Life begins on the other side of despair
God, I hated the break. I have struggled with depression for over three years. I used to get emails from friends asking why I was offline.
There are many things in life that cannot be explained. Many storms you cannot escape. There are realities to face. You try to hide from yourself and the world around you, but you can’t.
I was down. I hadn’t thought too much. I had stopped writing and painting. I won’t call it natural writer’s block. It could have been all of the above or none of it. I don’t think you can reason a lot of things in life.
Encouraged by a newspaper article, I decided to have a routine. Depression can eliminate the structure of your life. One day melts into the next. By establishing a routine, I was able to get parts of myself back on track.
Then there was this feeling that I had within me the ability to accomplish things. I set myself goals, sometimes small and insignificant, but it was a start. I knew I had to succeed.
I started by doing the dishes every other day. As I started to feel better, I kept adding more difficult goals.
Being a creative person has its perks. I have always remained an inside kid. Certainly, it helped me to be distinct and look at the world from a detached lens. Gradually, I got back to writing and creating art. It helped.
Exercise and healthy eating
My doctor friends suggested that I train. Lo and behold, those paid chemicals called endorphins helped. Being a regular at working out for over a year now, I can guarantee that exercise and the gym can lead to long term benefits for people struggling with depression. If you do it regularly, the exercises encourage the brain to rewire itself in a positive way. You don’t have to be a gym doll or run a full marathon. Start with a short walk. Go out a few times a week, especially when the weather still allows us to do so.
Then there’s the whole new world of healthy eating. There’s no magic diet that fixes anxiety like mindful eating. When you watch what you eat, as I do now, you begin to feel not only satisfied, but better.
If depression tends to make you overeat, adopting good eating habits will actually help you feel better. Salmon, tuna, spinach and avocado are now my soul foods. There are fewer fried and greasy portions on my plate. Now I prefer “health” on my dining table.
I don’t claim to know what the good life is for everyone, but I can tell you what it is for me. Socialize.
Building good relationships
To make friends. Exit. Don’t retread in a shell or withdraw from life when you feel depressed. Social connection – in addition to maintaining a healthy routine – not only improves your mood, but lifts your spirits.
Staying in touch with friends and family means you have someone to talk to when you’re down. A recent study from the University of Rochester Medical Center found that socializing boosts cognitive function.
Stimulating conversations and activities exercise the brain and keep it agile.
I took careful steps when I was coming out of my depression. Socializing, I realized, helped the most. Spending time with others makes you feel useful.
Loneliness can be a downward spiral. During my first difficult and dark days, I often felt distant and socializing seemed both intimidating and impossible. I am happy to have decided to forego this phase and rekindle my social ties.
Nearly a month and a half ago, as the world ushered in 2022, I welcomed the new year with a big smile – with friends for company and life to look forward to.
Ahmad Nazir is a freelancer based in Dubai