"To survive is to stay alive in the face of opposition" – Lauryn Hill
There aren't enough words, in any language, to describe just how painful, exhausting and lonely depression can be. Imagine living your life with a boulder chained to each of your ankles, and having to walk from place to place, manacled by anxiety, loneliness, feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness. Perhaps you don't even have to imagine the suffering because this is your reality. You are not alone.
I have struggled with depression for over a decade and it has been a life-altering experience. This illness has changed me in good and bad ways, and I have lost and gained so much. Depression has left casualties in my mind, heart and soul. Depression killed my dreams and passions; I am currently in the process of resurrecting them. I am literally starting from the beginning – dreaming new dreams and setting new goals.
While the battle with depression has not been easy at all - and I have almost given up many times - I have found that there are ways in which I can continue to stay alive in the face of depression. If you have been in the throes of depression for a while and are wondering if there is a way around or out of the darkness, I'm here to tell you that there is; it will by no means be an easy journey, but you will conquer.
Strategies to help you survive life with a crippling mental illness:
Get professional help
Depression is poisonous and affects every aspect of your life, making it near impossible to function and lead a normal life. Be this as it may, the illness can be treated and managed. There is no reason to go on suffering needlessly. If you or a loved one have been struggling, find a psychologist or psychiatrist and get help immediately.
If you cannot afford private treatment, visit your nearest government clinic. The lines are long and it can be frustrating – I've been there – so I would advise that you go with a relative or friend, do not do this alone. Our public health system is not great but help is available.
Have a support system
A support system can come in the form of friends, relatives or a support group in your residential area. The point is not to suffer alone. I have found that telling someone exactly how I feel and sharing what is on my mind really helps, it eases the pain and lessens the load. No one has solutions or answers but never underestimate the power of reaching out. I know it's not easy but please give it a try.
I still find it difficult to open up about what I'm going through but it really does make a difference. Find someone you can trust and allow them to love you through the pain.
Remember that depressive thoughts are lies
While depression is as real as cancer and a broken leg, it tells the biggest lies. Depression tells you that you are a piece of nonsense that is wasting oxygen; it tells you that you would be better off dead and that the world would be a better place without you – these are all lies. You are made of divine substance, my friend, and the cosmos would be out of balance without you.
Try to be kind to yourself. Living life with a mental illness is not easy at all and it's hard to explain it to people.
Always be honest
I've always hated being asked how I am because I always felt compelled to say I'm fine because I didn't want to make people feel uncomfortable. But what about what I'm feeling? Lying about how you truly feel is exhausting.
I'm not saying tell everyone everything, but be as honest as you can possibly be. If I'm in a bad space and someone asks me how I'm doing, I say, "I'm not doing well, but I think I'll be okay". If the persons asks further questions, and I feel like talking, then I will go into detail. Don't keep things pent up inside or pretend you are okay, you will exhaust yourself; you don't need to be anymore exhausted than what you already are.
Take care of yourself
Now this is something that I really struggle with. When you have depression, everything feels like a mammoth task; making a meal or even brushing your teeth seem like such huge feats. Work on a task at a time. Try your best to eat and drink water.
Again, solicit the help of a loved one, "Hey, please help me get out of bed and make myself a sandwich. You need to eat so that you can have energy. I know this is not easy; getting out of bed can be excruciatingly difficult but I promise you can do it.
Don't be hard on yourself
Try to be kind to yourself. Living life with a mental illness is not easy at all and it's hard to explain it to people. You have a lot going on right now. You feel overwhelmed and you're tired. Remember that you are doing the best that you can. Take life a moment at a time and be proud of yourself for each second that you don't give up.
You are not alone in this struggle. Your pain is real and it is valid. You may not feel it now but there is hope.
If you or a loved one is in crisis, use the following emergency numbers:
Suicide Crisis Line: 0800 567 567 or sms 31393.
SADAG Mental Health Line: 011 234 4837
Akeso Psychiatric Response Unit 24 Hour: 0861 435 787