What living with depression looks like

The first time I was diagnosed with depression was in 2014. The memory is still so vivid in my mind. I was feeling sick very sick and weak so I decided to make an appointment with a doctor. My sickness had a lot to do with stress; I couldn’t eat and I was losing a lot of weight. I had seen many different doctors who really tried to help me, but for some reason I wasn’t getting any better.

As if being sick wasn’t enough, I felt as though there was a dark cloud hanging over me. I’m not lying when I say I had lost so much hope in life and I remember sitting in bed asking myself if living was worth it.

The depression test

Anyway, there came a point where I was desperate to know what was wrong with me. So, off I went to the doctor in Randburg, Johannesburg. I sat there and listened as he asked me about my reason for going to see him. I told him how I’d been feeling and before I could finish, he took out what looked like a ruler (you know, the one you use at school) and it had some questions on it. This, I assume, was a depression test.

He asked me a couple of questions related to my feelings and I answered ‘yes’ to most of them. I didn’t expect what was about to happen after the quiz. “You have depression,” he told me. I was taken aback and I didn’t quite understand. “Oh,” I responded. In my mind I wondered what this diagnoses meant. I felt down and very confused. He explained what he had just told me and prescribed antidepressants and sleeping pills. Yes, I had reached a point where I couldn’t even sleep.

That, ladies and gentlemen, was the beginning of my battle with this monster called depression. I can’t tell you what happened after I left the doctor’s office because I really don’t remember. All I can recall is that I took the pills as he suggested – I’m not quite sure how the antidepressants helped, if I’m being honest. Well, the sleeping tablets definitely worked because I’d fall asleep minutes after taking them. Can I just mention how much I hated taking those pills? It felt like such a chore, but I knew that I wanted to get better so I had no other option.

Loneliness and isolation

The sad reality is that depression is still not understood in the black community, so the whole journey has been a very lonely one. I remember I once had a mental breakdown and I reached out to my loved ones. It’s a memory I’d honestly love to forget because I was so hurt by that response. I was told that “it’s demons” and that all I needed was a prayer session. Now I’m a Christian who completely believes in God and the power of prayer. I’ve actually written about depression and prayer before, and my whole experience.

The response I received from a person I dearly care about really broke my heart and made me feel more isolated than ever. It was clear that I couldn’t count on some people, no matter how much they love me, for emotional support. I’d have days where I just wasn’t feeling well emotionally and I’d wish that there was someone to talk to. Most of my friends didn’t understand and also couldn’t relate, while my family also had no idea what I was going through. And, I will add that they didn’t have the capacity to deal with what I was experiencing.

In the very early stages of my depression, I wanted nothing to do with the world. I’d come home from work and just go straight to my bedroom. People would call to make plans with me but I wouldn’t be interested. I’d just sit there and cry until I fell asleep, only to wake up and remember the dark pit I was in and cry again. It was a never-ending nightmare and there were many times I wished it would all go away.

Stuck in a loop

I wondered if I would ever be happy again. The worst thing for me was that I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror because I couldn’t recognise that person. I had lost so much weight and none of my clothes fit. And yes, you need food to survive, but I couldn’t even eat. It’s like I was living a life that had no colour. So tragic. It was so bad that I didn’t even care what I wore to work. All I wanted to do was to cry and sleep until the nightmare was over. Surely I was stuck in a loop.

That’s depression for you! It sucks the life out of you and keeps you in a very dark and isolated place. It convinces you that your life is worthless and that the only way out is to die. I don’t know how I even survived those suicidal thoughts because at some point, death really did look like the only way out.

It gets better

But you know what? It does get better. If anyone had told me this five years ago I would have probably never believed them. I would have probably asked: “You mean to tell me that it will stop hurting?” And, as I sit here right now, I know for sure that things always get better.

It’s been a rough journey with many painful memories – some I’d like to forget. However, you wake up one day and things aren’t so bad anymore. You eventually get to a place where you look forward to getting out of bed, instead of dreading it, and you see the world in colour again. I really appreciate my life and all the people in it. I’m glad I was able to hang in there in the midst of all that darkness.

For me, it has been a combination of being planted in a church, prayer, seeing a therapist and having a good support system. I’ve also reached a point where I’m not ashamed to speak my truth, no matter how other people might perceive it. I am not ashamed of my story, even the parts that are difficult and uncomfortable to deal with.

If you’re going through a hard time today, if you’re feeling like there’s no way out, I hope you realise that you still have your whole life ahead of you. You are valuable and worthy, and you are loved. Your life matters, never forget that.

Remember to breathe and take things one day at a time.