How my depression is giving me opportunities

The abundance of news makes it all too apparent that there are differing levels of suffering and that someone else’s reality cannot truly be understood unless your feet are squirming squarely in their shoes. I always claim to deny myself acting like a victim and feel ashamed that although I am an Australian and have a nation of brothers and sisters doing it tough, my heart still crosses over seas and distant land to feel compassion for those who are imprisoned unfairly, living in refugee camps and slaving away in illegal mines. Those without freedom.

And the guilt for not showing more compassion for Aussies who have lost their jobs, who are eating into their super and who are standing in line for charity meals increases within me daily. So thus, it has become a vicious cycle of self-reprimand and helplessness. I cannot do more but I can. And can I do as much as is needed? And what about those without a voice – the animals and the planet? Surely, I am contributing to their demise by contributing to an economy that exists only because we are being pushed to be materialistic and wasteful.

So, with these feelings I have and going from numerous experiences in the past, I have self-diagnosed myself with depression. And from years of putting many tools in my mental tool box, I have decided that today is the day to dust off the surface and look inside it. But it is an effort. Staying in bed until late and not coming out of my room until the afternoon has served me well because I can hide and feel that I have a right to suffer, too. Seeing other people, watching the news, facing the fact that my simple life overseas has ended is quite frustrating.

Not sad, just frustrating. Because I have judged others unfairly about not just ‘getting on with it’, not changing their circumstances and not looking at the brighter side of things. And with this frustration, I have been getting quite intolerant of such self-pity, all the while not realising that this angst within myself towards outside factors is the time when I should be looking within myself and questioning my thoughts and why I feel this way. My perception of others is a reflection of myself and my reaction to them is an awareness of me. So where to start.

I jotted down a few things to help me begin and it may be of use to others who are feeling really unbalanced. First, what is available to you in terms of support? A doctor or mental health contact lines. Surely a referral to talk to a counsellor or to be put on medication. If these are not considerations for you, then why? Next is listing the triggers for your anxiety and listing actions that you feel may assist in self-soothing. If you do not want to engage in this exercise, then why? A simple question to yourself when facing the mirror is, ‘what do I want?’

A bit of reflection has made me realise that I felt validated being overseas helping others that were less fortunate and taking care of animals that were neglected. I felt validated in my work where I conducted presentations on sustainable action to minimising the impact on the environment. I think that in a way, by being forced to come back to Australia after years of this humanitarian work, I feel that I am greatly hindered in my ability to continue my service. Now that my list is in front of me, I understand that validation is something that has been driving me.

And validation has always been to me something selfish. But I never saw that in myself, only in others. So, the wheel starts to spin again and I am saddened by the realisation that it's my ego that has continued to drive me without even knowing it. So, I feel depressed...but  am not lost yet. Self-awareness is liberating and as I share these thoughts with others, I realise that losing my opportunity to be an advocate for oppression overseas doesn’t stop me from being an advocate for oppression here. The opportunities are huge. I just didn’t look.

We have amazing organisations that are fighting for all the issues I place importance on to make this world a better place. And there are ways to help my fellow Australians in small ways that can ease the burden a little from this current pandemic situation. But for those who are suffering with feelings so difficult to bear, the priority has to start with you. Yes, you! The one looking in the mirror. The one reading this blog. Make an appointment with the doctor, ring a help line, talk to a friend. Write down lists and put some planning into helping you.

We lose people everyday to suicide spurred on by depression which is heightened by a range of factors that overwhelm the individual. While we are encouraged to stay inside and self-isolate, mental levels of people that are vulnerable can feel like a rollercoaster that is unstable on its tracks. We must never forget that under the blanket that you hide, if you just open your eyes and take a peek, there is a window spilling light into the room. Take that step to reach out your hand – to the phone to ring for support or to your notepad to make a list.

To my mental toolbox and to my friends who have continued to give me hope, I thank you.