A few weeks ago, I wrote about falling into depression, self-love and how I struggled with it, but with time and consistent hard work, I’m able to love and care for myself.

A couple of months after my 27th birthday, my mum passed away without any warning or sickness. I believe it was a few years after her passing that a severe depressive episode hit me like a ton of bricks. In retrospect, I was so dissociated, I didn’t know it was depression.

I can see how it came about though – how numerous traumatic events stacked upon themselves until I finally collapsed under their weight. Nevertheless, at the time, I felt annihilated, destroyed, ploughed over virtually overnight.

Because of other unimaginable terrors that occurred in my life (that I couldn’t remember while living in my home country). I spent the next few years being asleep and continue to be dissociated from depression; steeped in profound physical, emotional, and mental anguish. If you ask anyone who knew me then, they wouldn’t have guessed that I was depressed. I was that good in pretending to be functional (I was a robot, really).

There were times when I couldn’t get myself out of my bed for months (I didn’t want to at all), when I couldn’t enjoy (either I pretended to enjoy it or I just declined any invitation) any outing or activity and when I couldn’t smile genuinely at anyone, I truly thought that this was my real personality, my actual self:

That I was uninteresting, worthless, an anomaly, unmotivated.
That I was weak, and that all of this was my fault. No one else’s.

And guess what?
It dawned on me that depression lies to you about everything.
And when you are used to trusting your thoughts and feelings, being self assured and confident, it takes a hell of a long time to realise that the torrent of negativity in your brain may not be an accurate representation of reality.

It’s difficult not to trust your thoughts (and feelings) and it’s hard to sit and think about what is true and what isn’t.
However, it’s an important exercise, even if they’re only small steps to begin with.

Just remember that, there’s a light in you that never goes out.

You know, even through the worst of it, there was a tiny part of me that knew something was wrong.
That I needed to deal with this.
That this was unhealthy.
That this wasn’t about me.

And that microscopic grain of clarity is what kept me up.
Researching what I was going through.
Hatching plans.
Seeking advice.
And gaining traction.
I had to foster that voice bit by bit.
And there were days that I didn’t hear that voice.
But, it was always there.

Controlling my environment was crucial in making progress.
Below are the five most prominent lessons I have learned thus far:

ACCEPT what is happening

Don’t confuse ACCEPTANCE as SURRENDER. It is merely the opposite of refusal. Through all the shit I’ve gone through, I realised admitting you have an issue is the first step in making a change. The energy you spend so violently opposing the probability that you’re depressed is energy better expended in seeking a solution to that probability.

ACCEPTANCE is not easy, particularly in a world where anxiety and depression are still a dirty word or taboo subject to talk about. However, ACCEPTANCE is essential.

DETACH from those who make you feel like shit

While no one can fix you or your struggle, those who can’t be supportive or helpful are most likely to hurt or abandon you. After my mum passed away, I moved to Cape Town to be with my partner. Every now and then, I would talk about my mum and how much I missed her. It ripped my heart apart when he said, “It’s been years, get over it”.

Clearly, this guy could / would not understand me and what I was going through. When I ended the relationship (took me 9 years!), I felt as if a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders – the weight of his ignorance, narcissism, anticipation and expectations.

Along the way, I cut ties with people who couldn’t accept me the way I was, and the person I have become. At this point in my life, I feel as if I could take things at my own pace without anyone hovering around, anticipating me to go back to who I was (dissociated, asleep, party-goer etc – because that would be safer, easier to do).

Having the space and time to do things my way has made my progress and recovery easier!

TALK to / COMMUNICATE with your people

My culture taught me to take pride in doing things myself. I never had a problem offering help, but I had trouble asking for it, especially when it comes to dealing with CPTSD, anxiety and the likes.

When I finally found the courage to start talking about what I was going through (after a lot of encouragement from those closest to me), I couldn’t stop and was very surprised at the response I received. People were actually interested and didn’t tell me to shut up, or get over it. Some even shared their struggles with me!

It was so loving, so freeing.
It also made it easier for me to see that this whole experience was just another life challenge. What it is NOT is a deeply-seated, irreversible character flaw.
I cannot stress enough the value of having excruciatingly honest conversations with the people you trust.
They are, indeed, the medicine for the soul.
And I encourage you to do that.
Be brave. Share your struggles. Talk to your people.

KNOW when to get professional help

In my early 20s, I wanted to see a therapist, but my friends gave me the shits for even thinking about it. And my ex-fiance thought it was a waste of money to see one. The fear of the unknown steeped in judgment is also the reason why most people don’t want to see a therapist.

It took 15 years and a very supportive person to make me realise that seeking professional help was okay, and nothing to be ashamed of. After seeing a therapist, I began to realise that speaking to her and those closest to me about my darkest troubles and struggles is courage exemplified.

So many people never arrived to that point of cognition and possibly spend numerous years going around in the vortex of their mind – trying to figure out what’s the matter with them. Sometimes, what it takes is a professional to knock down the walls, and if so, what’s wrong with that?

Don’t overthink about the fact that you may need to see a psychologist, psychotherapist, or counsellor – just do it. It’ll be worth it!

TREAT your body well

I usually frown whenever I come across this piece of advice or when I’m reminded to look after myself. The reason this advice is out there so much is because it’s bloody necessary. An undernourished body isn’t able to power your mind very well.

Think about it:
Will running cure your triggers? Will it cure the depression?
I don’t think so.

However, EATING WELL and EXERCISING is pretty much akin to proper car maintenance. You can get away with so much without doing anything for a while, nevertheless soon enough, you’ll face the consequences of prolonged neglect

Looking after yourself doesn’t mean you need to turn up at the gym today or tomorrow, or start getting on the crazy diets overnight. In fact, I urge you to take baby steps. I’m still working on this, because eating well is SO HARD for me. I love the sinfully delicious cakes and cookies, and ice cream! So, yes, baby steps.

Aside from trying to eat better these days, I do yoga and sometimes, a bit of exercise that involves dumbbells and medicine ball. I also take vitamins on a daily basis. This is better than nothing, and I’m looking at adding more exercises.

I always feel as if I’m running out of time, but the opposite is true – time is NOT running out. Take as much time as you need and always remember that this is a process. Any kind of process and progress takes time.

This is the longest post I’ve written and before I end it:

KNOW and REMEMBER that such turbulence in life will eventually lead to a greater understanding and appreciation of things. No amount of money can buy the emotional depth I’ve gained in the past 14 months. Truth be told, if someone wanted to use the Neuralyzer on me, I would say NO!

Trust me when I say I know what it’s like to be in the thick of things.
For many people with CPTSD, GAD, and depression – it’s almost indescribable.
It is abstract, and is painfully heavy.
However, you must know that you’ll get through it.
Tearing apart, bit by bit, moving forward at a pace that’s fast enough FOR YOU.

You’ll figure it out. You’ll get through it.

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