a light at the horizon, even if you can’t see it now – it is there waiting for you!
3. To grow consciousness is the most important thing. Looking backwards today on what I have written in my journal 3 years ago, still under slight influence of the fading depression, I am amazed about my questioning about consciousness. The numb feeling was really a very low level of consciousness. It was like consciousness pulled back and needed to be encouraged to show and eventually flower back again.
Secondly the feeling of losing the inner me in my deepest depression is also amazing. As far as I understand spirituality today, the delusion of the illusion of the ego (as the me) is the goal and byproduct of awakening, which is the growth of consciousness.
Today I am completely free from any depressive moods and I think I am a very happy and conscious person. I missed a lot because of it, but I learned a lot from it. It was an extreme experience I really wish no one to have. But nevertheless I am thankful for what it has taught me and I used this awareness. Thanks for reading.