What I learned from years of high functioning depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem

Disclaimer: this is going to be a long and (somewhat) harsh post about certain realities of life most of us are trying to evade by all means possible.

I am not writing this post out of empathy. I am not writing this post because I read some articles and now I am trying to pass along the knowledge.

I am writing this article because I understand.

I understand the difference between the burning pain of suffering deeply and the general apathy and hopelessness of depression. The emptiness. The lack of interest, joy, passion. I understand the despair, the loneliness, the reluctance to discuss about it all, the very fatiguing job of hiding it all behind a smile, or an “I’m fine” delivered in the worst way possible.

I understand wondering why no one can see how you feel, how are they so blind, and why are they so reluctant to believe you when you do tell them.

I understand because I’ve been that person.

When you’re almost suicidal, you have a problem. That was last March, when I felt there was no hope left, no way to solve all my issues, and the only person I had the trust to tell my problems to didn’t pick up the phone…

I do not intend to go into too much detail. I try to keep my personal life out of this blog, unless certain aspects of it are educational somehow.

I felt that someone, somehow should save me. That the world was big and scary and that people were mean and selfish and stupid. But someone… something had to happen. I hoped and I hoped and I waited and waited…

No one really saved me. No one offered me the help or the love that I wanted. No one came into my life to cure me of my loneliness, or my hopelessness or my apathy towards everything.

But, you see, I don’t have much patience, so I just said fuck it and saved myself. How did I do that? Well… the thing is that we are not depressed always. Like 24/7.

I’m going to use this video of singer Sinead O’Connor to illustrate this. One minute or so into the video, she talks about her doctor. Notice her smile? All those tears, and there’s that smile.

Yeah, that’s a state break. She effectively broke out of depression in the middle of a rant about depression.

Here’s some mindfuck for you: we’re terrible at being a society. We’re terrible, because societies have one goal: to be as productive as possible. To create as many individuals as possible, to create a higher standard of living, to create the right tools and technological developments so we live longer and longer and in as much comfort as possible.

Societies are not about making us happy.

Our happiness, as human beings, is such a simple thing that it even transcends what we understand as society. It transcends what the fucking doctors are saying, what the shrinks are saying, it’s…

Our psychology has remained the same for the past seventy two thousand years. Yeah, you read that right. Seventy two thousand. When we were walking twenty miles a day, hunting. When we were warriors. When all that we owned we could carry on us. When we lived in small groups of people… the best fucking hunters this world has ever created…

This is the funny thing. We think of our intelligence as being the only thing we’ve always had going for us. And we are weak ass animals, thus we must be something else.

You know what’s the most terrifying thing to any animal that’s ever lived?

A group of humans running after it shouting and yelling, carrying spears and spikes and bows and arrows…

You know why?

Because there is no fucking animal on this planet that can outrun a group of humans. Not for long. No. It’s going to collapse on the ground sooner or later.

That’s what we were. That’s what we are. And we sit at our desks, we get stressed when the lady at the cash register takes too long to take our money, we get stressed when we see some news about something happening half a world away. We become attached to things we don’t even own…

We are the slaves of all these things… all these truly wonderful things, yes, that we’ve designed and built ourselves, but we are their slaves. We are afraid of losing them. We are afraid that someone is going to rob us, that our spouse is going to cheat on us, that…

We are no longer free. That’s what I am trying to say.

That being said, if we are so bad at being a society, what makes you think anyone knows anything about the human brain? Or enough to really understand how to make it feel better? Because they don’t. I don’t.

I only know that this beautiful brain of ours can create about a billion different states of emotion. And we go through life cycling between five or six. No. We can do so much more than this. And we can use them in any way we want.

But social conditioning has got us all fucked up.

There’s so much to write about. I mean, there’s the difference between being proactive and being reactive. Our desire for comfort that turns us into weaklings…

Remember this: whenever you try to avoid suffering, you suffer.

That’s how you develop anxieties, phobias, and a general disliking of certain stuff. You once avoided to face your fear of something and it’s become easier to avoid it than to confront it.

The same goes for depression.

I cannot stress enough the importance of being active. Just active. Doing physical stuff. Truly amazing. I cannot explain it in simpler terms other than the fact that you feel like freaking Superman. That you become smarter, more emotionally intelligent, less emotionally reactive.

It’s the best fucking medicine there is.

Exercise.

I know some of you will say that’s bullshit and you know, it doesn’t really work because bla, bla, bla… but if you’re sitting on your couch binge watching Netflix… I do not care about what you think.

Then there’s the whole part of developing a mindset. Of catering to your thoughts.

First of all, there are some truly horrible things in this life. Accept them. Just accept that life’s shit and you’re going to die. Yeah, ok. If that’s how it is, why cry about it anyway? If there’s nothing you can do about it, why worry? Ok? Now, laugh about it. I mean it. Make it as funny as possible.

It’s like a lot of small steps. A lot of them. And I’ve tried a lot of things, and none of them seemed to work, but I kept doing it because, well, I just didn’t really wanted to feel like that anymore… and one day it all worked…

I am still fascinated by this.

Early on, about three or so years ago, I decided to do affirmations. Well, I also tried binaural beats and hypnosis and meditation, but I wrote some positive affirmations and, you know, I wrote them in the second person because I read it somewhere that that’s how to trick your subconscious… and they were truly nice things… positive stuff… what I wanted to be, how I wanted to be.

And I’d try reading them aloud and start crying. They’d make me sad, because those qualities… I’d never have those qualities. Reading them over and over again was so damn hard. My voice would shake…

No human being in their right mind does this over and over again, on a daily basis. It is masochism, if you think about it.

But I did.

And you know what’s the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning?

I look myself in the mirror and I go, “Cristian, I love you.” And this makes me smile. First thing. Before anything else. It’s just wonderful.

Considering that eight or so months ago I wanted to kill myself, I’d say this is quite the improvement.

Social interaction is important, I’d say.

Doing things that you know you should. We all have this mental list of all that’s wrong with us. But we seldom take the appropriate measures to fix them.

There’s a lot of stuff that doesn’t take much energy to get done.

The idea is to create a multitude of those state breaks. To be so fucking busy you have no time to be depressed, to be anxious, to have low self-esteem. You are busy, motherfucker. You are busy living life, smiling, laughing, talking to friends and family, having a good time. Trying out new stuff, doing what you’ve always wanted to do…

The more energy you use, the more energy you have to use. Crazy, right? But it’s true. You gain momentum slowly, but then… just like an avalanche, you become unstoppable.

You can create your happiness, you can create anything you want. But it’s got to be you, and you alone. And you have to accept responsibility and you have to know it in your heart to be true.

Remember when we were warriors?

Be a warrior, not a worrier.

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56 thoughts on “What I learned from years of high functioning depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem

  1. Cristian, thank you for this. I really needed to read this at this point in my journey. “Societies are not about making us happy” … that line alone reached out and kind of smacked me in the forehead. I’m working very hard on making MYSELF happy, because no one’s going to do it for me. I know that. But the line about society not being responsible for our happiness either really resonated with me. I’m going to keep this in my mind and ruminate on it for a while. I just wanted to thank you for having the courage to post it, because it helped at least one person!

    • I could write a book on the way society has evolved, and how it’s become this sort of mechanism of creating comfort, which sadly makes us depressed and anxious and so on. Ironically, comfort is quite counter-productive. All those cliches they say about leaving your comfort zone, yeah, they are true. The more you feel comfortable enough in one place, the less adaptable you become.

  2. Sorry, but youth is on your side. I respect your blog and your positive thoughts. I am a 63 year old woman who has illness issues and very little income. I try to enjoy something each day. I exercise and I try to eat well. But with no real family and very few friends, life is lonely and a constant struggle. It was easier to be positive when I was young. It’s much harder, now.

  3. I don’t claim to be an expert on depression. I have been suicidal and my wife went through it for years. We were both able to break the cycle without meds.
    I sometimes wonder how much is results of corporate lifestyles and if the the meds are only to make one function within that system. Perhaps part of the phenomenon is our spirit recognizing that we’re stuck in such an unnatural system. Perhaps one day (if we continue the fight ) that system will be overthrown and we will have less dissatisfaction. :)

    • I think that meds are kind of like fast food. They get the job done, but are detrimental to one’s wellbeing in the long run. Temporary fixes. They don’t even work all the time, so…

      I don’t know what to say about the system… I think that the idea should be that happiness is your own responsibility. That you have to work hard at it and keep working.

      • Agreed. My comment on the system is in reference to the corporate lifestyles that SOME are locked into .
        I’m in the process of escaping from my cubicle so my perspective may be a little skewed.
        It’s actually a pretty complicated opinion that I have never really been articulate well.

        • Dude! Have you read One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey? If not, I recommend you do! If I understand what you are saying, the book is about the same thing :)

  4. You made me laugh with your swear words. You must be really passionate about this topic.”You are busy, motherfucker.” My favorite line.

    I could argue about the fact that no animal can outrun a human, but I get your point.

    Back to the topic at hand – I never claimed to be clinically anything, because I was never diagnosed with a million different mental health issues. It’s not because there is nothing wrong with me, but because I never saw a professional about it. Never thought anyone but I could help me. Throughout my life I’ve had various conversations with other people with mental issues and no matter what I told them, they insisted on being worse than me. No matter what I suggested for them to do they could not. Do you know why they thought so? Because they were really sick, and I was just moody, lazy, bored, or whathave you. I was not sick enough. I did not know what I was talking about. The fact that I got out of bed in the morning (because I had school or work, or was plain hungry) meant that I was not depressed. They were, because they COULD NOT get out of bed. Really? REALLY? It left me bitter a bit. I was not applauded for being strong. I was not thanked for trying to be helpful. Then I just gave up on trying to save those who do not want to be saved.

    Well, this comment turned into a mini rant, but I could not help myself. Thanks, Christian.

    • Long distance running… we’re kind of the best at that.
      And yes, I know. People who are depressed are usually incredibly resistive. They feel misunderstood, as if being understood is that important anyhow. And it’s paradoxical somehow, because their own stubborness is what got them into this situation in the first place.

      “You should do this or this or this..”
      “Yes, but…”
      But what? If you spend a maximum of five minutes, there’s someone who has it much worse and still does it. So, it only comes down to your own willingness to accept the reality of the world around you.

  5. I cent percent agree with your analysis Cristian. I remember the time when I used to feel depressed and out of order. This led me to the realisation that there no angel out there waiting to save me out of my misdemeanors but myself. So i changed my lifestyle and my way of thinking.
    Yes, exercise is a part of it but it also includes exuding positive thoughts and negating the negatives.
    One major aspect includes leaving out the cubicle we are stuck in and facing the world with open arms. We cannot be positive 24/7, but whenever we are down we can always opt for the nature to seek inspiration.

    Glad to have read your post early in the day.

    regards,

  6. This is something i so needed to read.. not because m feeling low ar depressed or i feel so usually.. bt because i needed sort of motivation.. inspiration.. to let go wat i’v been keeping inside of me for so long.. to realise i can b much more stronger than i am now.. tysm for this post cristian.. 😊😊

  7. Hi Cristian! A very inspirational post!
    Having followed your posts for a while now, I know a little bit about the struggles you have faced and have always admired your resilience! The picture speaks for itself and I have asked you before how you do it.
    Just as a side note: I have noticed that those who have made it through, are filled with a lot of anger, maybe at society for not meeting their needs, may be the anger is a result of the effort put into the struggle to keep your head over the water. The effect is that you cease to be understanding of people who do not and cannot make it through on their own. You see since each person is different, not everyone has the self will, the resolve to get up on their own. And for each person who comes out of depression through their own effort or determination, there are 100s who pass on to the other side. Sharing your experience helps, your example helps, but maybe we should be sensitive to the fact that there are many who do need a lot of professional help.
    Btw: You are the best inspirational writer I have read and though it all comes at a price, I think it is completely worth it. :)

  8. You hit the nail on the damn head. Screw the pity party. You can either chose to rise above your misfortunes & shortcomings or you can succumb to them. Everyone is in control of their own happiness. Words to live by 🙌🏼

  9. “Remember this: whenever you try to avoid suffering, you suffer.”

    “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take
    heart! I have overcome the world.”
    (John 16:33)

    I really took in what you said about suffering. You’re so right– especially when we run from our fears. Jesus guaranteed trouble. With Him and only Him, I can face it head on. I can conquer it and live in victory because He already overcame this life– ALL of it. Thank you for this post. ✌️

  10. Man, this one’s deep. Especially the stuff about how society has evolved.

    It feels glad to see that you have come out of this rut.

    Thank you for such a masterpiece!

  11. This totally hits home with me, I’m keeping it and sharing it with others that I know suffer as I do with loneliness and depression. Thank you so much for being honest and open, this is very healing. Love and hugs!
    Sandy

  12. I do agree we all have metamorphous in our lives of transitions, new beginnings and just digging ourselves out of old holes and conditions. I love your thoughts and we are the only ones that can pull ourselves out of our own ruts. Keeping our mind active is a plus. Thanks for sharing this.

  13. This post is incredible. LOVE it. Definitely in that rut right now. It’s nice to know I am not the only one who has felt this way.

  14. You have it, Cristian. What I couldn’t figure out at 14, or 17, or 28…or all of those lost years until I did and then they were no longer lost but lessons. And it isn’t to say I never get depressed now after 62 years of learning and employing those lessons to my benefit but I now know I’m the only one who can control it…a thing I wish I could help my 28 year old daughter see but, like her mum, she must learn her way. I shall be asking her to read this because you are completely spot on. You are summarising what it took me forever to learn…and saying it a much better way than I could hope to. Warmest blessings, Isabella

  15. Acceptance of adversity, exercise, social interaction, and positive self-talk are great tools in battling depression. I’m happy to hear that you took the initiative to help yourself and are in recovery! You are fortunate in that you had enough insight to recognize your sickness and courage to do something about it. Some people suffering from mental illness don’t recognize their symptoms (that is a part of their illness), so need more support from others to pursue treatment. And some have conditions that will need ongoing medical care to manage their symptoms. May God grant you a full recovery!

  16. This is so real that even when many read it, they will still deny the reality of it’s existence. We have failed one another in the art of seeing existing pain because we are too used to noticing ours, our ideologies and the inconsistencies that exist in the outward nature of others. I wonder why we are afraid to dig deeper, my assumption: our skeletons may be hidden in others feeling and the real truth of who we are also. #Mythoughts

    • I too think that our skeletons and our medicines are portrayed in the experiences of those around us. Life is always showing us how to liberate ourselves!

  17. thanks for your thoughts, I can relate on a few levels, and yes exercise works for me as well. My primary profession – Emergency Medicine – has dragged me into dark places .. (wrote about it on my site) and at present dealing with new demons which are knocking at my door, which is reflected in my current writings .. but at the end of the day and at the start of a new day .. I chase the demons away a fight the (good or bad) fight .. for me and for those that I love …

  18. So much of this sounded like me talking. The only difference is the cussing. ;) I’m definitely horrible at the self-esteem, aphorism behavior. I will try out your idea for that.
    Keep fighting. I, for one (among so many followers, yes?), appreciate your existence and your writings.

    • Cus if you must. Anger is your ally. Maybe you’ll find that we love you, cussing or not. That said, nature does like reverence and cussing can be irreverent. You’re the judge of that for you.

  19. Thank you for that post, Cristian. I believe we are the most resilient species on this planet. We can adjust to some of the most harsh conditions life throws at us. Our best inventions have come from feeling discomfort. Discomfort is our motivation to change.

    The way you started this post made me think you were going to be a bit more brutal. That you would say, “Get the fuck over yourself and make a change.” Some people can be receptive to that as long as they know it comes from a place of love and will get the support they need from the person who said it.

    This post has created more thoughts within me but I will not post here. I look forward to reading more of your posts.

  20. “Societies are not about making us happy.”

    If only I could, I would definitely shove this line to everyone’s throat (including mine)! Seems like everybody’s jumping in the you-have-to-be-super-rich-in-life bandwagon. It’s sad to think that a lot has succumbed to a system wherein it’s mostly about getting rich, like what does getting rich even mean? What’s even sadder is when people whose main goal is fulfillment and happiness feel like they must ride with the status quo to survive this life.

    Thank you for this piece of art. Definitely a good read!

  21. Nice piece here. One thing I struggled with on anxiety, it causes real physical pain. That aspect lead me to more anxiety, and yes meds. But I also have weaned myself and thought, well meds are what “they” want me to do. Well fuck them. Also, I like the part where you talk in the mirror. I actually started calling myself when I was happy and left messages like “you are so amazing, I live you” when I listened later I would laugh and feel ok.
    Keep up the good reads!

  22. Great post! There is so much to be said, to be pondered on, on this topic, I sometimes get into it, and realize that it’s never going to be comprehensive enough to describe all of the thoughts and emotions we experience. I do agree with your idea however, that all of this makes us stronger, and that we build the capacity to deal with it. As I get older, I notice that sometimes, I actually like being sad, I like being heartbroken. I don’t mean that in an abnormal or unhealthy way. It’s just my recognition that everything positive and good that I have in my life, and any understanding I have developed about life, has been a direct result of the anguish, the sadness, the depression. Our turmoil, our frustration, our longing leads us to search for meaning in life, it’s what initiates it, and triggers us to pursue it. So I have come to love those days of sadness and disappointment. I enjoy the emotions I experience. I enjoy how they make me create new things– appreciate music, write poetry, paint, philosophize about concepts that would have never occurred to me in the first place. What we always get wrong is that we think that happiness or sadness are permanent and constant state of being. You are absolutely right, they’re not. We’re not designed that way, no one is going to be constantly depressed or sad. And happiness– happiness comes in moments, and for me it’s always in the most simple and basic things. It’s when I notice the intricate color and design of leaves on a plant. It’s when a dog hugs me. It’s when I drink coffee slowly, breathing in its aroma or when I taste chocolate. That’s just it, nothing more and nothing less. We may not be able to fill every gap we have in ourselves, that doesn’t mean that we can’t appreciate and experience life as much as anyone else. Let’s be real, it’s a struggle, a daily struggle and it’s always going to be. We know our shortcomings, and we do our best to handle them, to make the best of what we have. Sometimes our best is enough, sometimes we still can’t overcome everything. It’s okay. It’s all okay. The important thing to remember is that every single person out there, even the ones you think have it all perfect, are going through some kind of struggle as well, in different forms and different ways, but everyone suffers. And I believe that that’s essentially the most important, core element that binds individuals into a collective– the recognition of each other’s suffering.

    • I like your reply about appreciating the pain as well as the joy. I don’t agree that everyone suffers and I don’t think it is inevitable that one has to. I think it is right to dream your hearts desire into being and that may be the end of suffering. We are not sentenced to suffer, and we can evolve past the need to do so. That’s what I believe.

  23. That what you said, in the comments, about meds being like fastfood, I can’t agree more. I’ve tried to take them time and again, but all they do for me is make everything dialed down to a low volume. The actual problem ,the one causing me to worry, remains, and the meds, for me–I can’t say it about other people–don’t make it okay. What does it make it okay, for me, is getting my head out of my own ass and facing what shit needs to be faced, pardon my French, please.

    Great post, thanks for posting it.

    • That’s the idea. I think that we want the easy way out, we’ve become like this. It’s not just fast food or medicine, but also work… or anything. Instant gratification. Therapy culture. No one wants to work hard to overcome adversity, we just want something to make us feel better about it. You know, we’re okay, it’s okay, doesn’t matter.

  24. I’m touched. Sinead’s video cannot be forgotten. She is a role model of mine. Her tenacity and shameless self-expression evoked my passion to be me. Your post, her post … illness, mental illness, i don’t see a division, though like she I am a very emotional person, more than most, though I’ve been told that what is true is that I am very open to living an emotional life. The stigma she talks of, and the fact that we as americans or humans ‘must be so strong’ … I have that, even now as I write and writing it out is deeply calming. What is it perhaps that I suffer from right now? Is it the task master or the ‘you should be ashamed of yourself’ thoughts? I suppose that is true and that I do believe that. Damnit I want to go and see her! I see EXACTLY what she means. I don’t identify with labels nor the past, but, truth also is something that is breaking me open. Love. For me: yes you’re not working. yes you may work tonight and start on monday. yes you want to be artistic and creative and know you can soul rebel that I am. If I can get, right now, that I am yet loved. If I can get the softness even now, and I don’t know, stop protecting myself from shame, or trying so hard to not be shamed. It does have everything to do with shame. Why am I, and anyone who’s reading this, ashamed? This is the question! There is NOTHING that I have or haven’t done, do or don’t do, that is deserving of shame. We have it hard enough with a system that is trying to destroy our souls, while we are bridges to the new which is stillness -love. Shame and religion, perhaps that is the old. Truth and Love that is the New.

    I think that I must die to being me. I must let go of what is it, pride or vanity, and become cthonic, humbled. I’d rather allow the inhumiliated to be as they are, on white horses and so on. Crazy. I once feared humiliation, now I’m asking for humility and I’ll go so far as to call it humiliation, but the kind that cuts me down. This is what I fear. Humiliation. No longer being what, different, special, a someone who has it together. No one has it together. Having it together is illusion. Just because you have a job and a home and toys and career and this and that doesn’t mean that you are any less together than someone who does. When did comparison become a choice in human psychology? When did our differences, what we own, what we do, how we are, what we dress, what we think, become more important that what we share. This is the post I will now write. Check it out.

  25. OH MY GOSH!!! I loved this post when I read it, started to comment, got called away and then completely spaced it out!!! Your courage and complete openness blows me away. Seriously. I know of which You speak and Wow. Thank You for sharing Yourself so beautifully. I agree with the things You say about being physical. I haven’t had this issue in a while, but I spent a good deal of time with it. I will say that in my experience, there is NOTHING that will change the channel faster for me than going outside. Jumping in the ocean. Walking. ANYTHING that gets me moving. Bike riding. That’s a REAL tool and I hope anyone who reads Your journey who is going through this pays attention to that. It’s huge. Thank You again. Sending HUGE hugs and so much admiration. And I’m happy You waded through and are here. You gift much. Cheers!!! :)

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