“Though stigma is shared and learned, it is internalized individually.”
I am a male in my late 30s and looking back over my life I realize that I have suffered from depression from my early teenage years until recently.
I had a very tough upbringing, growing up in a home with two alcoholic parents. I never received any positive reinforcement and was unable to cope with painful feelings. I used cannabis to self-medicate but stopped in my early 20s, and it was around this time that I first tried an antidepressant medication. I used it for a short period, however I ceased taking it as I felt too euphoric and didn’t like the side effects. It just didn’t feel real to me.
I struggled on for a few more years before being put on a combination of another antidepressant and an antipsychotic drug. This was one of the lowest points in my life. My eyes would open each morning and I would dread that I was still alive. I stopped taking the antidepressant but continued with the antipsychotic because it quieted my mind. Deep down I knew that these drugs were not the answer for me. I ceased the antipsychotic medication when, while filling my prescription at a different chemist, the pharmacist questioned me about why I was using such a high powered drug. I knew that I shouldn’t be taking it and stopped immediately. The doctor who prescribed the drugs didn’t know me very well and was being directed by a psychologist who had only seen me twice. I stopped seeing her also.
A few years later I tried a newer form of antidepressant because I was still plagued by strong emotions, and had no idea how to cope with life. I was sensitive and couldn’t deal with or process my feelings. I would spend whole weeks in bed unable to face the world. The side effects of this newer drug were not as severe, but something deep down told me that I didn’t need medication and that there must be another answer.
It was during this time that my employer directed me to a psychologist who had a profound impact on me. I don’t think he had any special answers, but he helped me discover that the relationship I had with myself wasn’t healthy, and I started to see myself in a more positive way. I became happy with who I was. I became my own best friend. He also encouraged me to meditate and gave me some mindfulness meditations which I ignored.
I can’t remember how I discovered Headspace. All I know is that after about a week of Take10, I started noticing some changes in how I felt and reacted to things. It made me want to keep going.
I think I was about a month into it when I had an amazing experience: I was in Brisbane and realized that my mind was in the moment. Tears of joy fell from my eyes because I’d searched and searched for years and knew that I had finally found an answer. I am emotional just thinking about it.
I meditate regularly now. I am on a current run streak record of about 44 days. Some days my mind is busy and other days it’s quiet, and that’s ok. There seems to be a distance between my thoughts and me. I don’t react to things that once would have made me rage. People smile at me everywhere I go. It’s amazing how simple it is. All this by following my breath a bit each day. I also have this underlying feeling of joy a lot of the time. It’s wonderful to be alive.
Image credit: Andrew Messenger (@andrew.messenger)
The author of this post is an editorial contributor to Headspace. These are their views, experiences and results and theirs alone. This contributor was not paid for their writing.