Don’t Stay Silent – Shame has no rights

One of the things I found really troublesome in addition to depression was the shame that came with it.

Dealing with depression is hard. Really hard.

For years I didn’t even recognize what was happening to me. I was experiencing an ever increasing low that soon was accompanied with anxious behavior in every waking hour. It eventually became chronic.

Depression would tell me that I was worthless, that life was worthless. Anxiety would tell me I was to feel ashamed for feeling that way. The two together became an everlasting dark circle.

When we feel ashamed of something we tend to keep silent about it. As do I.

I was convinced that opening up about my feelings and experience would make I people distance themselves from me. I was really afraid of how people would react.

So I continued to stay silent, forcing myself to cope with something I was sure no one else would give a damn about. But, I was wrong.

Trying to hide depression from the world made everything worse, not better. My anxiety worsened and suicidal thoughts became a daily encounter. Coming home from work I would break down in tears, panic and despair every night for months.

I had one friend which knew, at least partially, what was going on. This friend would try to convince me to seek professional help. I would not listen, or was too afraid and ashamed to take the advice. What would the doctors believe? What would friends and family think of me if I finally gave in and asked for help?

I was convinced that people would see me as a week person, as someone unable to handle a normal life, as a unworthy person deserving to be left alone. I believed they would treat me as the scraps I already felt like.

One night my suicidal thoughts was so strong that I was convinced my end was nigh. I wanted an end to the pain. It was either that or finally choose help.

I chose to ask for help.

I called my friend at 2 am. The friend would listen to me describing my pain for 2 hours. As I talked I became calmer and we decided that I would go to emergency the following day. Which I did.

Despite all the pain and darkness I somewhere within me wanted life more than death. I realized the death I had sought for in reality was for the pain to go away, not for me to go away.

It’s been 2,5 years since that night. Two and a half years of truly hard work, but also work that’s been worth it. I’m leading a content, satisfying life today. I’m happy and glad more than I am sad. Life goes up and down, for sure. But, I never hit those extreme depression lows anymore. And intense anxiety is pretty much absent from my day to day life.

If you’re reading this and shame or something else keeps you from seeking help, I want to encourage you to seek for help despite that. I know it’s hard, but I also know it’s worth it. And you are truly worth something better than the trap of depression. If you can, please try to put the opinions of others aside for just one moment and decide that your wellbeing is worth more than their opinions.

Shame has no rights. Change is indeed possible. Depression is not a final destination.

Back To Nature

Nature doesn’t judge…and if there’s one thing a soul which used to be depressed and anxious needs, then it’s to be somewhere where there’s no judgement.

Sounds like a cliche, doesn’t it? Back to nature.

However, that’s what I’ve been doing a lot of lately. Spent much time in nature. It’s been a retreat for the mind, heart and soul.

In the environment of the forest, there’s no stress. Everything happens at a low pace. There’s no time to keep track of, no impressions from a pulsating city life. Nothing wants my attention, I can give my attention to whatever I want, whenever and how I want.

Ever since I started dealing with depression I’ve been looking for things that give relief, calm and sense of peacefulness. Time after time nature proves to be this thing for me.

Whether I engage in hiking for hours in various landscapes, bring my camera to search for interesting nature motifs or lose myself in a book under the shadow of trees, a simple inner peace and bliss is bound to appear and nurture my being in a way that I don’t find anywhere else.

There’s much to learn. Nature doesn’t judge, it’s simply just there, letting me enjoy and explore it. Letting me be myself within it, without evaluating. And if there’s one thing a soul which used to be depressed and anxious needs, then it’s to be somewhere where there’s no judgement.

In nature I’ve found a space to be just me, it’s become a place to recharge, experience inner peace and become inspired.

Whatever it may mean for you, I encourage anyone to search for their place of bliss. I hope to always return to mine…

Leaving Social Media / Taking Back My Creativity After Suffering From Depression

I’ve really been struggling with my ties to social media lately. All honour to the wonders of the internet, but there’s something about it that makes me emotionally ill.

It’s not necessarily because the internet in itself is wrong. I think it’s because it’s wrong for me at this time and place in my life.

Before my depression, I was a very active musician and overall creative person. I wrote music for hours a day and loved doing it. I pretty much lost all of that to the illness. I long so much to get back to a creative lifestyle and my heavy involvement with the internet is currently preventing that from happening.

I experience a nagging drain of energy whenever I go on social media nowadays, to the point when I start to feel low. At the same time, I suffer from not being the creative person I once was. I need to make a thorough effort to get that back into my life.

Social media has become the roadblock which keeps me from moving forward into a new life. I need to change.

To my friends that I’ve met on various platforms. Rest assured I will be back when the time is right. I need to balance up, so I hope you will understand.

Follow your dreams. Don’t limit yourself.

6 Stages Of Anxiety

I used to experience anxiety as something attacking out of the blue, without a clear trigger or origin. For years it was an experience that the whole word somehow hated me and wanted to make sure this continued.

When I learned more about it I found that most of my anxiety was connected to some kind of illogical or wrong perception of things and persons around me.

I also learned that anxiety has stages. It doesn’t have to trigger an immediate emotional and physical response.

It can be stopped at what I call the interpretation-stage and thought-stage. Often my anxiety was triggered by something someone said or some social event I was invited to take part in(which actually also is something someone said i.e. an invitation etc). It almost immediately spawned some kind of panic or meltdown.

I see the pattern of my anxiety in the following 6 stages:

  1. Input (outside comment, evaluation, invite)
  2. Interpretation (through past personal experience, past self-perception)
  3. Thought (realization of the interpretation)
  4. Emotion (fear, dread, worry)
  5. Physical reaction (panic, meltdown, crying, hyperventilation)
  6. Output/result (i.e. avoid ”input”)

While me mostly can’t do much to control any input I believe that the stages of interpretation and thought can be altered to result in different emotions and avoid physical reactions.

There is never just one interpretation of any input. If we can learn that we are in the position to interpret or change the narrative of our response that might lead to better emotions and possibly avoid an anxiety meltdown or panic attack.

It’s not done in a switch, I’m aware of that. For me it was a determined decision to start training myself to interpret and think differently about impressions I wasn’t very good at handling. Two years ago I almost had anxiety meltdowns every day. It had been going on for more than a year. Today I nearly feel anxious at all.

Anxiety is hell, it really is. You deserve to know you don’t have to be enslaved by it forever. Have courage and go directly to its core in order to disarm it.

Bitterness Never Healed Me

For a long period in my depression I blamed factors, events and people outside of myself for my situation. I wanted someone or something to be responsible for what had happened to me. I became bitter at those people who mentally abused me for years. I used a lot of my time, energy and focus to direct my anger and bitterness towards them.

But, here’s the catch: bitterness never healed me.

Hear me out. I certainly believe there’s a time to be angry at our wrongdoers, it seems a natural response in some sense. But, if that develops into some kind of bitterness we’re starting to damage ourself instead of healing ourself.

What I found is that no matter how right we might be when we put the blame and responsibility on our wrongdoers they will not be the ones to come and fix us in our present now. Nor will they in the future.

When I with help from my therapist realized there’s empowerment in taking responsibility for my own situation I was finally able to start dealing with my pain and hurts. I’m not to blame for what happened to me in the past, but I can still take responsibility for what happens from this day on.

The hurts are mine. I’ve chosen to do something about them. I choose healing.

Depression As A Verb

About my childhoods’ christian church and how their preaching depressed me.

To depress.

Up until about a year ago I had never thought of depression as an action. I’m all familiar with terms like “being depressed” or “having depression”. I myself tend to think about depression as extreme and physical pain, a dark cloud, a void of only darkness and apathy. Meaninglessness. A state. But, as a verb? Never.

To depress.

One of the therapists I’ve seen in the past unveiled this idea of thinking to me. Depress in one of the literal meanings is to press down.

So if something is pressed down, what then is causing the pressing? What is pressed down and who or what is the reason for this happening?

I began looking to my own history for answers.

I was born into an unhealthy church environment where a great part of the concept was to serve the agenda of the leaders. You were supposed to put your own person and interests aside in order to serve god.(Or as that dude Paul would say it: “I have been crucified…and I no longer live…”)

I was slowly molded into a mental slave, becoming someone who did all in his might to obey god and church leaders, and please every person I came in contact with. For the sake of god. The more I obeyed the church the more I erased myself.

This is where depression comes in. For 25 years I learned how to perfectly press down anything that was the authentic or true me. I learned to hate myself and worship god. By the year 2011 Andreas was in fact more or less gone. The agenda of a power hungry church had depressed me and by their brainwash I had learned to depress myself. I thought I was doing the right thing, but had fully ignored that which was the actual me.

Understanding that something was being depressed within me due to my past was a great eye opener and help to me. I showed me areas in my life which had been lost and starved for years. It helped me see where I could start working with myself to find restoration and healing for the whole person that is I.

It’s been a painful journey to open the wounds and rebuild myself. But, it’s also a beautiful journey when we start to heal.

Depression is an illness. Depression is a state. And sometimes, it’s also a verb.

To lift.

15 Things To Say To Someone With Depression Or Anxiety

We’ve all seen those “Things Not To Say To Someone With Depression” posts. And while they are all well meant and beneficial on many occasions we should not forget there are things we can say to someone with depression or anxiety to show them our support.

I’ve tried to make a list of things people have said to me that helped me while I suffered severely from depression and anxiety. Some are things I wish that people would’ve said.

  • I understand and acknowledge that you are in pain, the intense emotion will pass and I will stay with you through it.

  • What can I do for you?

  • Even if I don’t know what depression is like, I will not leave. I want to learn and understand.

  • Can I give you a hug?

  • I’ll give you the space and time you need.

  • Let’s go for a walk.

  • Your thoughts and emotions are not who you are. You are so much more than them.

  • Don’t give up. There’s help to get and I’ll help you find it.

  • You are welcome as you are, you don’t have to perform.

  • You can always call if you need me, even in the middle of the night.

  • We’d love to have you around even if you don’t feel like being social. You can just be.

  • I don’t know what anxiety and depression feels like, but I give you my company.

  • You matter, even though you might not feel that you do right now.

  • I listen to you and take what you say seriously.

  • We love you and are not giving up on you.

I don’t claim this list to be universal, but these comments from others have been very helpful to me. I hope they can help others too.

What are some things someone has said to you that you found helpful, or something you said that helped someone?

Take care, be safe.

How Photography Relieves Me From Depression

(Written January 2017)

Finding words to describe to which depths depression can take us can be difficult. But, it sure can be a very unpleasant place to be. When the dark thoughts gather up around us, a sense of hopelessness and apathy can rise which we feel will never go away. Add anxiety and it doesn’t only feel like we’re alone in a wasteland without directions, we are simultaneously on fire while pushing our tears back or breaking apart inside them. It feels like we’re being force-burned and cut with a razor-knife inside the chest. Drowning in our emotions, over and over again.

So, what’s gonna rescue us from these personal hells? Are there ways to break the downward spiral and regain some strength and hope for ourselves?

I believe hobbies can be a part of this, and I’ll try to clarify why and how I think this is.

First I will be honest. There are periods when depression makes me feel hobbies and interests are meaningless to engage in, and anxiety frightens me too much to even consider pursuing them. I feel quilt for the idea of choosing to spend time on something I enjoy, as if I wasn’t worthy of it and should instead give all my time for the benefit of others first and always. Or anxiety hits with it’s fake reminder that people will talk down and hate me for doing it. What could be a more perfect barrier?

However, there are those days and moments when my strength is a little more on the plus-side of things. When I really miss being out shooting pictures with my camera. What I’ve learned is that I need to pay attention to those emotions and act on it. If I can manage to get out of the apartment with my camera in my hand there’s so much to be gained:

When I photograph I usually stay out for hours. That means I breath in fresh air.

I also tend to walk a lot to find the right spots for my shots. This means I get some exercise.

If I’m lucky(at least for my health, not so much for photo-friendly lighting, though) there’s sunshine to take in. But, all weathers will do.

Often I choose to photograph in nature. To me nothing can beat the calm experience of that.

Sometimes I forget that I’m depressed altogether, probably since I’m so focused on taking pictures. It lets me feel pure joy without analysing or judge myself. I feel no worry. When I capture an image which I’m satisfied with I feel that I’ve accomplished something that day. It’s a good feeling. Coming home to relax from a day outside is rewarding in itself.

The path with depression is different and individual to each and everyone of us.

For me I’ve come to understand that a big part of my walk in recovery is reexperience or relearning. By that I mean I need to learn to know myself, who I am and what I want all over again. Somewhere along the road I lost these things by being self ignorant, self sacrificing and a servant to others to such a degree that I erased my own will, my own identity.

Every time I’m pursuing photography or another interest of mine I take back parts of me that I’ve lost; and that are the good experiences, moments to cherish and make the long run worth while.

I’m not meaning to make it sound easy. I know it can feel impossible to get back on track. But, we must believe that we can. One step at a time.

If shadows rise on you, don’t let them judge you or steal from you. Acknowledge them as real, but not as truth. The storm will eventually calm, and when ready you’ll take another step towards healing.

If depression stole a hobby or interest from you, don’t give up getting that thing back. Even if it seems a big step, start by simply thinking about it.

Don’t be hard on yourself for not being able to do it all the way at once.

Take it easy, the best way is at your own pace. Take whichever step you can. You’ll get there.

Don’t do it for anyone else, do it for yourself. You’re incredibly worthy of experiencing good moments, or making some new ones.

I believe in you!

Experiencing The Depression Aftermath

Looking back 2 years to see what has changed in a mental illness recovery journey.

It’s been little over two years since I walked into an emergency room. Desperate, in tears, suicidal, alone. I had decided to live, but the task of managing by myself had become far too dangerous. The previous night I was close to going through with a suicide attempt. The inner darkness and pain I experienced is the worst I’ve ever encountered. I tried calling a suicide hotline, but couldn’t get through. Fortunately a friend answered the phone at 2am, and talked me through the emotions and turmoils the following hours. She was a major part of why I didn’t die that night. The next day I went to the emergency.

Since then I’ve been through about 1,5 years of weekly counsellings, been on antidepressants for 2 years(still on it), meditated for a total of 47 hours. I’ve been through a 6 month long severe relapse. I’ve released a 3 song EP. I’ve read numerous books. Gotten to know a lot of kind people in online communities. I have been running 2000km and photographed 10k photos. The tears, however, can not be counted. But, I’m happy to say I’m not crying much nowadays, and I’m smiling a lot more.

It’s been 730 days and I’m finally experiencing a real and lasting relief from depression.

So how is my life different now compared to two years ago?

Back then I had anxiety meltdowns in tears almost every day, I felt depressed all the time. I viewed life as totally meaningless and I was trapped in apathy concerning it all. I felt hated by life and was convinced I was only but a burden to everyone around me. I spent most time isolated alone, and sadly lost a lot of friendships. My thoughts about myself was very destructive, I had lost all sense of my worth. I slept poorly. My appetite was very low and I was exhausted and tired in every cell of my body. Depression had me captive and I almost completely surrendered to it.

Today my life is very different. Most days I feel positive and content about how things are. Anxiety occurs very rarely and it in no way lasts as long a period as it used to. Depression is something I experience once each two months or so, but it passes within a day or two. I feel energised from exercise and can pursue interests and hobbies I thought I had lost forever. I’m in control of my mental illness, it’s no longer in control of me. I’m experiencing enjoyment of life I didn’t feel for over 10 years. I’m making new friends and I’m able to socialize again.

If you’re reading this and suffer from depression or anxiety I want to encourage you to seek help. Don’t give up until you find the help that works for you. I’ve experienced a 10 year depression, but also made it through it. You too can do that.

And to you who have a friend or a close one with depression, please don’t give up on them. If you stay you might be the lifeline they need in their most critical moment.