I have felt my whole life that something was inherently wrong with me. I had the feeling that I was different from other people for a reason. I deeply believed that I was born unhappy and created this way, for a designated purpose, which was never revealed to me.
But I never realised I was only a late bloomer. I spent my teenage years in agony and loneliness, not knowing how I could possibly be happy nor understanding that others, despite their elevated social media presences, could ever so slightly feel the same way. I lived most of my life feeling troubled in such a way, that something was wrong, and always looked for ways to fix or repair myself. Trying to fix the broken parts which shaped my entire identity. There was a strange sense of safety and comfort in feeling broken. I couldn’t stand the idea of continuing to consume large amounts of alcohol to get through life which led me to realise: there was nothing wrong with me.
Life, to me, consists of experiences, thoughts and our emotional reactions to both which shape our individual reality. Change never happens overnight. Lasting change, as a matter of fact, is a slow, painful and emotional process of weeks, months and sometimes years.
Whatever problems you may face at a given time, this doesn’t equate to you being broken. Slow progress is still progress. Over the years, I have found ways to decrease periods of depression and I have found a few methods to be most useful.
As an introvert, forcing myself to leave the house to socialise does not come easy. I can thank God for my extroverted friends who have introduced me to new people over and over again, but I’ve realised that I can achieve more on my own with the right willpower to enter the real world.
I like to think of drawing from a context in social situations, as a psychotherapist once suggested. Whether I find myself in a restaurant, club or car park, there’s always something happening from which you can start a conversation – verbal or non-verbal – and engage with people. This has been a great tool for me to build confidence. Even socialising in public places like elevators, where the chance of meeting the person in question again is unlikely, can lead to an increase in confidence + happier moods. I believe in lowering the pressure for ourselves by acknowledging that mistakes will be made and that we cannot always feel fully confident. Why not say you’re feeling shy when meeting someone new? Why not tell someone you like their jacket but it took you some time to go up to them? I don’t see a reason not to share your shyness. We’ve been practising small talk since the dawn of time as a way of survival, but as our society changes, we also have to change our techniques.
Faulty expectations can be the culprit of our own happiness and our relationships. I never knew how simple it was to change our relationships by changing our expectations. It’s such an odd, simple notion: we can change our mood by acknowledging that our expectations (of others) shape our mood.
Take your imaginary friend Anna as an example. She’s always late. We shouldn’t be surprised that Anna is also late for your birthday party. This isn’t personal. This is about Anna – not you – and your expectation that Anna would be on time once just for you. The only thing you can control is what you expect and how your expectation will make you feel.
Our expectations should be based on how reality ticks and on our knowledge of others. If Anna is a new friend, I shouldn’t expect Anna to get in touch with me regularly. I can’t expect Anna to invite me to her parties if we haven’t even developed a foundation yet on which we can build a friendship.
3. Understanding Thoughts to be The ‘Truth’ and Nothing Else
Thoughts are not reality. Thoughts are simply in our head and sometimes they can be very detrimental to our wellbeing.
My reality is that I still deal with depression and that I can understand the mechanisms of it. I don’t always trust thoughts of the negative kind especially, which might be coloured by my past or specific previous experiences.
Meditation is an incredible tool to collect these thoughts and dispose of the irrational ones. I would compare meditation to sorting your email inbox: you save important emails, delete the spam and anything in the middle should not be on your mind. It changed my mind/life and only takes 20 minutes out of my day. I would recommend Headspace to start with, but others prefer in-person classes. There are no rules, there’s no wrong or right.
I don’t believe that I was born unhappy anymore. Nor do I think that depression is a part of me. Beating depression or depressive moods isn’t about bad things happening to us, it’s about how we respond to those events in life. My time to bloom came around when I finally realised that, in hindsight of everything, it’s just part of being human.