Mental illness turned my world upside down. I lost a sense of identity with my own identity. We became poles apart. Post the diagnosis of clinical depression, I developed a language of who I was ‘before’ and who I became ‘after’. The former was all about “I can” and the latter “I can’t”. One effortlessly sailed through life, and the other struggled with every step of every day. One always said yes to things and the other could only think about avoiding. I believed that the depression was a result of the kind of person I used to be. For the patient to go, that person had to go. I let it go. I thought of depression as another lifetime altogether.
The fantasy didn’t last.
The ‘before’ person kept rearing her head as I began to heal. The personality traits, the likes and dislikes, the habits…no matter how much I tried to disown them, it was like they owned me. Although I was being told you are getting better, I couldn’t feel better. I kept obsessing about not wanting to be the person I used to be.
A deep-seated loathing for that person set in, which kept making it harder and harder to move on from being a victim.
Forgiving, embracing and accepting that ‘before’ self helped. With all the unhealthy patterns and cognitive distortions that made her susceptible to the illness, she still was a part of ‘who I am’.
I reached a point in my recovery where I was no longer averse to talking about the ‘before’ self. I was able to empathize with her. I no longer hated or blamed her for causing the depression. She became connected to the ‘after’ me without either of us judging the other.
The “I can” and “I can’t”, ‘sailing’ and ‘struggling’, ‘yes’ and ‘avoid’… started to coexist in the ‘after’.
How did this happen?
Not giving up on treatment continuously for 12 years, both medication and therapy, brought time on my side. The time I put in at treatment became enough to turn the tide in my favor one day.
What didn’t help?
Feeling guilty about hating the ‘before’ self
Feeling ashamed about becoming the opposite of who I used to be
Asking why it happened, and why to me
Comparing myself with people my age who didn’t get the illness
You can ask questions throughout your therapy for years on end, but you will never hear what you want to hear. Similarly, you will get wound up in guilt and shame endlessly, for literally no real fault of yours. Depression traps us in this way, so we don’t do the work needed to counter it, and it can comfortably continue to live inside us. It loves the tunnel! The tunnel is dark but with treatment, you can flood it with light. I did.
I am at a place in my recovery where I can see natural light entering from the end of the tunnel. You will too.
Treatment can support you in managing the symptoms of depression and guide you towards the path of healing. If you or someone you know is struggling with the symptoms of depression or any other mental health issues, reach out to experts at ManoShala.
Nishtha Singhal, Mental Health Warrior, ManoShala