This photo was taken 10 years ago, when I was 20. You may can’t tell from the smile, but I was actually deep in depression.
I struggled with depression and anxiety for over 10 years, roughly 2006-2017. The main causes are first, my parents didn’t get along their whole marriage, and ended up divorcing and leaving me with some traumatic legacy. Second, I failed the high school entrance exam, which is a kinda great deal for Chinese children.
The brief story is like this. I was doing great in all three middle school years, oftentimes came out #1 of the whole school in exams. But on the last exam, the critical final show, I ranked #3, with only 1 point less than #2, and 4 points less than #1, who was my best friend and also deskmate. There were three high schools in town, the best one often ranks on the top list of all schools in the city, but the worst one sucks, a lot. The result? As you may have guessed, they were allocated to the best one, and just to make the plot more dramatic, I was allocated to the worst one, because I was #3.
#1 to #3, best friend, 1 point, worst school.
There you go kid, one lightning strike right on your little shithead.
I remember the moment I received the news, I was so shocked that suddenly my legs can’t support my body anymore, and I just fell into the chair like an old drunk, totally stoned, can’t spit a word. By the way I do think there was a moment I thought to myself, oh this acting-like shit on TV isn’t made up. And this happened only that once in my life.
“That’s it, my whole life is screwed.”
There was nothing I can do about it. Neither did my family.
Then comes the old common symptoms of depression:
- Lost all interest in everything. Well, maybe not sex…
- Depleted of energy. My legs started to feel like they weight 1000 kilos, and not once I dreamed of being chased by some bad guy but can’t outrun him, then got caught and my ass kicked.
- Could not feel cold somehow. I do remember clearly that one winter on the bus, I felt my feet freezing, and looking down, found out I was still wearing summer sneakers. This may because depression numbed my sense together with my mind.
- Start to look like a homeless sometime. There was a time that I didn’t take a shower for one month, didn’t wash hands for like two weeks. Sorry for those who had to put on a thank-you face and took the snacks I handed over to.
I remember I still pushed myself to stay awake and stay sane, still trying to get ahead in everything, even it was 10x harder.
And sure, I thought about killing myself. Not very intense, but I did have that thought. I even imagined how I will do it, which is a bit dramatic look back now. It was may inspired by some movie or book. It’s like this: after I take a shower and change a clean set of clothes, I sit in a chair on the porch, facing the plain grass out there, put a loaded magnum revolver into my mouth (because it’s the most powerful handgun in the world, and in the mouth ensures the gun will not bump away, then end up doing the job halfway and turn myself into a vegetable…), be sure it’s pointed to my brain, and pull the trigger. So I can blow this fucking brain out, since it’s the cause that creating all my suffering.
Thankfully, there is no gun available in China, and it takes time and effort to move to another country and buy a gun and then execute the plan.
(By the way, later I saw one picture of the Las Vegas shooter who shot himself this way, and realize it’s an ugly ass way to die, every hole on your face is bleeding, even the teeth are blown away. Nasty stuff. )
And I thank myself every day, for didn’t quit the game early.
All right, enough graphic heavy stuff.
Weirdly, I know what got me is this depression thing, right from the beginning of it. Even I came from a poor province and an even poorer little village, where no one has heard about this kinda thing before, and it’s over a decade ago, when most people would think you were just being a dramatic moody bitch. So this self-awareness is one of the things that I am grateful for every day, it kept me sane. Because I defined this problem as an illness, so it’s not a myth, I am not haunted or crazy, I am just sick, and for illnesses, there will always be a cure. And most importantly there will be, HOPE.
I spent the next decade in struggle, in darkness, in self-denying, in self-sabotage, in strand, in lost, in a lot of hard things. But I never gave up. I keep fighting this illness, this madness, fighting the time flew by.
It’s like I am in the middle of the sea, and it’s raining, and I can’t swim. So most of the time I am below the surface, drowning, struggling, fighting for one lighter breath.
I read, I learn, I think, I practice. I try my best to stay awake, stay above. The high school years are the toughest, college got easier, then the first job even more so. And gradually, I can float on the water with my face in the air, breathe freely, and start to look clearly at my surroundings, and start to look for the shore.
Eventually, I stepped out of the water for the first time, with my feet touching the soft warm beach sand.
And when I took a look back, it was so bright, everything is glittering with sunshine.
Especially the water that was drowning me.
As I can see clearly, I start to notice that there are certain gifts hidden in depression. It’s a shit cake, but in the core of it buries couple of pieces of real chocolate. They are some fundamental truths about life that other “normal” people rarely come across.
These truth enabled me to come out stronger, and see life more clearly, with a more powerful mindset.
Following are the 5 most valuable lessons that I have learned from depression, which are also the 5 major changes that happened to me.
1. I start to fear less.
Depression is the single scariest thing in the world. I still think so today. Because fear itself is an emotion, and depression robs you of your ability to feel any emotion, along with your energy, your motivation, every foundation of being a human, and leaves you a literally waking dead.
People with depression are not even afraid of death, so what else?
Snakes? Let the snake bite me, right here, right now, right on this dick! At least that will give me some feelings (and maybe even a bigger dick).
Ghosts? I am half dead anyway, might feel closer to it than to people. If it’s a beautiful female ghost, I might ask her nicely for a blowjob. If it’s a nasty ugly-looking foul-smelling ghost, I’ll pick up a brick and knock it out.
Physical suffering? Bring it on! Cut me, beat me, dead inside, can’t feel shit!
It’s certainly not a good thing to be totally not afraid of death. But there are certain blessings in it. Once you came out of it, you have been through the scariest thing in the world, and now there is nothing that can truly make you fear.
And that just makes you unstoppable.
Because fear is the most powerful monster that stops most people from being themselves and living the life they know they should be living. And you are now blessed with less fear and more courage, to walk a whole new path that’s exciting and liberating.
Isn’t that a precious gift.
2. I stopped giving fucks about what others think.
If you have ever been through a lot of pain, either physically or mentally, you will start to realize that, no matter who made all the decisions in your life for you, who caused your problem, who is to blame, who is right or who is wrong, eventually you are the one, the only one, who swallows the shit and takes all the suffering.
Where are those motherfuckers who told you what to do now? Are they there with you? Can they suffer for you? They may can’t even imagine what you are going through.
So forget about everybody’s opinion. No matter what people say to you, praise or insult alike, you just extract the useful information in it, toss away all the left useless blabla, then make your own decision and totally forget about it.
Also, you realize that eventually everyone cares about themselves most. All the stuff they said are actually more about them other than about you, all people’s action is a reflection of themselves. The stranger who just pop up and called you a fat bitch? That’s because she is afraid of being called that herself and busy fitting in. The driver who cursed your ass? He is having a bad day and he barely saw your face clearly. That friend who just posted a new bag on Facebook? Well good for her, the bag is not yours, but it’s also not your problem to earn that extra money just to show off.
You are not in the spotlight. Everybody has a lot of shit going on in their own life. I can ensure you that your millionaire boss’s life is not necessarily happier than yours, nor easier. So next time you stumble and fall into an ugly pose, just stand up and go on. People are busy going somewhere while worrying about their problems. And trust me, they too fell a couple of times before.
So this is me, there is something you don’t like about me? Fuck that and fuck you. Who the fuck are you to point fingers at my life?
3. I start to be myself.
“Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent”
– Steve Jobs
Going out of depression is just like ending a chat with Death, he gives you some rarely-known advice and then sends you back.
Then you realize that death is actually the biggest gift of your life, it’s what makes life beautiful. Things are beautiful precisely because they are ephemeral.
Really let this sink in: all the people you know, your parents, your lover, your friends, your president, your enemy, including you, are going to be non-exist someday, and kinda soon.
So you stop doing things just to earn praise, to meet somebody else’s expectation, to avoid pain, to fit in, to be nice, to be normal.
You finally realize that life is too short for all these bullshit, and you just start to do what you really like and are meant to do. To learn, to try, to fail, to explore and experience life to the full.
Something a lot of people can’t figure out until lay on their death bed.
But you just cheated by exchanging a couple words with death.
Isn’t that a gift.
4. I developed more acceptance.
The main cause of depression is that at a certain point in your life, you are suddenly faced with a lot of problems, and you don’t know how to deal with even a single one of them, not only that, but these problems are also “big” problems, and to make things worse, they seem all coming at once.
So you are totally beaten to the ground, paralyzed, shocked, in self-doubt. It’s just too much.
And when the game gets too hard, you naturally think of quitting. You just have no clue how to deal with it anymore. “Oh god, this shit is too much, I can’t handle it no more.”
But the thing is, you are not alone.
Other people are not taught the tools to deal with these problems too. More importantly, they are not taught the right mindset when faced with these problems. Your parents, your friends, if faced with exactly the same situation, chances are they won’t cope better either.
And it’s not just when you are going through that, even looking back years later, most people still don’t know what to do with it if happens again.
So there is no need to beat yourself up.
Accept that life IS unpredictable and most part of it is out of you and everybody else’s control. You can’t figure it all out, ever.
Accept that shit happens. Maybe not all the time, but believe me, they are there, waiting for you in some dark corner. But again, you don’t know which corner, and you don’t need to.
Accept that less overthinking won’t kill you. Overthinking is just a way of giving you the feeling that you are in control. “Look, I am already thinking about the coping method for the upcoming shit”. But you are not. 99.9% of the time you spent overthinking is just time wasted with no solid useful conclusion.
Accept that less perfectionism is more freedom. Life is not perfect, so do you. In fact, there is no such thing as perfect. It’s just perspective.
So just accept everything that has happened or is out of your control.
5. I learned to let go.
Lower your expectation. And lower it to zero.
People who suffer from depression are normally the competitive ones, and a lot of them are “successful”. they strive hard to be the best or to make their mama proud. They always hang themselves up in the sky, tip-toe, hands up to reach higher.
But this comes at a huge cost. They always set their expectation level above the average, and this naturally results in constant stress and frequent disappointment.
So, they are not happy. And what are we doing this life thing for? Higher overall happiness level, I assume.
Then you are clearly heading in the wrong direction.
So where to set the bar? The answer is really simple: set it to the lowest, absolute zero.
Then you can stop beating yourself up, and start to find grateful bliss in every normal thing in your life. Could be a normal meal, could be a simple walk to the park. You will start to notice that the color of the leaves is so bright and vibrant, almost comes from a picture. You will start to think “how could I not notice this for all these years?”.
Stop tip-toeing, Sit down, or even better just lay down, totally. Take a belly-relaxed deep breath. Gave up all your goals, fuck all the shit you planned to do in life and in tomorrow, ALL OF THEM. All these years, you have been too harsh on yourself. Touching the ground will not make you fall behind, it’s in fact your energy source.
Actually, you will hear a lot of advice from all kinds of people or books on how to deal with depression. And often these advice are not executable, you fail after trying only once. Why? Because the cure for depression has multiple levels, each level depends on the previous one. But most of the advice that comes from these so-called experts just toss you several specific treatment “tips”, of course it won’t work. What they said is not wrong, but it won’t work. It’s like they keep telling you you should try to balance your legs or do better strokes while swimming, but they don’t know you can’t even breathe yet.
But I can assure you, totally letting go is the very first step to dealing with depression.
I will talk about this in detail in later posts.
I know it’s hard for people with depression and anxiety to let go of the worrying about the future, like the moment you let go, some really bad shit will happen, and you will fall into a deep shithole and never get out.
But you know what? Fuck that, I give up, what you gonna do to me, huh? My life is already miserable, bring it on!
Chance is, to your surprise, you will find nothing bad happened, instead you are finally living with a light heart, you can feel the liberating energy of life again, and all the natural gifts that have been pushed down will flourish on their own, you just need to open the gate. “This just feels right.”
Another worry is, “what if I fall behind during this laydown time? I will achieve nothing and become a total loser.” Well, life is not a competition. Not again others, not again yourself either. What you get from winning these competitions, is actually a sense of security. It’s not the better grades that make you feel good, it’s being better itself. And that is deep-rooted in your early trauma.
Again, I will talk more about this in later posts.
Just let all that shit go.
Now looking back on all this, although I might still don’t know how to deal with the problems, I realize it’s not big a problem as I thought at that moment.
At that time it all seems like life-deciding events, “if I can’t get this right, my whole life will be ruined”. But they are not, they are mere events. Your life trajectory do will change a bit, but you will be fine, you will gravitate to the same destination. Because there is not just a handful of ways to go down the life path.
Although now I am mentally totally fine, even better than a lot of “normal” people, but I know clearly that, it is possible that I might never “fully recover”, whatever that stands for. While I drive my life bus, depression might always sit back there on the passenger seat for the rest of my life, even pop out every now and then and scream at me for a while.
But I accept it. I accept not only it, but all the trauma that it has caused, all the darkness that I have been through, and all the scars that it has left. I accept all the imperfections in life and in myself, because that is just how it is. And there is a relieving blessing in imperfection itself.
Depression is not something to be proud of, nor something to be ashamed of neither. It’s just something.
And remember, there is always something beautiful in all these somethings.
And that’s what makes life beautiful.
Have you ever felt the same way? or do you find any point useful? Comment below, I am happy to talk with you about it.
Another post you might find helpful here.