Cont;nue – One Year with a Black Dog
In less than 48 hours, I’ll say goodbye to one of the hardest years I’ve been through in the 25 years of living my life. These past 12 months, I’ve suffered deeply. These past 12 months, I spent 90% of my time wishing I died in my sleep. These past 12 months, I woke up to another disappointing and painful day in a continous loop.
I started 2017 feeling like the biggest failure ever. I had a goal in 2016, a big, ultimate goal in which I poured every piece of myself into it. I wrote this goal back in 2015 in which I told myself that I will get a Master Degree by the time I’m 25 years old and I’ll get a scholarship to fund that Master Degree. But, I failed to do both in 2016. So, I started this year feeling I was worthless. I was completely lost and I didn’t know where to go or what to do. Soon, my whole life spiraled out of control and I found myself loathing the simple, mundane act of living. I recognized the danger that I was heading to so I tried to brush it off and cheer myself by going to one of my dream vacation. I visited a dear friend in New York in January 2017. I should be over the moon, after all, I’ve always wanted to visit America again and New York is a great city like no others. And yet in-between the time where I spent my vacation in a seemingly happy moment, I felt nothing at all. I felt numb and devoid of all emotions. I was lethargic. There was one day I remembered when I supposed to visit New Museum because it was the last day of Pipilotti Rist’s Pixel Forest exhibition and yet I slept for hours and did nothing at all. Who in their right mind was in New York as a tourist and decided to just sleep and chained themselves to bed?
Sleepwalking Through Life
On February 2017, I got back from my vacation and felt an eerie sense of emptiness and hopelessness. When I was in America, I got to see a glimpse of how my future should be – I was in a place where I should be this year and yet I wasn’t. I was still confined to a toxic city that day by day devour any sanity that I have left. Jakarta that I used to cherish, became a living prison. Each second I spend in Jakarta felt like a death sentence to the stagnancy that is my life. Before I know it, I cried myself to sleep thinking that I’ve to wake up again each morning to face Jakarta that stands erect seemingly mocking my existence. I cried myself waking up thinking that I’ve to get out of bed, take shower, eat breakfast, working and pretend that everything’s okay when clearly I was drowning and sinking to a deep end. I cried myself in my car when I was trapped in a long traffic jam of Sudirman – I felt nauseous because I was late and I blamed myself because I was late and I was late because I kept staring myself in the mirror for a very long time telling myself to just ‘snapped out of it’, ‘go on living, you moron, what’s so hard about it?’. Every day is a cycle of hell and every second an effort to not kill myself.
I have lost any desire to partake in life.
Everything passes me by and nothing brings me joy. Not the books I used to cherish, not the many cups of coffee I used to sip with happiness, not the films that used to bring me excitement, not anyone who used to bring a smile upon my face and a flutter of warm feeling every time we interact. I’ve lost myself and the other part of me watch it helplessly. For the first time in my life, I felt utterly lonely because I came to realize no one can save me from this cancer of the soul called depression except myself.
On July 2017, nearing my 25th birthday, I went to another escapade. It was a hopeless attempt to ‘fix’ myself, to discover what’s wrong with me and what I should do about it. I chronicled this journey in my other writing here. At that time, I still haven’t acknowledged the fact that I’m depressed and it’s a mental illness that needs professional help. I thought that time I was still ‘on the verge of depression’ when in fact I’ve been completely swallowed whole by it.
Three days after I went to that escapade, I sent a resignation letter to my office – a guilt as huge as the seven oceans of the world loomed around the back of my head. My former job and office was everything that I’ve always wanted and yet I threw it away with my inability to do the simple act of living and working like any normal human beings. I felt pathetic because I was weak – too weak to even hold my dream job.
On August 2017, I resigned from my job and decided not to do anything. I told everyone I was tired of working because people would only scoff if I said that I resigned because of depression. “You’re just sad and tired, you’ll get over it.” How I love to just get over it and how I wish every suggestion to just ‘feel happy and be grateful’ will work out for me.
The Light at The End of the Tunnel?
On September 2017, I was formally diagnosed with having a major depressive disorder or also known as clinical depression. My psychiatrist gave me several medications including sleeping medications (In which I was in dire need of), antidepressants, and mood stabilizer. He also encouraged me to seek help from a psychologist in order to identify my stressors, seek the underlying causes of my depression, and help me to cope up with my depression in order to fully function despite my condition. Yes, fully functioning, most people might not know, but, mental health problems, including depression, is the leading cause of disability.
For a split second in this awful year, I felt proud of myself. Proud of acknowledging my condition and proud of finally seeking help. Despite it, the antidepressants that I was prescribed to left me numb and lethargic most of the time. I was violently nauseous in the first week I was consuming it and I was sleepy most of the time. I did not falter though because I know antidepressants are not supposed to make my depression goes away just like that, it reduces symptoms, but it also requires time to find the right medications for me or anyone with depression. There are no one-size-fits-all antidepressants for just anyone with depression. It takes time and patience, and I’m willing to go through it.
On October 2017, I finally achieved the goal I was trying to achieve a year before. I finally got LPDP and months before in April 2017, I secured my enrollment at Boston University. I should be happy, right? At last, I should be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Just like the first time I got diagnosed and treated, I was happy and proud of myself for a split of a second, but I can still see and feel the ‘black dog’ looming around just around the corner, ready to lunge itself back to me.
On December 2017, I felt a little sense of relief. The brutal year of 2017 is finally coming to an end and I was lucky to be able to spend the end of it with my family – the source of my strength and one of the reasons I want to recover and still give a chance to live. However, just last week, I had another breakdown. I woke up crying and can’t pinpoint the reason on why I cried – I just woke up, opened my eyes and I was greeted with a sense of worthlessness and then I was trapped in a ‘feedback loop from hell’, I once again blame myself for this indescribable feeling of helplessness and worthlessness because I thought to myself that there’s no justification for me to feeling like this – what is wrong with me? I achieved my goals, I’m completely healthy, I’m surrounded by people who love me and yet I still feel bitter towards life. My feeling is not valid.
The Feedback Loop From Hell is a concept I learned from writer Mark Manson (the author of one of the best books I read this year – The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck – this book helped me tremendously in my battle with depression).
And with that, for the first time in many years, I look forward to a new year with a sense of apathy and pessimism – a rarity to a person like me, anyone who truly knows me knows that I am, well, I was a naïve optimist with utopic ideals who sees the world with rainbow-colored glasses. But, this brutal year has changed me drastically, I shed my rainbow-colored glasses and change it with a clear glasses, I learned to accept that life is fucked up and I’m (now) fucked up but nevertheless, I choose to continue; and therefore, the following and last paragraph of this writing is dedicated to those whom I cherished and who’ve helped me to go on with my living.
If I ever feel better
“They say an end can be a start
Feels like I’ve been buried yet I’m still alive
It’s like a bad day that never ends
I feel the chaos around me
A thing I don’t try to deny
I’d better learn to accept that
There are things in my life I can’t control.”
“Have you ever had suicidal thoughts?”
“Did you do any self-harm?”
Those two questions were asked by my psychiatrist. I told him yes and no. Do I want to kill myself? I’m too self-centered and full of myself and too much of a coward to kill myself. But, do I wish that I could just vanish and never been born at all? Well, yes, numerous times. I chuckled to myself inwardly, mocking my laziness to even kill myself. Did I do any self-harm? Well, yes, if self-harm means not taking care properly of myself – I went a day without eating only fueled by chainsmoking and endless coffee-binging.
But, I know, somewhere within me, there’s a flicker of light that makes me want to recover and go on living. That flicker of light is all the love and affection I have for the people I cherish: my mother, my two sisters, Cookie, my friends – who stick with me despite my tendency to cancel last minute out of unexplainable anxiety. So to all of you that I can’t name one by one, who’ve interacted with me throughout this year, I would like to say thank you and I would like to say how grateful I am to have the honor of meeting all of you and be able to call you my friends. I was a lousy person, and will probably still be lousy in many upcoming years and I hope you accept my apology for not being the best version of myself this year. For not sticking up to the plans that have been made, for showing up late or not showing up at all, for ignoring calls and messages. For all of you, I would like to sing:
“If I ever feel better
Remind me to spend some good time with you
You can give me your number
When it’s all over I’ll let you know.”
And, God, how I wish it’s all over soon so I can let all of you know that I’ve felt better.
2017 is a brutal year, it’s a year where I encounter this demon called depression and yes I still hate it, still loathe the fact that I have it and yet just like what Andrew Solomon said in his remarkable TedTalks about depression and the secret we share, through depression and through this year, I learn to cling to my joy and I learn, every day, every second, to find even the smallest reason to live.
Cheers to this brutal year and to those I know who also suffered from this affliction, I hope we’ll get through this and I hope when you feel that all hope is lost, you’re able to cling to your joy and find your own reasons to live and that anytime you want to talk – there are people out there who’re willing to help you out and listen to you.
World Health Organisation estimates that 121 million people suffer from depression worldwide; you are one of many, and you have nothing to be ashamed of. Seek professional help, talk it out with your family, friends, partners, even your dog if that helps.
- What Is Depression: https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/what-is-depression
If you’re feeling depressed or suicidal, please seek help. You’re not alone and there are people out there who are more than willing to help you. There is a community like Into The Light who is promoting mental health and suicide prevention awareness among youth and high-risk groups in Indonesia. You can also contact LSM Jangan Bunuh Diri at their email email@example.com and call at 021 9696 9293.